THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIOS
TIME OF THE DALEKS
BIG FINISH CD#32
RELEASED IN MAY 2002.
THE DOCTOR HAS LONG
ADMIRED THE WORK OF SHAKESPEARE. SO HE
IS A LITTLE SURPRISED
THAT CHARLEY DOESN'T
HOLD THE GALAXY'S
IN THE SAME ESTEEM. IN
FACT, SHE'S NEVER EVEN
HEARD OF HIM.
WHICH THE DOCTOR
THINKS IS IMPROBABLE.
LEARMAN, RULER OF
BRITAIN AFTER THE
EUROWARS, IS ONE
AND IS CONVINCED HER
TIME MACHINE WILL
ENABLE HER TO SEE
THE PLAYS' ORIGINAL
WHICH THE DOCTOR
BELIEVES IS UNLIKELY.
THE DALEKS JUST WANT
TO HELP. THEY WANT
LEARMAN TO GET HER
TIME MACHINE WORKING.
THEY WANT CHARLEY TO
APPRECIATE THE FIRST
EVER PERFORMANCE OF
JULIUS CAESAR. THEY
BELIEVE THAT WILLIAM
SHAKESPEARE IS THE
EVER TO HAVE EXISTED
AND VENERATE HIS
WHICH THE DOCTOR
KNOWS IS IMPOSSIBLE.
of the Daleks
Somewhat inevitably, I came away from The Time of the Daleks feeling dejected. Irrespective of one’s views as to the canonicity of John Peel’s brace of eighth Doctor Dalek novels, the prospect of the Doctor as played by Paul McGann squaring off against his oldest and deadliest enemies was something to get ridiculously excited about, and so even had it been world-beating, Justin Richards’ story would still have struggled to live up to my colossal expectations. As it isn’t world-beating, well…
Richards’ first episode opens with a tremendously powerful scene that sees the Daleks test a “Time Extinction Device” whilst Don Warrington’s character - the mysterious observer to whom the Doctor ‘confessed’ his recent actions in Seasons of Fear - quotes a number of memorable lines from Shakespeare’s plays. From there, Richards well and truly grabs the listener’s attention by having Charley concede that she’s never heard of Shakespeare. It seems that history is unravelling from the mid-21st century and back, and so the TARDIS heads Earth to try and put things right at the source.
Unfortunately, Richards’ story doesn’t
seem to capitalise on this alluring intro.
What could have been a deeply unsettling
tale instead dances on the threshold of
unbridled farce, as Richards’ homage to
everything from The Evil of the Daleks to
Day of the Daleks quickly collapses into
a wacky black comedy, spearheaded by
Britain’s megalomaniac dictator, General Mariah Learman (Dot Smith) – possibly the most deranged character ever to grace a Who story. Richards casts Learman in the Theodore Maxtible role, collaborating with the Daleks in a number of mirror-based time experiments. But like the Daleks, Learman has her own agenda - she is Shakespeare’s biggest fan, and so she wants to erase him from history,
yet preserve his works within her own mind for her exclusive enjoyment. As I say, deranged.
Learman’s actions, prompted by this ludicrous motive, then open the door to a complicated paradox that sees the Daleks established as the rulers of Earth through all time. This allows Richards to create some truly unsettling scenes as we hear our Dalek masters spouting Shakespeare quotes in their distinctive, grating tones, but unfortunately the effect is short-lived as Learman’s maniacal ravings seem to drown out all else; well, at least until she’s mutated by the Daleks in one the story’s grisliest scenes and poured into a Dalek casing. That’ll learn her.
Some might also be put of by the
droves of Big Finish continuity that accompany this story. I’d imagine
that a large number of Doctor Who
fans will be purchasing this one on
the strength of its billing, potentially
without any knowledge of the three
“Dalek Empire” releases that have
preceded it. However, whilst such listeners might quickly get lost, I love how Richards has dextrously woven together the events of each of the preceding Big Finish Dalek releases. The sheer scope of the Daleks’ scheme here only serves to highlight their machiavellian cunning, making them appear a much greater menace than they often did in the last days
of the Davros-dominated television series.
The season’s ongoing story arc is also pushed forward considerably, this story explaining that it is Charley’s inexplicable suffusion with chronon particles that made it possible for the Daleks to remove Shakespeare from time, before building up to a stirring crescendo which sees Charley ask the Doctor if she is at the centre of all their recent troubles, and then telling him that she’s scared. “So am I” is all that the Doctor can muster in reply. It’s hard to imagine a more tormenting dénouement…
Altogether then, The Time of the Daleks is a disappointment. Though it certainly has its moments, it is – at best - a modern interpretation of at least three seminal Dalek stories – The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Day of the Daleks, and most visibly The Evil of the Daleks. I don’t think that there will be many listeners out there who won’t get at least something out of this production, but I think that those waxing lyrical about it will be few and far between.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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