THIS STORY TAKES
AFTER THE BIG FINISH
AUDIO DRAMA "THE
NEXT LIFE," AND PRIOR
TO THE BIG FINISH AUDIO
DRAMA "SCAREDY CAT."
EITHER BIG FINISH CD
#72 (ISBN 1-84435-
137-8) RELEASED IN
AUGUST 2005 OR 'THE
DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD
2508) RELEASED IN
Centuries ago, on war
torn Skaro, a great
scientist created the
most evil creatures
the universe would
ever know: Daleks.
It was at their
genesis that the
first met and was
defeated by the
Over the years and
they fought. It was
a fight that ended
with the DESTRUCTION
OF THE DALEKS AND
THEIR WORLD. Except...
Alone. In the dark.
With only thoughts
of revenge keeping
The Doctor is back.
Davros is waiting.
Their destiny is now.
Terror Firma is an adventure that I’ve long looked forward to, despite being let down by just about every eighth Doctor / Dalek showdown thus far across the media. Why? Two reasons – one, Joseph Lidster, writer of two of my favourite Big Finish audios; and two, Terry Molloy – the man who is Davros.
On top of that, and quite in spite of myself, I have really taken to the eighth Doctor. As good as the BBC books were at chronicling his adventures, you can’t beat having Paul McGann actually playing the Doctor. He has gone from strength to strength in the role, and although his adventures in the Divergent universe didn’t quite live up to those of his second, bravura audio season, Terror Firma firmly yanks him back up to such lofty heights; possibly beyond.
A great deal of credit for this must
go to Terry Molloy. The bulk of the
first three episodes comprise of a
chilling two-hander between Molloy
and McGann, both actors clearly
relishing every line. This could be
the farthest down the line that we
have ever encountered Davros,
and as such he’s definitely at his
most interesting. We don’t know
what will become of him - will he
become the next Emperor Dalek, as implied by the finale? Will he play a starring role in the Time War? Or will he wind up in an escape pod, memory erased, ready to die at the hands of his creations in a maligned John Peel paperback? For once, the toys don’t necessarily have to go back in the box at the end, and Lidster really makes the most of this freedom.
Lance Parkin’s earlier play, Davros, allowed us to explore the twisted Kaled’s neurosis, and perhaps even to sympathise with him, before having him turn heel once again and remind us that a leopard can never change its spots. In this play though, Lidster portrays Davros more subtly. Here Davros is a character truly worthy of our pity; a loathsome creature with a huge personality disorder that, after endless centuries of anguish, is finally beginning to consume him. Psychologically, he’s becoming a Dalek, and for him there’s nothing more frightening. Molloy is absolutely mesmerising, manically shifting between Davros and his Imperial alter ego, each as terrifying as each other in their own, distinctive way.
There is so much of note to talk about in this play, but what I admired above all else was the writer’s ambition: the sheer scale of Davros’ actions in this play is unspeakably astounding. As part of his campaign to ‘break’ the Doctor, Davros has harvested the Earth, turning more than eight billion people into Daleks. Eight billion – considerably more than the population
of the planet today. Such magnitude is absolutely mind-blowing.
Now I would like to say ‘continuity aside’ and talk about the meat of the plot, but really quite tortuous continuity is the plot of Terror Firma, not only in terms of Dalek history but also the Doctor’s own. The liner notes in the CD concede that the whole story came about as a result of Gary Russell’s “obsessive desire to tie-up continuity” - quite an irony, really, given that the whole Divergence arc was abandoned prematurely with a view to making these continuing eighth Doctor adventures more accessible to casual listeners. And as outstanding as Terror Firma is, I must admit that by the end of Part 4, my head was pounding! Here goes nothing...
Some time after the events of the TV Movie, the Doctor bumps into brother and sister team Samson in Gemma in a library on a future Earth. They follow the Doctor into his mysterious blue box and take off for glorious adventure after glorious adventure until, one day, Davros shows up; brainwashes Samson and Gemma; wipes the Doctor’s memory of them; invades Earth with his new race of Daleks; and sends the Doctor off on his merry way alone (where Storm Warning picks up the tale) so that he may laugh at him. It’s retribution for blowing up Skaro, see…
Nevertheless, despite wallowing so much in continuity, against all the odds Terror Firma is an absolute triumph. The heightened humour of the Folkestone troupe lend the play a darkly comic feel, offsetting the morose weight of Doctor / Davros scenes, and even injecting the proceedings with some good old-fashioned heart, which Lidster has already shown a real flair for capturing. Julia Deakin’s performance as Samson and Gemma’s troubled, binge-drinking, Dalek-fighting mother is particularly memorable, and would have stolen the show were it not for the sheer gravitas of Molloy and McGann.
And as for the developments surrounding C’rizz – well! The way that Big Finish are handling him really shows just how wasted characters like Turlough and Kamelion were on television. The Next Life introduced us to the monk’s murderous past, but the revelations at the end of this play are even more shocking still, making for some truly breathtaking drama and setting up what I’m sure will be some fascinating future tales.
Overall then, Terror Firma
grips the listener from start
to finish. The whole affair is
imbued with the rare feeling
that anything can happen, and happen it certainly does. Ever pictured a Eutermesan as the Emperor of the Daleks? Picture it. Ever imagined the French Resistance as a front
for a certain alien threat? Imagine it. Ever thought that, within the space of just a couple of hours, the Doctor could go from the euphoria of finding himself a Lord of Time once again,
to a broken wreck of man, contemplating unleashing Davros’ armageddon virus himself? Well think it.
I must have listened to this play three or four times now already, and each time I appreciate
it a little more. Stupendous writing, even better performances, and superb production make Terror Firma a fitting end to the legacy of Davros. If it is the end, that is…
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.
In order to reconcile the events of this story with the novel War of the Daleks (which it clearly wasn’t intended to be reconciled with, mind), we must assume that Davros’ mental breakdown here was followed by some sort of disaster that left him drifting through space in an escape pod, in near-preposterously similar circumstances to those that he found himself in at the end of Remembrance of the Daleks, with no memory of this particular encounter with the Doctor.
It is unclear when the Dalek occupation of Earth depicted in this story takes place. Though the Earth sounds much like the Earth of today, this is unlikely to be the case - the burgeoning population suggests that events must take place at least a century hence. As the shooting script for The Parting of Ways sees Captain Jack refer to ten Dalek occupations between 2150 and the 200100, we presume that this was one of them.
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