Due to the temporally unstable nature of Dalek history, establishing who their primary leadership are can get a little confusing. Between Dalek Emperors, Supreme Daleks, Dalek Parliaments and interference from their creator Davros, the Daleks have had numerous rulers or ruling bodies over their corrupted history.
However, one concept that has remained constant throughout most of the Dalek timeline is the concept of the Dalek Supreme Council, a ruling body that served directly under the Emperor. This concept was perhaps best expressed in the Third Doctor story Planet of the Daleks, with the black and gold Supreme Dalek being a representative of the Dalek Supreme Council. The idea was later elaborated upon in the Big Finish audio We Are The Daleks, in which the Dalek Emperor summons the Supreme Council to preside over the Doctor’s execution.
Although the concept of the Dalek Supreme Council is fairly well-established, which unique Daleks actually make up this council remain mostly a mystery. Other than the Supreme Dalek seen in Planet of the Daleks there has been no reference to specific members of the Council on-screen. As the Doctor Who fanbase is known for speculation, however, there have been several theories as to which Daleks feature on the Council.
The Dalek Supremes
Undoubtedly the primary members of the Dalek Supreme Council were the various Dalek Supremes that were active during Dalek history. Although Dalek Supremes vary in design and colour schemes, and it is unlikely that all Supreme Daleks were members of the council at once, it seems only logical that the Dalek Supreme Council was made up of Supreme Daleks. There are various distinct Supremes from across Dalek history, from the Gold Daleks of Jon Pertwee’s era to the Black Daleks that ruled in the 1980s.
The most likely candidates for inclusion on the Supreme Council include the commander-class Daleks of the early Dalek empire – identified by the black base colour of their casings, replacing the standard silver. Later Supreme Daleks include the previously mentioned Gold Daleks and Black and Gold Supreme, the Black and White Supreme featured in Resurrection of the Daleks, and the Black and Silver Supreme featured in Remembrance of the Daleks. Although counted as Supreme Daleks, the red New Series Supreme as well as the White Paradigm Supreme are unlikely to qualify, as their post-Time War placement in Dalek chronology means they outlast the Council itself.
Whilst there are probably dozens, if not hundreds of Supreme Daleks, there are likely others that make up the Supreme Council. The Big Finish audios have proven that Daleks would often specialise certain members of their ranks for particular roles, and the same is true of their upper echelons of command. Whilst the Supreme Daleks would have made up the majority of the Council, these Daleks are a more elite caste designed for the development of special weapons, secret strategies and temporal machinations.
The Eternity Circle
First mentioned in the War Doctor novel Engines of War, the Eternity Circle were an elite group of five Daleks sported blue and silver casings that were tasked with creating temporal weapons for use against the Time Lords during the Last Great Time War. These Daleks possessed abilities above and beyond that of a standard Dalek, capable of temporal engineering, advanced reasoning, and even laughter.
Though it may be an error, some are described as being blue and gold, suggesting that not all in the order possess the same markings. However, the recent release of the Dalek Interrogator Prime figure in the B&M Exclusive Doctor and Dalek Figure two-pack suggests that the Blue and Silver colour scheme was not exclusive to the Eternity Circle either, as the Dalek Interrogator Prime from the Big Finish audio In the Garden of Death is apparently depicted with this colour scheme too.
As they form a key component in the Dalek war effort, as well as possessing capabilities above that of the standard Dalek, it is highly likely that the Eternity Circle were also granted seats on the Dalek Supreme Council. Likewise, high-ranking individuals such as the Dalek Interrogator Prime were also likely granted seats on the Council, as they would likely deliver important information to the Council first-hand.
The Cult of Skaro
Although they were only part of the main Dalek Empire for a relatively short amount of time, the Cult of Skaro – an elite order of Daleks capable of imagination – were commissioned by the Emperor to create strategies and long-term survival plans during the waning days of the Last Great Time War.
Due to their high status among the Dalek ranks, allegedly ‘above and beyond’ the Emperor, the Cult of Skaro were likely privy to Supreme Council meetings, and would likely offer their insight into battle strategy or survival tactics. It is known that before the end of the war the Cult of Skaro served as front line commanders before fleeing the war in their Void Ship, meaning their tenure over the Supreme Council was likely very brief, even by Time War standards.
Interestingly, as mentioned in a previous Dalek theories post detailing a possible appearance from Dalek Sec in the Series 9 two-parter The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar, it is possible that the temporal nature of the Cult of Skaro allowed them to preside over multiple incarnations of the Dalek Supreme Council throughout Dalek history, though this is merely speculation.
As October is a festively spooky month, it is a good time to revisit some of Doctor Who’s scariest episodes. So in keeping with the tradition, here at Sacred Icon we are counting down the Top 5 Scariest Big Finish Doctor Who audios. Big Finish have been making Doctor Who audios for over 20 years, they have accumulated a fair amount of scary stories.
5 – Ravenous 2 | Seizure
This is a spectacular story that firmly establishes the titular Ravenous as truly terrifying adversaries. Previously in the Ravenous 2 box-set the Eighth Doctor, Liv and Helen fought against the Krampus and several hellish imps, as well as the notorious Voc Robots, so the scary theme of the set is clear – but the final episode, Seizure, takes the cake. This self-contained story depicts the trio exploring the labyrinthine remains of an insane, dying TARDIS as they attempt to locate potential survivors, one of whom is the deranged Time Lord known as ‘The Eleven’. Afflicted with regenerative dissonance, The Eleven’s previous incarnations live on inside his mind, and with ten other voices in his head at all times, he has been driven quite mad. Yet The Eleven isn’t even the scariest thing that stalks the Doctor and his friends in this story, as the dying TARDIS is also home to an elusive ghost and a ravenous monster that aims to devour the Time Lords themselves.
4 – Embrace the Darkness
Another Eighth Doctor story, but from far earlier in his timeline, Embrace the Darkness is a fantastic narrative that makes excellent use of the audio drama format. The entire story is set in near-total darkness, and the fact that there are no visuals does wonders to enhance the fear-factor, as the story consistently keeps you on your toes. There are some genuinely chilling scenes, particularly involving the humans the Doctor and Charley encounter in the dark world that they visit, and at times this audio seems like the closest Doctor Who comes to doing straight-up horror.
3 – Spare Parts
This audio is often mentioned when people discuss the benefits of Big Finish’s position as an independent company, as it is a great example of the company completely ignoring the ‘child-friendly’ requirement that people expect from televised Doctor Who. A Cyberman origin story set on the bleak, dying world of Mondas, Spare Parts depicts a society in its death-throes as the Mondasians desperately attempt to survive against the bitter cold of their lost planet. Inevitably, the Cybermen rise, and although Nyssa and the Fifth Doctor do everything they can to prevent it, we know from the beginning that the ending is inevitable. What Spare Parts does so well is show that even in the bleakest of scenarios there is still an inkling of hope, but for the people of Mondas their source of hope is the eternal living death of Cyber-conversion. Spare Parts isn’t ‘jump-scare’ scary, but it is the kind of story that will be playing over and over again in your head for days after you listen to it.
2 – Doom Coalition 1 | The Red Lady
Usually, the scariest audio dramas are the ones that capitalise on the audio format itself, as many of the scariest Doctor Who audios would be impossible to adapt for TV without losing an element of the fear factor. The Red Lady is a rare example of an audio that could, in theory, be a televised episode, but it is just so creepy that even without visuals the tale is still terrifying. The story introduces new companion Helen, an assistant language scholar for the National Museum in the 1960s, as her, the Eighth Doctor and Liv attempt to unravel a deadly mystery. An art collection featuring a recurring motif of a red woman is donated to the museum, and quickly people start dying.
1 – Night Thoughts
A creepy story set on a remote island in Scotland, Night Thoughts is a wonderful exploration of psychology and the fear of death. When the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Hex arrive at a grand old hall and disturb a group of academics residing in an old house, they soon realise that there is far more at work than the bickering of a few scholars – soon the murders start, and the most obvious lead seems to be a girl who talks with her stuffed rabbit – and the stuffed rabbit talks back. With a plot that seizes the potential of time-travel related stories by the horns, an atmosphere that is steeped in classical horror and twists and turns that keep the listener engaged to the very end, Night Thoughts is the quintessential spooky story in Big Finish’s backcatalogue.
New to Big Finish Doctor Who Audios? If you want to get into the Eighth Doctor’s era but don’t know where to start, this guide to Big Finish 8th Doctor Audios can help!
One of Big Finish’s most popular and most successful ranges among their Doctor Who back-catalogue is their extensive selection of Eighth Doctor audio dramas, and for good reason.
As he has historically been the Doctor with the fewest on-screen appearances, it is great that the Eighth Doctor was picked up by Big Finish – Paul McGann continues to add to the role he never got to play on TV, the writers have free reign to tell whatever stories they want as they are not constrained by a preexisting narrative for the Eighth Doctor, and fans have been treated to some truly amazing stories within the Eighth Doctor range, all told through the medium of audio,
However, as Big Finish have been producing Eighth Doctor audios since 2001, it can be difficult at this point to know where to begin with his series. With literally hundreds of audio plays to his name, the Eighth Doctor can seem a daunting Doctor to tackle for fans, particularly those that are just getting into Big Finish and the audio drama format as a whole.
This guide is designed to assist those who want to listen to the Eighth Doctor’s Big Finish audio dramas but are unsure of how to approach them. To begin, let’s simplify the Eighth Doctor’s era by dividing it into the distinct ‘phases’ that are generally accepted by fans to be the main pillars of Eighth Doctor audio content.
Phase 1 -Charley Pollard and The Early Years
The Eighth Doctor’s early adventures are bold, nostalgic, and stand the test of time – not only do they draw a lot from the best of Classic Who and therefore don’t feel out of place among the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors in the Monthly Adventures, they do an excellent job of firmly establishing the character of the Eighth Doctor post-TV Movie, as well as introducing us to the marvellous Charley Pollard, the Eighth Doctor’s companion for the majority of his Monthly Range appearances.
Rather like the first few Fourth Doctor TV episodes, the early Eighth Doctor stories depict the Doctor exploring the universe seemingly without a care, but hinting at an overarching plot beneath. This means that you can listen to each episode individually without a problem, but it is beneficial to listen to them in order. The saga begins with 2001’s Storm Warning, which introduces Charley, and highlights of this era include Embrace the Darkness, Neverland, Zagreus, Scherzo, The Natural History of Fear, and The Girl Who Never Was.
Although it is not necessary to listen to every single audio in this era, there are very few that could be considered downright bad. As this was an early era for Big Finish, a lot of experimentation was taking place, so this era of Doctor Who audio dramas can be forgiven for its occasional slip-ups as for every dud audio play Big Finish produced, there were three more that were truly excellent. The only audio that should probably be avoided is Minuet in Hell, although it has to be said that Zagreus is not for the faint-hearted.
Phase 2 – Lucie Bleedin’ Miller and the New Beginning
Since the first set of Eighth Doctor audios were part of the Monthly Adventures, they use the Classic Who format of 4 25-30 minute parts that make up a roughly 2 hour story. However, when the Eighth Doctor was given his own standalone series in 2007, Big Finish changed the format of his stories to single 45 minute episodes, some of which having two parts, to match the format that the televised Doctor Who used post-2005. This change makes the Eighth Doctor Adventures with Lucie Miller far more accessible to newer fans.
Not only that, but this series contains a huge amount of excellent content. Although not as experimental as the previous phase of Eighth Doctor audios, the Eighth Doctor Adventures are far more consistent in terms of overall quality. The tone and plots of the audios in this phase feel very much aligned to the New Series, specifically the Tenth Doctor era. Lucie Miller makes an excellent companion – almost like a cross between Rose and Donna, with just a dash of Ace thrown in for luck. Her strong personality and excellent portrayal by Sheridan Smith make Lucie an instantly memorable companion.
The villains of this era are also equally memorable. The notorious Headhunter is an excellent counter to the Doctor and Lucie’s positive outlook on their adventures, and as her character develops she becomes a fascinating anti-hero of sorts as well as recurring villain. There are also strong appearances for both the Daleks and the Cybermen in this era, and there are many returning Classic villains that make this phase feel like a love letter to fans of Classic and New Who alike. Highlights from this era include Blood of the Daleks, Human Resources, Brave New Town, The Zygon Who Fell To Earth, Hothouse, Wirrn Dawn and To The Death, although there are very few stories in this phase that fail to be either enjoyable romps or excellent sci-fi stories.
Phase 3 – Molly O’Sullivan, the Girl with the Dark Eyes
This phase of Eighth Doctor audios marks a significant transition into the format of 4 episode to a box set and 4 box sets to a series. The episodes are usually self-contained stories that connect together to form a 16-part story – think The Trial of a Time Lord but with less Brian Blessed and even more technobabble. This era sees a far more reserved and brooding Doctor team up with new companion Molly O’Sullivan – a World War I Medical Volunteer who possesses the ‘Dark Eyes’ that give the series its name.
Overall, this phase of the Eighth Doctor’s tenure is perhaps the least accessible to most fans, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has its own distinct identity, almost its own universe, and it creates its own galactic conflict to use as the stage for its space-opera-style story structure. Dark Eyes is certainly an immersive experience, though arguably its greatest weakness is that it relies too heavily on the combined story structure, meaning there are few episodes that stand out as individual stories in their own right.
One of the greatest strengths of Dark Eyes, however, is the Master – played excellently by the delightfully charismatic Alex Macqueen. This version of the Master is a treat, and his appearance in this series helps make it truly memorable. Highlights from this phase include The Great War, The Traitor, Eyes of the Master, A Life in the Day and Master of the Daleks.
Phase 4 – Battling Doom Coalition and Ravenous with Liv and Helen
After the intense and plot-heavy Dark Eyes, the Eighth Doctor’s life takes a sudden turn with the Doom Coalition and Ravenous storylines. The format relaxes the overarching plot meaning that the individual stories feel more unique and distinct from each other, meaning that it would theoretically be possible for a newcomer to listen to a random story from this series and enjoy it. However, as previously mentioned, at this point in the Eighth Doctor’s life there is a lot of internal lore and backstory within his stories, meaning characters, events and plot threads from previous phases play more of a part in these stories. There are even some elements of the New Series that are brought into play here, such as Missy, River Song, and the Weeping Angels.
And yet, arguably the best thing about this era is that the Doctor has a wonderful pair of companions in this phase – Liv and Helen, who come from completely different time zones, one from the 1960s, one from the far-future, and yet have perfect chemistry. Although not as dynamic as Charley or distinctive as Lucie, Liv and Helen fit the companion role excellently for this era of the Eighth Doctor’s life. Highlights from this era include The Red Lady, Scenes from Her Life, Absent Friends, The Side of the Angels, Their Finest Hour Seizure and Companion Piece.
This phase also features a character that is arguably the best villain in the Eighth Doctor’s entire era, and is perhaps one of the greatest villains in Doctor Who history – The Eleven. This insane Time Lord suffers from a condition called Regenerative Dissonance, meaning that his previous incarnations live on as multiple personalities inside his head. This leads to terrifying situations in which multiple psychopathic consciousnesses fight to control a single body and argue over the best way to murder their victim, with the primary Eleven personality vying for control.
Phase 5 – Bliss and the Time War
It was inevitable that the Eighth Doctor would have to face the Time War eventually, and Big Finish began producing the Eighth Doctor Time War stories before Doom Coalition had even finished – this represents a fresh start for the Doctor, and he has a new companion and even a new theme (borrowed from the late John Hurt’s War Doctor audios). These stories are often a lot bleaker than many of the previous Eighth Doctor audios, although this is to be expected with the Time War raging.
There are some interesting surprises in this era, as several aspects of the Doctor’s life come back to haunt him during the horrors of the Time War. This series also serves a secondary purpose – setting up the War Doctor audios which chronologically take place after this era from the point of view of the Doctor.
New companion Bliss makes an excellent impression in this series, establishing herself as a character who is just as affected by the Time War as the Doctor is, meaning she understands the nature of the conflict and aligns with the Doctor’s view of wanting to help but not actively fight. Highlights of this phase include The Starship of Theseus, One Life, Planet of the Ogrons, In the Garden of Death and The War Valeyard. Although the last phase in the Eighth Doctor’s tenure is quite disconnected from its predecessors, one must take into account the fact that Big Finish has not finished filling in the gaps as of yet. Still, those who enjoyed the legendary War Doctor audios will also enjoy the Eighth Doctor: Time War stories.
Extra Eighth Doctor Content
But wait, there’s more! The five phases might be the main eras of the Eighth Doctor’s audio tenure, but there are other stories that feature him that do not fit into any of these categories. Overall, the Eighth Doctor’s era is vast and daunting to the uninitiated, but hopefully this guide has helped to break down this enigmatic and elusive Doctor’s era into more manageable phases for those who want to take the plunge and experience the excellent audio adventures of the Eighth Doctor.
Travels with Mary Shelley
There are some audios that were released as part of the Monthly Adventures in 2009 and 2010 that depicted the Eighth Doctor at an earlier point in his life, before he even met Charley, in which he had several travels with Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. This era takes on a distinctly Gothic feel, and every one is worth a listen. The Silver Turk is arguably the best, and features the Mondasian Cybermen in 19th-century Vienna.
The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller
Acting as a pseudo-spinoff series for Lucie that is set between the first and second series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, this box set tells various stories that primarily involve Lucie, although the Eighth Doctor is obviously present. So far only the first box set of this series has been released, but already the Further Adventures of Lucie Miller have given us a hilarious Dalek story in the debut story, The Dalek Trap.
Rage of the Master
The Eighth Doctor also appears in the third box set in the War Master series, which depicts the antics of Derek Jacobi’s incarnation of the Master during the Time War. The Eighth Doctor and the War Master bounce off each other well in their scenes together, and overall the story is highly enjoyable – but to say any more would give away some fantastic plot twists.
This Seventh Doctor story serves as a fitting thematic sequel to the TV story Silver Nemesis, as not only is it a three-part story featuring the Cybermen, but it also mirrors that stories’ focus on war and peace. Kingdom of Silver is an interesting story that plays on several recurring motifs in Big Finish Cyberman stories, and is unapologetic in its presentation of the Cybermen as ruthless and manipulative. The Seventh Doctor, companionless in this story, meets a mercenary on a primitive planet, both of them having detected a strange signal emanating from the planet’s capital. During a peace conference between the planet’s main ruling parties, the Cybermen make a resurgence. This is a great audio that is a rare example of Terry Molloy playing a role that isn’t Davros, and he gets a chance to play a very different role in this story. Sylvester McCoy is enigmatic and devious as always, and there are some great twists and turns in this story that keep you guessing.
The Wrong Doctors
A Sixth Doctor audio steeped in lore, The Wrong Doctors is a rare example of a multi-Doctor story featuring two versions of the same incarnation of the Doctor from completely different points in their timeline. This story features a version of the Sixth Doctor from fairly early in his timeline, and another that is far more mature and level-headed, meaning it is essentially a clash of the TV and Audio depictions of the Sixth Doctor. Colin Baker does a fantastic job in this story, and Mel actually works really well as a companion, as this story serves as the first chronological story for Mel after the somewhat odd way in which she was inserted into the TV series during Trial of a Time Lord. At least, that’s the idea, although as the story progresses we see that things are more complicated than they first appear – hence the two versions of the Doctor. To sum up this story, it is a treat for Colin Baker fans.
Terror of the Sontarans
A unique and interesting Seventh Doctor audio, Terror of the Sontarans delves into the psychology of the Sontaran race, something that is not often done on Doctor Who. Whilst Sontarans are known for their discipline and reluctance to show fear, this audio shows what happens when Sontarans are confronted with something that makes them go truly insane. What is fascinating to consider with this audio is that Sontarans are all clones, so when one Sontaran berates another it is essentially just shouting at another version of itself. The idea of a group of Sontarans breaking the norm for their race and deciding to show creativity or fear has some interesting consequences, both for them and all others who get caught in the crossfire
Time in Office
This audio is one of a kind. Each part is an individual story that feeds into the overarching plotline that the Fifth Doctor has finally been recruited by the Time Lords to serve his time in office as Lord President of Gallifrey, hence the title. As one might imagine, the meek and affable Fifth Doctor goes on to cause chaos on Gallifrey, not least due to Tegan’s antics as Human-Time Lord ‘Ambassador’. Speaking of which, there is a fair amount of comedy in this story, and it isn’t supposed to be taken all too seriously. The audio plays heavily on the blustering and stagnant representation of Time Lord society that we got in the Fourth Doctor episode The Deadly Assassin, and it is clear why the Doctor was so eager to leave the planet. This audio also pays excellent homage to stories such as The Invasion of Time and The Five Doctors from the Classic Series that were set on or heavily related to Gallifrey, so its a real treat for fans of Time Lord lore.
When browsing the online catalogue of Big Finish audios, either via their site or through some other means like the Wiki, eventually the eyes of the curious will be drawn to the wide variety of Eighth Doctor Box Sets, starring Paul McGann among various other stars. Recent releases like Ravenous and the Eighth Doctor: Time War series are heavily promoted by Big Finish, and with good reason – the Eighth Doctor Box Sets were the pioneers of their kind, and the first four Dark Eyes box sets comprised Big Finish’s first complete four-set story line. So in many ways the Dark Eyes series, the set that started it all, is considered the progenitor for all other box sets. So how does this first box set hold up? Is Dark Eyes worth a listen?
Time and Space
Being the first box set of what would become the first series in what would become a huge range of Eighth Doctor box sets, Dark Eyes has a lot on its shoulders. Interestingly, the premise of the opening story is somewhat humble. Brooding and depressed due to a series of recent Dalek victories, the Doctor decides to take the TARDIS to the end of the universe, to see how things play out. Either the Daleks are stopped, in which case life can prevail, or they are not, in which case the universe would be overrun with nothing but Daleks. During this trip, however, the Doctor’s TARDIS is intercepted by another Time Lord, Straxus, who warns the Doctor not to go to the end of the universe and instead offers him what he wants most – a source of hope, in the form of Molly O’ Sullivan, a Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing assistant from World War One who has the eponymous ‘Dark Eyes’, and also seems to be the key to a Dalek plot to eradicate the universe.
In many ways, Molly’s introduction mirrors that of previous Eighth Doctor companion Lucie Miller, except rather than the Eighth Doctor reluctantly taking Lucie as his companion, in this case the companion is reluctantly recruited by the Doctor. Molly does take some getting used to as a companion – she calls the TARDIS a ‘Tardy-Box’ and is hesitant to believe anything the Doctor says, but throughout their first adventure they get to know each other and inevitably as the scale and stakes of the conflict they are sucked up into get higher, their friendship begins to blossom. Speaking of stakes, the Daleks have teamed up with a rogue Time Lord known as ‘X’, whom the Daleks call Kotris, and are attempting to use retro-genitor particles to wipe out the Time Lords completely. Kotris, having grown tired of the Time Lord’s hypocrisy and meddling in affairs, had made a deal with the nefarious Dalek Time Controller, a truly wonderful character played brilliantly by Nicholas Briggs. The best way to describe his Time Controller voice is as a sane and composed version of his insane Dalek Caan voice.
World War One and the Daleks
The World War One setting of the first story is a brilliant choice for a Dalek story, and the Daleks spend a lot of time creeping around and being uncharacteristically patient, not revealing themselves until very late in the story. The Doctor lands in France and is caught in a gas attack, which incapacitates him while his Gallifreyan physiology heals him. In the meantime, he is picked up by soldiers and taken for medical assistance, meeting Molly in the process. The first story in the box set is a great introduction to Molly as a character, as it first shows her in her time period dealing with the war before catapulting her into the much more threatening Dalek incursion that follows.
Overall, the Daleks are effective not just in the first story but across the entire box set. the Dalek Time Controller, as previously mentioned, is excellent, and the second audio in the set in particular depicts the Daleks at their most ruthless. Unfortunately, the series doesn’t dwell on the idea of Daleks in World War One, as the pacing begins to increase as soon as they appear. It is perhaps telling at this point that Dark Eyes may have originally been set to be eight episodes long instead of four, perhaps even as another series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, and several ideas had to be crammed together into one story in order to condense the series into a four-part box set. Whilst this does allow for some fast-paced action and varied set pieces in the second audio, it also means that none of these ideas are particularly fleshed out.
The Arc and the Eyes
The best way to describe the story arc for the first Dark Eyes box set is as a tentative first step in what would become a long journey. And as first steps go, it makes some great progress. Throughout these first four audios the groundwork for the majority of the Dark Eyes series is laid, although the fact that the series was almost planned as it was being made means that not all of the vital elements of the Dark Eyes series are present here. One of the most iconic things about the Dark Eyes series, Alex MacQueen’s incarnation of the Master, does not appear until midway through Dark Eyes 2, although Kotris is a great antagonist and Toby Jones plays a great villain.
Molly O’ Sullivan gets a great introduction in this box set that not only sets up her character arc perfectly but also gives us a great idea of the kind of person she is, and how she reacts to situations bearing in mind the fact that she is from a time period that is now over one hundred years ago. Like the first series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures did for Lucie Miller, the first Dark Eyes box set presents Molly with a diverse array of challenges and testing situations to overcome, and as such the listeners glean a lot about her character early on. Although her demeanour takes some getting used to, Molly is an empathetic and charismatic character who pairs well with the Eighth Doctor.
So, is Dark Eyes worth a listen?
Absolutely, there is no doubt about that. The first Dark Eyes box set not only serves as an excellent introduction to the incredible Dark Eyes series, but each story is exciting and interesting in their own right, and not one of the four hour-long episodes in this box set feel like they are not pulling their weight. Big Finish does an excellent job of translating the Eighth Doctor into different release formats, from his debut in the Main Range to the New Who style EDAs and now the Eighth Doctor Box Sets. Paul McGann does a fantastic job with every story he is given, and he always gives it his all. Molly O’ Sullivan is a fantastic companion who has an excellent introduction here and the Daleks are as great as ever.
Needless to say fans are excited about the return of this popular Dalek, but why is this particular Supreme Dalek so special?
Although the Daleks feature prominently in many of Big Finish’s Doctor Who Spinoff Audios, such as the Time War audios, it is a relatively rare occurence for the Daleks to feature in the monthly range. As the range approaches its 20th Birthday this year, it is interesting to look back on how the range has used the Daleks sparingly in the past compared to the current incarnation of the TV series. However, since it has been over a year since the last Monthly Range Dalek story, fans were teased with the title of August’s monthly release earlier this year, a Sixth Doctor story with the title: ‘Emissary of the Daleks’.
Fans are always quick to begin theorising over what the latest ‘of the Daleks’ buzzword actually means, with varying degrees of success. So far, all we really know about the story itself is that it stars the Sixth Doctor and Peri, and has something to do with someone acting as a go-between for the Daleks and another race, although even that is somewhat of a vague premise. All that changed with the reveal of the cover art, the first example of a Monthly Range Dalek story using the new Series 11 branding and logo, but the thing that really has fans talking is the inclusion of a specific and infamous Dalek on the cover – the Dalek Council Representative from Planet of the Daleks.
For those not in the know, this specific Supreme Dalek appeared in the 1973 Jon Pertwee story after Dalek activity on the planet Spiridon was disrupted by the Doctor, Jo and several Thals. Arriving on the planet in dramatic fashion in one of the most impressive uses of spaceship model shots in the era, the Supreme Dalek certainly made its mark on viewers with its unique appearance. The prop used for this Supreme was one of Terry Nation’s Movie Daleks painted black and gold, meaning that it is one of the most unique Daleks to appear in Classic Who and, in typical Classic Supreme style, he never appeared again after his first appearance.
Needless to say fans are excited about the return of this popular Dalek, but a logical question to ask would be: Why is this particular Supreme Dalek so special? After all, there were many Supreme Daleks in the Classic series, and there have been even more since the revival. The answer is in this Supreme Dalek’s attitude – thoughout Planet of the Daleks this Supreme is particularly ruthless – even by Dalek standards. He brutally murders his immediate subordinate for failing to capture the Doctor, and very nearly wipes out the entire population of the planet. After being thwarted and having his ship stolen by Thals, the Supreme Dalek is last seen plotting revenge of swearing the supremacy of the Dalek race, setting up a rematch with the Doctor that, sadly, never occured on-screen.
However, this distinctive Dalek Commander will hopefully be getting his chance at payback in Big Finish’s Emissary of the Daleks, as since we have never seen another Supreme Dalek quite like this one, there is a good chance that it is actually the same character. If so, this will be a rare example of a specific Dalek recurring in multiple stories. As the Dalek occupation of Spiridon was thwarted in another Big Finish story, it will be interesting to see what this Supreme has been up to, and given the sign warning of dangerous ‘Vitanium’ mining on the cover, it would seem this Supreme hasn’t lost his perhant for exploiting the natural resources of innocent planets. Hopefully Nick Briggs will also give his best shot at imitating the Pertwee-era Daleks’ distinctive voices as the pièce de résistance of this exciting-looking Dalek story.
Though it has been some time since the last Best of Big Finish was released, since then Big Finish have announced dozens of new box sets so this article will showcase some of the best of Big Finish’s more recent box set releases.
Classic Doctors, New Monsters Volume One
Having a box set dedicated entirely to the concept of monsters from the New Series battling Classic Doctors is somewhat disheartening, as it implies that this is something that we will not see in the Main Range, but the payoff is worth it when listening to this box set. Each monster present is developed to a degree not seen in the TV series episodes in which they appear, and the focus of each story is on the returning monster. New Series monsters that seemed interesting but were never given the time or focus in the episode that they deserved, like the Sycorax, who were hardly the focus of their debut episode and are given more time in the limelight in Harvest of the Sycorax. The best of the box set is The Sontaran Ordeal, as it is set during the Time War and gives a small taste of the horrors of the conflict but from the perspective of the fringes of the war. In terms of best use of the returning monster, Judoon in Chains helps humanise the Judoon and is probably the most interesting of the set story-wise, although Fallen Angels does a great job of translating the Weeping Angels to the audio format.
The Diary of River Song, Series 5
Though it may seem odd to include the fifth instalment of a series of box sets, this collection is entirely standalone and requires no prior context from previous River Song stories. What it does require, however, is a love of the Doctor’s arch-enemy the Master, as each of the four stories in this set features an incarnation of the evil Time Lord battling River Song. The first audio features Missy, at a point in time before she first met the Twelfth Doctor and still believes that River Song is the one responsible for the Doctor’s death. The story revolves around this concept from Series 6, but a lot of the actual conversation between Missy and River refers to many situations in the Classic series, and even a few references to other parts of Who canon too. Geoffrey Beevers appears as the decayed Master in Animal Instinct, and is the only true Classic Master to appear yet he stands out even among the dynamic newer Master incarnations. This box set also features the first appearance of Eric Robert’s incarnation of the Master, as well as the return of Derek Jacobi’s War Master, fresh from the Time War. Talking of which…
The War Doctor – Only the Monstrous
Big Finish’s decision to fully elaborate on the events of the Time War after the 50th Anniversary came as no surprise, but John Hurt’s performance as well as the quality of the writing blew any potential naysayers out of the water when the first box set was released. People had been concerned that fully depicting the Time War would detract from the mystery, and whilst that is perhaps still true, the audio format allows for much to still be left to the imagination and allows for a depiction of the conflict that would not be possible on-screen. The first of four War Doctor box sets, the three stories featured focus mainly on the War Doctor coming to terms with his new role as a warrior, and do not feature the Time War’s events as directly as later releases, allowing for a lot of room for the War Doctor’s character to be firmly established.
The Sixth Doctor – The Last Adventure
With the horrendous ordeal surrounding Colin Baker’s departure from the Classic Series and the subsequent botched regeneration scene that bridged the Sixth and Seventh Doctor at the start of Time and the Rani, there was a lot left to be interpreted by what we saw on-screen. For a start, there is a narrative gap between Colin Baker’s final story, The Ultimate Foe, and Sylvester McCoy’s first story, one of many throughout the Sixth Doctor’s era that allowed Big Finish to expand his timeline by adding hundreds of new stories. However, in The Last Adventure, Big Finish aims to tell a number of stories that lay the groundwork for the events that would lead up to the opening scene of Time and the Rani. What they produced is a box set of four fantastic stories that each take place at different points in the Sixth Doctor’s life, each with a different companion. This proves to be a great tribute to Colin Baker’s era not only at Big Finish but as the Sixth Doctor in general, and his regeneration scene is as poignant and heartwarming as any of the New Series regenerations.