Doctor Who – How did the Daleks Survive the Time War?

The Daleks are the Doctor’s most fearsome enemies, and are well-known for their brutality, their ingenuity and above all, their survivability. The Daleks have survived everything from an attempt by a temporal race of demi-gods to avert their creation to a civil war that rendered the surface of their home-world a charred cinder, but one conflict that the Daleks seemingly could not escape was the Time War.

This huge temporal conflict saw the Daleks fight an all-out war with the Time Lords, a war that would destroy the Dalek race and leave only a few scattered survivors, including the Emperor and the Cult of Skaro. One by one, however, these survivors would be killed, usually due to the intervention of the Doctor.

The last Dalek drone known as the Metaltron would kill itself after absorbing Human DNA, as we see in the episode Dalek. In the Series 1 finale The Parting of the Ways we see that the Emperor Dalek was killed trying to invade Earth in the year 200,100. Finally, in Evolution of the Daleks, all but one member of the Cult of Skaro would die during the disastrous Final Experiment in New York in the 1930s.

The last member of the Cult of Skaro, Dalek Caan, went back into the Time War to rescue Davros and rebuild a New Dalek Empire, but in the process he saw the Dalek race for what it was and in the Series 4 finale Journey’s End we learn that we decided to wipe his own kind out, engineering the destruction of Davros’ empire to apparently ensure a final end for the Daleks.

However, just like every ‘final end’ the Daleks had suffered so far, the destruction of Davros’ empire would prove to not be the end of the Daleks, as three surviving Daleks would go on to uncover a lost Dalek Progenitor and create a New Dalek Paradigm, as seen in Series 5’s Victory of the Daleks. The new breed of Daleks created from the Progenitor would escape via time travel and begin rebuilding the Dalek Empire.

Exactly what happens next for the Daleks is a bit murky because each episode they feature in seems to tell its own story in terms of what the Daleks do next. The Paradigm Daleks essentially disappear after Series 7’s Asylum of the Daleks, and now the Daleks have established a Parliament, perhaps in order to keep peace. The Magician’s Apprentice implies that Davros has rebuilt a new Dalek race on Skaro, though the Dalek City is later destroyed.

Other Dalek appearances are even stranger. The fact that Bronze Daleks are attacking the Movellans in Series 10’s The Pilot seems to indicate that the Daleks are either interfering with their own history or resuming their past conflicts with post-Time War vigor. The fact that various Classic Daleks are present in the Asylum and Davros’ Dalek City on Skaro would seem to indicate some kind of temporal shenanigans, but it is unclear exactly what they are up to.

Other recent appearances for the Daleks in episodes like Into the Dalek, Resolution and Revolution of the Daleks state that the Daleks have a roaming fleet that serves as their headquarters, and as the Dalek saucer that was destroyed in The Time of the Doctor was apparently the Dalek Parliament, it could be that now the Daleks are ‘between empires’ at the moment and are instead rampaging around the Galaxy in a nomadic fleet. We can only wait and see what the future holds for the Daleks, but needless to say that after surviving the fires of the Time War they are now here to stay – and are more powerful than ever.

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Doctor Who – What Happened to Rusty?

As the focus of the second episode of Series 8, Into the Dalek, Rusty was a one-of-a-kind, a character that initially seemed like it could be the universe’s only example of a Dalek that was morally good. That is, until the Twelfth Doctor discovered that it was simply suffering a malfunction, cured the problem, and instead accidentally taught Rusty to hate the Daleks. At the end of Into the Dalek, we see Rusty leave for parts unknown, but what happened to this unique Dalek?

Escaping the Dalek Fleet

At the end of Into the Dalek, Rusty leaves the Human hospital ship Aristotle and joins the rest of his kind in their saucer, and he then presumably stays undercover until he reaches a strategic position. Interestingly, early drafts for Into the Dalek depict Rusty self-destructing to destroy the saucer in a manner similar to the Metaltron from Dalek, though this was cut from the final episode.

What we do know is that Rusty would survive and live among for the Daleks for a while before defecting and waging an unending war against his own race. Rusty would go on to destroy countless Daleks, and he became somewhat of a legend both among his own people and in the wider universe in general. According to the Twelfth Doctor, Rusty would go on to live for billions of years, slaughtering Daleks and becoming a quasi-mythical figure.

Waging War against the Daleks

After meeting the First Doctor in Twice Upon a Time, the Twelfth Doctor would eventually reunite with Rusty after travelling to his fortress on Villengard. Rusty has clearly been busy since his last encounter with the Doctor, as there are dead Daleks strewn around the entrance to his tower, and he has been living there for so long that the scattered Dalek survivors have adapted to live outside their casings and latch onto the faces of humanoids in order to feed, implying that Rusty had been there for hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions.

A former weapons production facility, Villengard was perfect for Rusty’s purposes, and he not only installed himself atop a tower with external weapons, but he also tapped into huge Dalek databases in a bid to become one of the most intelligent life forms in the universe. The Doctor would tap into this knowledge to learn more information about the Testimony, eventually discovering its benevolent nature. The Twelfth Doctor was then teleported away and Rusty is left alone once again.

Rusty’s Future

Twice Upon a Time is the last time we see Rusty, so what he gets up to after this and what eventually becomes of this Dalek is unknown. His unending hatred of the Daleks that has lasted for billions of years will undoubtedly motivate Rusty to continue his crusade against his own kind, and perhaps he will appear in a story in the future and shed some light on how he has managed to evade destruction and wreak havoc on the Daleks for so long.

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Doctor Who – What is the Cult of Skaro?

In all of Dalek history there are few individual Daleks save perhaps the Emperor himself who can claim to be as important or influential as the Cult of Skaro, as they are some of the most interesting Dalek characters ever created and were the first Daleks to reappear across multiple episodes. These four Daleks were created by Russell T. Davies for the Series 2 finale Army of Ghosts / Doomsday and went on to become the first individual Daleks to have names and unique personalities.

We are introduced to the Cult of Skaro during the climactic cliff-hanger ending of Army of Ghosts and their names and personalities are expanded on more in Doomsday, in which they are revealed to have escaped the Time War in a Void Ship along with a mysterious Time Lord artefact called the Genesis Ark. These four Daleks are capable of imagination, something that most standard Daleks lack, and as such they are able to out-think their enemies and made exceptional tacticians during the Time War.

Each member of the Cult can be identified in several ways. The first and most difficult way of identifying each member is by their unique tag located underneath their eyestalk, as in theory each Cult member has an associated tag that is printed onto their prop. Unfortunately, however, during filming of the two main episodes in which the Cult of Skaro appear, the props were routinely switched up, sometimes even between shots, so this method is all but useless in practicality.

The easiest way to tell the Cult members apart is by their voices, as Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs gave each member of the Cult their own unique voice and personality. Dalek Sec has a standard Dalek voice with an authoritative tone, Dalek Caan’s voice is very deep and rasping, Dalek Thay has a low-pitched voice with a nasal croak, and Dalek Jast has a high-pitched, staccato voice with a very fast line delivery.

Dalek Sec is easily identifiable. But can you tell the other three apart?

Who is Dalek Jast?

Jast is perhaps the least developed member of the Cult, as he has the fewest lines of the group and does not get any notable scenes on his own. He is the Dalek that first notices that the Doctor is present at Torchwood by analysing the communication with the Cyber-Leader, and he is seemingly the one in charge of directing where the Genesis Ark should move.

Dalek Jast’s greatest claim to fame is assisting Dalek Caan in the aerial attack on Hooverville in Evolution of the Daleks, and then later accompanying Dalek Thay to the theatre where he is later killed by the Human-Dalek hybrids. Jast is identifiable by his high-pitched voice and fast, energetic line delivery. Dalek Jast’s reserved nature is due to more than just Nick Briggs wanting to minimize the amount of squeaky Dalek dialogue, however, as Jast comes across as one who only comments when he feels his eye for detail is necessary, to voice a concern that the other members of the Cult may have missed.

Who is Dalek Thay?

Thay is the most prominent Cult member early on, as he is the first of the group to be introduced by name and is also the Dalek that starts the war with the Cybermen in Doomsday. He is identified by his medium-pitched voice that has a distinct nasal croak, and he is often the first Cult member to speak his mind during group discussions.

After starting the war with the Cybermen, Thay doesn’t do much for the rest of Doomsday, but he becomes prominent again in Daleks in Manhattan as he is the Dalek who sacrifices his three back panels for the Final Experiment, making him the only Cult of Skaro member other than Sec who can be easily identified from a distance.

After spending most of the two-parter skulking around in the sewers, Dalek Thay accidentally kills the hybrid Dalek Sec before being destroyed by the Human-Daleks. Overall, Dalek Thay is quick to voice his mind and also quick to fire his weapon, and this more often than not ends up getting the Cult into fights, either with the Cybermen or with the Human-Dalek hybrids, which eventually ends up getting Thay killed.

Dalek Thay’s missing back panels are clearly visible in this shot

Who is Dalek Caan?

Caan gets only one line in Doomsday, his booming announcement of his own name. As the Cult member with the deepest voice, Nicholas Briggs chose to limit Caan’s lines early on when voicing the Daleks, but in Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks Caan becomes more prominent.

He is the Dalek who liasons with Mr Diagoras on behalf of the Cult, and in Daleks in Manhattan he laments that his planet has been destroyed and that the Daleks must now look to the Humans for inspiration. It seems as though he is in favour of the Final Experiment at first, as he does not participate in the debate before Sec absorbs Diagoras and he later gives the speech about the Daleks needing to evolve in the climax of the story before the Hybrid emerges.

Caan clearly begins to show doubts about Sec, and he even asks Dalek Thay if he shares those feelings in a great little scene between the two in one of the sewer corridors. The two Daleks guiltily swapping treasonous thoughts in what passes as a Dalek whisper illustrates how the Cult members are more individual and less drone-like than standard Daleks. Caan eventually takes over the Cult when the other members deem Sec to be inferior, designating himself Controller.

Dalek Caan’s voice changes from deep to high-pitched when he takes on the role of Controller in Evolution of the Daleks, as Nicholas Briggs wanted to take advantage of Caan’s new role to justify a voice change. Dalek Caan was given a guttural, rasping voice in Doomsday because he had only one line, but Briggs began to find the voice difficult to maintain after the extended conversations between Caan and Diagoras followed by a speech Caan gives to Martha and the other Humans in Daleks in Manhattan.

After being left as the final surviving Cult member at the end of Evolution of the Daleks, Caan goes insane when he rescues Davros from the Time War. Seeing the Daleks for what they truly are, Caan betrays Davros by instigating the fall of the New Dalek Empire in Journey’s End.

Who is Dalek Sec?

Arguably the most famous member of the Cult of Skaro, Sec is immediately recognizable because of his jet black casing that sets him apart from the other Daleks. Sec is the one who exchanges verbal quips with the Cyber-Leader over the comms in Doomsday in an iconic scene which illustrates his razor-sharp wit and sense of humour, which is unusual for a Dalek, even a high-ranking one. After losing the Battle of Canary Wharf, Sec and the other members of the Cult travel to 1930s’ New York and there Sec merges with the Human Diagoras and becomes the Dalek Sec Hybrid.

Evolution of the Daleks deals with Sec coming to terms with his Human emotions following his transformation, and he eventually develops into a kind and pacifistic man who genuinely wants to save the Daleks from their constant cycle of death and destruction. The other Daleks see Sec as impure, however, and betray him. Sec is demoted and treated as little more than a pet by the Daleks, but he continues in his efforts to convince them to change their ways. In the end, Sec sacrifices himself to save the Doctor’s life by standing in the way of a blast from Dalek Thay that was meant for the Doctor, proving in the end that he was a good man despite his Dalek nature.

Before his death, Dalek Sec tells his Daleks that their efforts to spread death and destruction will inevitably turn against them, and he is proven right mere minutes after his death as the remaining Human-Dalek hybrids choose to turn against their masters and destroy Dalek Thay and Dalek Jast, leaving Dalek Caan as the last surviving member of the Cult.

Why were the Cult of Skaro created?

According to Dalek Sec during his conversation with the Doctor in Doomsday, the Cult of Skaro was created by the Emperor in the latter years of the Time War to ensure the survival of the Dalek race at all costs by imagining new ways to survive. This explains why Dalek Sec is willing to go to such extreme lengths during the two stories in which he appears as he risks corrupting the timeline by invading 21st century London, and then he chooses to alter Dalek DNA during the Final Experiment.

The creation of the Cult of Skaro proves how desperate the Dalek Emperor was getting towards the end of the Time War, as the Cult are given authority above anything within the existing Dalek hierarchy and Dalek Sec uses this authority to justify the radical alterations to Dalek DNA during the Final Experiment. The other members of the Cult are less convinced that Humans are a species that Daleks should learn from, but we already know that the Emperor himself reached the same conclusion.

The Daleks created by the so-called ‘God of all Daleks’ that we see in Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways are created from cells harvested from Human bodies, and the Dalek Emperor builds an entire army of impure, Human-bred Daleks that he uses to invade Earth. Whilst the Emperor is clearly insane, it is interesting to note that Dalek Sec and the Emperor both reach similar conclusions of how to perpetuate the Dalek race.

What Happened to the Cult of Skaro?

Following the disastrous Final Experiment, three members of the Cult of Skaro were dead and the last surviving member of the group, Dalek Caan, was sent hurtling into the Time War by his own Emergency Temporal Shift. Caan intended to rescue Davros and save the Dalek race, but in the process of falling through the Time War the last member of the Cult of Skaro saw his race for what they were – genocidal killers.

Caan chose to rebel against the Daleks and eventually brought about the downfall of Davros’ new Dalek Empire by tricking his creator into gathering the Doctor and his friends on the Crucible to ensure the Daleks’ destruction. Caan was presumed killed during the destruction of the Dalek Crucible but Davros suffered the same fate and was later revealed to be still alive, leading many to question if Caan did truly die.

Whether Caan died in the fires of the Crucible or not, it is safe to say that the Cult of Skaro itself is dead. Their ultimate goal was to out-think their enemies by imagining, but unfortunately their imagination made them enemies of each other. Both Dalek Sec and Dalek Caan both individually reach the conclusion that the Dalek way of life is wrong, and the two members of the Cult who remained loyal Daleks to the end, Thay and Jast, were destroyed by their own hubris.

The Cult of Skaro arc is probably one of the most insightful Dalek storylines both for fans and potential writers for the show, as it not only delves into an interesting aspect of Dalek lore, but it also illustrates the folly of the Dalek race as each member of the Cult is destroyed by their efforts to either uphold or influence Dalek doctrine.

Why did the Cult of Skaro fail?

Although Dalek Thay and Dalek Jast make the point that the Final Experiment was contrary to Dalek doctrine and would ultimately have weakened them, the fact that the other Daleks in the Cult of Skaro chose to use their powers of imagination to rebel against Sec exposes the fatal flaw in the very concept of the Cult of Skaro, in that four Daleks with the power to imagine will inevitably turn on each other when any one of them imagines something a bit too far outside the Dalek sphere of thought.

The ultimate tragedy of the Cult of Skaro is that the only two Daleks of the four to actually utilize their imagination to the extent that they break free of Dalek conditioning only manage to do so once they are corrupted in the eyes of other Daleks. Dalek Sec becomes a compassionate man by fusing his DNA with Humans but is cast out by his comrades as a result. Dalek Caan learns the truth of the Dalek race but in doing so is blinded and deemed an insane abomination by the Supreme Dalek.

Into the Dalek would later give us a natural evolution of the Cult of Skaro, the essence of the two best Daleks of the Cult galvanized into one Dalek. Rusty experiences similar epiphanies to Dalek Sec and Dalek Caan, in that he learns the value of humanoid life and also fosters a growing hatred of other Daleks. However, Rusty retains his Dalek casing and weapons, and is able to not only rebel against his own kind but also establish his own sanctuary on Villengard, slaughtering any Daleks that come to destroy him.

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Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 4

The Dark Eyes saga draws to a close to a final series of audios that tie up several loose ends from the previous sets. After the departure of Molly O’Sullivan at the end of Rule of the Eminence, Liv Chenka has now taken over as the Eighth Doctor’s main companion having had several adventures with him in previous audios. In many respects Dark Eyes 4 is somewhat of a farewell tour for the saga, as unfortunately Ruth Bradley was unavailable so Molly is recast and the story shifts its focus away from her for perhaps the first time, and this is arguably for the best as it allows for some much-needed development of the Doctor and Liv’s relationship.

4.1 – A Life in the Day

After being utilised as a substitute companion until Molly’s departure, Liv Chenka finally gets a chance to develop as a character in her own right in A Life in the Day, which provides a refreshing change from the usual fast-paced antics of the series by opting to tell a small-scale story about death and time travel. The Eighth Doctor is taking care of the brother of one of Molly’s old friends, as he detects some temporal machinations in his house and is intrigued. Liv, in the meantime, gets some light-hearted scenes out on a date to a cinema and a restaurant in a period of Earth’s history that, for her, is ancient history.

Stories about temporal shenanigans are always interesting, and this one is no exception. The concise runtime allows for tight pacing that ensures that not a moment is wasted, and the small cast allows for a sharp focus on the story with some great character interactions that are brought to life beautifully by the cast. Nicola Walker finally gets a chance to show her range as an actress after being limited to a mostly supporting role in most of her stories up until this point, and although this isn’t her first audio as the Doctor’s only companion, it is the first of her audios to truly focus on her in the way that a Doctor Who story utilises a companion, and as such Liv is finally given the character focus that she deserves.

The story itself is a poignant one that makes this a really memorable opening story for Dark Eyes 4. Of all the Dark Eyes box sets, this one probably has the strongest opener as it not only sets up some plot points that will be picked up in later stories but it also proves that Big Finish can still deliver impactful standalone stories that utilise the best elements of Doctor Who in new ways. This audio keeps the references to surrounding Dark Eyes stories to a minimum so it is easy to listen to as a one-off story, which is great because A Life in a Day is easily one of the best offering in the Dark Eyes saga, particularly because it leads directly into the next story, another of the best stories in the Dark Eyes series:

4.2 – The Monster of Montmartre

A classic Dalek romp that harks back to The Great War from the first Dark Eyes box set by using the Daleks as a sinister creepy threat operating behind the scenes and exterminating people from the shadows, The Monster of Montmartre is probably the best Dalek story in the Dark Eyes series. The Daleks haven’t featured since Eyes of the Master despite being heavily involved in the marketing for the saga, but they have a strong presence here which is made clear right from the pre-credits sequence, which showcases the fantastic sound design that Big Finish is known for. The use of the Daleks as a sinister force that operates from the shadows is rare among Doctor Who stories, so that along makes The Monster of Montmartre stand out from other Dalek stories.

The Doctor and Liv are in Paris, still in 1921 after the events of the previous audio. Upon arriving, they soon discover that there is a monster stalking the streets of Montmartre. This audio tells a story that is sinister in several ways, one of which being that the alluring atmosphere of the entertainment in Paris at the time seduces young destitute artists into bars and nightclubs, such as the ‘Red Pagoda’, actually a damaged Dalek ship that has replaced the Moulin Rouge, which is run by the mysterious Madame Adelaine Dutemps, a creation and puppet of the Daleks.

The intrigue and mystery of this audio culminates in an encounter with the Dalek Time Controller, damaged and isolated after his last encounter with the Doctor, who is converting humans into ramshackle Daleks from within the Red Pagoda. The Dalek Time Controller decides to create a council of Dalek Time Strategists, who become important to the Dalek Empire much later on during the Time War, and the Time Controller also mentions that the Dalek Paradigm from Victory of the Daleks is causing the Dalek timeline to fluctuate, a nice touch. There is also a fantastic scene towards the end between Liv and the Dalek Time Controller that is by far the best scene in the whole audio.

4.3 – Master of the Daleks

Featuring one of the best cold opens of any Doctor Who audio drama, Master of the Daleks sets its bar high, featuring the Daleks, the Master and the Sontarans in the penultimate audio in what has essentially been a 16-part space opera saga. Unfortunately, however, this audio immediately jumps to two well-known tropes of the Eighth Doctor audios – expositional dialogue, and the Doctor suffering from amnesia. There are some humorous scenes due to this situation as the Doctor mistakes a Dalek for one of his companions, but it cannot be denied that at this point the amnesiac Eighth Doctor trope has become a tired, worn-out trait of the character that only exists due to the bizarre plot of the TV Movie and has plagued the Eighth Doctor’s era ever since.

The main plot of this audio is interesting, as the Master and the Dalek Time Controller team up to take over Earth, Sontar and a significant portion of the Galaxy using a combined Dalek-Sontaran army. Naturally, this alliance is an uneasy one at best. Alex Macqueen’s Master seems to be great at playing off other villains, one of the things that makes him so great in the Monthly Adventures story The Two Masters, and this is never more true than here as Macqueen and Nick Briggs work really well together. The character of the Time Controller is capable of a lot more expression than a standard Dalek, so this audio has room for some great dialogue between the two characters.

The obvious elephant in the room with this audio is that Molly is recast, having aged several years and now living in the Dalek-occupied timeline working as a nurse in a worker camp. Molly, now called Mary Carter, is played by Sorcha Cusak who does a great job playing the character. Dan Starkey also features in this audio, and does a great job playing all the Sontaran characters who battle with the Daleks at the end in a climatic conflict that requires some broad imagination to picture but is exciting nonetheless. A battle between the Daleks, the Master and the Sontarans is a fan’s dream come true, and Master of the Daleks does a great job of realising this concept in the best possible way without straying too far into the realm of confusing plotlines.

4.4 – Eye of Darkness

Despite the bizarre title (‘Dark Eyes: Eye of Darkness’) this audio presents some really interesting ideas for a story, such as a damaged and desperate Dalek commander trying to herd prisoner while also maintaining its casing’s structural integrity, and a planet dedicated to providing a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere for its patrons. Nicholas Briggs does a fantastic job playing the Dalek Time Controller, a very unique Dalek who displays a lot more personality than even the most ambitious Supreme or Emperor. The Time Controller is easily one of the most memorable Daleks we have ever had in Doctor Who and it is clear that the Dalek characters in the Daleks! animated series for Time Lord Victorious are somewhat based on the personality and mannerisms of this specific Dalek. Its interactions with Liv are a key element of this audio, and the two play off each other well as Liv questions the Time Controller’s every ruthless move.

In many ways, this audio represents the culmination of the Dalek appearances throughout the saga. They started off as the mysterious entity behind everything, with the Time Controller pulling all the strings, and now they return, once again as a sinister entity, but with the Time Controller very much on the back-foot. Listening to this deranged Dalek attempt to claw his way back into power is fascinating, and there are some great sequences involving lesser Dalek questioning the Time Controller’s authority, as his constant meddling with the timelines has lead to the Dalek Empire cutting him off, and we see the fall of the saga’s main villain which is definitely an important aspect of this climactic conclusion to the Dark Eyes saga.

Most importantly for the finale of Dark Eyes, the Eighth Doctor and Molly O’ Sullivan get a reunion in this audio at last, as the plot finally allows the two character’s paths to cross after all the build-up of the previous story. There are other links to the previous box sets as well, as this audio features the return of the creator of the Eminence as the deadly gaseous entity plays one final role in the saga before its conclusion, and we are finally given the last pieces of the puzzle to understand their true origins. Whilst the final end to the saga is somewhat swamped in technobabble, ultimately Eye of Darkness delivers a satisfying conclusion to the saga that end’s Molly’s story on a strong note whilst taking the Eighth Doctor and Liv Chenka into a new era, starting with the first box set in the Doom Coalition series.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Doom Coalition 1

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 1

As the Eighth Doctor’s relatively lighthearted adventures with Lucie Miller came to a devastating end in To the Death, a new era for the character begins that takes a much darker path than his previous outings. The first audio in Dark Eyes, The Great War, introduces new companion Molly O’Sullivan, an Irish Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing assistant played by Ruth Bradley who the Doctor meets after landing in World War 1 France. We also get an updated look for the Eighth Doctor, as Paul McGann took updated cast photos for use on the covers of newer audios that features a new outfit and shorter hairstyle. Overall, this is perhaps the biggest divergence for the Eighth Doctor since the Divergent Universe, and this new era wastes no time getting into the action.

1.1  – The Great War

This audio opens with the Doctor desperately launching the TARDIS towards the end of the universe, and also features a merciful return to the original theme for the Big Finish Eighth Doctor audios, composed by David Arnold. This theme is the definitive Eighth Doctor title theme for many, and it remains such to this day outside of the Time War audios. After the loss of Lucie, the Doctor is driven half-mad with grief, travelling to the end of the universe to try to gain some perspective on the suffering of the universe. Straxus arrives to dissuade him on behalf of the Time Lords, and sets him on a new mission: to find hope. This leads the Doctor to France during World War One, but unfortunately some old enemies are waiting for him. As the blurb states, the Doctor is searching for Molly O’Sullivan, the woman with the eponymous ‘dark eyes’, who is an experienced VAD tending to wounded soldiers on the front line. Her somewhat callous outlook on life is a result of the horrors she has witnessed during the war, and as such she is a wholly unique companion as the war has given her a very distinctive worldview. Although she comes across as standoffish and negative throughout, one cannot help but sympathise with her as by this point she has clearly seen some of the worst of the conflict already, whilst her younger peers have not. Through Molly’s letters home we hear her true thoughts and feelings, and we can begin to understand her as a character before she becomes a companion.

This audio is a fantastic example of the Daleks skulking around in the darkness, and spices up their appearance with some creepy scenes involving some fantastic sound design. It is nice to hear the Daleks being used to inspire fear, as it proves there are still ways they can be used that the New Series had not explored yet. Placing the Daleks in a historical setting is also a great opportunity for unique storytelling elements, and the idea of the Daleks skulking around the trenches of World War One invokes some very strong imagery, likely due to the similarity between the trenches of wartime France and the environment of Skaro during Genesis of the Daleks. Despite their appearance on the cover, the reveal of the Daleks is held back for quite a while, which makes their shadow that permeates throughout the story all the more intimidating.

As the mystery of this audio unravels, we begin to understand the story as the pieces fall into place, and like any good opening story of a series The Great War introduces the new companion and tells a concise, self-contained story all while making great use of its run-time to deliver a well-paced adventure that keeps the listener’s interest throughout. By this point Big Finish had definitely hit their stride when it came to setting up a story arc, particularly after the success of the EDAs, and this audio is a promising start to the Dark Eyes saga that poses several questions for later audios in the series to answer. Overall, The Great War is a great start to the series and sets up the story arc for the next era of Eighth Doctor audios excellently.

1.2 – Fugitives

A slightly more lighthearted audio than the previous story, Fugitives is Molly’s first run-around in the TARDIS and fills the role of bringing her up to speed with who the Doctor is, what he does and what to expect from being around him. Whilst this is crucial for kicking off the plot of the series, it does seem to be there for the purpose of taking Molly to different points in time and space, although fans of the William Hartnell TV story The Chase will appreciate the time-hopping nature of the story. Despite the somewhat contrived plot, this audio does give Molly a lot more room to grow as a character, as she is freed from the context of the First World War and given a chance to grow as a companion outside of her role as a VAD. In keeping with the idea of Dark Eyes as a space opera, we are treated to a plane chase involving flying Daleks going against a biplane, and the Daleks chasing the Doctor throughout time and space at the behest of the Dalek Time Controller.

It soon becomes clear that Molly is of some special significance to the story at large, as she is identified by the Doctor as the source of the hope he has been searching for. Although her introduction as a companion is somewhat sudden, her link with the Doctor is clear, as she recognises the TARDIS and seems to be able to operate the controls somehow, and the Time Lords believe that she is the result of an experiment by an as-yet unknown third party. As a result of his failed attempt to take them to Gallifrey, the Doctor accidentally takes Molly to World War Two, which results in some great scenes where Molly not only comprehends time travel but also sees some horrific visions of her future. Despite this she takes everything in her stride and proves herself a capable companion from the get-go.

This audio also introduces Doctor Sally Armstrong, a supporting character who works for the Ides Scientific Institute in the 1970s who receives a message from the Doctor with very specific instructions and funding of one billion pounds to create a time-space portal in the Doctor’s residence in Baker Street. Chaos ensues as a Dalek Time Squad invades London in pursuit of the Doctor, and the sound design for the Dalek attack is excellent, as it includes a medley of Dalek sound effects from across their history, from the 1960s to the 80s to the 2000s. Overall, Fugitives is a great first outing for Molly in the TARDIS and sets up some more interesting questions that add to the ongoing story arc, needless to say Dark Eyes gets off to an excellent start as the wider scope of this series is fully realised by the end of the second part.

1.3 – Tangled Web

After two stories of questions surrounding Molly, Tangled Web finally starts to give us some answers as to her origins. Laced throughout previous audios were eerie commands given to the Daleks by Toby Jones, who in this audio is revealed to be playing the rogue Time Lord Kotris. He is every bit as sinister and villainous in this series as he was as the Dream Lord in the Matt Smith TV story Amy’s Choice, so he was certainly a great choice for Kotris. This audio also progresses the relationship between the Doctor and Molly, as he is suspicious of her ability to pilot the TARDIS. Molly’s character setup is remarkably similar to the kind of story arcs for companions in the New Series for Rose, Donna and Clara, as Molly is introduced as the driving force behind the story who has been identified by both the Doctor and the Daleks as important, but the reason for this is as-yet unknown.

There is some remarkable imagery in this audio that draws on some bonkers concepts – the most striking is by far the idea of a Dalek city adorned with flowers, and Molly’s plea to the Doctor to attempt to see the good in the Daleks is definitely one of the standout moments for her character. The age-old question of the concept of a good Dalek is brought up again, and Molly’s personal experience with the horrors of war makes her just as anxious to believe that the Daleks can be good as the Doctor is. When presented with a bizarre reality in which the Daleks have dedicated themselves to humanitarian goals and discarded their evil ways, the Doctor is understandably sceptical, as is the listener, but it is a great setup and Tangled Web makes good use of its runtime to explore the idea of a Good Dalek City.

This audio begins the process of linking the Eighth Doctor’s timeline to that of the Time War, as although the ‘war’ mentioned throughout that threatens the Time Lords is not the Time War itself, it is a time war of sorts, and definitely serves as a prelude to the main conflict. Ultimately, the idea of the Daleks shedding their desire for conquest and retro-engineering themselves back into peaceful Kaleds does seem to be a promising conclusion for the Daleks, the ‘Final End’ envisioned back in the 1960s but one born out of peace, not destruction. Tangled Web presents one possible end for the Daleks, one that does present some hope for the universe, and that in itself makes the Doctor suspect that it is too good to be true. Overall, this audio is a great listen that answers a lot of questions posed by the previous audios and solidifies Molly’s status as the Eighth Doctor’s new companion.

1.4 – X and the Daleks

The Doctor and Molly find themselves on a planet in which Time Lord regeneration is impossible, and are soon embroiled in a conspiracy involving the mysterious ‘X’ and the Daleks, hence the title’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek riff on Doctor Who episodes that end in ‘the Daleks’. This story culminates many of the plot elements laced throughout this box set, and although the Dark Eyes saga is just getting started, it is safe to say that the first box set stands as its own self-contained story. Unfortunately, however, there are some issues with the conclusion, not least the significant amount of expositional dialogue and technobabble involved in explaining the plot. Exposition and technobabble are not necessarily bad in themselves, but when they are used in conjunction and in excess for too long it can make the story appear tedious and dense, especially in the audio format. Thankfully, the sound design is strong throughout, as with all Big Finish audios.

Ruth Bradley does an exceptional job as Molly, as she is not only a symapthetic character but also a great companion to fill the void left by Lucie Miller. Like Lucie, Molly has a spiky personality, but her native time gives her a temperament similar to that of Charley. In many ways, Molly reminds the Doctor of both of his previous companions, and it is for that reason that her friendship with him does not seem at all forced, despite the fact that the two were literally forced together by the plot. Toby Jones is also fantastic in this audio, as even though he is given a lot of ranting exposition his distinctive acting qualities make the character a treat to listen to.

The first box set in the Dark Eyes series comes to a satisfying conclusion with X and the Daleks, as Kotris’s plan makes sense and as it comes to fruition we see exactly why Molly was so important to him and the Daleks all along, and bizarrely Kotris becomes somewhat of a sympathetic character in the end. In hindsight the first part of Dark Eyes very much stands as its own entity, it is distinct from the previous era but is also separated from the other box sets in the Dark Eyes series as many of the saga’s wider story arcs hadn’t actually been written yet. This first box set completes its most important objectives, however, in that it introduces the new companion to great effect and lays the groundwork for the later Dark Eyes box sets to come.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 2

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 4, Part 1

Having concluded the last of the lighthearted adventures with the Doctor and Lucie Miller in Series 3 of the EDAs, Series 4 dives immediately into a far darker and more melancholy take on the ‘New Series’ style Big Finish had developed across the four series. This series is full of twists and turns, and requires a little more context than the others, requiring a Bonus Story to be listened to in order to understand the finale. This series of audios represents the pinnacle of Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith’s time together as Doctor and companion, though ironically the Doctor has a new companion, Tamsin Drew, for the majority of the series. Although it requires a fair bit of listening to reach this point, this is where the EDAs really pay off as Big Finish delivers a strong series of audios with some great excellent rug-pulls along the way.

4.1 – Death in Blackpool

This is a Big Finish Christmas Special, and it shows – from Lucie’s nostalgic recounting of the ‘perfect Christmas’ at the beginning, to the depiction of an actual Father Christmas. In many ways this audio is a deconstruction of the classic format of New Series TV Christmas Specials. This one is particularly bleak and taps into the more melancholy aspects of Christmas, such as the idea of the ideal Christmas being tainted by the loss of a loved one is a concept that is as relevant as ever. We revisit the character of Auntie Pat, who is actually still the Zygon Warlord Haygoth in disguise unbeknownst to Lucie, and Haygoth reveals to the Doctor that he is dying. Having felt guilt at the fact of essentially cheating Lucie out of mourning her Auntie, Haygoth now wishes to enjoy one final Christmas with Lucie before passing on.

This audio is a great outing for Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith, and we see the character of Lucie Miller pushed to the extreme as she discovers that the Doctor has been keeping secrets from her. Her psychological battle with the sinister entity attempting to steal her body is grim to listen to, but this is arguably second to her reaction to the horrific discovery she makes as the Doctor and Auntie Pat unwittingly reveal Haygoth’s true identity. It represents a huge step forward in Lucie’s character as she is forced into a decision that shakes up the status quo for the first time in the entire series.

An unexpected highlight of this story is Father Christmas, who initially comes across as a comedic character, rather like Nick Frost in Last Christmas, but as with that interpretation of the mythical figure, there is more to this than meets the eye. The villain, a ghoulish ‘Zynog’, is a great concept: a Zygon who has been reduced to a body-hopping entity after having its original form destroyed, due to the fact that it committed the Zygon sin of attempting to take the body print of another Zygon, and this presents a very personal threat to Auntie Pat. It goes without saying that Auntie Pat’s character arc is one of the best things about the EDAs, and the idea of a Zygon genuinely falling in love with its stolen Human life is a fantastic concept that this story concludes well, as Auntie Pat’s conclusion is one of the most heart-breaking things in the series.

Bonus Story VIII – An Earthly Child

An Earthly Child is a Bonus Story set after the events of Death in Blackpool, that depicts the long-awaited ‘return’ of the Doctor to 22nd-century Earth, to reunite with his grand-daughter, Susan. This audio introduces Susan’s son and the Doctor’s great-grandson, Alex Campbell, and depicts the Doctor fulfilling his promise and coming back to see Susan again.

Having been left behind on 22nd-century Earth at the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Susan has married a freedom-fighter and built a life for herself as a politician, attempting to build alliances for humanity with alien races while facing a huge amount of anti-alien sentiment from the majority of survivors of the Dalek invasion. Even decades after the defeat of the Daleks Earth is still a mess, as people are still being discovered living in caves across the planet, cities are in ruins and the population is still recovering from decimation.

This audio fulfils a fan-favourite moment that has been anticipated for quite some time, to the point that it is odd that the New Series has not brought Carole Ann Ford back as she is excellent in the role and recaptures the character of Susan excellently. This audio is required to fully understand the finale to the series, so for that purpose it is ‘required listening’, but ultimately this is also a treat for fans so it is well worth listening to even without the context of the EDAs.

4.2 – Situation Vacant

This audio appears on the surface to be Doctor Who does The Apprentice, as the Doctor is interviewing potential new companions by giving them various tasks which eventually leads into a full-on alien invasion, so one would be forgiven for thinking that this is another throwaway comedy story, but it doesn’t take long to discover that this is far more than just a story based on The Apprentice. Not only is the setup suspicious at best, as it seems far too grandiose for the Doctor, but there are plenty of surprises in this story that make it a fun listen.

The supporting cast in this story is great, as it features James Bachman, Joe Thomas and Niky Wardley, who all do fantastic jobs in their roles. This audio takes a few bold turns with its main characters, as each of them are keen to secure the position of new companion and so the four of them are working to help the Doctor investigate an issue whilst also competing against each other, which is fun to listen to, to say the least. The most fun thing about this audio is the eliminations, in which the Doctor objectively analyses the performance of the candidates and selects who should be deselected, which is always entertaining.

The hints throughout suggest that there is more to this situation than it first seems – over the course of the story the events snowball, and the tension builds as it soon becomes clear that the situation is spiralling out of the Doctor’s control. Nonetheless, what follows is by far one of the most enjoyable stories of the EDAs so far, and if the New Series was ever to do an Apprenctice-themed episode for TV, we can only hope that it takes inspiration from this audio. We are also introduced to our new companion in this story, though from this point on we reach severe spoiler-territory, so if you haven’t yet listened to these audios and want to experience them for yourself, stop reading now and go listen to them!

4.3 – Nevermore

Nevermore deals with some interesting ethical dilemmas, as the Doctor and Tamsin arrive on the the planet Nevermore and meet its only living resident: convicted war criminal Morella Wendigo, who was condemned to spend her lifetime living on the planet that she destroyed, guarded by squawking mechanical ravens. There is a running motif of cats throughout this story, as one appears in the TARDIS seemingly out of nowhere at the start of the story and sets co-ordinates while walking over the console, bringing the Doctor and Tamsin to Nevermore seemingly by accident. This audio is steeped in the lore of Edgar Allen Poe, and those who have not read his works will likely be less appreciative of this audio than those who have. The designer of Wendigo’s prison, Senior Prosecutor Uglosi, has a bizarre obsession with Poe that permeates through the entire design of the prison.

This audio does some great character building for Tamsin, from a great scene at the beginning where the Doctor is showing her different rooms of the TARDIS to her desire to save the cat that inadvertently kicks off the plot of the entire story. She also reveals her acting skills came in handy by using her skills in escapology to untie some difficult knots – she ultimately proves that she is a suitable fit for the role of new companion. She is definitely a very different companion to Lucie, and her interactions with the Doctor are a treat to listen to as she learns the ropes of travelling in the TARDIS.

The backstory of Morella Wendigo is a compelling one – having doomed the planet of Corinth Minor with a virus that led the Time Lords to destroy the planet with a substance called the Red Death to prevent the biohazard from escaping, she was subsequently imprisoned on the planet, now renamed Nevermore, to serve a penance of eternal contemplation for her murderous crimes against the population of an entire planet. Overall, Nevermore is an interesting listen for many reasons, though those who are unfamiliar with Edgar Allen Poe may find it more dull as it is clearly intended as a love letter to that particular author.

4.4 – The Book of Kells

The Doctor and Tamsin arrive in Ireland, 1006 in the Abbey of Kells, as the TARDIS is dragged off-course by a temporally-sensitive individual currently at large in the area that is dragging other time-travelling entities, including an unfortunate Vortisaur, to the 11th century. It soon becomes apparent that someone wants to steal the Book of Kells, and the Doctor and Tamsin are caught up in a mystery of intrigue and deception. The cliff-hanger to part one is an interesting revelation that the temporally sensitive individual at large is none other than the Meddling Monk, though the context of the story is a dead giveaway to those who are familiar with the character.

This audio casts Graeme Garden as the Monk, and it is worth mentioning that he was a fantastic choice for the role. It makes sense that, should the Monk ever return to the TV series, they would be played by a comedian, and Graeme Garden brings that essential levity to the character whilst also maintaining the presence that a villainous Time Lord should have.

For those not in the know, the Book of Kells is a real historical artefact, and it was stolen from the Abbey in 1007 only to be found a few months later, and this audio plays off that event and makes several references to current events of this era, so history fans are bound to enjoy this one. In some ways it is almost a pure historical, were it not for the presence of another Time Lord. Though these stories have a mixed reception in the fanbase, The Book of Kells proves that the New Series would be able to do a pure historical in an interesting way.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 4, Part 2

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 1

Following the resounding success of the TV revival series of Doctor Who that launched in 2005, peripheral Doctor Who mediums quickly adapted to capitalise on the huge increase in potential fans that would want to explore other mediums separate from the TV series. Big Finish were no different, and they launched the immensely successful Eighth Doctor Adventures in 2006 starring Paul McGann as the increasingly popular Eighth Doctor and Sheridan Smith as new companion Lucie Miller. These audios swap out the format of previous Eighth Doctor audios – stories divided into four 25-minute episodes in a format similar to Classic Who – in favour of the New Series story format – single 45-minute episodes, with the occasional two-part story. This means that, if the New Series is a format that you are more accustomed to, the Eighth Doctor Adventures are an excellent jumping-on point because they not only share a similar tone to the modern TV Series, they also use a familiar approach to character and story development, such as recurring story arcs that feature in every story, and a companion who originates from what was the modern day at the time.

1.1 / 1.2 – Blood of the Daleks

The first story in the Eighth Doctor Adventures is a two-part story that introduces new companion Lucie Miller as well as depicting the Eighth Doctor’s next encounter with the Daleks. It does both fairly well, though the introduction of Lucie is over very quickly before the main story begins to unfold. This is perhaps the quickest companion introduction Big Finish have attempted thus far, and this is probably due to the fact that the EDAs were designed to mimic the style and tone of the New Series, which had only recently released when this series of audios began in 2006, so things move a bit faster than in the Main Range audios. The premise is simple – the Doctor and Lucie materialise the TARDIS on the planet Red Rocket Rising, which has been recently devastated by a meteorite impact. The remaining human population is scrabbling to survive amongst the ruins of their society, and a rampaging mob is hunting down the Acting President Eileen Klint and another woman called Asha, as it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to the situation than meets the eye. Another survivor, Tom Cardwell, is considered an insane tinfoil-hat prophesier of doom by his fellow citizens, but despite his appearance Cardwell also knows more than he is telling, as he has created defences against the acid rain and frequent dust storms.

The plot revolves around Professor Martez, an insane scientist who was using human remains and living human specimens to harvest samples for genetic experiments that were intended to improve the people of Red Rocket Rising. Martez and his assistant Asha were arrested for their violations of human ethics, though Martez later died and his assistant was freed by Klint in the hopes that the two of them could try to restart the society of Red Rocket Rising. There is an incredible scene where the two of them are rummaging around in the ruins of Martez’s laboratory and they reactivate a receiver, only to hear the grating voice of the Daleks sending signals down to the planet. Although there are several twists in this story that can be seen coming from a mile off, there are some others that are very well-hidden and there are some great reveals that are very well-executed. If there is one thing that Blood of the Daleks does well, it is that it does an exceptional job of illustrating the incredible devastation that the Daleks can dish out, particularly when they find the actions of a planet or culture particularly offensive. In this case, the Daleks seek to root out and destroy Martez’s work because they see it as any attempt to imitate the Daleks as an affront that must be destroyed.

Another interesting aspect to this story is that, due to circumstance, the Doctor and the Daleks end up briefly teaming up – it is always fun when the Doctor and the Daleks work together, and this story is a great example of why. It is also worth noting that Sheridan Smith does an exceptional job voicing Lucie Miller, for her first audio the new companion is immediately likeable in much the same way as Rose was in the first episode of the New Series. Although Lucie Miller is similar to Rose in that she is a relatable young female companion, there are distinct personality differences between the two, and Lucie often feels more similar to Donna than Rose as she has a much spikier personality. It is great that Lucie’s first audio is a Dalek story, as she is put in the unique position of having a harrowing adventure the first time around and then having more light-hearted travels later on, whereas for most companions the adjustment goes the other way. It is particularly harrowing hearing the Doctor relive memories of the genesis of a Dalek species, as there are a lot of parallels between the events that happen on Red Rocket Rising in this audio and those that happen on Skaro in Genesis of the Daleks. Overall, Blood of the Daleks is a fantastic opening to the EDAs that sets the tone of the series perfectly, introduces Lucie Miller as the Eighth Doctor’s newest companion and tells a fantastic Dalek story.

1.3 – Horror of Glam Rock

The title of this audio is a humorous reference to the Fourth Doctor TV story Horror of Fang Rock, and although there is no direct relation between the two stories, this one does have a distinct 1970s feel. The Doctor and Lucie arrive in 1974, and quickly discover the body of a man described as a ‘Glam Rocker’ who had been murdered by a savage beast, before the creature starts attacking a nearby diner. This story is notable for starring both Una Stubbs and Bernard Cribbins, and needless to say the supporting cast put in an excellent performance that really brings this story to life. The sound design is also excellent, with the soundtrack taking on a bit of the Glam Rock feel. There are some tense scenes in this story, and there are some sequences that are reminiscent of Tooth and Claw from the TV series. Instead of one werewolf, however, the Doctor and Lucie are up against several bear-like creatures with scales, with just the resources and occupants of a 1970s diner for backup.

The use of the stylophone as part of the setup is great, not only because the unique instrument has its own distinctive sound but also because it is used in a really creative and creepy way in this story that really adds to the atmosphere. The creatures use the stylophone to possess the musician who plays them, and the creatures eventually use this to undermine the Doctor’s efforts to protect the people in the diner. Arnold Korns, the manager of a band called the Tomorrow Twins who is played by Bernard Cribbins, proves himself to be particularly cruel and ends up doing more harm than good by attempting to save himself, purely so that he can make his appearance on an episode of Top of the Pops. Another of the side characters, called Pat, turns out to be Lucie’s auntie in her youth, which creates a fair bit of intrigue as Lucie gives away too much to her without realising the implications.

As Lucie’s first trip to the past, Horror of Glam Rock is a great audio that takes full advantage of the shorter format to deliver a punchy story that would not have felt out of place in the Russel T. Davies era of the TV series. We get to hear more of the Doctor and Lucie interacting as their friendship strengthens, and at the conclusion of this story there is a heartwarming moment where the Doctor asks Lucie to travel with him as a full-time companion, instead of as a temporary passenger. We also get more of a development of the series arc that was hinted at in the conclusion of the previous story, as the mysterious Headhunter searches for Lucie Miller in the diner after they have left, proving that she is chasing the Doctor and Lucie through time and space.

1.4 – Immortal Beloved

This audio deals with the concepts of young love and religion, and thrusts the Doctor and Lucie into a bizarre society styled after Ancient Greece that exists on a planet in the 34th century. They meet two lovers, Sarati and Kalkin, who at first appear to be attempting suicide, though it is clear that there is more going on than it first appears when military helicopters arrive to intervene. The society is run by two individuals, called Zeus and Hera, who seem to be part-ruler and part-god, worshipped by their subjects. Other high-ranking figures in this society have names inspired by Greek mythology, such as Ares and Ganymede, and the architecture of the planet is also inspired by Ancient Greece. Though this might seem a strange choice, all becomes clear as the story of this audio unfolds. As usual the sound design is excellent, and it is interesting to note that Paul McGann’s son, Jake McGann, appears in this audio, and it won’t be his last role in the Eighth Doctor Adventures.

At this point, Lucie Miller has been firmly established as a companion, and Sheridan Smith does a fantastic job of actualising the character. Lucie is a great companion who is very different from Charley, and this audio is a great showcase of how she reacts to situations differently. Although she and the Eighth Doctor didn’t get on initially, by now they have become close friends and have learned to trust each other. They are confronted with an interesting dilemma in this story, as the society has been constructed around the concept of the members of the ruling class transferring their consciousnesses to younger clones of themselves who they raise as children. As such, there is a constant cycle of life and death as the older rulers rear their young only to steal their bodies. The original crew of the colony ship who brought the settlers to the planet continue to do this in order to preserve the society that they have created, as they believe that without their guidance the carefully-crafted civilisation would fall.

This audio is definitely an interesting listen, not least because it deals with the bizarre implications of a society built by body-hopping consciousnesses who have set themselves up as gods. They have transferred their minds so many times under their fake god names that they can barely remember who they originally were, and although all talk of the worlds outside the planet are banned, the ‘gods’ are quick to turn to drastic measures to try to find the parts for their cloning machines and mind-transference devices that, after thousands of years of use, have started to decay. Faced with the downfall of their civilisation, it is clear that the former humans masquerading as gods will go to any lengths to ensure their own survival.

1.5 – Phobos

This audio starts with one of the best cold opens in the series so far, set in a ski resort that has been constructed in a bio-dome on the surface of Phobos, the innermost moon of Mars. As the blurb on the back of the CD points out, ‘Phobos’ is the Ancient Greek word for ‘fear’, and it quickly becomes apparent that some kind of creature is stalking skiers on the resort, despite the extreme nature of the setting. Rumours are abound amongst the staff of the resort and the adrenaline-junkies that bizarre monsters stalk them in the night, and this audio does a great job of using the setting to create some really tense scenes set amongst the howling winds of the icy environment and some very creepy imagery. The Doctor and Lucie find a woman shivering from fear, not cold, and next to her lies a mutilated body that kicks off the mystery.

Phobos is another monster run-around, though it is distinctly different from Horror of Glam Rock in both setting and tone. The soundtrack is excellent, as is the sound design, and Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith put in excellent performances as always. Unfortunately, the supporting cast are not very memorable, and apart from a few exceptions they are mostly interchangeable. There are a few surprising twists in this story that make it an interesting listen, though it does seem to resemble Scooby-Doo at times, with Lucie even dropping a reference that confirms this. That is a suitable analogy for this story -if you enjoy classic monster run-arounds with overblown sci-fi concepts then this is the ideal story for you, so from that point of view it somewhat resembles a Third Doctor story.

Arguably the only downside to this story is that Lucie Miller is not given much to do as a companion, as the quick pacing means that the vast majority of the plot advancement is spearheaded by the Doctor, with Lucie seemingly just tagging along for the ride. As such, the Headhunter appears but is played more for laughs than an actual serious threat, though it seems certain that the next story will feature the long-awaited encounter between her and Lucie Miller.

1.6 – No More Lies

This audio has an interesting opening, as we see an adventure already in progress with the Doctor and Lucie pursuing a man called ‘Zimmerman’ who is attempting to collect rare time-travel technology and has attracted the attention of several time scavengers in the area. One thing that is notable is that it appears that some time has passed, as Lucie is now confident and capable enough to chase down a villain through a time ship while the Doctor waits in the TARDIS, and then helps fly the ship by typing in co-ordinates, proving that her and the Doctor have been travelling together for some time and have come to rely on each other greatly, and Lucie is more willing to discuss ‘sciencey’ and technobabble-orientated dialogue, whereas in previous stories she has often shrugged it off.

The setting of this story is interesting – a seemingly unintentional time-loop has trapped Zimmerman, aged 30 years older than he was when the Doctor and Lucie met him, in an endless dinner party along with all the guests – this provides some great opportunities for interesting narrative elements involving such a bizarre temporal anomaly, and despite everything it soon becomes clear that Zimmerman has changed somewhat in the 30 years since he last met the Doctor – he has a human wife, for a start – and as the Vortisaurs and Tar Modowk close in, the Doctor has to figure out if he believes Zimmerman’s stories of redemption and forgiveness, and indeed if the time loop is the result of any insidious action at all.

As always, the sound design of this audio is incredible, and No More Lies is particularly memorable because it features guest stars Nigel Havers and Julia McKenzie as Nick and Rachel Zimmerman. This audio keeps you guessing throughout and delivers a satisfying conclusion, making good use of its runtime to present a well-paced story. The Headhunter also makes her triumphant return in this audio, having literally fallen off her bike in Phobos she has a much more effective presence here, arriving at the last second to snatch Lucie just before she enters the TARDIS.

1.7 / 1.8 – Human Resources

Having been abducted by the Headhunter at the end of the previous story, Lucie is transported to what initially appears to be a boring office – the same one that she was supposed to be started her first day at in the prologue of Blood of the Daleks. The Doctor is sent after her by a Time Lord called Strax, who makes his first appearance in this story but will become more important later, via a Time Ring that is given to the Doctor by the Time Lords. It soon becomes clear that there is more at work in this office than meets the eye, as the office workers and phone operators discuss co-ordinated battle tactics in the same manner as a standard company staff would discuss ordinary day-to-day activities – the Doctor infiltrates the company and soon discovers that they have been commissioned to attack targets on a planet, and the office is in fact a huge mobile structure – the entire staff have been brainwashed to think that they are still on Earth but they are in fact aboard a walking weapons platform. This is a great setting for the first part, and the office environment is really brought to life, complete with overbearing sexist bosses and mundane PA announcements. Lucie soon finds out the hard way that staff who are fired get ejected from the building and have to join the war going on outside, or scavenge among the ruins in order to survive. The Doctor, in the meantime, pretends to be a client looking to instigate a planetary invasion – there is an amusing scene in which the Doctor bluffs his way into the bosses’ confidence by arranging a military coup on Gallifrey, and although he certainly isn’t serious it gives the impression that he has given the matter some thought in the past.

Naturally, the Doctor heads into the situation with the intent of taking down this company, as the thought of reducing the process of planetary invasion to a business arrangement doesn’t sit right with him or Lucie. However, as events unfold and part one draws to a close it becomes clear that there is something that has not been accounted for – the Doctor steps in to defend the inhabitants of the planet under attack, without thinking to investigate who they are and why they are being attacked in the first place. As it happens, the race under attack is the Cybermen, and part one ends with a fantastic cliff-hangar that, due to the two discs being released separately, came as a complete surprise to the listeners at the time. The Cybermen in this story are a variant of the late-Second Doctor era Cybermen who have settled on the planet Lonsis, though they also seem to share many elements with the Cybus Cybermen including stompy feet and a very similar voice, making these Cybermen an interesting hybrid of Classic and New Series Cyberman traits.

The Headhunter is also utilised excellently in this audio, as her motives and character become clear almost immediately. Hired by the company to recover Lucie Miller when she was abducted by the Time Lords, the Headhunter has no real affiliation with them, and so when the Cybermen invade one of the weapons platforms, she agrees to help Lucie to save herself, which makes perfect sense for the character as she is not inherently evil, just motivated by monetary gain. We also learn a bit more about how the Time Lords are beginning to take an interest in interfering with the interstellar wars scattered throughout time, but their willingness to intervene in order to combat the Cybermen foreshadows more serious conflicts to come. Establishing the Celestial Intervention Agency as an even-present threat that has been influencing events leading up to this point is important for later audio stories in the Eighth Doctor’s life, and it is particularly interesting that Straxus is introduced alongside this concept, which is some brilliant foreshadowing for events later in the series. Overall, Human Resources is a great finale to the first series that answers many questions about the ongoing story arc of the EDAs but leaves enough plot threads hanging that, although it provides a satisfying conclusion to the series, it also establishes many of the plot elements for the next series.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 2, Part 1

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Late Charley Era Part 1

Following the abrupt cancellation of the Divergent Universe storyline when the New Series was announced in 2004, Big Finish shifted the next wave of the Eighth Doctor audios into a completely different gear. However, it seems in hindsight that they did this without giving the writers of each individual story enough time to compensate, because a big criticism of a lot of the audios in this initial wave of post-Divergent Universe audios is that they were clearly written for that setting, and although some measures were taken to retroactively slot them into the pre-existing Doctor Who universe by including the TARDIS and some other familiar concepts, these audios are so bizarre and dreamlike that they clearly beyond in a pocket dimension. Still, they represent some of the most unorthodox of Big Finish’s story ideas to date, and are an important chapter in the Eighth Doctor’s life…

#72 – Terror Firma

The post-Divergent Universe era kicks off to an incredible start with Terror Firma, easily one of the best outings of the Eighth Doctor against the Daleks that you are likely to find on audio. The previous Eighth Doctor Dalek story, The Time of the Daleks, was an entertaining romp in its own right but it did not live up to the expectations set by previous Dalek audios such as The Mutant Phase and The Apocalypse Element. However, between The Time of the Daleks and Terror Firma Big Finish released several excellent Dalek audios – including Jubilee and The Juggernauts – as well as the classic fan-favourite Davros, and Terror Firma continues the run of great Dalek and Davros stories by picking up Davros’ story where it left off from Remembrance of the Daleks. Terry Molloy is fantastic as Davros as always, and here we see him combating the personality of the Dalek Emperor that is beginning to assert itself over Davros, playing off the idea that Davros had set himself up as Emperor of the Imperial Dalek faction in the final Classic Who Dalek story.

This audio is full of references to past stories, particularly past Dalek stories – Genesis of the Daleks gets a nice call-back in this, there are references to Storm Warning, Zagreus and Creed of the Kromon, and there are some great plot developments that re-contextualise the entire Eighth Doctor era, this one is definitely the kind of audio that needs to be experienced first-hand. The direction, editing and pacing is excellent – and there are some exceptional performances from Paul McGann, India Fisher and Conrad Westmaas. There are really some exceptional scenes in this, especially between the Eighth Doctor and Davros, which showcase how truly evil and twisted Davros is – spending hundreds of years alone in an escape pod has not helped Davros’s sanity.

This is also a great showcase of the Daleks themselves, as these are a race of brand new Daleks that Davros has created post-Remembrance of the Daleks, removing the distinction between Imperial and Renegade Daleks and creating his own faction. This means that both the Daleks and Davros are quite mad, making for some great scenes that make this audio distinct from any other Dalek story. In a lot of ways this audio is mad, it makes no attempt to fit into the continuity of either the wider Doctor Who universe or the Dalek timeline, and trying to locate when and where this audio was set either in Earth’s history or in the timeline of the Daleks is unknown, as the plot threads of Earth being conquered by Daleks, the majority of humanity being transformed into Daleks, and Davros physically transforming into the Dalek Emperor have never been revisited. Some fans have pointed out that the plot point of using humans to create Daleks parallels The Parting of the Ways, leading to Big Finish officially confirming that Davros does not become the Dalek Emperor seen in that two-part story. In many ways, Terror Firma could easily have been set in the Divergent Universe, something that is apparent about the next three post-Divergent Universe stories.

#75 – Scaredy Cat

A huge shift in tone and setting from the previous story, Scaredy Cat presents an interesting premise – two planets, one populated, one empty, with the population of the inhabited planet pledged to prevent anyone from ever setting foot on their untainted sister-world. As the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz soon discover, however, not all is as it seems on the pristine world of Endarra, as there are scientists from Caludaar performing experiments on the native life forms. The story deals with the morality of good and evil, and explores why criminals are motivated to commit horrendous crimes.

Scaredy Cat utilises the same fragmented story structure as Terror Firma, though the end result is not as effective as in the previous story as we are not familiar with the characters – juxtaposing the Doctor and his companions with scenes involving Davros works because we already know who Davros is, but in this case Scaredy Cat uses original characters which are not known to the audience, so establishing the context for the cutaway scenes is difficult. Scaredy Cat also suffers from a lack of general background context, and relies on throwaway terms like ‘political activist’ without any real establishment of the basis on which we can judge characters based on their political motivations alone.

Unfortunately, this audio has some serious issues, and its bizarre pseudo-scientific explanation for the strange happenings going on throughout the story mean that this audio could have been better utilised as part of the Divergent Universe saga – likely because it was originally written as an audio set in the Divergent Universe, and was hastily re-written to accommodate the fact that the Divergent arc was brought to a premature close. Overall, it is definitely an interesting listen, and it gets points for its creativity – but it can’t hold a candle to some of the next few stories that share the same ethereal post-Divergent Universe atmosphere.


#77 – Other Lives

This is an interesting audio as it is a pure historical – the only one of its kind that Paul McGann has recorded as the Eighth Doctor to date – and as pure historicals go, this one is strong but ultimate quite predictable. Pure historicals usually range from being either focused on a particular figure from history, or take extra care to set the scene for where and when it is set. Other Lives does both, whilst also taking full advantage of the setting of the Great Exhibition of Works of Industry of all Nations in 1851. The Crystal Palace makes for a dynamic setting, and there are some great characters that are brought to life by a host of talented voice actors.

The main premise of the story involves the trio being separated by a series of increasingly bizarre circumstances (including the TARDIS being stolen by a pair of rich French couple) and the Doctor is soon accused of murder and kidnapping. Unfortunately, C’rizz and Charley are not given much interesting to do, and several of the characters some off as somewhat cliched, if it were not for the Doctor’s plotline being slightly more interesting, there would be little much to say about the first two parts plot-development wise. Charley and C’rizz both spend a lot of time interacting with characters that amounts to very little, and overall their escapades contribute little to the overall story.

Despite its status as a pure historical, Other Lives still retains the ethereal nature of the Divergent Universe arc – it is telling that these first few stories were originally destined for the Divergent Universe. There are some interesting elements, such as the focus on the horrors of Victorian freakshows, but there is a severe issue with pacing and overall the plot is very low-stakes compared to others in the series. Nonetheless, it makes for an interesting listen for fans of the Eighth Doctor, Charley and C’rizz, as they are each separated and faced with unique situations and India Fisher, Conrad Westmaas and Paul McGann deliver exceptional performances as always.

#80 – Time Works

Although its becoming a tired criticism at this point, Time Works feels like the breaking point of the post-Divergent Universe arc – it is obvious that these plays were supposed to be set in the Divergent Universe, so the writers had to jump through hoops to make them somewhat grounded in reality in order to set them in the prime universe – it is a shame to see really creative ideas stymied in this way. Nonetheless, Time Works is an immersive experience that presents a very interesting setting for the listener – there is a lot of clock and clockwork imagery involved, making the setting familiar enough that visualising the setting is easy as it leans on concepts that we are very familiar with – clockwork and castles spring immediately to mind – although its attempts to be overly enigmatic do occasionally fall a bit flat.

It is worth noting that this audio has a fantastic soundtrack, as the score contains several haunting melodies that help to illustrate the otherworldly setting. Speaking of which, the setting depicts a society that runs with a strict adherence to timekeeping, and it also features Clockwork Robots that are similar to, but not the same as, the ones seen in The Girl in the Fireplace and Deep Breath, and are also not in any way related to the Clockwork Men from the Ninth Doctor novel The Clockwise Man. Nonetheless they make for effective villains as the concept is particularly creepy, especially when paired with the incredible sound design.

Overall, Time Works deals with some interesting concepts coupled with exceptional direction and sound design that make it one of the strongest audios in the post-Divergent Universe series. Whilst there are a lot of elements that were clearly intended for the Divergent Universe, this story stands in its own right as an exceptional audio, and listened to in isolation it offers a fully-realised world with exceptional execution. Unfortunately, it is brought down somewhat by the others in the series, as they are sadly bundled together as the ‘what could have been for the Divergent Universe’ collection, with Time Works being the series finale. For good old-fashioned Doctor Who escapism, however, Time Works delivers on every front.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Late Charley Era Part 2

Daleks! The Animated Series Announced as part of Time Lord Victorious

An unexpected yet exciting announcement by the BBC last week revealed that one of the upcoming releases in the Time Lord Victorious multimedia project is a 5-part animated series revolving around the Daleks that is set to be released on the Doctor Who Youtube channel in November. The trailers for this series have showcased the animation style of the series as well as some hints as to what fans can expect from this latest instalment in the Doctor Who universe.

One of the most interesting aspects of this series that can be gleaned from the trailers and promotional material that has been released so far is that the series seems to feature a diverse variety of Dalek designs, including several Classic and New Series Dalek designs and a modern take on the iconic comic series Dalek Emperor. This could imply that the series will feature several unique Dalek characters with individual personalities, which is always an interesting take on the Daleks that allows for more interesting Dalek dialogue.

This animated series also fulfils the life-long desire of the creator of the Daleks, Terry Nation, who since 1965 had intended them to helm their own spinoff series. Nation’s attempts to create a Dalek TV series failed, though he would go on to license the Daleks for the Peter Cushing movies and write several Dalek stories for Doctor Who in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, in 2020, his original vision is being realised as the Daleks get their own animated series.

Another very exciting aspect of this animated series is that it will introduce a lot more templates for Dalek customs, some of which have already been created by fans. Following on from the Asylum Project showcase of custom Daleks that has been showcased on this blog, more posts showcasing custom Daleks based on this animated series as well as the wider Time Lord Victorious story arcs will be listed at some point following the release of the series.

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Doctor Who – BBC Announces Animated Reconstruction of ‘The Evil of the Daleks’

Fans of Classic Doctor Who can rejoice knowing that two prominent Second Doctor stories starring Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling are set to receive full animated reconstructions in 2021 – fans have long awaited the reconstruction of the iconic Second Doctor story The Evil of the Daleks, and according to recent information released by the Radio Times, this well-known Dalek story is next on the list to be animated, bringing this long-lost Dalek serial back to life. This story particularly notable for being the debut story for Second Doctor companion Victoria Waterfield, as well as the first story to feature the Dalek Emperor.

As two of the previously released animated episodes were The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones, fans have speculated that the next story of Season 4 – The Evil of the Daleks – would be next on the list to be animated. According to the Radio Times, this would appear to be the case. Following this, the next story to be animated will be The Abominable Snowmen, meaning that the end of Season 4 and the beginning of Season 5 will be complete. Fans will now be able to watch the episodes leading up to the departure of long-running companions Ben and Polly, and finally see the debut story of new companion Victoria Waterfield thanks to these animated reconstructions.

Animated Daleks from The Power of the Daleks

The most recent animated Second Doctor story to be released was The Power of the Daleks Special Edition, a remastered version of the 2016 animated reconstruction of the Second Doctor’s debut story, and the animated reconstruction of The Fury from the Deep is set to be released in late 2020. It would seem as though the animators working on these projects are prioritising Second Doctor stories first, which makes sense as these are the ones that fans have been most eager to see. However, it will likely not be long before the missing First Doctor stories, such as The Daleks Master Plan, receive the full animation treatment. Before then, however, there are still many missing Second Doctor stories that fans can look forward to seeing animated, such as The Wheel in Space, The Underwater Menace and The Space Pirates.

As recently discussed in our post about the potential for animating Big Finish audios once the missing episodes have been reconstructed, the future seems bright for Doctor Who animation, as there are still many excellent stories yet to be animated. Who knows? Once the missing episodes have been animated, we could see a limited range of Big Finish audios receive the same animation treatment, creating a whole new way of creating new animated Doctor Who stories starring the full original cast. We Time will tell, it always does.

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