Released October 2008
‘Brotherhood of the Daleks’ has a reputation for being one of the most convoluted Doctor Who plots in the programme’s long history, its unassuming blurb giving away nothing of the satisfying complexity that lies within. In fact, one could be forgiven for expecting a straightforward Dalek tale, and that’s precisely what seems to be in store for the Doctor and Charley as references to the Thals and Spiridon come out very early. However, the greater complexities of the plot soon manifest within an episode structure that is just as unique, creating an altogether more memorable experience as the duo emerge in the middle of a Dalek war with tactics being used that threaten reality itself.
Given its placement in the Sixth Doctor’s timeline, the saga of who exactly Charlotte Pollard necessarily forms a crucial component to the tale. This will be a challenging component for some of the more casual listeners, especially because Charley has met the Daleks before in ‘Time of the Daleks’ and ‘Terror Firma,’ a fact that they remember. Despite its heavy reliance on continuity, though, ‘Brotherhood of the Daleks’ has a very clear story to tell, using the Thals and firmly taking the Dalek race into the more horrific style of story normally reserved for the Cybermen. The plot manages to keep listeners guessing throughout thanks to the inclusion of the plants from ‘The Mind’s Eye,’ adding a slightly more unnerving edge to events as well.
This is an incredibly strong outing for Colin Baker, who manages to deftly handle the complex explanations and keep the story from derailing with ease. He manages to portray just the right amount of suspicion regarding Charley and her apparent knowledge of the Daleks without ever letting it supersede his ever-expanding humanity. Even his internal hatred of the Dalek race and his exhaustion from fighting them time and time again as they remain stagnated in evil does not let him overlook the barbaric and sadistic experiments the Thals are employing. At the same time, India Fisher continues to excel with this new lease on life afforded her character as Charley must improvise and make up her life story as she goes, occasionally being overheard and misinterpreted but trying desperately not to let the Doctor know about his own future. Having one of the Daleks be the one to posit that Charley has broken the First Law of Time and jumped from a future incarnation of the Doctor to a past incarnation is immensely satisfying and, even if her eventual breakdown and admission turns out to be to a fake Doctor, the emotional intensity Fisher brings to the scene is superb as the weight of all of her travels finally crashed down on her.
Every once in a while a script comes along that simply brims with staggering imagination and ideas, and ‘Brotherhood of the Daleks’ certainly falls into that pantheon. The TARDIS being eaten away and consumed by the jungle, Charley being recognized by the Thals despite having never met them before, an illusory world in stark contrast to the real world and plans of weaponizing the cairopytes from ‘The Mind’s Eye,’ intense emotional horror, a unique Dalek faction, and even a glimmer of hope for the Daleks at large, ‘Brotherhood of the Daleks’ crams a colossal amount of plot development into its running time. It’s certainly a script that demands full attention to get full satisfaction, but the end result is an extremely rewarding one, bringing together years of continuity while unafraid to explore new territory at the same time.