Cycle of Destruction

Posted in Website by - July 17, 2021
Cycle of Destruction

Released July 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

After surviving a crash landing on an unknown planet, the Doctor and Anya find that Mark has disappeared as Dalek Universe 2 opens with Roy Gill’s ‘Cycle of Destruction.’ Making their way to an isolated android research base after discovering that the local fauna is hardly the most welcoming, the two discover corridors showing signs of animal incursions and scientists acting incredibly strangely, hinting at the dangerous truth behind Mark Seven’s origins they are about to uncover.

Following ‘The House of Kingdom’ that so brilliantly delved into Anya’s family and past, it’s natural that Mark Seven should feature so prominently in the subsequent story. The facility itself is fascinating and the pressures and expectations heaped upon its workers and the developing androids are immense, and a story that surprisingly focuses so heavily on the nature of identity and the notion of self provides the perfect backdrop for Mark and his companions to learn of his true origins that precede his own harrowing memories of the woman he would come to call mother and just why he came to join the Space Security Service to fight back against the Daleks. Joe Sims is absolutely brilliant as an android confronting a past and ensuing conflict he does not recollect, imbuing the nuance of humanity and even a sense of frailty to the faultless logic and assuredness he is programmed with, and Mark becomes all the more fascinating as a result of the rich exploration that Mariah Six’s actions in the past and present both allow.

Indeed, as integral as Mark is to the progression of this story, Mariah is every bit as key to ‘Cycle of Destruction.’ While her true identity is hardly a secret, her enduring desire to escape ALARC that so implicitly ties into Mark’s own past is an intriguing narrative thread fueled by manipulation that only further underscores the danger at this facility and the surprising changes in the levels of humanity that being here has wrought over the many years. Nina Toussaint-White gives a strong performance that subtly but fittingly changes as the secrets at ALARC come to light, and the chemistry she shares with Sims in particular wonderfully hints at their shared experiences and long history together that she so clearly remembers even if he does not.

Unfortunately, precisely because of the state of Mark’s memory, a tremendous amount of exposition is needed to adequately explain ALARC and both the human and android roles within it. With even more tedious aspects of the facility needing explanation, this has the unintended side effect of significantly slowing down the story’s overall pacing even while proving crucial to later developments and discoveries. With so much of the plot necessarily devoted to the androids and their development into what is ultimately seen, it’s also perhaps unsurprising that Anya is sidelined more than usual while being utilized more as a reactionary piece. Jane Slavin is every bit as charismatic and forceful as usual, but this intentionally is not a true showcase of her talents or of her character. The Doctor fares much better, however, as he deftly reacts to the burgeoning truth in front of him that his shrewd intelligence and incisiveness help to uncover, and David Tennant seemingly effortlessly imbues an incredible range of emotion into his performance that further underscores and develops the implicit dangers of this facility and the very personal connection that the revelations hold for Mark. Still, because so much of the plot is tied up with exposition in order to present the more intriguing action in the present and past alike, ‘Cycle of Destruction’ is a bit more tedious than it needs to be and thus misses out on delivering even more of an impact than it does. This is essential listening for fans of Mark Seven and Joe Sims, but it ultimately plays out as something more of a sidestep for Dalek Universe rather than an integral piece of the plot puzzle going forward.

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