Dalek Empire 2: Dalek War

Posted in Audio by - April 04, 2018
Dalek Empire 2: Dalek War

Released January – April 2003

With the Daleks untethered from the family-friendly restraints of Doctor Who, Dalek Empire emerged as a powerful and gritty saga contrasting the seeming inevitability of the Daleks’ merciless advance with the ever-present inkling of hope and free will that fuels the beleaguered and oppressed soul, treading into areas of moral ambiguity and showcasing the strengths and weaknesses of all involved. With the galaxy now in the grip of a terrible war in which Kalendorf and his alliance forces are fighting alongside the Daleks from another dimension against the Supreme Dalek’s own forces, civilisation is on the brink of destruction and friend and foe have never been more difficult to tell apart as Dalek Empire 2: Dalek War opens.

In a clever move that recaps and reiterates the importance of the events of the first series, ‘Chapter One’ opens long after the now-legendary events of Kalendorf and Susan Mendes. The Daleks, of course, succeeded in bridging the interdimensional gateway in hopes of acquiring the knowledge of how their alternative counterparts achieved total dominion and adding those forces to their own, but a great war broke out when the alternate Daleks claimed to be a force for peace and good that abhorred the murderous and evil tendencies and actions of the Daleks in this universe. With the Emperor captured but the counterpart leader, the Mentor who is basked in the golden glow of a brilliant throne, wishing it to remain alive to allow access to the Dalek command net, a commanding stalemate of sorts was reached when the Emperor instead shut down all of its systems and the war waged on uninterrupted. The beliefs of these new Daleks is so dichotomous to the Dalek norm that it forms a tremendous narrative backbone that surprisingly has not really been explored before, but the revelations that they have reduced and destroyed populations on planets that refused to send troops to aid in their cause suggest that all is not quite as clear-cut as these forces would like others to believe.

The first instalment is a bit uneven at first as it tries to showcase the battles of the present while also discussing the past, and the somewhat complex structure of having two unknown characters in the future discussing previous actions with further flashbacks does give a bit of a disjointed feel initially. The non-linear structure demands its audience’s attention, but a bit too long is spent reliving the heights of the previous series before finally committing to the current story in which Mirana can sometimes sense certain aspects about the Daleks when near them and realises that the Emperor is inert because it furtively transferred its consciousness to Susan. As Susan is awakened from a six-year stint in cryo-sleep confused and blaming Alby for the deaths of her parents, Alby continues to rely on his own network of covert operatives, and Kalendorf becomes suspicious when victory comes so easily while he tries to once more plant seeds of revolt in others while pretending to cooperate, ‘Chapter One’ juggles a lot of pieces while setting events for the future in motion, succeeding much more as an exposition than a standalone adventure in its own right.

Kalendorf’s forces appear to be defeating the Daleks in Earth’s solar system, but the Mentor’s suspicions are growing just as the Dalek Supreme’s forces attain their first objective in ‘Chapter Two.’ The Daleks currently have their stronghold on Earth and are terraforming Jupiter to make it suitable for human habitation, but a hologram of the Dalek Emperor’s casing is the perfect lure for Alby who himself is the seeming key to finding Susan and the Emperor’s lost consciousness. The Daleks surging forth from Alby’s ship formed an immense visual on which to end the previous instalment, and the gradual explanation of Alby’s capture works to great effect. With a stifling sense of defeatism as Daleks battle Daleks and nobody wins whether directly involved in the conflict or not, ‘Chapter Two’ dials down the pace to focus on the characters and successfully makes this epic drama much more relatable and personal.

It’s in this instalment that Mark McDonnell’s Alby Brooks finally has the chance to step into the spotlight, and now that Susan and he have finally reunited, it’s immensely interesting to see the uneasy tension between the two as they try to live up to the extreme expectations of each other based on just a few glorious moments together so long ago before the initial Dalek invasion began. Still, the threat of separating the two is the impetus Alby needs to continue his fight, becoming much more involved in the action as he refuses to let the balance of the war shift by allowing Susan and thus the Emperor to die to leave the Daleks without a true leader. Of course, Susan is all too willing to threaten to kill herself as she gives herself up to the Daleks and tries to sway their actions, but the Daleks countering with the offer of Alby’s continued existence if Susan does not kill herself and suggesting that they only had to wait for Susan to become their Angel of Mercy by taking away her accepted comforts of life continue the dangerous game of one-upmanship that was so prominent in the first series. It’s clear that the Daleks are still trying to use psychology as a weapon, and given the heightened situations and emotional states, there’s plenty of further drama to be mined from these attempts going forward.

Kalendorf’s victorious fleet enters the solar system, but with Alby and Susan captives of the Daleks and the Emperor’s consciousness making trust difficult to come by for Suze, secrets and traps abound as time may be running out for the human alliance with the alternative Daleks in ‘Chapter Three.’ This instalment makes it clear right from the start that the new Daleks are no better than this universe’s counterparts as they threaten to destroy the people of Emmeron if they persist in refusing to follow their ordained commands for peace. Quite gloriously, a return to the past proves as dangerous as ever in the present as the terraforming of Jupiter creates the perfect trap for Kalendorf’s army thanks to the clandestine incorporation of Skaro’s own Varga plants and the poison that can turn anyone into an irrational but ruthless slave of the Daleks. This is very much a multi-faceted war, however, and just as Kalendorf has been trying to spread his own stealthy message of dissident, so, too, has the Mentor who has subjected dissidents on captured worlds to a mind control technique to quell rebellious tendencies and to ensure the propagation of anti-Dalek beliefs, the fate of those who the procedure does not work on horrifically being death.

Matching the strength of the ideas in ‘Chapter Three’ are the performances themselves, and Sarah Mowat and Mark McDonnell are superb as Susan and Alby both realise that killing Susan would be for the best but neither can follow through with the action. There is finally a moment of intimacy between these two star-crossed lovers, but it’s fittingly tempered by Alby trying to discover if this is truly Susan speaking or the Dalek Emperor masquerading as Susan as the two once more say goodbye. As the second chapter was Alby’s standout instalment, this third chapter affords Kalendorf his most enthralling moments yet. He’s playing a dangerous game, seemingly blindly acting as the Mentor’s pawn but in actuality planning his every word so that the Mentor hears exactly what she wants and needs to hear. This makes his eventual shocking decision to instead ally with the Daleks whom he spent so long fighting against in the first series all the more impactful and surprising, but he has realised after so long beside this new force that the truth behind their relentless pretenses of peace are far worse than the Dalek’s unadulterated evil. With dramatic set pieces and a harsh sense of tension and danger, ‘Chapter Three’ is a stunning penultimate instalment that crafts a new and exciting trajectory for the unending war to follow.

The concluding ‘Chapter Four’ opens up in a means that may initially confuse the audience, beginning some two thousand years in the future relative to the events so far on display and revealing the two unnamed narrator figures that have interspersed the action to be Hardew and Tarkov within the ancient remains of a mighty civilisation on the planet Velyshaa. Trying to uncover the cause of the galactic great catastrophe so long ago, Hardew’s theories have long been spurned by the Galactic Council, and Tarkov is seeking the evidence to support his own findings that have brought him so in line with Hardew. This framing device allows the action of the Dalek war to unfold quickly and effectively while also glossing over some of the more tedious moments that would slow events down, and using these two characters that have been present since ‘Chapter One’ in a minor capacity ensures that none of the impact is robbed while also giving context to just how momentous the events end up being.

The action thus unfolds at a frenzied pace throughout, beginning with the chaos that ensued when the returned Angel of Mercy made her triumphant speech lashing out against the Mentor’s Daleks. As the Mentor pushes ahead with her plan to brainwash all non-Dalek species as everyone in the galaxy turned against her own forces, Kalendorf takes charge and helps to lead the Dalek Supreme’s forces in battle, witnessing carnage and destruction on an immense scale and realising along with the Mentor that neither side can truly emerge victorious and that the only logical outcome is the total destruction of all life. With no desire to continue pointless hostilities, the Mentor instructs her forces to return to their own dimension, seemingly leading to a peaceful resolution for a long war that was anything but. True to form, however, the Emperor proves how cunning and duplicitous the true Daleks remain, electing to stay within Susan Mendes to use her status as the Angel of Mercy to convince the galaxy to let down its guard so that his forces can attack and conquer unchallenged. This in turn heartbreakingly reveals the true dedication of Kalendorf who has planted a critical mental impulse in Susan that can lethally spread to all of the Daleks, seemingly willing to use the Daleks’ propensity for overcomplicated plans and boundless ambition against them in the most devastating way possible and crafting an emotion-fueled moment that succeeds admirably.

This shocking willingness to sacrifice Susan by Kalendorf is perhaps only trumped by Susan’s own sacrifice of Alby with little pomp or remorse in order to put Kalendorf’s plan into motion. Few stories are willing to deal so bluntly with the harsh realities of war, but ‘Chapter Four’ unabashedly succeeds on that front. However, Kalendorf’s noble and brutal actions during the war are the subject of some debate in the future as time is wont to do, but Gareth Thomas gives an immense performance as Kalendorf inexorably carries on despite moments of remorse and hysteria amidst the mounting losses on both sides as he proclaims that the fight for freedom of will and action is worth everything. The series as a whole benefits immensely from engrossing performances for flawed but real characters that lend a sense of sanity and pragamtism to the awe-inspiring events but tremendously personal toll of this war, and the immense sound design and direction allow the epic scope to once more come to life bombastically while experimenting with a very non-traditional narrative structure that sets up the upcoming third series perfectly with an enemy force certainly not destroyed. Dalek Empire 2: Dalek War more than ably stands up to its predecessor with its well-defined and engaging characters and motivations in an immensely pressurized situation with no easy way out and consequences all too present.

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