Fear of the Daleks

Posted in Audio by - January 26, 2019
Fear of the Daleks

Released January 2007

‘Frostfire’ instantly showed what The Companion Chronicles is capable of, hinting at what happened to a beloved companion from the past after departing the Doctor while affording a very intimate look at an era long since passed. The second release, ‘Fear of the Daleks’ by Patrick Chapman, highlights the Second Doctor era as an older Zoe begins to have unsettling nightmares about Daleks and strange memories of adventures she just cannot place.

The concept behind the framing device for this story as Zoe speaks to a counselor to reconcile these images and feelings that her eidetic memory does not contain is a fantastic one, but it’s somewhat let down in its execution by featuring only at the very beginning and end of the tale with no actual interjections from the counselor to help put things into perspective. This by itself isn’t necessarily a detriment since it still opens the door to further exploration of Zoe as a character in future releases, but the actual narrative itself also does little to stand out in any meaningful way. Rather than recapture the sort of bold experimentalism that early Doctor Who found great success with, ‘Fear of the Daleks’ is instead very straightforward to the point of cliche with little to inspire any meaningful engagement with its audience despite an energetic performance from Wendy Padbury and a determinedly commanding turn as the Dalek from Nicholas Briggs.

The base foundation of the story is sound and filled with strong visuals as a domed city on an asteroid hosts a peace conference between the warring Xantha and Tabari worlds. While a rogue member looking to sabotage these talks and instill himself in the position of ultimate power is likewise a potentially intriguing- if expected- development, Atrika is simply too one-dimensional and short-sighted to pose any sort of credible threat. He has allied with the Daleks but steadfastly believes that they see him as an equal and will not turn on him and exterminate him at the first opportunity, a belief that he ultimately learns is misguided and with consequences that require his own ultimate sacrifice to rectify. Atrika is simply another in the long line of people who have followed this exact same path, but there’s nothing unique about him to make him stand out, and his sudden realisation of what the Daleks are capable of that makes him turn despite him allying with the Daleks for those very reasons strikes a hollow note. Unfortunately, while Atrika’s sacrifice does allow a degree of redemption for the character, there’s no real growth for the Doctor and his companions as a result of any of this action, and the Doctor recognising Dalek technology before their reveal as Atrika basically tells his whole plan featuring sleeper agents means that the story both starts and ends on something of a surprising whimper.

Surprisingly, the story seems somewhat undecided about how best to balance the Dalek component with the fact that Atrika is controlling Zoe’s mind. While Padbury does well to bring out the internal anguish Zoe is feeling, the prolonged sequence as a whole is only a superficial hint at what could have been an immensely satisfying character study that likewise bled through to her future. It’s difficult to say if the shortcomings of this story are simply down to not having a long enough running time to properly explore the great ideas on display in both times or just an overreliance on fairly clichéd actions and banal dialogue that further exacerbate the rushed plot, but ‘Fear of the Daleks’ is ultimately only a shadow of something altogether more satisfying and sadly becomes an unfortunate misfire in the process.

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