Mutually Assured Destruction

Posted in Audio by - December 13, 2020
Mutually Assured Destruction

Released December 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Given the release order of the various instalments of Time Lord Victorious through so many different mediums, the logical assumption would be that ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ as Big Finish’s final of three Eighth Doctor stories would carry directly on from the dramatic ending of the preceding ‘The Enemy of my Enemy.’ Instead, Lizzie Hopley takes up the narrative reigns following the immense fallout from the novel All Flesh is Grass which will release following this story (and perhaps long after depending on region), revealing a Doctor trapped with a crew of increasingly desperate Daleks upon a disintegrating Dalek saucer careening through the time vortex.

Big Finish proudly advertised ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ as being Die Hard with Daleks, and the story wastes little time jumping into the action as the Doctor attempts to find his TARDIS and escape. However, even if a listener is unsure of the exact sequence of events that has brought this ship to its current state, Hopley rather easily incorporates plenty of information to give this story a true sense of placement within the larger narrative. Unfortunately, much of this is achieved through prolonged dialogue that significantly detracts from the needed speed that this particular setting necessitates. The Doctor is obviously in a very unique position relative to the Daleks after earlier stories, and Paul McGann is clearly enjoying himself as his character continues to manipulate both the Daleks and the events around him to his advantage, but the sheer number of these instances and the resulting conflict between the Daleks don’t at all support the impending danger that is continually mentioned. In fact, this entire story is a variation on a theme that has been done with other enemies and the Daleks before, and the extended running time of this version compared to others that have covered this part of the story in only a fraction of the time becomes an unexpected weakness given its placement as the Eighth Doctor’s finale in this saga.

With the Doctor in an almost adversarial role, ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ likewise benefits from another superb performance from Nicholas Briggs who continues to vividly bring the many iterations of the Daleks to life. The brimming distrust between the Time Strategist and Commander presents a unique element to the Daleks that capably hints at the Doctor’s true relevance and the secrets being kept, and Briggs easily imbues a genuine sense of scope to this very confined environment. Through no fault of their own, Samantha Béart and Wilf Scolding cannot quite match the intensity and energy of the two leads, and although the backstory of these last two survivors is rich and again relevant to the overall story, there simply isn’t enough time devoted to either to make Tiska or Groth truly memorable except in the moment as the Doctor continues his search for an escape.

There’s certainly plenty to enjoy in this story both on its own merits and as a continuation of what has come before as alliances are betrayed and the Eighth Doctor more or less returns to his normal life, and that is a true testament to Hopley’s ability to continue on from another medium and to make what is ultimately a small-scale adventure seem like much more. However, its jarring beginning that is so wholly different from where listeners last left the Eighth Doctor is significant given the timing of its release, and the uneven pacing that detracts from the sense of danger is a facet of this script that even superb performances from McGann and Briggs can’t fully overcome. Nonetheless, while ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ may not ultimately be remembered in the long term, it is certainly a capable conclusion to the Doctor’s latest exploits with the Daleks in Time Lord Victorious that features some truly notable moments along the way.

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