Palindrome Part One

Posted in Audio by - September 17, 2020
Palindrome Part One

Released September 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Including dynamically developing the Sixth Doctor and finally giving acted life to the Eighth Doctor once more, perhaps no element of the Doctor Who tapestry provided Big Finish with such a specifically unique opportunity as exploration of the Time War that saw the entire universe brought to the brink of destruction as the Time Lords and Daleks battled throughout eternity. With the War Doctor sacrificing his name but not necessarily his morals as the stakes became ever higher throughout his own adventures, the more conciliatory Eighth Doctor has likewise been given ample time within this setting as the pieces are put in place and the first shots fired. As the fourth volume of Time War ostensibly brings this saga to a close, the Doctor and Bliss are firmly dragged into the fray as the Daleks attempt to replenish their army using Davros himself.

John Dorney’s ‘Palindrome Part One’ bravely opens this set in an alternate dimension in which the Kaleds and Thals live in peace on a Skaro where Davros is happily married to his Thal wife, Charn. Unfortunately, things quickly begin to go awry when Davros opens his gate that connects dimensions and he begins experiencing the days following his experiment in reverse order. Unable to remember actually activating the portal or how the catastrophic events he witnesses in reverse order may have come to happen, Davros soon realizes that two figures known only as the Doctor and Bliss may have the answers.

The Daleks being all but defeated with the Doctor chasing the Time Strategist as the final remaining foe into this dimension is an intriguing setup to be sure, but from a narrative standpoint it is ultimately disappointing to set up a different version of an established enemy so far removed from the Time War proper no matter how integral he will become to events and no matter how incredible the individual performance. Nonetheless, the reverse chronology of sorts that Davros experiences as a result of his experiment gives actor Terry Molloy some of his most emotionally resonant material in the role Davros to date and provides a unique dichotomy between who this particular man is and who the title all but suggests he is destined to become as the Time War now bleeds through dimensions. This is a man who is fiercely loyal to Kaleds and Thals alike, and the genuine compassion brimming from his voice as he dotes on and speaks to his wife help to quickly establish the very different facts and beliefs on this version of Skaro. Davros is genuinely shaken as Thals come under attack on his world, and the loss of his wife rightfully continues to haunt him as he travels back along his timeline knowing what for some reason remains in store for those around him. In a matter of minutes, Molloy is able to convincingly bring to life a figure wholly distinct from the Dalek creator he has helped make so famous over the years, and the inevitable oncoming downfall of this great man has convincingly been set up by the time that the more traditional stylings of Davros insidiously encroach upon the whirlwind of confusion and loss around him.

This is a story that certainly fits into the Doctor-lite category as the Doctor and Bliss only feature briefly to introduce themselves and try to convince Davros that the Time Strategist must be destroyed in order to set time back on track. This itself is another bold choice given that the event the Doctor was directly involved in is not seen and since this is ultimately mere setup for a return to the Time War proper, but Paul McGann and Rakhee Thakrar do well in their short time to convey the scope and gravitas of the situation facing Davros even if the Doctor does perhaps seem unusually unable to look past this man’s name to see the individual himself. The end result is a very different type of story pitting the Doctor against Davros, and although the end result is ultimately known, the internal battle with its ultimate motivations is wonderfully realized and yet another very human moment for this man who very much still retains his sense of humanity at this point.

Even with The Moment established as the purported end to the Time War, this is a conflict brimming with a nearly endless potential for novel storytelling opportunities. However, highlighting the Daleks on the verge of defeat and introducing an alternate dimension ultimately only leaves one real endpoint for this story to reach no matter how many clever twists are thrown in along the way. Thus, while the intriguing setup of Davros in relation to time brings with it plenty of emotional moments for Davros to experience and question, the ultimate cause for these events is evident and makes this plot point window dressing to instead highlight the true empathy and compassion of the Davros here in relation to the pained figure of pure hatred that will once more come to feature. Dorney does an admirable job of playing with time and expectations in the setup piece to this extended Davros-centric story, but the confines of continuity work against its sense of potential wonder and it instead relies on the immense talent of Terry Molloy to carry this narrative that is so far removed (and yet ultimately so integral) to the ongoing Time War and the exploits of the Doctor and Bliss.

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