Released December 2009
Big Finish’s Stockbridge trilogy concludes with ‘Plague of the Daleks,’ seeing the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa this time drawn to the an idyllic version of the beleaguered town in the future that has become a sort of intergalactic destination for tourists to get a taste of genuine English history. Nothing is as it seems beneath the guise of the Stockbridge Experience, however, as beyond the nth generation clone population and rotten food, the Daleks have sprung an elaborate trap with a dangerous plague that threatens all of free will and thought.
Being mistaken as representatives of the trust, the Doctor and Nyssa play along as staff members Lysette and Isaac- two individuals simply trying to earn a living in a rather desolate time- try their best to impress them despite their dilapidated and decrepit facilities and hardware. Nyssa joins Lysette on a typical tour as three more guests arrive, and the Doctor joins Isaac on a task to resolve some of the mechanical issues, the latter horrified as he sees rain transform the clones into zombie-like beings. The Doctor is determined as ever to discover the truth behind this event even as Isaac proclaims that the affected beings are just clones, but Nyssa soon discovers on her tour that the rain affects genuine people as well, two members of her party slowly losing their humanity after exposure to the rain.
The overall pacing is rather slow and some of the more dramatic moments don’t quite resonate as well as they are intended to, but the revelation that the Daleks are infecting Stockbridge with a virus that removes free will by rewriting the minds of those infected is inherently intriguing. While the concept is nothing new to Doctor Who or even to the Daleks’ schemes even with this unique vector, the relentless zombie-like creatures are terrifying and certainly add to the overall tension of the piece. The Daleks themselves are written quite terrifyingly here as well, the script really amplifying their cunning and craftiness. With ‘Plague of the Daleks’ apparently set at a time long after the downfall of the Dalek Empire, the few Daleks who have survived the malfunctioning cryogenic process for so many centuries underneath Stockbridge are determined to make their race immortal by using the virus to spread the psychology and consciousness of the Daleks, a plan much more chilling than the usual physical attacks portrayed in typical stories.
The biggest star of this tale is easily Peter Davison, impressive given that he is so spectacular so regularly. Unencumbered by plot contrivances or a large TARDIS crew with each member demanding dialogue and action, Davison clearly relishes the chance to make more of a direct and even reckless course of action, tackling the zombies and the Daleks bluntly and aggressively with little regard for his own life, all the while keeping his strict sense of morality and scruples unbroken. Always intelligent but also getting an opportunity to show off his more roguish and humorous aspects as well, the Fifth Doctor has rarely been written as such a hero and, indeed, as such a romantic at heart. His sense of melancholy and despondency over the fate of Stockbridge is moving and poignant, appropriate after all that he has been through within its confines in so many times and mediums.
Though occasional clichés and the slow pace keep ‘Plague of the Daleks’ from becoming a classic, it is nonetheless a suitably strong conclusion to Big Finish’s latest trilogy, the guest cast working alongside the regular superbly to flesh out yet another iteration of Stockbridge as the dangers around them are uncovered and tackled.