Poison of the Daleks

Posted in Audio by - May 17, 2020
Poison of the Daleks

Released May 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

 At a time when well-rounded supporting characters from the modern iteration of Doctor Who are providing increasingly fervent ground for exploration in headlining spin-off ranges, Big Finish has graciously refused to forget to the classic eras and characters upon which its enduring success was built. Returning with two more feature-length stories featuring Tim Treloar’s mesmerizing version of the Third Doctor alongside the ever-youthful Katy Manning as Jo Grant, the sixth volume of The Third Doctor Adventures opens with ‘Poison of the Daleks’ by Guy Adams.

Given this incarnation’s affinity for Earth and humanity, whether willing or not as a result of his enforced exile, it’s unsurprising that very real social issues and consciousnesses would come to periodically feature, ‘The Green Death’ undoubtedly providing the most enduring example. In that same vein, ‘Poison of the Daleks’ opens with UNIT tasked to provide security at Breathe Industries’ revolutionary filtration plant that can almost magically purify polluted air, a tremendous boon to a world increasingly beset by manmade contamination and a plot point that is all the more relevant in today’s context. Of course, the Doctor knows all too well that this ability is far too good to be real as advertised, but a man appearing out of thin air and dying firmly demands his attention and soon reveals an unexpected connection of a Dalek-occupied world some two hundred years in the future.

Rather uniquely, ‘Poison of the Daleks’ manages to combine the militaristic and yet familial stylings of UNIT with action that likewise takes place off-world, and the resulting plot is a rich tapestry that transcends the pre-exile and post-exile Pertwee eras. In fact, the Daleks and the their full history are on full display, and while the plan to collect pollution that has been transported to this world to then send back to Earth in amplified amounts to weaken human resistance to their eventual invasion is a bit more conniving and subtle than the Daleks typically employ with the brute force of their sheer numbers, the inclusion of Varga plants, Robomen, and even the Slyther truly given an expanded and constant sense of danger to proceedings that go far beyond the incredible menace and power that Nicholas Briggs as the many versions of the Daleks always provides. Indeed, the many different responses to these threats by the individuals with very different backgrounds and in very different situations is impressively realized and only further expands upon the very human element at the core of this story.

This is a rare example of the Third Doctor not necessarily being far superior intellectually to all of those around him, and the begrudging companionship and even respect he comes to form with a figure of the Dalek resistance who makes quite a pointed observation about the fallibility of Time Lords and how regeneration may actually hamper their ability to learn and change is wonderfully written and performed. Tim Treloar has wholly made Pertwee’s famed role his own by now, and the incredible range of emotions he imbues as the Doctor’s fierce pride gradually gives way to empathy amidst a constant disdain for the Daleks is superb. Of course, Katy Manning is likewise wonderful throughout, and Jo is given plenty of opportunities to showcase her own intelligence and determination to reaffirm once again just why this companion has made such a lasting impact. With Jon Culshaw reprising his role as the Brigadier and expertly capturing Nicholas Courtney’s famed intonations as he does his best to assert authority in a situation far beyond his normal scope and with John Levene once more portraying the kind-hearted but equally determined Sergeant Benton, ‘Poison of the Daleks’ manages to tell an epic story that never loses the sense of tight-knit family and camaraderie that so pervaded the UNIT era or stories. Confident from beginning to end and featuring a true-to-era soundscape to complement the tremendous direction and performances, this is a bold start to this sixth volume of adventures that proves just how much this range and its era still have to offer to fans old and new alike.

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