Shadow of the Daleks 1

Posted in Audio by - October 15, 2020
Shadow of the Daleks 1

Released October 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

As Big Finish continues to explore and develop both the Daleks and the Time War ever more thoroughly, the pressure to continue to innovate with its storylines has continued to mount. With ‘Shadow of the Daleks 1,’ the first of two sequential releases to be composed of four one-part stories and a shared cast, the Fifth Doctor unexpectedly encounters the Time War to blend the classic and modern eras of Doctor Who like never before.

James Kettle opens this release with ‘Aimed at the Body’ as the Doctor stumbles upon a failing expedition in Australia fronted by controversial cricketer Douglas Jardine. When the group soon finds its guide mysteriously aged to death, a dangerous mystery quickly develops that benefits from the complicated actions and motivations of Douglas that this particular setting brings out in full force. Jamie Parker gives a truly monumental performance as this historical figure and together with Dervla Kirwan, Glen McCready, and Anjli Mohindra successfully sets the groundwork for a uniquely subtle but wholly intriguing Dalek appearance. ‘Aimed at the Body’ makes the most of its soundscape to bring its very visual environment and questions about time to life so viscerally, and although it is very much a setup piece that refuses to reveal too much of the overarching picture these two releases will continue to bring into focus, it provides a suitably strong entry point to this intriguing premise.

As the Doctor tails the Daleks to figure out the truth about what he has witnessed, ‘Lightspeed’ by Jonathan Morris presents a vengeful plot from beyond the grave with the Doctor at its very heart. Unfortunately, despite a unique premise the story itself is a bit too crammed with ideas for such a short story to fully explore, and so an intriguing interweaving of an alien race, an artificial intelligence, and a crew that seems strangely familiar ends up feeling more disjointed and superficial than should be the case. Still, the plot keeps the threats coming throughout, and Peter Davison provides a steadying performance as another subtle hint about the overall narrative is brought forth without revealing too much to the Doctor at this point. The Doctor recognizing these familiar faces in very different roles is certainly a unique hook that allows the supporting cast members to showcase their immense range while the Daleks continue to pervade the background, and ‘Lightspeed’ certainly maintains the momentum even if it can’t quite reach the levels of its predecessor.

Suffering from apparent amnesia, the Doctor walks into a second-hand bookshop filled with strangely familiar faces in Simon Guerrier’s ‘The Bookshop at the End of the World.’ With an incredibly atmospheric tale that subtly explores the characters’ varied internal thoughts motivations for being here, this is a much less straightforward tale than has so far been offered in this set, and the entire cast combines to deliver a powerful experience as this particular incarnation of the Doctor comes to realize that he is somehow interacting with a war that he should not be part of at this point. Guerrier wisely refuses to explicitly answer many of the questions posed, but the powerful and ominous sense of uncertainty provide a brilliant backdrop to the Doctor’s slowly increasing sense of awareness and of self to deliver an incredibly profound experience that demonstrably amplifies the scope and danger of where the Doctor has somehow found himself.

Dan Starkey closes out this first sequence with ‘Interlude’ as the Doctor lands in Florence while Italy is besieged by a tyrannical Duke. Finding himself amidst familiar faces once again as a group of actors looks to create and deliver a victory performance, the Doctor unexpectedly discovers a so-called executioner at the core of events that is far more important than anyone around him appears able to realize. However, while ‘Interlude’ unquestionably features the most explicit use of the Daleks to this point and certainly capitalizes on the intriguing prospect of the different eras of Doctor Who colliding, the actual story itself doesn’t do much to truly advance the overall arc beyond where ‘Aimed at the Body’ left it at this set’s beginning. Still, the cast members display an immense camaraderie as the stage atmosphere focuses which bodes well for the concluding four stories; thus, although this interlude is a bit oddly placed given the major details that began to come to light in the preceding tale, the more overt incorporation of Nicholas Briggs and the Daleks as the Doctor slowly gathers more pieces of the puzzle is an engaging endpoint that ensures intrigue remains high at the midway point of this momentous saga.

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