The Five Doctors
Episode / March 24, 2017

Aired 23 November 1983 ‘The Five Doctors’ represents the culmination of twenty years of Doctor Who, a feature-length special that does its best to bring the five distinct eras of the franchise together with a cavalcade of guest appearances by friends and foes alike. From the outset, it’s clear that writer Terrance Dicks is not striving to offer a meaningful story that explores the depth of the Doctor as a character or that fundamentally changes the core nature of Doctor Who, but ‘The Five Doctors’ is an unequivocal success when taken simply as a nostalgic celebration that focuses more on spectacle than on story. It’s interesting to note just how much attention is drawn to the questions regarding continuity that allow this adventure to take place, especially as continuity seemed to be pervading the programme more and more at the time. Part of this, naturally, is down to Tom Baker choosing not to reprise his role for the special after so recently departing. While the inclusion of scenes from the unfinished ‘Shada’ do at least allow a cameo of sorts for both Baker and Lalla Ward, it means that some of the resulting pairings of Doctors and companions are a…

The War Doctor – Casualties of War
Audio / March 5, 2017

Released February 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The introduction of the War Doctor in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ opened up an incredible wealth of potential development and drama for an ever-changing lead character centuries old and fifty years in the public consciousness. A shrouded incarnation who had forsaken the moniker of the Doctor because of his chosen life embroiled in the almighty Time War, Sir John Hurt brought a gravitas and sorrow to the role in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ that added incredible nuance to his resolute determination and desire to do good and instantly made the War Doctor an undisputedly worthy addition to the canon. However, the fiftieth anniversary special would- by necessity- be the only televised episode to delve into this past incarnation’s exploits, offering a tantalizing glimpse of just what could have made his future incarnations shun him so fiercely. Fortunately Big Finish was willing and able to better fill that void in continuity, commissioning four three-story box sets to better highlight the character and era in question. With the release of The War Doctor – Casualties of War and the unhappy passing of Sir John Hurt, the War Doctor era officially comes to a close…

The Final Phase
Audio / January 31, 2017

Released July 2013 ‘The Final Phase’ carries with it a sense of finality in many ways, concluding events set out in ‘The Dalek Contract’ which hearken back to the earlier Laan stories, concluding the second run of The Fourth Doctor Adventures, and also concluding Mary Tamm’s direct contributions to the franchise as her final story recorded before her unfortunate passing. With Cuthbert’s plan for the Proxima system and his plan to control reality progressing to its final phase and with the Daleks beginning to reveal their true intentions while holding Romana and K9 prisoner as the opening of the Quantum Gateway begins, the scene is set for a bombastic finale after ‘The Dalek Contract’ played it rather safe. The premise for this story is a great one, and the thought of the Quantum Gateway being a tear in the fabric of space and time but requiring enough energy to destroy the universe to open it is chillingly visual and dramatic. At the same time, while it’s inevitable that the Daleks have a secret plan and are simply acting subservient to Cuthbert in order to achieve their own means, it’s quite intriguing that they have been punching holes through the Gateway,…

The Dalek Contract
Audio / January 31, 2017

Released June 2013 The second run of Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures comes to a close with a two-part Dalek tale scripted by Nicholas Briggs that also serves as a sequel of sorts to the Cuthbert storyline introduced in the earlier Laan double release. ‘The Dalek Contract’ begins the finale as the Doctor, Romana, and K9 attempt to discover the truth behind Cuthbert and his infamous experiment as well as just how the Daleks fit into his conniving plans in the Proxima system. It’s apparent from the beginning, especially regarding the Daleks themselves, that this will be a fairly straightforward and traditional tale as many familiar plot points are recycled. As the Daleks stay more in the shadows to watch their secret plan unfold, a group of rebels on an oppressed world fight for their rights and freedom, and business and profits trump decency and the common good, there is little here that hasn’t been done elsewhere before. Instead, the intrigue stems from Cuthbert’s involvement with the denizens of Skaro as he plans to hire their services as a security force, a role which they clearly intend to use to their own advantage. Some nice set pieces result even…

Destiny of the Daleks
Episode / January 18, 2017

Aired 1 – 22 September 1979 ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ is the final season opener under producer Graham Williams tenure, an era marked by somewhat unsteady serials and tone as it tried to rediscover itself after public pressure to curtail the horror of the Philip Hinchcliffe productions while still being afforded only a very modest budget to tell its grand ideas. Playing to Tom Baker’s comedic strength, the serials began shifting to a more comedic tone, a change not universally accepted by fans nor even successfully incorporated by the writers of the time, though one that can work quite well with stories like ‘The Ribos Operation’ and the unfinished ‘Shada’ being standout successes. With the reliable creator of the Daleks themselves, Terry Nation, once more on scripting duty, ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ likewise falls victim to an unsteady tone as the story tries to present Davros and the Daleks as credible menaces while also trying to maintain a lighter undercurrent. Accordingly, the Doctor mocking the Daleks for not being able to handle a flight of stairs while also manically running Davros around corridors when he steals his wheelchair, while humorous, take away from what the story is actually trying to…

Energy of the Daleks
Audio / January 15, 2017

Released April 2012 It was an inevitability that arguably the most iconic Doctor would cross paths with the Daleks, his most iconic foes, when The Fourth Doctor Adventures audio range was announced with Nicholas Briggs’s involvement. After all, the Daleks have been a recurring force for evil almost since the very beginning of Doctor Who itself, and the Fourth Doctor was quite literally present at the very beginning of the Dalek menace as he considered destroying their threat before it could even manifest. ‘Energy of the Daleks’ finally gives Leela an opportunity to confront the universe’s ultimate evil, creating a successful- if rather straightforward- Dalek entry in this fledgling range. The Doctor and Leela land in 2025 London where protests against the GloboSphere Corporation are intensifying. The company has successfully set up solar panels on the Moon that are capable of generating all of Earth’s energy needs, but it has since made deals with terrestrial energy companies to delay utilizing them. As the protests are broken up and the Doctor and Leela are separated, Leela soon discovers that the Daleks are behind the technological advancements and that they plan to use the vast power supplies to against an unsuspecting Earth.…

We Are the Daleks
Episode / January 2, 2017

Released July 2015 1987 Great Britain is a divided one, the members of the upper class elite seemingly never further separated from those below them. With media mogul Alex Zenos offering an economic miracle that has investors scrambling in support, the Doctor and Mel seek to discover the truth behind Zenos’s partners and just how the phenomenally popular video game Warfleet is involved. The title makes it apparent that the Daleks are the foe of the tale, but they are presented in a rather unique fashion here as they hope to exploit the power of the free market to begin their newest attempt at universal conquest. Indeed, these Daleks are intricately aware of the influence of the Doctor on those around him, a crucial piece of their plan hinging on their enemies becoming too demoralized to continue on once the Doctor is out of the picture. At the same time, the 1980s setting and vibe lends a novel edge to events that makes perfect sense within the confines of the Seventh Doctor era, the smart and serious characterization of both leads providing an intriguing alternative to the more light-hearted versions written and portrayed on television. Sylvester McCoy’s voice absolutely seethes…

Masters of Earth
Audio / December 14, 2016

Released November 2014 The Doctor and Peri cross paths with the Doctor’s own past as they land on Earth in 2163, ten years after the Daleks have captured Earth and one year before the First Doctor puts an end to their occupation. As the Doctor finds himself amongst a burgeoning rebellion, though, he finds himself a hostage to time as he knows that this rebellion must fail and that the Daleks must be allowed to succeed for another full year. The pairing of Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor and Nicola Bryant’s Peri is a true testament to everything Big Finish has accomplished, taking two somewhat controversial characters and making them utterly enthralling both separately and together. Especially given the harrowing experiences of Peri as portrayed in ‘The Widow’s Assassin,’ the character development and growth both have undergone in the audio medium has made this a must-hear team. With the stakes as high as they are here and the Doctor entangled in his own past which has yet to unfold, ‘Masters of Earth’ showcases the mutual respect and affection the two companions have for each other while furthering their understanding of each other as well. The Doctor is unable to get involved…

Genesis of the Daleks
Episode / November 28, 2016

Aired 8 March – 12 April 1975 After multiple stories during Jon Pertwee’s tenure that failed to take full advantage of the Daleks and their iconic menace, writer Terry Nation wisely returns to basics with an exploration of the time and circumstances that give rise to the universe’s deadliest and most xenophobic denizens in the aptly-titled ‘Genesis of the Daleks,’ the story that also forever changes the course of future Dalek stories by introducing the Daleks’ nefarious creator, Davros. Indeed, Davros is truly the focal point of this story, the Daleks themselves not coming to the foreground until the final of the six episodes. A wheelchair-bound megalomaniac who still firmly believes in the survival of the fittest, his exacting standards of perfection that earn individuals the right to survive are a heightened form of the intrinsic racism and xenophobia of the Kaled race and, to an extent, all of Skaro’s factions in general. With the Thals and Kaleds caught in a perpetual war that seems to have been going on for centuries, even the mutated beings in the land between the two forces display rather extreme xenophobia as they threaten to kill Sarah simply for being a non-mutant. Ironically, for…

Daleks Among Us
Audio / November 16, 2016

Released September 2013 ‘Daleks Among Us’ wraps up the fiftieth anniversary season’s Seventh Doctor trilogy, bringing to an apparent close the Elizabeth Klein and Will Arrowsmith era in the process. Unfortunately, the end result is an overly long story that revels in exposition rather than drama, requiring its listeners to have a firm grasp on the history of both Klein and Davros as well as of the current story arc, and even then it seems unsure of what type of story it wants to be and what its focus truly is. To be fair, there are some intriguing ideas in play that create a fascinating backdrop for the events portrayed here. The Lemurian culture being so obsessed with punishing criminal wrongdoing that it compiled all of the universe’s criminals’ DNA, only to take so long doing so that the remnants of their culture must exact punishment against the original criminals’ descendants is an intriguing concept. So, too, is the erection of a statue of Ace after intimated events in which she was instrumental in the freeing of colonists on Azimuth from alien enslavement. After a bevy of exposition, ‘Daleks Among Us’ seems uncertain about which plot it wants to follow.…