Remembrance of the Daleks
Episode / May 4, 2017

Aired 5 -26 October 1988 Sylvester McCoy’s first year as the Seventh Doctor was a rocky one, but one nonetheless brimming with experimentalism as the show tried to rediscover itself on the fly with a new lead and a new mantra that looked forward more than backward. Strangely, although ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ is very firmly entrenched in the past as the entire serial becomes a reference of sorts to the very first serial, ‘An Unearthly Child,’ and is littered with allusions to other past adventures, it’s clear from the start that Doctor Who has finally found firmer footing once more, taking a much more self-aware and sometimes politically-dissident approach as it presented generally much more intelligent stories. The sort of celebratory and nostalgic sentiments that pervade ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ can easily be forgiven for a story kicking off the franchise’s twenty-fifth anniversary, especially in a story that so expertly highlights the characterization of both the new Time Lord and new companion in the process. Indeed, this is easily Sylvester McCoy’s finest performance in the role to this point and entrenches his incarnation as a master manipulator with a much darker side than previously seen. At first debating the…

Revelation of the Daleks
Episode / April 18, 2017

Aired 23 – 30 March 1985 Doctor Who, like any long-lasting programme, changes along with the times to better resonate with the audience and drive home its message. With that mindset, it’s unsurprising that the show in the 1980s would start to go down a darker and bleaker path, one that threw aside the rather black and white lines of good and evil that had defined the show for so long. Unfortunately, the writing often let down the realization of some very clever ideas and instead focused on unwarranted violence and brutality, an aspect brought to the forefront with the characterization of the Sixth Doctor. With the show coming under increasing pressure from the BBC, the return of the Daleks provides a momentary reprieve that ends Colin Baker’s first full season on a relatively high note. It’s telling that the Doctor is something of an observer throughout ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ and that events likely would have occurred in the same fashion if he had never shown up. Perhaps this was a purposeful attempt at shaking up the storytelling dynamic, but it is intriguing that a story in which the Sixth Doctor less prominently focuses seems to flow much more…

Resurrection of the Daleks
Episode / April 4, 2017

Aired 8 – 15 February 1984 Many of Doctor Who’s finest stories have been scripted by its various script editors, perfectly encapsulating the tone and spirit of the specific era while incorporating clever ideas and wonderful characterization. In regards to capturing the spirit and tone of Peter Davison’s final year, Eric Saward’s ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ is unequivocally a standout success, managing to draw upon the franchise’s long history in its attempts to flesh out a darker and more complex plot starring a moral but fallible lead. Unfortunately, its reliance on spectacle and the past along with its inability to meaningfully navigate its many subplots with rather unhappy characters just as successfully highlights the flaws of the era as much as its positives. Following the unqualified success of ‘Earthshock’ that brought back the Cybermen amidst a bevy of nostalgia, it’s understandable that the same type of approach would be taken with the iconic Daleks. As a direct sequel to ‘Destiny of the Daleks,’ there are many aspects carrying over from that story that work incredibly well, and the fact that the Daleks have lost their war against the Movellans due to a biological weapon against which they have no defense…

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…

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…

The Curse of Davros
Audio / October 25, 2016

Released January 2012 Just as the Sixth Doctor, Mel, and Peri have been the beneficiaries of strong characterization from Big Finish that has greatly benefitted their characters, the same can be said about Davros and Terry Molloy. Michael Wisher, of course, provided a sinister performance for Davros in his debut story ‘The Genesis of the Daleks,’ and that, along with the increasing difficulty of including Davros effectively in each televised Dalek story from then on, put the character as played by Terry Molloy in somewhat of a challenging position. However, Davros’s appearances in differing Big Finish ranges has completely rejuvenated and intensified the character, and Terry Molloy has proven time and time again that he belongs in the top tier of Doctor Who villains. Accordingly, the prospect of reuniting the Sixth Doctor and Davros is now a great cause of excited anticipation. ‘The Curse of Davros,’ though, is also notable for bringing Lisa Greenwood’s Phillipa ‘Flip’ Jackson, a guest character from 2011’s Sixth Doctor trilogy opener, aboard the TARDIS as a new companion. Flip is still pretty much a blank slate at the beginning of this tale, but writer Jonathan Morris quickly showcases her rather facetious nature. This characteristic has…

Journey’s End
Episode / June 3, 2016

Aired 5 June 2008 ‘Journey’s End’ picks up the events begun in ‘The Stolen Earth,’ moving at a blistering pace and using every available second of its extended running time to its fullest, raising the stakes to almost absurd levels as it caps off the celebratory nature of recent episodes in grand fashion. There are certainly a few plot contrivances and the Davies deus ex machina makes a return as well, but the story is hardly the primary focus of the episode, giving just as much time to the individual characters as well as the fans in a big thank you note for four great years that have made the modern Doctor Who such a success, a journey that has ended with the programme going from a mostly forgotten cult show to an international phenomenon. In what is the last full series for both David Tennant and Russell T Davies, it makes sense that ‘Journey’s End’ essentially becomes a giant valentine to everything that Doctor Who is. Logically, that means bringing back the Daleks- easily the most iconic foe of the programme- at their most dangerous in a full empire bent on destroying reality itself. The stakes have consistently been…

The Stolen Earth
Episode / June 1, 2016

Aired 28 June 2008 If Russell T Davies set out to leave fans clamouring for resolution after delivering the most shocking of cliffhangers Doctor Who has ever managed, then he succeeded masterfully. With a Dalek shooting the Doctor, leaving him in the midst of the familiar glow and burst of the modern regeneration without any sort of preview for the upcoming conclusion ‘Journey’s End,’ the entire cast and crew of Doctor Who has managed to achieve what many would normally deem impossible in the modern culture of leaks and spoilers. Nobody saw this ending coming, and though it’s unlikely that David Tennant will actually regenerate, especially with the camera panning to his hand from ‘The Christmas Invasion,’ it’s still a shocking turn of events that capped an intriguing opening instalment to the series finale. To be fair, ‘The Stolen Earth’ is not the best-scripted episode of the series. Instead, it’s a celebration of everything that Doctor Who has managed to achieve in its four years back on the air- elevating the programme from a cult following to an international phenomenon- while delving still deeper into the classic series’s mythology. It’s loud, brash, and bombastic, moving at such a breakneck speed…

Terror Firma
Episode / May 1, 2016

Released August 2005 Doctor Who returns from its interesting but ultimately flawed Divergent universe story arc with ‘Terror Firma,’ a story that picks up the cliffhanger ending of ‘The Next Life’ as the Doctor, Charley, and C’rizz are confronted by Davros right from the outset. Joseph Lidster is tasked with scripting this unwelcome return to the normal universe, unsurprisingly using a flashback-fueled narrative since meeting Davros would normally be a mid-story cliffhanger rather than a starting point. Surprisingly and intriguingly, though, these flashbabcks go back to well before Paul McGann’s Big finish audio debut in ‘Storm Warning’ and attempts to rewrite all of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures as part of a bigger plan of revenge by Davros. Big Finish has already taken the initiative to fill in Davros’s story between ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ and ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ as well as between ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ and ‘Remembrance of the Daleks,’ and so it’s not surprise that his time immediately following his last televised appearance is the focus here. Other media have explored this time period in Davros’s life before, but Lidster combines threads from those earlier televised stories and puts forth the view that Davros eventually becomes the…

The Juggernauts
Audio / April 20, 2016

Released January 2005 Scott Alan Woodard is an immensely brave writer, making his debut for Big Finish while bringing together the Sixth Doctor and Mel for the first time since the highly successful ‘The One Doctor’ in 2001 and using Davros for the first time since the highly successful ‘Davros’ in 2003, also mixing in the Daleks and even the Mecahnoids from ‘The Chase’ for good measure. Understandably, then, ‘The Juggernauts’ comes with very high expectations. The result is a bit of a mixed bag, though still a very enjoyable one. The biggest issue is that its plot steers dangerously close to that of ‘Davros’ and even ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ with an apparently benevolent Davros working for the betterment of mankind through the creation of his new Juggernaut robots, essentially customized Mechanoids. The script wisely chooses to focus on this dynamic, leaving the Daleks more in the background than perhaps expected, but the lack of study into the character of Davros himself that was present in ‘Davros’ unfortunately means that there is little individuality to truly distinguish this release. ‘The Juggernauts’ wastes little time in getting the action started, though, quickly separating the Doctor and Mel as the space…