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 Dalek Emperor. In concept, this makes perfect sense, but it is displayed here as Davros suffering from some form of schizophrenia, alternating between ranting as himself and the Emperor. Rather than heighten his menace, however, he comes off as a bit weak-minded despite Terry Molloy’s typically excellent performance in the role as he effortlessly switches between personas, Davros’s only apparent justification for living being to cause the Doctor endless suffering now. It is fascinating to see the virus the Doctor mentioned way back in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ make an appearance, and a mad Davros somewhat set against himself is an incredibly dangerous concept to explore.
Along with Molloy, the regulars are all on top form as well. McGann, in particular, despite being so exuberant about his return to the normal universe, manages to bring out a certain edginess in his character that is usually simmering just beneath the surface. His increasing vulnerability as he slowly realizes just how long Davros has been interfering in his life and to what extend he is gone is sublime. Similarly, Conrad Westmaas is doing excellent work with C’rizz who is himself becoming a much more dangerous character after what happened to him in ‘The Next Life,’ strong-willed and unwilling to take flak from anyone. The revelation that he is carrying the spirits of everyone he sees die within his mind should yield great results in future stories and by itself gives great justification to having him survive the Divergent universe. India Fisher is a bit more sidelined because of the focus being put on everyone else, but she does well in portraying Charley’s changing emotions as she uncovers more of the situation and realizes that the small group of people she meets is actually the entire remaining population of Earth due to the Daleks’ destruction.
As mentioned, though, Davros’s interventions into the Eighth Doctor’s life have been long-standing, and former companions Samson and Gemma are introduced as ones that Davros made the Doctor forget just prior to ‘Storm Warning.’ This not only helps to explain why the Doctor was looking for the TARDIS manual at the beginning of that story, but it also fills in the reference to a forgotten Sam that the Doctor made in ‘Minuet in Hell.’ At the time, it was assumed that this referred to the Eight Doctor’s companions in his early novels, but Big Finish is clearly trying to separate its tales from the novelizations. Regardless, Samson and Gemma are a very interesting brother and sister duo, and despite them only being introduced in this story, it’s truly shocking to discover the extreme measures Davros went to after capturing them, essentially using them as Dalek agents to help enslave humanity and convert Earth into a new Skaro. Credit must be given to both Lee Ingleby and Lizzie Hopley who manage to remain pleasant and amiable despite constantly double-crossing everyone.
‘Terror Firma’ is somewhat of a reinvention for Big Finish and the Eighth Doctor after the Divergent universe arc was curtailed due to the emergence of the new television programme and the new audience that might attract to the audio medium. The story it tells is very effective, but it still seems an odd choice to rely so heavily on Davros’s history, the Doctor’s (forgotten) history, and C’rizz’s still fresh character as a starting point. However, with the strong performances of the leads, a very dangerous Davros at war with himself and going to lengths surpassing anything he’s done before, and the Daleks trying to stabilize their Emperor as best they can, this is still a very strong release.