The Curse of the Daleks

Posted in Audio by - November 01, 2017
The Curse of the Daleks

Released November 2008

The final instalment of Big Finish’s The Stageplays range brings back to life 1965’s ‘The Curse of the Daleks,’ a story notable for featuring the evil denizens of Skaro without any sign of their eternal foe from Gallifrey due to the constant output of Doctor Who and its leads on television at the time. As the spaceship Starfinder transports two felons to Earth to stand trial for their crimes, a meteor storm forces an emergency landing on Skaro. Initially believing the Dalek threat to be nonexistent due to the creatures’ inactive status after being soundly defeated fifty years earlier, Captain Redway and his crew members soon find that there is a traitor among themselves as a box of mysterious devices begin to activate the Daleks once more.

Two aspects of the original production are abundantly clear through this audio adaptation. First, the story is very much a story of its time, not just in terms of its innocence and scientific naivety but also regarding the incredibly sexist undertones that pervade it. Though these may be laughable, uncomfortable, or even infuriating for some, it is a testament to adapter Nicholas Briggs and Big Finish that these elements have not been excised in order to stay true to the source material and preserve the true essence of the play for posterity. Second, ‘The Curse of the Daleks’ is an incredibly visual story that relies on furtive movements and subterfuge, and Briggs has wisely inserted brief moments of narration to create a seamless experience that builds the atmosphere and tension without altering the original dialogue or adding extra scenes to do so.

‘The Curse of the Daleks’ ultimately becomes a prolonged whodunit, though one bolstered by the spectacle of the Daleks. Fortunately, the identity of the traitor is shrouded quite well, utilizing a classic trope but disguising that trope well enough that the answer never becomes too obvious before its reveal. And although the story is fairly straightforward due to its brief and one-off nature, it’s intriguing to note the similarities between this story and the likes of ‘The Power of the Daleks’ that came after in which the Daleks also struggle to regain power while acting subservient until the moment of maximum impact when they reveal their true might and nefariousness to the delight of all of those once watching or else currently listening.

The cast for this audio adaptation is uniformly strong, and Michael Praed in particular excels as the former space pilot Ladiver who quickly becomes the prime suspect as events unfold. In a nice nod to the original production, the man who played the original Ladiver, John Line, also does well as the more scientific Professor Vanderlyn. Though the crew of Starfinder may be somewhat clichéd in its representation, Patric Kearns, James George, and Nick Wilton do admirably with the material given, and Beth Chalmers and Denise Hoey balance the male-driven aspects of the plot nicely. The performances and the atmosphere are undoubtedly the highlights of this release, and though the inherent simplicity of the script and the flaws that time has made ever more prominent keep ‘The Curse of the Daleks’ from attaining classic status, it nonetheless is a fascinating look into an otherwise lost Dalek tale that perfectly captures the essence and spirit of its time.

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