The Dalek Occupation of Winter

Posted in Audio by - October 01, 2018
The Dalek Occupation of Winter

Released September 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Despite the many forays into Earth’s history without an alien or anachronistic threat, the introduction of another member of the Doctor’s mysterious race, and even the pioneering idea of regeneration, nothing is quite as prevalent throughout and synonymous with the First Doctor era as the ever-present threat of the Daleks. To begin the fifth series of The Early Adventures, ‘The Dalek Occupation of Winter’ by Big Finish newcomer David K Barnes sees the Doctor, Steven, and Vicki land in the capital city of a world experiencing an endless winter just as the population celebrates the newest candidates to be selected for roles at the scientific research centre that will all but remove them from society in general. But on this world where people and Daleks seemingly live in harmony, the TARDIS crew is sure that a more sinister and malevolent scheme must be in place.

Unsurprisingly, the very nature of the Daleks and even the title of the story proclaim that this seeming harmony is an illusion, but having a general population that is completely unaware of the greater menace of the Daleks and whose entire economy is centred around the construction of some ten thousand casings per month is nonetheless a surreal visual that is only amplified by the cold, stark atmosphere and the limited score that accompanies it. Yet as easy as it for the Doctor and his companions to announce what they know to be the truth from personal experience, going up against these individuals who know the Daleks to be peaceful cohabitants after so many generations alongside them proves to be a wholly distinct challenge for which none of them is quite prepared. As the story unfolds initially through the experiences of siblings Kenrik and Amala Vost, the former having just been selected as one of the best and brightest and the latter continuing her work on the production line, the layered strata of Winter’s society quickly and effectively develops, and the distinctly moral conundrum that Steven experiences when he finds himself willingly building Dalek casings despite knowing the darker truth behind what they will be used for is a remarkably deep one that Peter Purves explores poignantly when Amala directly confronts him about it.

As is so often the case when a group is confronted with an evil force, however, the darker shades inherent to humanity can prove to be just as terrifying as that which it faces, and Robert Daws as Gaius Majorian and Sara Powell as Jacklyn Karma bring the leadership aspect of this society to life exceedingly well, knowing full well what the Daleks represent but content to live their lives of luxury as their people toil under false pretenses in the name of an uneasy peace until the tides begin to shift and power becomes less assumed. Of course, maintaining a pretense of peace with humanity is more trying than simply exterminating anything that moves for a Dalek, and it’s only a matter of time before the right actions and questions by the Doctor, Steven, and Vicki result in the Daleks’ natural tendencies emerging, with Peter Purves once again exceling as Steven taunts a Dalek he knows cannot react to him. It’s with this switch to a more traditional Dalek action tale that the true horror of the scientific research centre becomes known, and the personal cost to Amala gives the character and story as a whole an extra layer of emotion that keeps the affairs of Winter grounded in empathy.

Maureen O’Brien and Peter Purves once again effortlessly bring this trio to life with an amazing youth and vitality, and the careful pacing buoyed by strong cliffhangers give ‘The Dalek Occupation of Winter’ a definite feeling of being a missing adventure from the original run. With only the modern voices of the Daleks betraying the time in which this story was made (though this should not be taken as slight against the incomparable Nicholas Briggs), this clever spin on a trusted formula and menace makes for a highly enjoyable adventure that captures everything that this range strives to achieve.

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