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 station they are visiting comes under attack. Mel witnesses the destruction of the space station while aboard the life pod she uses to affect her escape, unsure if the Doctor made it out safely or not. Meanwhile, the Doctor finds himself in a precarious situation, captured by the Daleks not as a prisoner but rather to help them investigate Davros on the mining colony Lethe where they believe he is plotting to destroy them. It’s refreshing to have the Dalek’s goals so clearly stated and not shrouded in convolution, though it’s still difficult to believe that they would put their trust in their most hated foe, especially before gleaning the secret to time travel they so desire.
The scripting of Davros himself is superb, Woodard capturing the essence of the character perfectly. It’s strange, though, that he would choose to portray him as a seemingly sympathetic character again given that events between the Doctor and him seem to occur chronologically for both, meaning that it’s inevitable that Davros fails and eventually goes on to become emperor of the Imperial Dalek faction in ‘Remembrance of the Daleks.’ Because of on-screen continuity, he will never be able to achieve destruction of the Daleks and the ultimate deranged ethics he holds so dear are always going to win, meaning that the tension and intrigue that any other less famed character may bring to the role is sadly absent. Still, Davros’s motivation for revenge against his creations is inherently interesting, and his willingness to sacrifice others once their usefulness to him is through is very fitting of the character’s history.
Mel also features heavily in this script, and Bonnie Langford does very well with the material provided. By setting her story on Lethe three months after the forceful separation from the Doctor, she is afforded a great deal of characterization. While it’s odd that she would retain such an unwavering sense of optimism about the Doctor coming to rescue her after all of that time, she integrates into the society very well, even sparking a romance with her colleague Geoff. Mel has always been a character who works off of trust and instinct and so when the Doctor does finally arrive on Lethe, it creates a fascinating internal dilemma for Mel when she is told that the Lethe man she has come to admire so strongly is actually the ruthless and evil Davros. Though there were some missed opportunities for character growth earlier, Woodard takes full advantage of Mel’s reaction to lies and betrayal, giving her a furiously animated showdown with Davros, featuring a level of passion and hate even the Doctor fails to exhibit.
Unfortunately, the final episode of the story undoes everything that comes before it and raises the possibility that the Daleks featured here may just be some of the least intelligent ever to face the Doctor. Through the majority of the story, the Daleks had been kept in the background because of the presence of an airborne toxin, but that is proven not to be the case as the Daleks quickly exterminate several Mechanoids and capture Davros easily. There is never an adequate explanation offered for why the Daleks simply monitored events on Lethe for the three months Mel was there, created a plan involving the Doctor when he was completely unnecessary, and didn’t simply use the time scoop they captured the Doctor with to do the same with Davros. This series of events sadly suggests that the script may have been better off without the Daleks at all, as the rationale for their presence simply unravels a rather enjoyable story otherwise.
There is a lot of fun to be had in ‘The Juggernauts,’ but the limited use of the Mechanoids and the strangely incompetent Daleks keep it from achieving any memorable level of greatness. Terry Molloy is again excellent as Davros, and the return of Colin Baker to portraying a slightly harsher and more belligerent Sixth Doctor as on television is a nice change after the mellowing in his years with Big Finish, but the strong performances of the leads cannot fully compensate for the inadequacies elsewhere.