Released July 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW
What has ostensibly become a hybrid of the televised seasons seventeen and eighteen continues with the current run of The Fourth Doctor Adventures as the Doctor and Romana turn up to investigate when a 1980s English archaeological dig discovers a Movellan power pack buried among Iron Age artefacts. Yet as they discover a Movellan ship concealed underground and as the Daleks’ arch enemies make their way to the surface, a hidden weapon that could forever stop the Daleks and anything else that crosses its path becomes known.
Having been introduced in 1979’s ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ with only the briefest of cameos in ‘The Pilot’ some thirty-eight years later, the Movellans remain one of the more elusive and unknown races the Doctor has ever encountered in any medium. With a story dedicated to the humanoid androids who were written as slaves to logic and the presence of their external power packs, Big Finish essentially had to make the decision about whether to tell an origin story or to take the otherwise static race in a more daring and unexpected direction with their reintroduction, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the latter option becomes the focus for ‘The Movellan Grave.’ It’s a sad fact that too many Dalek stories feature the Daleks as essentially robotic enemies rather than genetically-modified creatures of hate, but it’s nonetheless eerily effective to point out how similar the emotionless logic of the Movellans is to the mantra of their foes. Accordingly, it seems quite natural that the Movellans would seek out a means of distinguishing themselves even if it comes at the expense of human lives, following to some extent in the footsteps of the Daleks’ own search for the human factor, hybridization, and others aspects of uniqueness to give them an advantage in their search for conquest.
Andrew Smith’s script and Chris Jarman’s performance certainly deserve plaudits for adding nuance to the modified Movellan Chenek and what could have been a fairly one-dimensional role, and the unfortunate truths behind Chenek’s creation tie directly into his wonderful characterization that easily spurs on a tale unafraid about tackling the ethics of war and weaponry development. At the same time, Tom Baker and Lalla Ward give their typical strong performances as the Doctor and Romana, with Baker particularly excelling as his character’s alien nature and sense of superiority shine through as his morals that would theoretically align with the Movellans’ diverge quite quickly. The entire cast is enthralling throughout and together help to sell the danger of the Movellans’ plot that culminates in a rousing speech and poignant moment of revelation.
‘The Movellan Grave’ could have easily fallen into a trap of simply being another average release banking on pure nostalgia to drive its narrative forward, but it instead takes risks with a classic race that pay off handsomely while remaining exquisitely true to the original era. The story itself may still be fairly straightforward and at times predictable, but this new facet in the Movellan fight against the Daleks that shows their ruthlessness when it comes to other species is extremely satisfying in its own right and certainly proves that the robotic foes are more than capable of anchoring future stories with further exploration of their logic-fueled and changing plans as well. Aided once more by strong direction and sound design, ‘The Movellan Grave’ flies by from beginning to end effortlessly and proves to be genuinely engaging and entertaining throughout.