Emancipation of the Daleks

Posted in Audio by - July 25, 2022
Emancipation of the Daleks

Released July 2022

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

With the Tenth Doctor era the latest chronologically to be revisited by Big Finish with the original cast members, The Audio Novels range presents yet another opportunity for exploration of more recent eras, this time in Jonathan Morris’s ‘Emancipation of the Daleks’ as Bill Potts summons the Twelfth Doctor to her home when another her from twenty years in the future appears and refuses to explain why she has come back to this point. As the Doctor dematerializes the TARDIS to avoid colliding with a Dalek saucer, the alien ship crash lands on Earth in the recent past and results in a world almost beyond recognition. The destroyed city of Bristol is now home to a top-secret research facility as Britain leads the charge in expanding a unified global empire steeped in fascist tendencies and aided by the advent of Dalek technology, and the Doctor quickly discovers that his usual assumption about the Dalek supremacy guiding this change has never been so wrong.

Through a simple toothbrush, the Doctor uses one of his famed monologues to set the scene for the story and the intrinsic paradoxes in play, and Morris wastes little time in escalating the intrigue and raising questions about just how this future Bill will fit within established continuity given Bill’s ultimate fate. However, rather than simply telling a tale set on an alternate Earth under Dalek control as might be expected when the Doctor returns and find the Bristol he knows to be no more, Morris takes the much more fascinating route of showing the Daleks enslaved and structuring each of the three episodes as instalments in something akin to a trilogy of interlinked adventures. Shockingly, Doctor Who has never truly shown the Daleks as a completely enslaved and servile race, and the visuals of a sightless and weaponless Dalek bred only as a source of clean power for the world to run on without the general public’s knowledge or acceptance is an incredible hook that creates a strong foundation for Britain’s global posturing and thinly-veiled threats that continue to result in its new empire’s expansion. Sadly, the real world is one in which different segments of societies continue to drift toward a more authoritarian way of life, and so it’s hardly a challenge to imagine someone presented with such advanced technology imposing his or her will upon others, an element that makes the school indoctrination and numbers of displaced, missing, or killed people in the name of a unified empire all too grounded in a sense of tortured realism.

However, the structure of ‘Emancipation of the Daleks’ ensures that every aspect of its multiple timelines and multiple Bills is developed to its fullest. At first, Bill as the Doctor knows her is the focal point, and after trying and failing to figure out just what her future self knows, the story follows her up to the point when the Daleks are freed from their enslavement and reactivate their proper production. In the second part, Bill from this alternative storyline takes the lead and expands upon the horrifying world that resulted from the Daleks’ crash up to the same point of Dalek freedom- aided by a human resistance group- seen in the first. Finally, the story’s concluding episode revisits twenty years in the past at the point when history changes as the Doctor tries to put history back on its intended course while the Daleks try to prevent their enslavement. With each portion beginning with the Dalek saucer crashing at Bristol, the divergent and yet complementary pathways each episode takes create an incredible and layered journey that expertly delves into the motivations and reactions of each of the main humans and Daleks in turn as each comes to realize that fate, fame, and conquest can be changed for better or worse with the slightest alteration to previous events. It’s rare that Daleks can become anything approaching sympathetic figures, but ‘Emancipation of the Daleks’ manages to truly amplify the potential evil, greed, and ambition of humanity to deliver an unsettling narrative that makes the most of Bill and the inherent optimism and morality she holds no matter the world around her.

Indeed, with Dan Starkey capably reading the story and providing strong vocals for a large contingent of characters alongside Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks, ‘Emancipation of the Daleks’ offers incredible characterization that exemplifies the very best of the Twelfth Doctor and Bill both together and apart. This is by no means a story in which the Doctor has all of the answers from the start, and incorporating so many elements of previous Dalek stories within this new angle finally gives him the true Dalek story that his atypical appearances with them during his televised tenure did not. He never hides his true intentions or motivations, and his casual acceptance of his own mortality as well as his adeptness at improvising with repeated elements within the multiple timelines provide a satisfying narrative logic that all circles back to that toothbrush he once took simply to prove a point. Aided by brilliant sound design and music to accentuate each scene and action, ‘Emancipation of the Daleks’ is a tightly paced and enthralling trip into the Twelfth Doctor era that provides another sterling example of the possibilities, narrative depth, and strengths that this audio novel range can offer.  

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