Nightmare of the Daleks

Posted in Audio by - September 14, 2021
Nightmare of the Daleks

Released September 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Unexpectedly drawn to a drilling rig on the planet XB93, the TARDIS lands among a crew suffering from nightmares of metallic creatures hunting its members through the base and killing them while they sleep in Martyn Waites’s ‘Nightmare of the Daleks.’ Even the Daleks have nightmares, however, and the Doctor is determined to ensure that theirs come true as well.

Much like ‘The Lost Resort’ to open this set, ‘Nightmare of the Daleks’ creates a far darker and tenser atmosphere than is typical for Fifth Doctor adventures. The claustrophobic confines of the rig itself are already used to great effect to increase the sense of foreboding and even paranoia surrounding the contractually obligated sleep and the horrors that lurk within the realm of dreams, but the very fact that there is implicitly no escape from the Dalek menace when sleep serves as their gateway of sorts is a brilliant feature of this script that is able to take typical assumptions about the Dalek threat and completely subvert them by its end. Nicholas Briggs is absolutely superb as the multiple Daleks heard throughout, and their typical determination, self-assuredness, and even arrogance perfectly complement the nihilistic mood that has taken over the rig on which death appears to be inevitable and inescapable.

As is typical, the Doctor is able to use his famed identity to extend his life rather than be exterminated on the spot, but in so doing he quite adeptly reveals the mania of the Daleks and is able to quite astutely point out that his ages-old enemies are nowhere near devoid of fear as they would have others believe. This incarnation never flippantly disregards the Dalek threat, but he has his own ways of irritating and belittling them, and Peter Davison is excellent as he brings forth his own character’s strength of will and morality at each moment. While Janet Fielding doesn’t get quite as much to do here as in previous stories, Tegan still acquits herself quite well in what proves to be her first chronological encounter with the Daleks, and Sarah Sutton again excels alongside Davison as Nyssa and the Doctor traverse the dreamscape. However, it’s George Watkins as Marc who has unquestionably the most memorable arc of this story, a man still coming to terms with everything he has suffered recently and who understands that he is the reason his companions have been brought here and that he alone is the one who must continue the fight against the Dalek threat. Again, it’s a very strange choice for Big Finish to wrap up this monthly range companion’s storyline in a box set with such an unassuming title that passes the final two tales off as ‘Other Stories’ which was released so soon after the conclusion of the monthly range, but there is no denying how emotionally profound Watkins’s performance is throughout, ending his tenure aboard the TARDIS on a definite high that showcases the very best of Marc as a person.

Featuring a strong supporting cast that perfectly accentuates the ominous atmosphere pervading the rig, ‘Nightmare of the Daleks’ makes almost perfect use of its two-part length to tell a well-paced story that manages to offer a unique spin on the Dalek threat without ever undercutting the genuine danger this race always poses. With the scale of danger not on a universal level and with plenty of discussion about corporate greed, the characters themselves are allowed to shine, and that smaller approach allows the performances to flourish while sending Marc off on a highly memorable note and providing plenty for the Doctor and his companions to ponder so soon after Adric’s loss.

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