Paradox of the Daleks

Posted in Audio by - November 05, 2022
Paradox of the Daleks

Released November 2022


While Liv Chenka and Helen Sinclair have steadfastly affirmed themselves as some of the Doctor’s finest companions, their adventures alongside the Eighth Doctor have thus far taken place within Big Finish’s sprawling and ambitious sixteen-part sagas that have comprised the majority of this Doctor’s appearances in recent years. What Lies Inside? marks a return to more of a standalone format, however, and following the immensely introspective and character-driven Stranded series, the Doctor and his two friends in John Dorney’s ‘Paradox of the Daleks’ are drawn to a space station undertaking experiments with time as a strange variation of Daleks looks to gain a foothold in an all-encompassing war of which the Doctor is not yet aware.  

The temporal helix emanating from this space station is a fascinating concept that naturally piques the Doctor’s attention, but this is only the first of many notions he can’t understand given the relative lack of technology and knowledge of the temporal scientists on board. The Time War isn’t explicitly acknowledged, but the Daleks originating from within that setting as the Eighth Doctor inexorably draws nearer to his own unwitting participation is likewise a fitting touch that amplifies the immediate sense of danger given the potential stakes of the Daleks obtaining this station as a beachhead. Yet seemingly inexplicably, the Daleks he comes upon have strange markings on their casings and do not recognize him, the beginning of a series of confounding events in which the station’s experiments achieve success when they should fail and the Doctor utterly fails when he should emerge victorious as so many times previously. The Doctor’s plans have never unraveled quite so quickly and demonstrably as here, and the brutal cliffhanger in which all hope seems permanently lost is shockingly effective given just how absolutely defeated the Doctor is.

Yet while the first episode unfolds in a fairly conventional manner despite the Doctor’s building confusion, the second episode doubles down on the temporal component of its plot and repeatedly folds back on itself to ensure all of the pertinent information is divulged while allowing events to unfold just as they have already been witnessed, revealing that certain threats already encountered were anything but in the process while other dangers continue to mount. Unfortunately, because there was so much confusion by all parties aboard the space station in the first episode, this does mean that the witnessed confusion or lack of clarity has to have been staged; though this does make sense narratively given the looping nature of the narrative and the TARDIS’s entry position into it, it is somewhat underwhelming to retroactively reveal that the first episode was basically a placeholder waiting for the Doctor to catch up to the narrative. The result, then, is a story that’s filled with immense visuals and emotions but that’s somewhat lacking in a progressive plot as events are repeatedly revisited from different angles and small details inserted to make previous revelations the Doctor has already witnessed make sense. ‘Paradox of the Daleks’ does have a fairly unique structure with the TARDIS entering this quasi-loop partway through events rather than at the beginning as is the case in so many stories, and that decision comes with incredible highs from the Doctor’s perspective but also with some notable drawbacks given the ever-inwards path the narrative must ultimately take to provide the needed context for how events initially unfold.

Surprisingly given how long Helen has traveled with the Doctor, ‘Paradox of the Daleks’ represents her first encounter against these dangerous foes, and while this is anything but a prototypical Dalek tale, Liv’s recounting of her previous experiences more than capably highlight the true danger they possess. Strangely, because of the way events unfold and the very unique interactions with the Daleks that the companions have as the Doctor’s perspective stays intact, Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan take on something of a reduced role with their own voices less prominent and their characters’ actions often furtively dictated without their knowledge. Of course, this all speaks to the complexity of keeping every detail accounted for, but this is more a showcase for the Doctor who is far more intimately involved with events than he ever expected and for the bold storytelling abilities of Dorney than for the companions or the Daleks themselves. Nonetheless, Nicholas Briggs is superb as always as the different iterations of the Daleks on display, and Paul McGann continues to impress as the Eighth Doctor who here ultimately manages to turn the Daleks against themselves in a very literal sense. ‘Paradox of the Daleks’ isn’t necessarily the strongest temporal-based plot Doctor Who has tackled given the many leaps and stipulations the Doctor must make so that the mystery and confusion behind his first experiences on the space station remain unaltered while events rarely progress forward, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable tale that is extremely attentive to each and every element of its plot and that represents a confident step outside of the sixteen-part narratives Liv and Helen have featured in to this point.

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1 Comment on "Paradox of the Daleks"

  • Harry West

    Now this is more like it. At first sight, another Dalek story is the last thing we need from WHO, but this is a return to form and a return to the Doctor being the Doctor, not another member of the cast of an overly ambitious and convoluted arc over 16 discs.
    This is a cracking 8th Doctor story and a really, really good Dalek story, which I thought had all been done to death. With a few ’aah…’s thrown in.

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