The Dalek Protocol

Posted in Audio by - April 15, 2021
The Dalek Protocol

Released April 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Nicholas Briggs’s ‘The Dalek Protocol’ marks the beginning of Big Finish’s ambitious Dalek Universe saga, featuring the Fourth Doctor and serving as both a sequel to the Third Doctor serial ‘Death to the Daleks’ and as a prequel to the upcoming audio series that will feature the Tenth Doctor alongside Space Security Service Agents Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven. Here, the Earth mission to Exxilon tasked with mining parrinium in order to end the spread of a deadly plague is nearing completion, but the humans and the TARDIS are suddenly stranded when the power-draining beacon of the Exxilon city suddenly reactivates. As Mark Seven carries out secret orders while Anya Kingdom looks for redemption, the Daleks have their own plans for this planet and its resources.

There is little doubt that Briggs has a great affection for the classic serial upon which the backdrop for this story is set, to the point that much of the opening material on Exxilon is more or less directly repeated in order to acquaint series newcomers with Exxilon and the immense properties of its city that brought about such a dramatic change in its natives so long ago. Nonetheless, having to manually crank open the TARDIS doors and to use a gas lamp is an incredibly effective series of visuals that quickly develops the austerity of this power-drained world and the unique challenge confronting the Doctor and Leela. Of course, it’s this same opening that also exemplifies the wonderful relationship that these two characters share as Leela challenges the Doctor to prove to her that he can properly steer the TARDIS to a chosen location while he searches for the proper chessboard to finally emerge victorious against K-9. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson continue to excel both when together and apart, but it’s brief moments like this or when a white flag is employed in the midst of battle when the two companions show just how comfortable and confident their developing friendship is at this point in time that truly highlight why this duo has remained so fondly remembered.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘The Dalek Protocol’ very much adheres to the typical stylings of Terry Nation, meaning that the overall plot is fairly formulaic. However, whereas the Daleks hardly feature until the end despite their insidious presence being known for far longer as the plague continues to spread and wreak havoc, the script is far more interesting when focusing on Mark Seven and Anya Kingdom who were last seen together alongside River Song in ‘Queen of the Mechanoids.’ Paired with Anya’s own prominent role alongside the Fourth Doctor in The Syndicate Master Plan series, discovering just where these characters’ mindsets are at this time is incredibly intriguing, especially with even greater adventures awaiting the two so soon. In particular, there is a certain coldness to the relationship here, and Anya shows an interesting sympathetic streak that belies the dispassion and danger she so frequently exudes. Unfortunately, the titular protocol is fairly underwhelming when its full extent is revealed given how much more direct measures could have more successfully achieved what the protocol intended, but the subtle foreshadowing to the twist and the dramatic conclusion further texturize the narrative to give added weight to the human drama that so prominently features. Jane Slavin and Joe Sims at times become the de facto leads of this story, and their engaging sense of presence and dynamic chemistry that has already shown how it can evolve bodes incredibly well for Dalek Universe as a whole.

‘The Dalek Protocol’ is hardly a revelatory or groundbreaking story, but it effortlessly integrates components from throughout Doctor Who history and utilizes an engrossing soundscape to develop a rich world brimming with conflict and dangers both seen and unseen. With strong performances in leading and supporting roles alike, this is a story that as a whole surpasses what its straightforward plot might otherwise suggest, and the result is another rewarding standalone Fourth Doctor tale that hopefully sets the scene for something altogether more grandiose.

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