Review by Jacob Licklider
“Shadow of the Daleks is an interesting idea for a Doctor Who Big Finish release, at least for the Main Range. Instead of a single release, this is a story arc crossing two releases made up of eight individual episodes from different writers, all with the conceit of the Time War breaking into the life of the Fifth Doctor and a collection of people.”
This is how I opened my review of Shadow of the Daleks 1 last month here at IndieMacUser, and sitting here about a month later having finished Shadow of the Daleks 2, I realised just how apt that description is of these two releases.
Four different writers take up this back half, with script editor John Dorney taking on the final installment. The other three episodes are efforts from Jonathan Barnes, Roland Moore and Lizzie Hopley; each acting as a direct sequel to the first half and peeling back bits of the mystery behind what the Daleks are doing, why the Doctor keeps encountering people with the same face, and just where the Doctor actually is. Each episode plays with a different concept, and once again the Daleks stay mostly in the shadows really until Effect and Cause, the final episode where the puzzle comes together. Dorney provides an excellent closer where that final twist makes the shadows of the story come right into the light and the Time War’s involvement in the past seven episodes really can come to light. Special mention for Lizzie Hopley’s Castle Hydra which basically wraps up the plot before revealing what actually is happening in the story.
Peter Davison throughout this release in particular is giving a very tired performance, which I mean as the highest praise. There is this sense that the Doctor has been in some sort of loop throughout these two stories, and he just wants this insanity to end. He doesn’t know exactly what’s going on and some of the reveals completely floor the character. Jonathan Barnes’ Echo Chamber is essentially an extended monologue without the Daleks really cutting in; instead being a commentary on modern radio and the idea of an echo chamber. The Doctor then has to solve his own murder and stage a jailbreak in the subsequent stories. The release has the Doctor essentially having the world thrown right at him throughout everything, and the revelation that something awful is going to happen to his future selves. Davison is charismatic and cunning, and brings back some of that interesting themes and motifs from Season 21. The Doctor being in the dark is an asset throughout the release, becoming the audience viewpoint character usually taken up from the companions. The supporting cast here cannot serve that purpose like they did in the first half, as this release focuses on discovering who these people actually are. They are caricatures of actual people.
Roland Moore’s installment ‘Towards Zero’ perfectly demonstrates this; setting up a murder mystery plot where the Doctor is an old friend of a rich family and is murdered, not regenerating because of reasons not ever quite explained though paradoxes are mentioned. It’s basically a parody of an Agatha Christie novel, though with three possible solutions revealed at the end in one of those great ideas. Yeah, more is revealed of what is going on in this story, but the real fun of this one comes from the murder mystery plot. The rest of the release is carried on the four supporting cast members (Nicholas Briggs is always great as the Daleks, but they are in the shadows for the most part again). Dervla Kirwan, Glen McCready, Anjli Mohindra, and Jamie Parker continue their flipping on a dime, especially in the first half of this release. Kirwan and Mohindra in particular excel here as they act the closest to companions and each character ends up making sacrifices.
Wilfredo Acosta provides the music and sound design for this and the first release and each episode provides different challenges which Acosta provides excellently. Gerry O’Riordan must be mentioned for his services in ensuring that the remote sound engineering comes together, a relatively new position since lockdown has moved Big Finish Productions to remote recording. This allows original music to be provided (the first story recorded in lockdown, Shadow of the Sun used mostly recycled; though fitting, music from Jamie Robertson). Ken Bentley’s direction is as always sublime, and it proves that Big Finish Productions can adapt to remote recording and provide entertainment of the same high standard during this time. Overall, Shadow of the Daleks 2 is one of those releases that concludes an arc excellently, and while keeping it spoiler free, the twists, performances, and ideas are all excellent, giving this an overall score of 9/10.