Review by Michael Goleniewski
‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ is honestly a bit of an annoying release to review right off the bat because it takes place not only after the previous Time Lord Victorious story ‘Enemy of My Enemy’ but also after the main thrust of the Time Lord Victorious event covered in the novel ‘The Knight, The Fool, and the Dead’ and its sequel ‘All Flesh is Grass’ which is yet to be released at the current time of writing. Its description as quote ‘Die Hard with Daleks’ by both its author and Big Finish as a whole is a fairly apt one and Lizzie Hopley’s script wastes no time in immediately jumping into that idea. With the Daleks last seen allying with the Eighth Doctor and venturing into the Dark Times in the prior audio story, the narrative catches up with them after an unspecified amount of time in the aftermath of what must’ve been an immense battle. Working to stay afloat in the Time Vortex in a rapidly disintegrating saucer, the titular pepper-pots are struggling to survive. But they have bigger problems on their hands for the Doctor is still alive and causing havoc onboard in the hopes of finding his TARDIS and getting away.
Most of the narrative of ‘Destruction’ consists of extended long-winded conversations between different variants of Daleks in keeping their ship going and finding the Doctor in the process. However, there are several secrets underneath the obvious nature of the premise that are tied back to the other TLV audios in the trilogy and give things more of a purpose outside of what’s suggested by the synopsis. The soundscape and direction are almost completely negatable; taking place almost entirely in one location but in a way that’s droll and not exactly thrilling, and there’s little real driving action in the plot despite what everything about it might suggest. Where most of the enjoyment resides in listening to this one is in Paul McGann who is clearly having a blast with this story. His Doctor spends the majority of the runtime screwing with and manipulating the Daleks in ways that range from sinister to outright hilarious and his riotous performance is perhaps the best that we’ve heard out of this whole trilogy of adventures. It’s fascinating from a story-telling perspective in placing the Doctor as the informal antagonist of the story against his worst enemy and it leads to some great moments where you almost (but not quite) feel sorry for the Daleks in having to deal with his antics.
Speaking of which, this audio really is another standout story for Nicholas Briggs and he continues to make each Dalek variant sound and feel unique. The Dalek Scientist in particular sounds like a typical weak-willed stuffy-nosed pencil pusher with the way Briggs modifies his voice and of course the Dalek Time Strategist returns in all of its bitchy glory with his rivalry and distrust of other Daleks particularly the Dalek Time Commander still being extremely fun to listen to. It’s a shame then that the other two actors in the story Samantha Béart and Wilf Scolding don’t get a lot to do. There’s more to them than meets the eye and their attitude towards life is an interesting contrast to what the Daleks see but neither of them serves much of a purpose outside of giving the Doctor more of a purpose in escaping and surviving. By the end of its hour-long runtime, alliances have been betrayed and the status quo mostly restored to what it was before in a predictable but still rather enjoyable fashion that sends the Doctor back onto his normal path of adventure.
‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ is a good but ultimately middle of the road finale to the Eighth Doctor’s involvement in the Time Lord Victorious saga and is the weakest of its own audio trilogy but not by too much. It’s most likely going to necessitate a revisitation once the upcoming yet to be reviewed ‘All Flesh is Grass’ novel makes it’s way to more audiences in the coming months and it’s hard to say that it will have very much staying power on its own when all is said and done with the event. But it still mostly works as an explosive confrontation between two enemies turned reluctant allies turned enemies once again with standout performances from McGann and Briggs keeping things engaging. Not the best but far from the worst in terms of Time Lord Victorious and Eighth Doctor content, it’s a perfectly adequate listen for your Doctor vs. Dalek needs even if it’s not exactly a necessary one.
— 7 / 10