With each installment in Dalek Universe, the scope and tension has been building to unravel the mystery of just what’s happening with the universe that the Tenth Doctor is now before the Time War and with Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven. The initial promotion as a full fourth series for the Tenth Doctor was perhaps the most accurate description of the three box sets as a whole, all taking place right after The Waters of Mars; and Dalek Universe 3 sets up The Day of the Doctor, and actually helps transition the Tenth Doctor towards the end of his life. Like the first set, Dalek Universe 3 is only two stories, a single episode and two parts, essentially echoing the structure of one of his televised series (without the third two-parter to fill in the usual thirteen episodes as this is only nine episodes). And with any finale, this set is built around wrapping everything up from the heartbreaking installments at the end of Dalek Universe 2. This review will contain spoilers for Dalek Universe 2, so it is highly recommended to at least be caught up with the stories to this point before continuing. This is also a set which cannot be listened to in isolation, despite its high quality.
The 2020 Monthly Range releases from July to October were initially announced as the yearly anthology release Time Apart, followed by a trilogy of Fifth Doctor stories: Thin Time/Madquake, The Lost Resort, and Perils and Nightmares. These releases were recorded, edited, and ready for release until the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down and Big Finish Productions decided that one of these releases would not be suitable as it came too close to real world issues, so The Lost Resort and its follow up Perils and Nightmares were pulled from the release schedule, the other prepared main range releases The Flying Dutchman/Displaced was pulled ahead and plans were changed. So here we are, a year later and the pandemic while still ravaging the world, has an endpoint in sight with the development of the vaccines, Big Finish have released these three stories as a box set, capitalising on the idea of it as a continuation of the early 1980s era of Doctor Who in the wonderful video trailer as The Lost Resort and Other Stories.Continue reading →
It is always a special day when Big Finish Productions revives a range previously thought ended. The Lost Stories easily come to mind over the past few years having two series of previously unseen stories released over the last three years, and after another near two year break The Early Adventures returns for a seventh series of two releases celebrating the William Hartnell era of the show. This year also perhaps went in a different direction in connecting both stories as a sequel and a prequel to 1960s stories, the first giving the audience an idea of what happened to Susan immediately after The Dalek Invasion of Earth while the other shows just how the Doctor acquired the Holy Ghanta seen in The Abominable Snowmen. Like Series 6 of The Early Adventures each story is told at different ends of the First Doctor’s life, the first being right near the beginning of his travels while the second being right near the end with his last regular TARDIS team, both focusing deeply on the companions and their time with the Doctor and just what it means to be a companion in these early days of Doctor Who and how that role has changed over the years.
The first release is After the Daleksby Roland Moore and is odd for a release in that it doesn’t feature the Doctor. Set in the immediate aftermath of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, just as the TARDIS has dematerialised and Susan has dropped her key to the TARDIS. As the title implies it’s all about how humanity can pick up the pieces after the Dalek forces have all been defeated, and despite having a Dalek emblazoned on the cover, they don’t actually play an active role in the plot. The entire story is focused directly on humanity and what the Daleks have left behind: Susan is finding her equilibrium in the decision that her grandfather made for her, Jenny Chaplin has found her robotised brother and is attempting to save his life, and David is trying to get some sort of government. The Daleks are a threat which could always be coming back and there is a single Dalek left alive, immobilised, planning and scheming to find a way to retake the Earth.
The War Doctor range was one of the Big Finish ranges sadly cut off due to the passing of Sir John Hurt.A fifth box set was actually planned and some of those scripts have been used in other ranges such as The War Master, at least in similar premises.Now that time has passed, the character has been recast with Jonathon Carley, most well known for several fan Doctor Who productions, and instead of continuing John Hurt’s legacy as the character which may have been insensitive if done incorrectly, goes back to the beginning of the character to explore what the War Doctor actually kind of means.The War Doctor Begins was announced as four box sets, starting release in June 2021 all looking to lead to essentially where their War Doctor releases began.Forged in Fire sports a beautifully painted cover by Claudia Gironi featuring Daleks and Thals and a younger John Hurt.It also is a set which sets up something interesting for the character, taking a step away from what Steven Moffat implied with the character, that he was the version of the Doctor who went against everything that the Doctor stood for, that his purpose was to be a warrior.There is something to be said to the recast; Carley joins Jon Culshaw’s Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Sadie Miller’s Sarah Jane, and Elliot Chapman’s Ben Jackson (among others) in Big Finish’s roster of perfect recasts.Carley worked closely with director Louise Jameson to ensure that his impression was more than just an impression, but really embodying the younger version of the character.He makes it his own and Jameson’s direction is also a welcome change as her touch makes the entire set have a different atmosphere to Big Finish’s usual output.Continue reading →
The Dalek Protocol started off the Dalek Universe miniseries with a fairly standard but enjoyable tale with no real connection to what would become the series at least based on the first set. And a day later, Dalek Universe begins itself properly with the first three stories in the miniseries being released to acclaim. To make what’s most likely going to be a long review short, Dalek Universe 1 is a brilliant start to the miniseries and if you haven’t already, go do yourself a favour and buy it. This is one of those sets that I cannot critically evaluate without losing my restraint on spoilers so from this point forward. You have been warned. Each installment of Dalek Universe 1 is truly part of a miniseries, blending together which helps as two of the episodes are from John Dorney, and the third deals with the character fallout from the previous two episodes before moving along to what will eventually become the conclusion of the set while transitioning into the second set. An interesting note, this set barely features the Daleks, like The Dalek Protocol before it, they are an off-screen presence bar a few scenes, the writers instead electing for setting this around the time of The Daleks’ Master Plan and dragging the Tenth Doctor out of time into his own personal timeline.
Hype is an interesting phenomenon. When Big Finish Productions announced Dalek Universe, of course there was going to be hype: it’s three whole box sets starring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, the return of Anya Kingdom, and a two-hour Fourth Doctor prologue with Leela and K9 to boot. This is the type of release that is designed to build hype, yet now that it is April and the first release is out, The Dalek Protocol starring Tom Baker,Louise Jameson, and John Leeson, and some of the trouble with extreme hype is that is can actually put off listeners. For The Dalek Protocol it is imperative that before you purchase or listen, you understand that it was never actually intended to be part of a bigger series. Recorded in 2018, the behind the scenes on the release are enlightening as Nicholas Briggs was simply commissioned to do what he loves and tribute Death to the Daleks while bringing back Anya Kingdom. This means that the ending of the story feels final, the Doctor and Anya don’t get to reunite which is important as the Doctor hasn’t even met her yet, and that there really aren’t apparent threads which will be carrying over to Dalek Universe proper. As a part of the series, it seems the most disconnected which is fine as it was never written to be a part of a greater whole, so listeners should be wary of those expectations before going in as you will not enjoy it nearly as much when that is in play.
‘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.
‘Genetics of the Daleks’ is perhaps the biggest surprise story in the whole of the Time Lord Victorious arc as it features the earliest Doctor involved in the entire saga so far and yet somehow happens to be one of the last stories timeline-wise in regards to how the Daleks themselves pertain to the big event. Its trailer makes it feel like ‘Alien’ with a lone pepper-pot instead of a xenomorph akin to how the recent final Eighth Doctor TLV audio was basically ‘Die Hard’ with a whole army of ‘pepper-pots’ at it’s disposal and the Doctor in the John McClane role. And similar to said audio, ‘Genetics’ delivers pretty much that exact premise albeit with a few twists along the way.