I think it’s time I return to Doctor Who once again and if I’m going to review something from the ever growing catalog of TARDIS adventures I may as well bring up Big Finish once again. As I mentioned previously in my reviews of Doctor Who: All-Consuming Fire and the Big Finish Original Cicero , Big Finish Productions are an audio production company who have held a licence from the BBC to produce Doctor Who audio dramas since 1999 – in almost all cases using the original actors from the television show –the only exceptions being examples where they can’t persuade the actor to reprise their role or if the actor in question has passed on.
More recently they have done similar projects with other series such as The Prisoner, Sherlock Holmes or Star Trek as well as various other original works. But regardless I confess it is thanks to their Doctor Who work that I am a fan of the company. As such I have decided to review two of their Doctor Who audio releases from their main monthly range. One of which – today’s subject – is a personal favourite and the second of which is a universally regarded classic.
We will begin with Johnathan Morris’s We Are The Daleks.
The plot in simple terms is as follows: The year is 1987. The Seventh Doctor as played by Sylvester McCoy and his companion Mel who originally came from around this time period have returned to London but things are a bit different than Mel remembers. For starters there’s a very large tower in the centre of London. The Zenos Tower and the connected Zenos Corporation only…the tower is in the shape of a Dalek. And the Daleks and their friend Alek Zenos seemed to have changed plans. Rather than conquer the planet through force they offer the politicians of London…of England…a deal. Act as the Dalek’s ‘favoured nation’ and they will give the English intergalactic economic power. The Daleks seek to use the free market! There is more to it than that of course. How are the Thals involved? And what’s the connection between the Daleks and the Warfleet gaming console that’s becoming the latest craze among the children of the nation?
The cast are clearly all having quite a lot of fun with the concept. McCoy and Bonnie Langford as Mel are both on fine form, sounding just like they would have done in TV together all those years ago. Langford in particular is given a large focus in the story, frequently interacting with the guest characters giving her plenty of chance to develop the character of Mel and differentiate herself from The Doctor. McCoy is at his best here, slowly pushing the pieces around the playing board like the chess master his Doctor becomes in his later television appearances. Not to mention the odd bit of sarcasm or invective laced with venom.
The guest cast is also playing their parts with requisite gusto. Nicholas ‘Voice of the Daleks and Cybermen among others’ Briggs is clearly enjoying the idea of politician Daleks and interacting with a lawyer-friendly version of the then present Government. That same enthusiasm carries over to Angus Wright and Mary Conlon who play Alek Zenos and (Totally Not Margret Thatcher stand in) Celia Dunthorpe respectively. Wright is sure to play Zenos with just the right level of smooth talking political smarminess befitting someone who would work for the Daleks while Conlon throws herself into the part of a politician who the Daleks very easily persuade. She is a personal highlight of the story’s comedic writing especially later in the story. Outside of the story’s comedic political angle Ashley Zhangazhais very convincing as Brinsley playing the kind of person that a game like Warfleet would appeal to with exactly the right tone. His interactions with Mel and the Thal characters are perfectly acted. The other main character of note who is mostly at the Doctor’s side in the story is Serena Paget as played by Kirsty Besterman. Paget is a very good interpretation of the reporter with a conscience. Her investigation into Warfleet and moments with Brinsley can be quite engaging although I personally do find her character a bit too normal or average compared to the rest of the cast.
Johnathan Morris’s writing sparkles with both appropriate comedic wit that definitely seems to fit the era of the show he is trying to evoke and a good sense of pacing. We Are The Daleks has become one of those stories I can just put on regardless of my mood and relax. It always seems to make me grin. It is also quite a good story to act as a jumping on point for Big Finish’s Doctor Who main monthly range if I have captured your interest. I believe it was also conceived of and written with that goal in mind so there are no obtuse references to earlier Big Finish work or Doctor Who TV stories that only the more long-term fans would get.
In short I highly recommend We Are The Daleks. It is suitably tongue-in-cheek and entertaining while having a message of sorts – put into it by the passage of time – that I think a select few individuals could have learned from a few years ago. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea and I understand that. But it’s still a modern favourite of mine. For those who are interested there is a trailer on the Big Finish website alongside a trailer for almost every release.
But I’m not quite done with Big Finish Productions just yet. It’s time I talk to you of Mondas, Earth’s Twin Planet in the Solar System and just what happened to its inhabitants.