Review: Doctor Who The Fourth Doctor Adventures – Energy of the Daleks

energyofthedaleks-forweb_cover_largeBlurb: The Doctor and Leela find themselves in the middle of London at the time of a new energy crisis. The GlobeSphere Corporation seems to have all the answers – but several thousand protestors beg to differ.

What is the connection between the National Gallery and a base on the Moon? Has radical thinker Damien Stephens simply sold out, or does he have a more sinister agenda?

The Doctor has detected a mysterious energy reading. Could it be that the most evil creatures in the universe have returned to claim ultimate victory once and for all?

Review: Nothing goes together like Doctor Who and the Daleks. Sometimes a glut of the deranged pepperpots creates a backlash against them, but no one can argue that Tom Baker’s era suffered from that. In his 7-year tenure as the Doctor he only faced the Daleks twice. When it came time for Big Finish to create its new line of Fourth Doctor Adventures, their original idea was to go with Cybermen, as the fourth Doctor’s only outing with them, Revenge of the Cybermen, is not considered all that great of a story. Yet, they also noticed that in both Dalek stories of the Fourth Doctor era that the mechanical monsters are somewhat overshadowed by their creator, Davros. With that in mind, they scrapped the Cybermen concept and went forward with the Daleks and Energy of the Daleks is what came out.

Energy of the Daleks really proves that writer Nicholas Briggs (and the current voice actor for the Daleks in the new series) is really a huge Dalek fan. There are many callbacks to previous stories. The Daleks are traveling in one of their time ships. They’re converting human beings into Robomen – a concept that sadly has been rarely used in the years since The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Robomen are basically corpses animated by the Daleks into electronic zombies to do their bidding. The Doctor mentions their origins in the most succinct way possible mentioning that they were created in a “near lethal cocktail of war, hatred, and technology.” Leela gets put under a mind probe to assess her identity. There are so many things that are familiar about the story that if you’re a longtime fan it’s hard not to smile.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a story here, either. The theme about an energy crisis and the need for alternatives was something that came up time and again in the classic series and is just as appropriate today. There’s also a nice personal touch between Jack and Damien and despite Jack’s bluster in the early part of the story it’s clear that he misses his friend. There are also some nice moments such as the Doctor being nonplussed when a passerby saw the TARDIS materialize and isn’t startled. It’s also somewhat amusing that the Doctor wants to show Leela a protest as part of her education on the universe.

Sadly, if you’re a fan of the classic series there isn’t much that’s new here, either. This is pretty much “Daleks invade the Earth by numbers” and it feels very much like it’s part of a formula. It doesn’t help that when you think about their plan it seems like a terribly convoluted thing especially when you realize that with a time machine, they could have made it much easier on themselves. The Doctor waves his sonic screwdriver about like it’s a magic wand, causing all sorts of things to happen whether it makes sense for a sonic device to be able to do it or not. There’s also some ludicrous scenes such as the one where three people transmat into a single bed and once there talk for a while before finding out that there’s a fourth person there with them. It seems ridiculous unless the bed is enormous, and on a space installation just a decade in the future it doesn’t seem like the beds would be anything but functional. It feels like something done just for a cheap gag that could only work on audio but it’s so tonally discordant with the rest of the story that it jerks you right out of the narrative.

The performances from Tom and Louise are excellent. This is actually the first one that they recorded and it doesn’t show at all. Their performances in this are better than in some of the other early Fourth Doctor Adventures. Tom is back as The Doctor and is able to go between being grave and serious and completely jokey. Louise does a fantastic job with Leela’s first meeting with the Daleks. She has nothing but defiance for the hateful creatures and her casual dismissal of them by referring to them as “metal cones” is all the better for it. It’s so nice to have a companion who doesn’t scream in fear at the first sight of a Dalek because they don’t look that scary and it makes sense that Leela of all people wouldn’t be afraid of them. This point is made one of the focal points of the story, telling a lot about the bravery of her character and her supreme confidence in the Doctor. She never wavers in her certainty that he will defeat the Daleks. She’s also great in the initial scene where she has to put on 21st century clothes and decides that the heels are too much of a problem and puts on sneakers instead. I also like what guest Caroline Keiff does with the character of Lydia Harding. Her part isn’t huge but she does a lot with a little. It’s clear how she feels about Damien without her having to be over the top about it and that subtlety makes for a nice listening experience as you progress through the story and it becomes clear what is going to happen. The sound design is also up to snuff on this one, giving some recreations of all the normal Dalek sounds. If you’re a fan of those Tom Baker stories, the authentic 70’s Dalek gun sound should make you grin ear-to-ear. The music seemed a little out of place for the era, being far more orchestral than would have happened in the 70’s but from a technical standpoint Energy of the Daleks really holds up.

Recommendation: Like your favorite dish that your mom used to make, Energy of the Daleks probably won’t have any surprises in store for you, but you’ll probably grin from ear-to-ear as you experience it anyway. It’s a fair example of what a Tom Baker Dalek story without Davros probably would have been like. If you’re unfamiliar with classic Who this would make a great story for you to see if it’s something that you’d be interested in. I recommend it.



Audio Drama

Big Finish Productions

Directed by Nicholas Briggs

Produced by David Richardson

Written by Nicholas Briggs

Runtime Approx 60 min.

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