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16 April 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: John Dorney & Andrew Smith

RRP: £24.99 (CD) / £19.99 (Download)

Release Date: April 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"Time has gone awry. The Doctor is lost, without his TARDIS. But he’s not alone. The Space Security Service agents Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven haven’t always been on his side in the past, but now they are here to help him.

And he’s going to need them - because the oldest foes of all are waiting to strike. Ready to take down their greatest enemy...

1.1 Buying Time by John Dorney

The far future. Anya Kingdom of the Space Security Service is on a mission investigating an SSS ship crashing on a distant jungle planet. Unknown to her superiors, she’s searching for something very specific... but what she finds is completely unexpected. Her old friend, the Doctor. With a completely different face and no idea what he’s doing there.

The Time Lord soon finds himself drawn into a conspiracy involving voracious predators, time travel and a malevolent businessman.

History itself is breaking down. If he makes a mistake, it could mean the end of everything...

1.2 The Wrong Woman by John Dorney

The team’s investigations have taken an unexpected turn - but the signs all still point to Sheldrake. With the clock ticking down to the launch of the time tunnels, the Doctor, Anya and Mark split up... but soon discover how hard it is to fight a foe who can always keep one step ahead of you.

But stopping him is only half the battle. The Doctor says that time can be rewritten - and Anya is searching for redemption. Can she put history back on track? Or is the Doctor’s future never going to be the same again?

1.3 The House of Kingdom by Andrew Smith

The Doctor and his friends are trying to locate a scientist to help them on their quest... but an attack on a space-station alters their plans.

Rescued by Anya's grandfather, Merrick, and taken to Neptune, the Doctor and Mark discover her family history. A story of betrayal and loss.

Will the Kingdoms be reconciled? Or are they destined to continue the mistakes of the past?"

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

The Tenth Doctor is back in a new series of adventures in this first volume of Dalek Universe. Paired up with new ‘companions’ Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven, out of time and without his TARDIS, this volume of adventures really does feel like something very different from what we’re used to when the Tenth Doctor is involved. 

Consisting of three episodes, Dalek Universe 1 takes us from the jungle world of Myra to Earth in the 44th century and all the way out to a terraformed Neptune populated by Mechanoids. It really does feel as though Big Finish have literally scooped the Tenth Doctor out of the 21st century and dumped him into the pages of a classic sci-fi comic strip. The Space Security Service, Mechanoids, Varga plants, and the return of a very familiar villain all make this first boxset of the new series feel very 60s inspired. I can just as much imagine William Hartnell’s Doctor having these adventures as I can David Tennant’s.

Those of you who are looking forward to non-stop, wall-to-wall Dalek action, however, will be very disappointed. Though their presence is definitely felt, particularly in the third episode, the Daleks are reduced to nothing more than a ten-second cameo in the middle of the boxset. It’s certainly a bold move from Big Finish, considering the boxset is literally called Dalek Universe, but honestly, I thought it was all the better for it. You know the Daleks are going to turn up at some point, it’s just you’re not sure when, and that’s just going to make their eventual return that much more dramatic and rewarding.

You can tell that this series is going to be a bit more of a slow burner too, and though the stories move on at a decent pace, by the end of the final episode in this boxset, you’ll feel as though things are only just getting started.

The first episode, Buying Time by John Dorney, is the strongest of the set. Pitting the Doctor, Anya Kingdom, and Mark Seven up against invisible monsters in an alien jungle was great fun. The race against time to stop the launch of a time travel device manufactured by Mark Gatiss’ George Sheldrake, a callous, genius businessman, only added to the drama.

The main talking point of Buying Time, however, will be that ending and that cliffhanger. I can guarantee you that you will not see it coming in a million years!

Following on from the shocking cliff-hanger that I won’t spoil, is the second part of Dorney’s story, The Wrong Woman. Without going into too many spoilers, Gemma Whelan as ‘The Newcomer’ is great fun, and I’m sure fans will really enjoy her portrayal of the character that she’s playing. This was a story full of twists, turns, brilliant acting from Tennant, and dinosaurs, and I, for the most part, really enjoyed it.

My only issue with this episode was I feel as though Mark Gatiss’ character was a bit wasted. He seems to have gone from a chilling, uncaring villain in the first episode to just some random businessman who only cares about money. Without a proper villain, I feel as though this episode did fall a bit flat at times, but Tennant and Whelan bouncing off each other certainly did help a lot!

The third episode, The House of Kingdom by Andrew Smith, was a strong end to the boxset, and really did feel like we’d stumbled back into an adventure from the 60s.

Escaping from space pirates in an outer-space transit station, the Doctor, Mark, and Anya are rescued and taken to Neptune, which is in the process of being terraformed with help from the Mechanoids. Soon the gang is mixed up in a conspiracy involving the SSS and a certain dangerous type of plant life from the planet Skaro. Not only does this episode explore Anya Kingdom’s character and background more, but it’s also the episode where the Dalek’s presence felt the strongest, despite them not appearing at all within the story. And that cliffhanger at the end has definitely left me wanting more.

On a personal note, the Tenth Doctor is my favourite Doctor and the one I grew up watching, so it’s always great fun hearing David Tennant back in the role. Set during the 2009 Specials era (I assume — it’s definitely post-Donna), we get a Tenth Doctor who’s a bit more broken than in some of the other appearances he’s made in his Big Finish adventures so far. Lamenting the loss of the Time Lords, Rose, and Donna, you can really feel the Doctor’s vulnerability at times during these adventures, which makes me think that maybe that aspect of his personality will become a larger part of proceedings the further into the series we go. Will we get to explore more of the Time Lord Victorious, perhaps?

This mournful aspect of Ten’s character was particularly apparent during The Wrong Woman, but I don’t want to spoil any of that episode for you, so you’ll have to listen to it to see what I’m alluding to.

And of course, the writers, John Dorney and Andrew Smith have nailed the Tenth Doctor. He’s absolutely the chatty, cheeky, energetic Doctor we all know and love, and I could have quite happily spent much, much longer than the 3 or so hours we get with him here.

As for Jane Slavin as Anya Kingdom and Joe Sims as Mark Seven, they make great companions to the Doctor and are welcome additions to the cast. It isn’t all happy families, however, as the Doctor is still trying to get over Anya betraying him, and a lot of the first couple of episodes is spent exploring that.

Mark the android is also a lot of fun, though I feel as though he didn’t really get much to do in The Wrong Woman other than shoot at the big lumbering baddies, which was a shame.

It’ll be very interesting seeing where this series goes next, especially after the cliff-hanger that ended this first volume. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the Tenth Doctor go up against the Daleks, especially considering where he’s at now after losing Donna following his last battle with them, and I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll get to catch up with Gemma Whelan’s character again in future boxsets.

For now, Dalek Universe 1 is a trio of adventures that are not only fun in their own right, but intriguingly sets up what’s to come next. It’s good to have the Tenth Doctor back!

+ Dalek Universe 1 is OUT NOW, priced £2
4.99 (CD) / £19.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

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