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5 August 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Roy Gill, John Dorney & Robert Valentine

RRP: £24.99 (CD) / £19.99 (Download)

Release Date: July 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"These tales take the Tenth Doctor, Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven deeper into family histories, aboard the strangest of space stations and to a truth that might tear them apart...

2.1 Cycle of Destruction by Roy Gill

After Mark starts behaving oddly, the Doctor and Anya find themselves on a strange planet with their friend missing. Searching for him they find their way to an isolated research base. The corridors show signs of animal incursions and the scientists are behaving strangely. But a big surprise is waiting for them.

Because this is where Mark Seven came from. They’re about to find out who he is. But is that information too dangerous to know?

2.2 The Trojan Dalek by John Dorney

The Doctor, Mark and Anya head for an SSS space station searching for the missing temporal scientist, Arborecc. But the officer in charge denies all knowledge of his presence and demands their departure.

Unwilling to leave so easily, the group split up to investigate... and uncover a heinous plot involving the Doctor’s oldest foes. Or do they?

2.3 The Lost by Robert Valentine

When the Doctor’s latest scheme to get back to the future fails, the team’s ship crashes on a strange world, potentially trapping them for ever.

Searching for replacement parts, they find their way to a building where heart-breakingly familiar faces await them.

Lies are about to be exposed. Everyone will learn the truth. And nothing will be the same again.

This boxset release contains all three stories, plus additional behind the scenes interviews."

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

The Tenth Doctor, Anya Kingdom, and Mark Seven’s adventures continue in the second volume of the Dalek Universe trilogy. In these three adventures, histories are explored, hearts are broken, secrets are revealed, and the Daleks finally turn up. Sort of. 

Last time out, the Daleks were nothing more than a 10-second cameo. Though their presence was felt throughout, it wasn’t their story just yet. Fans will therefore be pleased to know that they do have much more to do in this volume, though by the end of the boxset, you still don’t really feel as if they’re properly here yet. Everything seems to be leading into the final volume of the set, which looks like it’ll see the dastardly pepper-pots finally make their big entrance. I hope.

So if the Daleks don’t really feel as if they’ve arrived yet, then just what is Dalek Universe 2 actually about? Well, if anything, it’s an exploration of who the members of this TARDIS team actually are, what makes them act the way they do, and what they do when experiencing grief, loss, and anger. It really is as intriguing as it sounds. 

The first episode, The Cycle of Destruction by Roy Gill, gives us an opportunity to learn more about the android Mark Seven, and his ‘life’ before he joined the Space Security Services. 

Gill’s story follows straight on from the cliffhanger that we were left with at the end of the first boxset. Mark has started to behave oddly and has rendered the Doctor and Anya unconscious whilst flying a ship. The pair wake up to find that the ship has landed and Mark isn’t anywhere to be seen. It is here that we’re introduced to ALARC, an android development centre, and Mariah Six (Nina Toussaint-White), an android who wants freedom. 

Cycle of Destruction is essentially the counterpart of volume one’s House of Kingdom, in that it takes a detailed look at Mark Seven’s past, giving the character even more, well, character. We get glimpses of Mark’s past, which sounded utterly horrific and explains why he’s fighting against the Daleks and looks at how the lines blur between humans and life-like androids. Though this is a trope that has been done many times before, this is still an interesting take on it all the same.

Though this story does feel like more of a pit-stop than an integral part of the overall Dalek Universe arc, it’s a great addition to the story all the same, mainly due to how much it makes you care for Mark Seven, a literal robot. Gill’s script gives the listeners an opportunity to learn more about this particular TARDIS team and their dynamic, which just makes the next entry into the series that much more tragic.

The second episode, The Trojan Dalek by John Dorney throws us back into the Dalek Universe story proper with a trip to Beltros Station, with the TARDIS team in search of Arborrec, the temporal scientist who the Doctor is relying on to get him back to the right side of the Time War. 

We’re past the halfway point now in the Dalek Universe saga, and things are starting to get serious, and very, very dark. With shades of Revelation of the Daleks present, The Trojan Dalek sees the return of the Daleks, but not as we know them. 

The Trojan Dalek is excellent. As well as being a very disturbing story that left me feeling a little uncomfortable, this episode also features yet another brilliant performance from David Tennant. His fury at finding out what Major McLinn (Blake Ritson) and the SSS have been up to is spine-tingling, and his explosive confrontation with Ritson’s character when he learns the shocking truth about the ‘Daleks’ return is the highlight of the episode. 

Without going into too many spoilers, we learn that really nothing and nobody is safe in this episode, with a shocking twist in the final few minutes devastating our TARDIS team, leaving us wondering where the hell the story is going to go next. 

The third and final episode of this boxset is The Lost by Robert Valentine, and if you thought The Trojan Dalek was good, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This, for me, is the highlight of the boxset, though choosing my favourite episode was obviously a tough decision. 

When the Doctor’s plan to travel through time back to his time goes wrong, their ship crash lands in a bubble universe that is in the process of breaking apart. There they meet Lost, a god-like entity who wants to escape from his self-built domain and get back into the universe proper, a premise that sounds very similar to series eleven’s It Takes You Away

This story is very different from what’s come before in Dalek Universe 2, and is, essentially, an hour-long character piece with a minimal cast that examines, mainly, the Doctor’s psyche, grief for all those he’s lost, and guilt for all those he failed to save. 

Facing familiar faces from the past, as well as having devastating secrets revealed, this story changes the relationship of this particular TARDIS team forever. It also felt to me personally, like the last slower story we’re going to have before the third volume of adventures. 

And that cliffhanger? I loved it, though I wish Big Finish hadn’t revealed the cover and cast details for Dalek Universe 3 so far in advance. You’ll understand what I mean when you hear it. It’s still great though and has definitely left me counting down the days until the next volume is released in October. 

As with the first volume, and as is expected when Tennant is involved, the performances from all three main cast members (David Tennant, Jane Slavin, and Joe Sims) are of a very high quality, and by the end of this volume, I really felt as though I knew who these characters were, and was beginning to really enjoy their dynamic and bickering by the end. Nicholas Briggs somehow, yet again manages to find a new, interesting take on how to perform the Daleks, and the guest cast, in particular Blake Ritson, give excellent and enjoyable performances throughout. 

Overall, whilst I don’t feel as though this volume is any better than Dalek Universe 1, I don’t think it’s any worse either. It’s three enjoyable, well-written adventures that get progressively darker as the boxset goes on, and the volume as a whole is an interesting and emotional look at who these characters are and what makes them tick. Whilst these stories may not impact the overall arc in a big way (though this remains to be seen), the impact they have on the Doctor, Anya, and Mark, and their friendship, will be felt in the next volume for sure. Ultimately this an equally enjoyable volume as the first that has really whet my appetite now for whatever comes next in October.

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

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

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