Takeover Ad
Takeover Ad
29 October 2020

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: James Kettle, Jonathan Morris, Simon Guerrier & Dan Starkey

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: October 2020

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


Something is very wrong. The Fifth Doctor is lost in the Time War, heading for an encounter with his oldest and deadliest enemies... the Daleks!

Aimed at the Body by James Kettle

"An encounter with a notorious cricketing legend should be right up the Doctor’s street. But the unexpected appearance of an old enemy is about to send the Doctor on a quest."

Lightspeed by Jonathan Morris

"The trail has led the Doctor to a spaceship in the far future - where he finds himself trapped in the middle of a terrifying revenge plot."

The Bookshop at the End of the World by Simon Guerrier

"It’s very easy to forget yourself and get lost in a bookshop. But in some bookshops more than most..."

Interlude by Dan Starkey

"The play’s the thing! Or is it? The Doctor is roped into a theatrical spectacular - but who is he really performing to?"

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

I’m going to level with you: when I first heard the idea behind this story, I groaned a little. “Classic Doctor + the Time War” sounded like the same tired sandbox thinking that has plagued Doctor Who for a long time now on audio, in print, in comics, and thanks to the Series 12 finale, on screen as well. There was a time when a surprise Kroton in a book or a shock Nimon in a play really were surprising and shocking, whereas nowadays it feels all-too-predictable and, bizarrely, dull: less really is more.

How pleased I was, then, when Shadow of the Daleks 1 turned out to be the best Main Range play Big Finish has released for years now.

It starts off on an odd note, mind. Aimed at the Body was released as a freebie to entice listeners in, but I’m not sure half an hour of walking and vague talk about cricketing etiquette was the best way to go. It’s by no means a bad episode, and author James Kettle has proven himself tenfold with the phenomenal Barrister to the Stars earlier this year in the seventh series of The Diary of River Song, but really not all that much happens. It sets up a few threads for later on and all of the cast are great (more on them later) but it’s a bit of a strange opener.

Things really step up a gear with Lightspeed by Jonathan Morris, which combines intrigue, humour and thrills with a practised ease. A hijacked ship, a countdown, and a cheeky but intelligent conclusion? Count me in. It’s here that you really notice just how brilliant the cast are, too. I want to draw special attention to Dervia Kirwan (who was also exceptional in the recent Class box sets, both of which are well worth your time: more Blair Mowat scripts please?) and Anjli Mohindra, who is continually proving herself to be a versatile actor deserving of great acclaim. But it feels remiss of me to then not note how good Glen McCready and Jamie Parker are, too, not to mention Peter Davison and Nicholas Briggs. Everyone is at the very top of their game here.

This is evident in Simon Guerrier’s The Bookshop at the End of the World. It leans heavily on the amnesia gimmick (which is such a Doctor Who cliché now that when the recent Eighth Doctor Time War series used it twice across its four box sets, I hardly batted an eyelid) but uses poetry, effective performances, atmospheric sound design and well-paced writing to generate tension and heartache that has stayed with me in the days since I listened to it. Would that all stories were this good.  Would that all bookshops were this cosy, too.

We wrap things up with Interlude, Dan Starkey’s best script yet. Much like Mohindra, Starkey has proven himself to be a real gem who is flourishing under Big Finish’s eye (not that either of them wilted on screen). The play-within-a-play trope may be familiar but again, the script gets around this by letting the actors have a lot of fun, with some genuinely clever twists in there and winning performances by everyone.

I finished this release excited for what comes next, and that has not happened for a long, long time. The trailer for the next release is sadly the usual mix of noise and unrelated scenes which Big Finish often put out (do they really entice anyone?) but the promise shown here in this release has whet my appetite.

What an impressive finished result this is. Shadow of the Daleks 1 is a fantastic showcase for Big Finish in Lockdown. A limited cast used in an inventive way, solid sound design, and lots of proper, weighty drama. Sure, you can nitpick if you like: Mohindra’s microphone isn’t quite as good as everyone else’s, and there is a line in Aimed at the Body where the Doctor remarks upon the design of the Daleks which sticks out like a sore thumb. Is it just very bad sound mixing to make that line scream out at you as being dropped in later, or perhaps it’s that the Time War angle was only hit upon later on? Hard to tell. These are small niggles though.

Speaking of smalls things, let’s quickly mention the Daleks. Though present, they hardly feature: shadows indeed and all the better for it. The Time War does not really rear its head either, and again this is to the story’s success.  Perhaps it’ll fall apart a little and fully dive into this in the second half, but I hope not, or if it does embrace this angle, I hope it doesn’t falter. Prove me wrong again, just as you’ve proven me wrong here.

Honestly, this is the most energised I’ve been with a release for ages now. How wonderful to have this treat, just as the range nears its end. I cannot recommend it enough.


+ Shadow Of The Daleks 1 is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


RSS Feed
News Key
News Home
General
The New Series
The Classic Series
Spinoffs
Merchandise
Site
Blog Entries
Reviews Key
Reviews Home
Books / Magazines
DVD / Blu-ray
Audio
Toys / Other
TV Episodes
Search
Retro Tees