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26 April 2012

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Nicholas Briggs

RRP: £10.99

Release Date: 30th April 2012

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 26th April 2012

The Doctor and Leela return to Earth in the year 2025. The planet is suffering a severe energy crisis and the GlobeSphere Corporation is about to test a solution. With a giant satellite dish at the top of the National Gallery in London, head of GlobeSphere and radical thinker Damien Stephens' plans save humanity. But talk of backroom deals and corruption has brought thousands of protestors to Trafalgar Square lead by Stephen’s former colleague Jack Coulson. But something is very wrong. 

Before landing, The Doctor detected a mysterious energy signal and the crowds are being dispersed and arrested by armed GlopeSphere employees. It isn’t long before the Doctor and Leela are separated and with Coulson’s help the Time Lord begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together. 

Has Damien Stephens not just sold out on his beliefs but humanity as well? The source of the energy signal will bring The Doctor face to face once again with his deadliest enemy.

We all know that this is the one we have been waiting for. The Fourth Doctor is back against the Daleks in this fun adventure from Dalek supreme Nicholas Briggs.

The Fourth Doctor’s encounters with The Daleks on television were rather odd affairs, as Genesis of the Daleks and Destiny of the Daleks were very much centred on Davros. Briggs has chosen wisely to tell a very traditional Dalek story, using the nostalgic elements of the Dalek stories we love, such as including the Robomen, the main antagonist under their control. Even their ultimate plan brings The Dalek Invasion of Earth strongly to mind. While some may think of this as heavy borrowing, I would argue that as a piece of nostalgia, Energy of the Daleks hits all the right notes.

For a two parter, the plot moves at a breckneck pace and there is enough going on and satisfactory resolution to the story that it never feels rushed.

Do the Daleks fare well in this story?  Nicholas Briggs has always been one of the best writers for Daleks but here some avid listeners of Big Finish may feel he has taken a bit of a step back. Big Finish has done much to evolve The Daleks as characters in their previous audio adventures, including Briggs' own Dalek Empire series.

There are times when a Dalek should simply be a Dalek, a squawking, scheming tin can of cybernetic nastiness and this is the direction Briggs has chosen to take. It is a lot of fun to hear them get angry when The Doctor outsmarts them and is enough to tickle the most cynical bone of any fan.

This was the first audio Tom Baker recorded for Big Finish and there are moments when you can tell he is searching for the character again, finding the balance between the humour and drama. But this in no way damages his performance as he is still very much The Fourth Doctor.

Louise Jameson is simply excellent as Leela and due to her strong performance you can easily believe Leela would possess a powerful enough mind to resist a Dalek Mind probe. What has been so impressive throughout these adventures so far is Big Finish’s keenness to right some of the sexist wrongs imposed on past companions, such as Leela preferring trainers over high heels. It is a simple moment but creates a very strong image.

The supporting cast is excellent even if some of the characters don’t get much room to develop. By far the strongest are Damien Stephen’s and Jack Coulson, played very well by Alex Rowe and Mark Benton.

Lydia Harding and Dan Starkey do well with what they have but the running time obviously does not allow much depth for their characters to be explored.

Despite some weaknesses, Energy of the Daleks is a highly fun romp, made more special by seeing The Fourth Doctor once again clash with his greatest enemy. 

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