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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Energy of the Daleks


Starring: Tom Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £8.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 615 7
Available 30 April 2012

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 victory once and for all...?

This release ticks a couple of important boxes on the wish lists of fans. Firstly, it is a Fourth Doctor adventure featuring the Daleks. During his seven-year stint on the television show, Tom Baker tackled the Time Lord’s arch enemies only twice, in Genesis of the Daleks and Destiny of the Daleks. On both occasions, the Daleks were overshadowed by Davros, but here writer / director Nicholas Briggs has wisely elected to ditch Davros and depict the creatures at the height of their powers (energies?), in a typically ambitious plot (which owes quite a bit to The Dalek Invasion of Earth) to destroy the human race. Secondly, this is a Leela story featuring the Daleks - and about time too. She never got to meet them on screen.

On the downside, even more so than its predecessor, The Wrath of the Iceni, Energy of the Daleks feels constrained by the range’s single-disc format. Two episodes just doesn’t seem right for a Dalek story. Yes, I know the duration is roughly equivalent to (even a bit longer than) new series episodes such as Dalek and Victory of the Daleks, but these releases are seeking to emulate the classic show. In a classic four-part story the first instalment would have been all about setting the scene of the 21st-century energy crisis, with the Daleks not revealed until the end of the episode. As it is, the Daleks are heard fairly early on - though not encountered by the Doctor or Leela until close to the end of Part One. The Doctor and protester Jack Coulson become allies within seconds of meeting each other - though the fact that Coulson is played by an actor of Mark Benton’s calibre helps to convince the listener. Leela, captured and interrogated by the Daleks, reveals the Doctor’s presence staggeringly quickly, despite her assertions that they will never make her talk.

Come to think of it, the Fourth Doctor has previously faced the Daleks in Davros-less adventures during a handful of strips for TV Comic and Doctor Who Weekly. Of course, the duration of those stories was much shorter than a television serial... so maybe the length and content of this production is representative of the era after all!

Despite the fast pace, the Daleks seem rather slow to react during the second episode. They could have exterminated the Doctor and his chums in the time it takes them to state the fact that the escapees are using a transmat and must be stopped. We’re back in comic-strip territory again: you usually only get this kind of descriptive speech in comics... and audio dramas of course. A couple of scenes later, the Daleks take their time activating the transmat in order to pursue the escapees, which obligingly allows the Doctor time to disable it.

Though released fourth in the series, Energy of the Daleks was in fact the first Tom Baker story to be recorded by Big Finish. As a result, Baker’s performance contains residual traces of his more overtly comical portrayal in AudioGO’s Fourth Doctor adventures, rather than the darker, more sombre Time Lord of Season 14. Baker has toned down his performance in subsequent recordings - in fact, you can hear the development if you listen to the plays in production order: Energy of the Daleks (recorded 22 April 2011), The Renaissance Man (recorded 17 August), Destination: Nerva (recorded 12 September), The Wrath of the Iceni (recorded 13 September).

What definitely does feel of its time, in terms of Baker’s television era as well as the present day, is the energy crisis theme. This would not have seemed out of place during the 1970s, when fossil fuel prices rocketed and power cuts were commonplace, and it’s even more pertinent today, as protestors take to the streets against multinational companies who are perceived to be raking in vast profits while those on lower incomes live and die in “fuel poverty”.

Despite some flaws, Energy of the Daleks gives us three important things. Artist Alex Mallinson knows what they are, because he allows them to dominate his cover design: the Fourth Doctor, Leela, and the Daleks. That’s energising enough for me, thank you.


Richard McGinlay

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