A spaceship from the Dalek science division arrives on
the planet known as Zaleria during the time of the creatures'
second occupation. But why are the Daleks so interested in
Zaleria? They haven't taken Susan Mendes (the so-called the
"Angel of Mercy") into their confidence. The needs of the
science division supersede all other instructions and standing
orders, including the protection that is usually afforded
to Suz by the Dalek Supreme. The Doctor has also arrived on
Zaleria, and he makes contact with Suz's co-conspirator Kalendorf.
But the Time Lord knows far more about the planet's secrets
than he is letting on...
WARNING: THE FOURTH AND FIFTH PARAGRAPHS
the return of Return of the Daleks! Like
The Maltese Penguin,
Her Final Flight and
it, this CD was issued free to subscribers of Big Finish's
regular monthly Who releases and is now available to
buy separately. However, unlike its predecessors, this is
a Seventh Doctor story rather than a Sixth Doctor one. More
importantly, whereas Her Final Flight and Cryptobiosis
were far from earth-shattering, this single-disc release is
This is because it unites the Doctor with characters from
Big Finish's Dalek Empire series. It was, at the time
of its initial release, also the first Empire-related
production in more than two years. Despite the Doctor Who
series title emblazoned on the front cover, this feels like
more of an Empire story than a Who story. Suz
(Sarah Mowat) and Kalendorf (Gareth Thomas) play larger roles
here than the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), particularly to begin
with. Perhaps the production should have kicked off with the
Dalek Empire theme and ended with the Who theme.
Instead we get the Who music at both ends.
The tale appears to take place partway through the third episode
of the first series of Dalek Empire, "Death
to the Daleks!" (as does the subsequently released
Empire 4: The Fearless
series). For those of you who aren't familiar with the saga,
the Doctor's dialogue contains handy character studies of
Suz and Kalendorf, as do the CD's sleeve notes.
As for when this story takes place within Doctor Who
continuity, that's rather more tricky to explain. This isn't
the first time the Seventh Doctor has revisited the planet
Spiridon, the setting of the Jon Pertwee serial Planet
of the Daleks. In the Doctor Who Magazine comic
strip Emperor of the Daleks, he saw Davros thaw out
and take control of the Dalek army frozen beneath the planet's
surface. It's possible that Return takes place after
Emperor: acting on information supplied by the Doctor,
Davros might not have located and defrosted all of the deep-frozen
Daleks, because he may have assumed that there were only ten
thousand of them (as theorised in Planet), as opposed
to more than a million (the figure revealed on this CD).
However, given the Doctor's references here to his "last"
visit to Spiridon, which do seem to refer to the events of
Planet rather than those of Emperor, it's more
likely that the strip takes place after this CD as far as
the planet and its people are concerned, though the CD undoubtedly
takes place after the strip from the Doctor's point of view
(he is travelling alone prior to the TV
It is entirely conceivable that thousands of Daleks remain
frozen after this audio drama, for Davros to subsequently
find. The Seventh Doctor's concerns about not wishing to interfere
with established history, though explicitly referring to the
destinies of Kalendorf and Suz, could also indicate that his
visit to Spiridon in the comic strip took place in the planet's
in deference to Nicholas Briggs's current stardom as the voice
of numerous monsters in the BBC television series of Doctor
Who, this CD marks what was the first instance of the
front-cover credit: "Nicholas Briggs as The Daleks"! He certainly
earns his dues, playing an astonishing number of different
Daleks, as well as some Ogrons and a Zalerian, who often converse
with each other and all sound distinct from one another. The
Dalek in charge of the heat ray sounds a bit silly, though,
coming across like Leonard Rossiter or Captain Pugwash (a
character who was, incidentally, brought to life by the original
Dalek voice artist, Peter Hawkins).
Apart from such minor blips, this story, written by Briggs
and directed by John Ainsworth, boasts universally strong
performances - in spite of a few instances of duff dialogue,
such as the Doctor asking himself: "What secrets will unfold?"
of the Daleks remains one of the best single-disc Doctor
Who releases to date (though I haven't yet heard the new
one, Return to the Web Planet). If you don't already
own it, catch it if you can.
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