❉ This release is an absolute treat to listen to, writes Stephen Brennan.
Shadow of the Daleks is an interesting release, not only because it puts the fifth Doctor into the Time War to battle the Daleks, but it is the first Big Finish Doctor Who production produced entirely in Lockdown. With such an epic premise, combined with the limitations of what can be done remotely, Shadow of the Daleks had quite a tall order to fill.
First and foremost, you’d be hard pressed to tell these stories were recorded remotely. The cast (Dervla Kirwan, Glen McCready, Anjli Mohindra, Jamie Parker, and of course our regulars Peter Davison and Nicholas Briggs) have such a wonderful chemistry in each story, despite the four guest stars playing totally different characters in each story, and in terms of production it’s on par with every other release, with no noticeable drop in mic quality. In fact, considering the vast array of times and places on display, the sound design and music (both by Wilfredo Acosta, with Gerry O’Riordan helping with remote sound engineering) is on excellent form, vividly creating each location from the dimensionally unstable plains of Australia to a Spaceship speeding out of control.
On the subject of the stories, they’re all extremely enjoyable! While the tagline of “Fifth Doctor in the Time War battling Daleks” is admittedly a bit of a stretch (the Doctor’s more dealing with shockwaves of the war than actually being in it, and a Dalek only appears very briefly in each story), the stories themselves are hugely enjoyable. Shadow of the Daleks is a very apt name, as these stories all contain some level of Dalek influence running through them, most notably in the Doctor running into the same four people in different times and places everywhere he goes. The setup of this release put me in mind of the very first Doctor Who Big Finish Production, The Sirens of Time. It’s rather fitting really, that one of the last releases in the Monthly Range harkens back to that first release.
Aimed at the Body by James Kettle is my personal favourite of the set, having the Doctor deal with infamous 1930s cricketer Douglas Jardine, a man known for his ruthless tactics and his immense dislike for Australians. It’s a shame this is just one episode, as this pairing seems so natural it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before. I could listen to him and the Doctor bicker for hours, and l sincerely hope that he gets brought back again for another story at some point.
The next story, by Jonathan Morris, is about a spaceship that’s going at HYPERSPEED through interstellar space, keeping its HYPERSPEED above the speed of light. And if the HYPERSPEED of the Spaceship dropped, it would explode. I think it was called “The Spaceship that Couldn’t Slow Down”. But in all seriousness, this is an enjoyable story that maybe had a bit too much going on (Note to Mr. Morris: I love your work, but you really don’t need to put a monster into every story).
Bookshop at the End of the World by Simon Guerrier is a nice little character piece, dealing with a bookshop that’s just a little bit too comfortable and homely, while a storm rages outside. It’s a very interesting narrative, and immensely enjoyable listening to all the characters unwrap each other. The mentions of Isacc Asimov’s The Caves of Steel were a nice touch, though surely in this socially distanced age references to The Naked Sun would’ve been more fitting? But l digress.
The final story, Interlude by Dan Starkey, is an enjoyable little historical romp about an alternative “New Florence” run by a mysterious Duke with a Centaur emblem, as the Doctor gets roped into performing a play for him. It’s perhaps not the most climactic end to this release, but as the name implies it is but an interlude until Shadow of the Daleks 2 comes out next month.
This release is not only an absolute treat to listen to, but it’s also one of the most significant Big Finish Productions ever released, and l cannot recommend it enough. I can’t wait for Shadow of the Daleks 2 to come out next month, here’s hoping it’s just as good, if not better than Shadow of the Daleks 1!
DOCTOR WHO: SHADOW OF THE DALEKS PART ONE (#269)
Director: Ken Bentley
Producer: David Richardson
Script Editor: John Dorney
Written by: James Kettle, Jonathan Morris, Simon Guerrier and Dan Starkey
Executive Producers: Nicholas Briggs, Jason Haigh-Ellery
Duration: 154 mins approx.
❉ ‘Doctor Who: Shadow of the Daleks 1′ is now available to own as a collector’s edition CD (at £14.99 ) or digital download (at £12.99 ), exclusively from the Big Finish website until November 30th 2020, and on general sale after this date.
❉ Stephen Brennan has been writing for fanzines and charity anthologies for some time. A writer by day, a game developer by night, they can be a bit of a grump, but with a mischievous twinkle in their eye that lets you know they aren’t all bad.