Return of the Daleks
In the far future, humanity’s fate hangs in the balance. A fleet of Dalek ships has attacked suddenly and viciously, enslaving the few remaining survivors to assist in their scheme of galactic domination and total extermination of all inferior beings. To do this, they have engaged the services of an outspoken slave known as Susan ‘Suze’ Mendez. It was her forthrightness and bravery that gave the people hope, and it is with that hope that the Daleks have tightened their psychological strangle hold on their subjects.
There is no need to robotize anyone if they can have believe in the possibility that there is a better life and that is what Suze has created. Dubbed ‘the Angel of Mercy,’ she travels from slave colony to slave colony spreading the message that if the survivors work harder they will live. Secretly, the Knight of Velyshaa Kalendorf has been accompanying her and planting seeds of rebellion on each planet using telepathy. But their plan hangs with the delicacy of a spider’s web, almost untangled or snapped at any moment.
As the Daleks build their ever-expanding empire, Kalendorf and Susan Mendez play a risky game by attempting to outwit the monsters. Conversing telepathically, they keep their battle strategies to themselves but are watched every moment of the day. When a stranger calling himself the Doctor arrives, they are of course suspicious and rightly so. The Doctor has one last gambit to engage in, and the cost is great.
There is a forgotten army of Daleks on the planet Spiridon that the Daleks are looking for. Long hidden but never forgotten, the army has remarkable abilities and could make the assault on Earth that much easier. It’s up to the Doctor to steer events in just the right manner so that the army is not revived, but he must first sacrifice himself. The Daleks are suffering from ‘light wave sickness’ and they know that the Doctor must have the cure. The game player of people has finally become a pawn himself. Allowing himself to be taken captive, he is a prisoner of the Daleks until just the right moment.
Return of the Daleks is set in a hazy point in the Doctor’s timeline, just before his regeneration and after his final confrontation with the Master (in the story with the same name). The Doctor is wracked with guilt and sorrow, weighed down with the consequences of his actions, implied by his invoking of his previous companions, especially Hex. The trickster god/champion of time has come to the end of his tether here and is a shadow of his former self in more ways than one.
It is fascinating to see Big Finish explore the decline of the Seventh Doctor’s era as it has been explored in print, but not in the audio line. The ‘longest reigning’ of the Doctors lasting from 1987 to 1996, the Seventh Doctor received more development off screen than any other incarnation. Between the comic strips, novels, multi-media projects and of course the audio stories the exact history of the Seventh Doctor is almost as vague as the Eighth, but we do know that he was a crafty individual who was ‘more than just a Time Lord’ who cleared old debts by destroying the Daleks, Cybermen alien gods and almost finished the Master on screen.
Uniting McCoy with Gareth Thomas of Blake’s 7 who plays the gruff and world-weary Kalendorf is a sheer delight. The addition of Ogrons and Daleks in the jungle of Spiridon is delightfully fannish and inserts some continuity to the Dalek Empire series.
It is very moving and sad to witness a version of the Doctor who is apparently at the end of his line, desperately trying to mend a few tears in space and time before he expires. A fitting homage to the Seventh Doctor, it also slots into the Dalek Empire series as a special bonus.