Fear of the Daleks
Written by Patrick Chapman, directed by Mark J Thompson
Companion chronicles story 1.02 Released January 2007
“We have an arrangement with the Daleks!”
“Oh, I’m sure you do. You obey them then you die.”
When I first learned of the Big Finish line of audios, I rolled mt eyes. Listening to Doctor Who could not possibly be any fun. Allow me to direct your attention to the closet of no-fun audio CDs in my closet. The Companion Chronicles series of audio stories was described to me as ‘books on tape’ where a single narrator tells a tale rather than a full cast as was used in the other Big Finish releases. I found that is not the case and in many instances, the Companion Chronicles eclipse the standard full cast releases in quality (I’m looking at the Anachronauts as a prime example of this). However, in the early days of this line, it was not always that accomplished.
I get the impression that whereas other releases around this time such as Frostfire and The Blue Tooth were amazing, this is a mis-step. It was still early on, so it is understandable that not all of these audios are going to be stellar. It’s just unfortunate that the stumble happened with a Dalek story.
Most of the Companion Chronicles are set within continuity, be it a Liz Shaw story set after Inferno or a Turlough adventure just after Enlightment. These stories expound upon the characters that often got very little development on screen. In the case of Fear of the Daleks, the adventure is set outside of the established timeline. The Doctor met Zoe on a satellite simply called ‘The Wheel’ just as it became the subject of a Cyberman invasion. When he called for assistance from his people the Time Lords, Zoe was placed back in continuity at the conclusion of her first adventure with no memory of her time in the TARDIS.
Fear of the Daleks stars Wendy Padbury as Zoe Heriot some time after the Time Lords replaced her in the future world of the Wheel after the conflict with the Cybermen. A grown woman, Zoe is having nightmares of horrific creatures called Daleks. Possessing an eidetic memory, Zoe has total recall of her life, so what is a Dalek and why is her visual understanding of them so sharply defined?
As the Daleks had been ‘destroyed forever’ before Padbury joined the cast of Doctor Who, the actress had never worked opposite them. This is therefore a unique opportunity so it is a treat that the great Nicholas Briggs has applied his vocal skills as the devious dustbins. In fact, his presence is the saving grace of this one.
Fear of the Daleks is at times a good story, but at other times it is also a very bad one that is far too convoluted for its own good. The TARDIS arrives in the middle of a peace conference between two alien races; the Tibari and the Xantha. An opportunistic rebel named Professor Atrika has devised a method of assassinating the Xanthan president in hopes to plunge the planets into chaos. The technology comes from the Daleks, who of course should have been destroyed on Skaro. This unsettles both the Doctor and Zoe (who was terrified of the Daleks after glimpsing them briefly in a thought projection).
The technology of Fear of the Daleks is fascinating. The assassination weapon is a device using psychic holographic avatars and crystals that sound very much a familiar part of the Dalek Empire series. But the overall execution feels jumbled and clumsy which is unfortunate because there is so much potential here. Poor Jamie is all but forgotten which is odd but understandable as the main actress here is Padbury. But since Jamie and Zoe are such a strong pairing of characters on screen, it is noticeably strange that they are divided here.
I had mentioned the stand out performance by Briggs, but I’ll just do it again. His diction is so perfect that you can tell he spends every waking moment listening to old audio recordings of Power of the Daleks. There has never been a more perfect sounding Dalek, honestly.
A mixed bag, I would only recommend this to fans of the Daleks or of the Troughton era.
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