‘The Blood of the Daleks’
Written by Steve Lyons, Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Transmitted on 31st December, 2006 and 7th January, 2007
Having just lost his best friend Charley, the Doctor is in a sour mood. Unfortunately, he is given no time to himself as the TARDIS is infiltrated by a foreign body named Lucie Miller. A stroppy north Englishwoman, Miller wastes no time in getting right on the Doctor’s last nerve by insulting his wardrobe, hairstyle (is his hair real?) and also implying that there is much more to her than she lets on. Unmoved by the concept of time and space travel, Lucie Miller accuses the Doctor of being a Martian kidnapper. When the TARDIS lands, the travelers find themselves in a hostile environment on the colony Red Rocket Rising.
The population is desperate for escape from a doomed city that is on the verge of collapse. Chased by a mad mob driven to extremes, a car crashes into the impenetrable TARDIS, killing the driver and stranding a pair of handcuffed survivors, Eileen Klint and her prisoner Asha Gryvern. Drawing attention from the others, the Doctor attempts to glean some information from the mob by playing the fool but ends up more confused than before. Rockets are sparingly launching from the planet toward a new home, but spots on them are valuable and rare.
There seems to be animosity directed at Asha’s former associate, the mad scientist Professor Martez who had committed unspeakably dark crimes involving grave robbing and genetic manipulation. After Martez died, the anger passed on to Asha who surprisingly declined her seat on an escape ship and found herself in the custody of Colony Senator turned President Klint. The Doctor and Lucie escape an incoming acid rain shower thanks to an apparently deranged survivor Tom Cardwell, a crackpot screaming about intruders from the stars from beneath a tin foil ha
Of course, crazy Tom Cardwell is precisely correct. Invaders are on the way, yet they arrive under the false promise of salvation, the Daleks. What makes matters more complicated is that they are not only expected, but they are not the only Daleks on Red Rocket Rising. It turns out that Professor Martez fancied himself a junior Davros and crafted a cross-breed of Daleks using corpses and Dalek blood. Will the two factions unite or wage a war that could threaten the tentative future of the human population.
The era of the Eighth Doctor is a convoluted one. Directly after the pilot movie that failed to launch a new TV series, a line of novels and a comic strip attempted to take the latest Doctor into his own legacy. Then the audio dramas came and developed yet another Eighth Doctor saga. Following six years of original audio stories, the decision was made to give him a fresh start. The Eighth Doctor had become more fleshed out from the limitations of his characterization on screen, but he was soon trapped within a story that had become angst-ridden and overly emotive as well as wildly random in quality.
The first few years are quite solid and build toward a dynamic finale, but once Zagreus arrives there is a definite drop into the Divergent Universe where the Doctor became cranky and his companions rather annoying. I don’t mean to dismiss such a large body of work like that… but it’s hard going. There is a 14 story block that challenges the listener to hang in there. That’s unfortunate as there are some superb ideas in there and Charley is one of the best companions ever, yet even actress India Fisher realized by her final adventure that fans were likely happy to see the back of her (ooh-er!)
Luckily, the pay off is in Blood of the Daleks when the Doctor is granted a reprieve from his past and a new lease on life. There have been comparisons of Lucie Miller to Donna Noble, another spirited companion who gave the Doctor some lip, however… I like Lucie Miller. She’s smart, self-determined and full of her own ideas about what should be done and how. There are many differences between Donna and Lucie, but the biggest to me is that she and the Doctor grate on each other (she actually causes the Doctor to get downright nasty) yet they end up complimenting each other in the end. There is also a big mystery around Lucie, how and why she ended up in the TARDIS and what her relationship is with the Time Lords. It’s all told very well and entices listeners to come back and see where it will go. Thankfully all of these stories are in the past, so I can say with some authority that the pay off is there.
After so many Dalek audio stories, many were getting bored with the creatures. Much like the situation on screen in the BBC Wales program, they lost their impact with familiarity. Yet Blood of the Daleks makes them downright scary and full of hatred again. These are the Daleks who are both cunning and deadly, killing everything that gets in their way. When they meet a breed of newly created Dalek/human mutations, they are filled with rage. An adventure that hearkens back to the events of Genesis of the Daleks when the Doctor had the opportunity to exterminate his enemies. This time, the Doctor is compelled to make a different decision and end the threat of the Daleks once and for all.
Again, this is the start of a very different era for the Eighth Doctor, one that would take him to new extremes and challenge what the character was capable of. I honestly can say now that I enjoy all of the various Doctors in audio form, but the Eighth Doctor is the most exciting as his path is still a mysterious one, leaving the possibilities wide open.
As a new companion, Sheridan Smith is a mixed bag, but only in that she grated with me right away, reminding me of Rose Tyler who I had already grown so weary of I had come to associate with the many failures of the BBC Wales program. Yet I had forgotten how brilliant Big Finish is in creating these new companions and she grew on me very quickly. As soon as it became clear that the mouth northern girl was something of a cover, Smith’s vocal range gains another level and I realized that this was going to get interesting. Well known from TV, Sheridan Smith was something of a score for Big Finish and her entry into the annals of Who immediately creates a dividing line from Charley, the Edwardian Adventuress.
Initially appearing to be a standard contemporary companion that listeners more familiar with characters like Rose Tyler, all that changes in the first story alone. When Lucie Miller becomes separated from the Doctor, she gains the freedom to make her own decisions that have surprising consequences including betraying the Doctor right after vocally calling out to the Time Lords for assistance. Just who is Lucie Miller and what is she all about??
Doctor Who and The Blood of the Daleks can be ordered from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide by clicking on the link below: