Bastard was up to his little tricks again at the weekend. I asked him very nicely to record Blood of the Daleks on BBC7 on Sunday night, since I had better things to do like… oh, I don’t know, celebrate the New Year. But after first attempting not to record it at all, the cunning little thing then decided to cut the first episode off after half an hour. Git. Fortunately, I’m made of sterner stuff and went to the BBC7 Listen Again site to listen to it over the web.
Blood of the Daleks is the first in a series of Doctor Who audio plays starring Paul McGann. They’re designed, if certain parties are to be believed, to show how Paul McGann’s Doctor (number eight) ended up turning into Christopher Eccleston’s some time before, during or after the great big Time War with the Daleks. Since it’s BBC7 doing the commissioning, the budget’s a bit higher so we have a new companion for the eighth Doctor, an all-star cast and some decent music.
And judging by the first episode, it’s all going to be pretty good.
Plot (expensively recreated on a higher budget than before)
“People of Red Rocket Rising, my fellow citizens. Our long night is over. I’ve been contacted by a benevolent people. They too have known great trials, but they have overcome them and made it their mission to help others do the same. They have offered us refuge, and passage to the nearest human worlds. They have the resources, and the patience and compassion, to evacuate every one of us. My fellow citizens, my friends, rescue is at hand!?”
Is it any good?
There are two strands to Big Finish’s output. There’s the campy, jokey strand that likes season 24 McCoy and does most of the stories for laughs. Then there’s the kind that likes the dark, nasty, complicated, adult stories. Blood of the Daleks is firmly in camp two, dealing with human experimentation, an apocalypse, ‘terrorism’, mass human extinction and various other things that don’t make it into the TV series (any more).
The Doctor, encumbered with new companion Lucie Miller (Sheridan Smith), arrives on a planet that’s suffered an asteroid strike. It’s not long before the Daleks arrive, offering their help in exchange for the grateful people’s delivery of the terrorist known as The Doctor to Dalek justice. But it seems that asteroid strike might not have been an accident.
It’s too early to tell how well the whole story is going to hang together, but first impressions are that everything, with one unfortunate exception, is rather good. The story is tense and interesting. The acting is good, particularly Sheridan Smith’s. The dialogue is very good, for once, with some great exchanges between Lucie and The Doctor and some nice in-jokes (notably, some good piss-takes of McGann’s crap wig in the TV movie). The well-publicised Time Lord “witness protection programme” turns out not to be from the camp Big Finish strand, either, and could be quite interesting further down the line.
In fact, it’s just The Doctor letting the side down. McGann’s “little boy” persona has been edged out in favour of his more cantankerous aspects, and McGann doesn’t seem particularly at ease. He also has far too much running around and getting knocked out to deal with. I’m guessing that things will change with the lighter stories, but it’s not a great introduction for new viewers/listeners to the McGann Doctor. Oh for the happy days of Doctor Eight and Charley Pollard.
So if you want a weekly, 50-minute slice of old-style Who, tune into BBC7 on Sunday at 6pm. Oh, and don’t forget Beyond the Vortex directly afterwards, which is the Big Finish equivalent of Doctor Who Confidential.
The Doctor (Paul McGann)
Lucie Miller (Sheridan Smith)
Headhunter (Katarina Olsson)
Eileen Klint (Anita Dobson)
Tom Cardwell (Kenneth Cranham)
Asha (Hayley Atwell)
Lowell (Gerry O’Toole)
The Daleks (Nicholas Briggs)