Review: The Companion Chronicles – Fear of the Daleks

Cover of Fear of the DaleksSkipping neatly over various generations of companions, we move from Vicki to Zoe for the second of the Companion Chronicles, slightly dramatised audio books in which former Doctor Who companions recount missing tales of their youthful exploits with the Doctor.

There’s a slight problem with creating tales for older companions. Do you write the stories in in the same style as the stories of the time, or adapt to changes in taste, audience, etc? With the former, you risk losing the audience through lack of pace, simplistic plot devices, et al; with the latter, you can end up losing the charm of the original stories, while making them look stupid.

Fear of the Daleks tries to have the best of both worlds by marrying modern-day writing with 1960’s style stories. Unfortunately, it fails just horribly.

Plot (obviously from the Big Finish web site, but blocked from our memories by the Time Lords)

Why has Zoe Heriot been having nightmares about the Daleks? Who is the Doctor, a mysterious man from her past? When an evil scientist hijacks her mind to control a galaxy-conquering weapon, Zoe must stop him. First, she and the Doctor will face an enemy they had thought destroyed forever.

Is it any good?

At first, it sounds promising enough. The intro, with Zoe back on the Wheel in Space where we first met her, is admirably futuristic and in keeping with the Zoe we knew. It starts to get a bit anal with the resuscitation of the thought helmet-thingy that was used as an excuse to put on a re-run of Evil of the Daleks (“Daleks are scary, Zoe. Here, let me show you, by remembering my last adventure with them for you…”) and then we head off to one of those silly sci-fi planets where people are blue, have seven heads, 22 mouths and a Alfa Romeo for a spine.

That’s when it goes pear-shaped. We have toe-curlingly awful dialogue straight from the good old Troughton days joined with horrific, fanboy, pedantically accurate science McGuffins. No “it’s a mind ray” stuff for us any more. These days, we need to know exactly how everything works. In mind-numbing detail.

It doesn’t end. You want a time travel machine to turn up to take you to a point where Zoe isn’t talking about quantum entanglement, avatars and the like. But it never arrives. You just have to sit through the tedium.

The play hobbles along in this vein to the finish, with a ghastly plot that makes no sense. Authentic attempt to recreate the Troughton stories? Not really.

Wendy Padbury (nice lady though she is) clearly hasn’t done much acting in a while, delivering her reading like it was the most exciting kids’ book ever: if only those kids in the next room could hear her… You also never really hear Doctor 2 and Jamie in her delivery of their lines, unlike Maureen O’Brien’s Doctor 1 and Steven renditions, and the script makes her do things that aren’t particularly Zoe-esque either.

Bar one affecting line (“It was nice to be young again”. Sniff…), there’s little about Fear of the Daleks. to recommend. What a wasted opportunity. Save your pennies.

Listen to the series trailer (Windows Media Player)


Wendy Padbury (Zoe)

Nicholas Briggs (Daleks)

Writer: Patrick Chapman

Producer and Director: Mark J Thompson

Price: £8.99 (£10.50 International)

Available from the Big Finish site.