Today, let’s take a look at last year’s Early Adventure: “The Dalek Occupation of Winter”!
Unique, fascinating, unsettling: these are all words I used to describe David Bartlett‘s Across the Darkened City (my review of which you can access here), but which are just as applicable to The Dalek Occupation of Winter, which has not only outstripped Bartlett’s story as my favourite First Doctor/Dalek story, but may perhaps also be my favourite Dalek story full stop!
Honestly, this story is that good. David K Barnes writes a gripping, terrifying, innovative take on the Daleks unrivalled by anything else I’ve yet seen or heard. Set on the planet Winter, the story details a society living in ostensible harmony with the Daleks, an idea that may seem to echo Victory of the Daleks and Tangled Web, but that vastly outstrips both of those stories in its exploration of the consequences of a Dalek-driven world.
Unflinchingly dark at times, but unafraid to stray from some lighter moments, this story is, for me, an instant classic, both in terms of Big Finish and in terms of the First Doctor era as a whole.
The Doctor, Vicki and Steven (brought to life brilliantly by Peter Purves and Maureen O’Brien) are incredibly well characterised, the setting is full of life and the guest characters are well-drawn and dynamic. Shvorne Marks is the standout, imbuing Amala with such accessibility that I barely noticed when Barnes decided to focus on her for the first ten minutes or so of the story instead of the Doctor and friends. Sara Powell also deserves heavy praise, giving a seething, malevolent performance as Karna.
Nicholas Briggs is on top form as the voice of the Daleks, giving them their usual menace while also paring it back somewhat for the scenes where they interact with Majorian (Robert Daws), which makes the listener doubt the evil pepperpots momentarily.
All in all, this is a fantastic release: gritty, inventive and full of exciting twists. With great performances by the regulars and guest cast, a unique setting and storyline and fantastic sound design by Toby Hrycek-Robinson, this is truly a top-tier Early Adventure. After this, I’m incredibly excited to hear Barnes’s upcoming Daughter of the Gods in November, which also features the Daleks.
The Dalek Occupation of Winter is available as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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