Guest contributor Kieran Brennan takes a look at the Eighth Doctor’s first encounter with the deadly Daleks!
Something is wrong with time. It seems to be happening a lot lately, but it appears the Web of Time is breaking again as Charley reveals she doesn’t know who William Shakespeare is. Shocked by this, the Doctor attempts to find the source of this anomaly, arriving in a future Britain on the verge of entering a dictatorship. But at least he has the help of some of Shakespeare’s biggest fans… the Daleks.
The first meeting of the Eighth Doctor and the Daleks? An unraveling Web of Time? Paradoxes and time loops? The Daleks quoting Shakespeare? The Time of the Daleks is the fourth and final entry in the loosely connected Daleks arc spanning over four Doctors and four releases. With a premise like that it’s a surefire hit, so how did it all go so wrong?
The Time of the Daleks is the sort of story I dread writing about, the sort of story where I have nothing to say. There’s merit in something being exceptionally great, or exceptionally weak, but just being boring? It’s the worst thing a story can be. In many ways this reminded me of Sword of Orion in that it uses a classic villain both poorly and generically, fails to properly capitalise on the Doctor and Charley’s relationship and even has a similar droning score that never seems to end.
I think most Doctor Who fans, especially Big Finish fans will lament the idea of a story that has “are the Daleks really good this time” as a central plot point. It often feels like the go-to idea for anytime a writer doesn’t really know what to do with the Daleks. That’s not entirely true, writer Justin Richard definitely knew he wanted to have the Daleks quote Shakespeare (which I imagine was the only thing said during the pitch meeting because wow, what a premise) but beyond that cool concept, that is a joy to hear, there isn’t anything here one might call inspired.
The opening episode is really good, nicely setting up characters and plot points, with a really interesting political state for the world to be in, but soon the adventure becomes a drab mess of overly complicated ideas that take too long to explain and usually aren’t even explained well. It’s a story full of mirrors and portals and time clocks and… yadda yadda yadda, it all feels a bit much, as though the writer is just trying to fill time or overcompensating for a weak plot and cast of characters. Not only that, but the Daleks themselves feel at their absolute most ineffectual here, meaning the story has no tension at all throughout which really feels like a crime for what are supposed to be iconic terrifying villains.
I will say though, the way this ties into the overarching narrative of the past few stories is really interesting. It feels like a slow and subtle burn to what will hopefully be a stunning conclusion whenever the arc is wrapped up.
The Time of the Daleks is a missed opportunity of a story, rarely rising above boring and often falling into forgettable. Though I’m sure there will be many more Eight versus the Daleks stories to come, this isn’t the iconic meeting I’m sure many listeners were hoping for.
The Time of the Daleks is available now as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com