Big Finish Productions
Dalek Empire III: The Warriors

Written by Nicholas Briggs

Starring William Gaunt and Sarah Mowat

Synopsis: The fight against the Daleks must succeed now. But while the Wardens are outnumbered and without a strategy, the Dalek Supreme is sensing victory.


Padding... by Joe Ford 13/11/04

Betrayed at last! Well it could not last forever could it? Dalek Empire has been gradually unfolding into a superior mini series, each instalment just that bit better than the last with the revelations mounting up but finally Nick Briggs has come a cropper with part five which could be renamed WASTING TIME UNTIL THE CLIMAX. If you go listen to the interview with Nick after the first disc you will discover he significantly altered his original storyline. Because of one line a proofreader did not understand he sprang upon the brilliant idea to add a third plotline involving the Graxis Wardens who were the most important characters in the first two episodes of the series. Nick admits that the end of his original episode one now takes place at the end of episode six! If this is the case the first five episodes must be mere padding considering the original storyline but thanks to his trademark eye for terrific dialogue and sound design I have never been more than happy, Nick's audios as usual being well above the standard level of the regular Big Finish ones (mediocre would just about sum it up).

Despite these lovely words The Warriors felt like pure padding. Good padding but padding all the same. Two plot lines join up seamlessly and there are still some nice shocks but the characters are no closer to their objectives than they were two instalments ago. And considering the last CD, The Demons, was also heavy on character and light on plot it does seem that things are meandering a bit much now. The series would benefit from being a five CD set rather than six although I would not want to be the one responsible for editing the tale because there are so much good character stuff (which in the grand scheme of things is unnecessary but adds much depth).

Nobody could argue with the fact that Nick Briggs has made the Daleks SCARY again. This series is further proof that it isn't the design of the creatures that makes them work (stick that in your pipe and smoke it Cusick!) but the voices and the recent announcement that Briggsy will be voicing the Daleks on the spanking new televised Doctor Who is a testament to his success with Dalek Empire. He always takes a psychological angle with the creatures rather than treating them as stock robots (stand up Eric Saward!), he uses them as an instrument of terror and allows the listener to experience the human reaction to their evil. That is the secret to making these monsters work, not concentrating on the Daleks themselves but the lives of the people they affect. You can watch a hundred thousand people being gunned down by Daleks and it still wouldn't be as effective as young Kaymee in this story who is slowly, horribly being turned into a Dalek. The first few tracks on this disc are disconcerting to say the least as we get a jumble of scenes from Kaymee's diseased point of view, dreams of her father, glimpses of a Dalek production line, thoughts of escape and being fed organic matter by the Daleks. Suddenly I realised with total horror what they have been doing to her (an almost ideal use of audio here to conceal the truth of the event) and when she turns on Carneill and screams the immortal words (come on you all know them... "EXTERMINATE!") I had goose pimples all down my back. Absolutely terrifying and all the more effective for choosing Kaymee, who endeared herself to audience so much in the first instalment.

Each instalment seems to highlight one of the actors in the cast and give them a real chance to shine and The Warriors is no different. Part I was Laura Rees as Kaymee, Part II was Ishia Bennison as Saxton, Part III was Sarah Mowat as the silky voiced Dalek Supreme, Part IV saw David Tennant's Galanar shine and Part V spotlights Steven Elder's Siy Tarkov who gets the opportunity to emote like a firework. Trapped on a ship full of strangers, betrayed by his daughter and lied to by his friend, he finally flips and doesn't stop SCREAMING until he gets some answers. Admittedly these scenes are all space fillers but impressive nonetheless, this could have been extremely embarrassing given the amount of anger involved (imagine Sylvester McCoy having a go and cringe) but Elder is superb, genuinely reaching the audience with his pathetic hysteria. It was when he turned on his daughter and demanded why she took away his one shred of hope in this whole sorry affair that I started choking up. For a portrayal of a man on the edge of despair, having nothing to keep him together, you'll be hard pushed to find a finer performance.

It is long past time the Graxis Wardens and the Demons met up given their common goal of defeating the Daleks. It is dealt with swiftly and with style during (another time wasting) action sequence with the main theme tune proving an effective sting during this running about. I think Saxton has bitten off more than she can chew during early explanations between their two groups, with all the emotions flying about between Galanar, Tarkov and Elaria, it distracts them from their purpose fighting the Daleks. Ishia Bennison delivers another terrific performance, easily my favourite of the cast for the series and features in yet another scorching scene, where she confronts Tarkov and forced him to calm down. You can see why she is the leader with personal skills like that... I certainly wouldn't argue with her!

What I cannot abide is the rehashing of explanations from the last episode, all the information about the Demons, Valeesha, etc is repeated here for Saxton's benefit. It was all explained clearly last month and I for one have the brain power to remember it and I for one did not appreciate being treated like a dimwit and having it all spelt out again. More time wasting. They could be at Valeesha by now!

A mixed experience then with less to enjoy than previous releases but still entertaining in its own right. The acting was marvellous and keeps the whole thing lively. Unfortunately the best shock was at the beginning and the cliffhanger less than spectacular.


Defending the underdog by Thomas Cookson 15/9/08

There are a few things I really want to say. Namely, I feel the need to answer the critics of this maligned chapter of the Dalek Empire series. And maybe get a few more cheap shots at the New Series as well.

Y'know since listening to Dalek Empire, I'm starting to realise that Season One of the New Series wasn't really all that groundbreaking or special. Full-blooded human drama and emotional journeys, strong female leads, raw performances, kinetic pacing and a final last stand featuring thousands of Daleks led by an insane leader with a God-complex. All things that Dalek Empire did first and did better.

But the New Series comparison is apt since I suppose this would be regarded as the Boom Town of Dalek Empire. An uneventful filler episode just before the big finale. I think it's telling that the most vocal complaints about Dalek Empire have been about aspects that probably wouldn't bother anyone if this was a radio series that you didn't have to fork out for, chapter by chapter, and so wouldn't be left feeling cheated of your money by the odd mediocre episode or an inconclusive cliffhanger finale.

That's one reason why the criticism of The Warriors can be so vitriolic and unforgiving by those who found it a waste of their money. And it's true that I somewhat baulk at the fact that the Dalek Empire series has in total cost me #140 and that's not counting the tie-in book. And yet, I wouldn't have it any other way. It was worth it to own this remarkable series and The Warriors certainly plays its part. And if it was a radio series I think this would be regarded more affectionately as a Black Orchid than bitterly as a Boom Town. I feared that this would be like The Mutant Phase in terms of inconsequentialness and unbearable padding dialogue that comes of Nicholas Briggs writing over form, but it wasn't like that at all.

I really can't abide the padding charge. Every scene is written for a purpose. Some have suggested that you could possibly skip from The Demons to The Future. But I don't see it. To me, Dalek Empire III was always meant to be six chapters. The Warriors is a necessary transient chapter between the optimistic The Demons and the bleak The Future. The Demons is a chapter that slowly darkens the mood.

It begins by following up the enthusiastic young trainee Kaymee who was taken into the Dalek's healing zone when she caught the plague. Instead of her story being told in fragments across the disc, interweaving with the other subplots, we get the full continuous chunk of her story. Maybe if her story had been spread out, her final fate could have been a climactic cliffhanger. But then again I think there would have been more drawbacks, and I think the relentless feel is far more appropriate.

Kaymee has dreams about saying goodbye to her father. It's wonderfully symbolic and recalls for me the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, where a dying David Bowie dreams of reconciling with his brother. The idea of how the mind imagines its own catharsis so that the soul can die in peace. Even though Kaymee believes she has been cured, her subconscious somehow knows better and knows that she will have to say goodbye because soon she won't be who she was anymore.

In some ways, the body horror aspect benefits from using some comically absurd ideas and playing them for real horror. I can't help but chuckle at the scene where Kaymee is being tended to by a busybody Dalek who tells her to eat her greens liker a school headmaster, whilst the underlying implications behind the feeding are dark indeed. And the final twist of her dream where a Dalek tells her "I am your father" is actually very chilling.

To be honest, I always found the body horror of being converted into a Dalek in Revelation of the Daleks a lot more frightening than Cyber-conversion ever was to me. What is terrifying about this is that Kaymee actually comes to welcome and embrace her fate. That's the real fear of being transformed into something alien and losing all sense of self. It is also completely not what I was expecting.

If there's one factor about the Daleks that Nicholas Briggs has got so right, it is the sense of the nightmare futuristic. The idea that the Daleks are the greater technological power, they are all-consuming and they are our destiny.

Carneill initially bears the brunt of Kaymee's bitchiness. I may give the impression from my rants about Russell T Davies that I can't stand bitchy characters in Doctor Who. The problem with the bitchiness in the New Series was its glorification, its gratuitousness, its omnipresence and the way it was used almost like water torture.

But here it plays its part because it is written to convey moral outrage and a real sense of what makes us human and moral and defiant of authority, however benevolent that authority claims to be.

Still, Carneill is a character that we're supposed to despise. He is well-intentioned and yet is undeniably a spineless quisling. The irony is that his role is largely akin to the Third Doctor's role in The Silurians, arguing that the Daleks are misunderstood because of their alienness and that the humans might have fired the first shot. Even the presence of the primates feels like a homage to that story. In many ways, this series is a perverted parody of the Third Doctor era, particularly Frontier in Space, except that here peacenik Galactic Unionists are the problem and the belligerent soldiers are the heroes. Even the female Dalek Supreme calls to mind the Spider Queen who brings the Doctor down.

There is something of a poignancy in the fact that a spineless character like Carneill dies trying to redeem himself and save the life of another. Still, I feel the chapter could have done more to make him sympathetic. We see glimpses of the friendship theme as he gradually bonds with Kaymee, but I feel there could have been more to it. Still, one can't fail to see the irony of how the tables are turning as the previously loyal Carneill comes to suspect the Daleks just as the cynical Kaymee falls under their influence. But from the moment the Daleks, in a classic display of evil, begin flooding the hospital with radiation, we know Carneill is a doomed man. In fact, he is dying before our ears. When Kaymee falls completely under the Daleks' influence and Carneill dies trying in vain to remind her of her humanity, almost as if it matters more than his own life, the dischordant sour melody brings me to tears. It also fits with the series' overall sense of terraformed suburbia gone sour.

That's why there is no better way to follow it up than with the Graxis Wardens flying into the Dalek base, guns blazing. After immediately witnessing the depths of the evil of the Daleks, there's such a fundamental rightness at seeing the Graxis Wardens strike such a vengeful blow at them.

This is where we get the inevitable convergence of the twain between the Graxis Wardens, Siy Tarkov and The Demons. So far they have been wrapped together by dialogue and mutual experiences before they've even met, so it feels natural that they should converge. That's another reason to not skip a chapter. You need two chapters to create a sense of bonding and cameraderie between them before the finale. I could be spiteful and say that the coincidence by which they cross paths at just the right moment seriously stretches credibility. It does, and it'd be more plausible if Elaria and Gallanar had been captured but then gradually broken out by the Wardens over the course of the disc. In fact, I wasn't expecting them to escape until the Daleks had taken them to Veleyshaa. What happens instead is more sudden, but actually I wouldn't have it any other way. There's such a smile-raising high to seeing the Wardens become the salvation to Gallanar's cliffhanger and blowing all the Daleks away. Its like they're all comrades in arms before they've even met. Even if I were to acknowledge its cheesiness, it'd only make me say 'bring on the cheese'.

Speaking of coincidence, this has been very much a fate-driven series. Loaded with death and resurrection and reincarnation on the part of Susan Mendes. There have been strong spiritual overtones and a very Gaia perspective. Moreso here because the Graxis wardens make heroes out of eco-warriors. But the point is there's a sense that this is a fate-driven story, much like Genesis of the Daleks or Logopolis were. It seems like all of this was some elaborate cosmic plan to bring Susan into the Dalek command structure. Not to destroy the Daleks, as she hoped, but to bring a human perspective to them. Likewise, Gallanar and Siy are brought together, not to warn the Galactic Union of the Daleks as they intended (the open ended nature of whether their warning message was sent or not suggests it was an irrelevant macguffin), but to become friends and ultimately meet the Dalek Supreme/Suz hybrid and teach her about the value of friendship and humanity.

So it is fate that has the Graxis Wardens rescue Siy and Gallanar. Not so that they can get to Veleyshaa, but so that they have a six month bonding period to learn from before being caught again. Fate doesn't want the Daleks to be wiped out. It never has, from the moment the Doctor tried in vain to abort them at their inception through to the way they managed to cling to life during the great catastrophe, through to the many survivors of the Time War. But maybe what fate wants is for the Daleks to finally evolve into more benevolent creatures, through Suz's influence. After all, this is a story in which humans metamorphose into Daleks, the Daleks are shown to be creatures that can only destroy, and the galaxy has a choice: either the humans must become more Dalek-like or the Daleks can become more human-like. The final ambiguous word on The Future suggests that the latter is what will happen and that will be the galaxy's only salvation.

The Dalek Empire series was clearly set in the far future, and had the appropriate disturbing feeling of 'temporal vertigo'. The fact that the humans clearly know of Davros when they find his alternative female counterpart - a shock to the system - suggests that this is long after the Davros era. Long after Skaro exploded, given that they've all moved to Seriphia now, and long after the TV series last charted the Daleks. So anything can happen from now in terms of the Daleks. Or at least that was the case when this was written, at a time when it looked like a certainty that the New Series couldn't use the Daleks, let alone have the last word on them. The Time War suggests another turn of events, and indeed I imagine that the format of the coming Dalek Empire IV will feature Georgi Selestru introducing each story, as each day shows the Daleks advancing and claiming more worlds and crushing all resistance. He looks for inspiration in old personal stories of the Dalek War from the first series which is how we experience new stories from that old conflict, and the final chapter will see the Daleks nearly on top of them all, only to suddenly collectively disappear into an artificial wormhole, clearly amassing to fight the Time War instead.

So this is about the bonding experience between Siy and Gallanar, but, before we get to that, Siy has some serious calming down to do. After his recent experiences, he is a paranoid wreck, convinced that everyone is a Dalek agent, and having seen Carneill get so quickly surrounded by Daleks and betrayed by Kaymee, it is easy to sympathise.

I really do get the sense that Dalek Empire is exactly the kind of thing that the John Nathan Turner/Eric Saward era wanted to be. Cinematic, melodramatic, linear, humourless, fan-pleasing, shock-heavy, with fallible heroes, and using high-body counts to convey a brutal honesty about war. Of course, back then they never got it right, and I can imagine that, unless they were lucky and got Graeme Harper to direct it, the paranoid hysteria would probably have come off just as abrasively as the Sixth Doctor's temper tantrums or the shrill hysterics of the neurotic Aussie. But here it comes off wonderfully, mainly because it seemed so inevitable. It's the kind of "going crazy to keep sane" kind of moment, where after the confusion comes clarity. To put it another way, resolve is never stronger the morning after it was never weaker. And that's often what makes this series so heartbreaking: succumbing to the madness of war and yet pulling through to be stronger. Seeing hope rising from the ashes, even when it looks like there's nothing left to fight for anymore.

Frey Saxton steps in to intervene and handles the situation beautifully. "Call me old-fashioned, but I was expecting some kind of gratitude". I must say that, as elderly pro-active heroines go, I much prefer the curmudgeonly Frey Saxton to the nutra-sweet randy granny Evelyn.

And then there's Gallanar. Sometimes the underlying vibe of a scene or concept gets me ahead of the verbal confirmation, and long before we learned about Gallanar's euphoric confidence trick, I always sensed there was something unsettlingly devilish and manipulative about him. I always found him mysterious and distrustful and I loved the way he really kept me on my toes. But when he stepped forward and told Siy the whole truth I found myself trusting him absolutely, and I saw in his compassion and nobility all the qualities that could have made David Tennant an excellent, riveting Doctor if they didn't keep playing up to the Timmy Mallet vibe. In fact, he's far more the mad, bad and dangerous to know Doctor than Colin Baker ever was, and he even gets to imitate the Twin Dilemma moment in the finale, and actually makes it really good and bloody terrifying. Of course, many people have complained at the recap of events, which really misses the point. Yes, this is old news to us, but to Siy it is things he has been blind to for too long. You need that full reminiscence to create a sense of Siy's trust being re-earned.

Besides, how dare Nicholas Briggs make concessions to new listeners who jumped onto the story late in?

Okay there's a continuity error in the continuity references. I don't get how Siy knew the story of Morli since Kalendorf never actually met her, but, who knows, maybe Kalendorf learned about her by playing the Defiant's black box.

The padding charge also gets laid at the sequence where the Graxis Wardens raid a fuel station to pick up enough fuel to get to Veleyshaa - a destination they won't reach until the next chapter. Again, I say the 'padding' charge is nonsense and was clearly made by people who never noticed the fact that this little expedition has sinister consequences in the next chapter. But, even if it didn't, it still works at reminding us how galactic space travel has regressed since the great catastrophe and how technologically primitive this galaxy is, compared to the Daleks'. And, of course, it stresses the overriding theme of the series in portraying the brutal truth about war. Where every battle, minor or major will always cost the lives of good men.

I might enjoy the New Series more if I was a child. I might prefer the safer, fairytale version of the show where the Doctor can bring people back from the dead with his screwdriver magic wand or with TARDIS pixie dust or by picking up their double from a parrallel universe or by reversing time and bringing millions of people back to life so that everybody lives. But, in years to come, I would look back on it and see it as twee and patronising. If the Doctor always saves everyone and never fails and death really has no consequences, I think there'd be no lasting intrigue or drama or danger for me the way the old series did with its hard-hitting collateral, unbeaten Dalek Empires obliterating whole planets, and the more enigmatic Doctor. So I probably wouldn't be the fan I am today.

I think the main issues with this chapter are that it doesn't have an effective overall theme, and as such the title 'The Warriors' is pretty useless and non-descript. It doesn't have any major revelations like we're used to, but, then again, it is a story about a confused man being calmed down by clarity, so any further twists would have spoilt this effect. And the final cliffhanger is very weak. But, then again, it is not so much a cliffhanger as a warning. And, in many ways, this chapter is a long foretelling of what will come in the next chapter. It shows the progress of the Daleks in the healing zone, and the next chapter will have their work finished before the theme tune starts. Siy's paranoid rant foretells the possibility of humanity itself becoming a paranoid war machine in order to fight the Daleks. Kaymee's betrayal of Carneill foretells Elaria's suggested betrayal of Gallanar. The incidental deaths are a taster for worse horrors yet to come. The uneasy alliance between Siy and Gallanar is a prelude to the close bond they will develop over the next chapter. It may be only half a story but it is also essential in that regard.

Well, the defence rests.