THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Chase
Big Finish Productions
The Juggernauts

Written by Scott Alan Woodward Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2005
Continuity Between Trial of a Time Lord
and Time and the Rani

Starring Colin Baker, Bonnie Langford and Terry Molloy

Synopsis: Within a small mining colony on the dark and distant planet of Lethe, events are occurring the results of which could dramatically affect things on a universal scale. For within the dingy corridors of the artificial biosphere, the lone survivor of a devastating crash has expertly wormed his way into the lives of the colony's personnel. A scientist known as Davros.


Reviews

That's My Bush by Mekel Rogers 4/3/05

The Juggernauts is Mel's story all the way, and that's a very good thing.

The script itself is rather traditional. Davros has set up a workshop and is tinkering with his experiments in mutant genetics. The Doctor meddles, Daleks exterminate, and Davros escalates from scheming scientist to ranting megalomaniac. Throw in an obscure robot menace from the 1960s such as the Mechonoids, and you'd think The Juggernauts would be good, but nothing really special.

Then along comes Bonnie Langford.

Ever since The Fires of Vulcan, Bonnie Langford has rescued Mel from from the horrid bubbly personality of her television tenure by giving the character depth, warmth, and charm, and her performance in The Juggernauts is what elevates this story to something special. The relationships she cultivates with the members of the Lethe Colony are realistic and touching, especially the friendship/romance with Geoff. Likewise her interaction with Colin Baker is very comfortable and reminds the listener of just how great a television team they could have made had they been together longer. The real kicker, however, is Mel's final confrontation with Davros after she realizes he has betrayed her. This is the type of scene companions would have given anything to play on television, and Bonnie knocks it out of the park (or hits it for six, depending on which side of the Atlantic you're on).

In the end, The Juggernauts is a good first attempt by Scott Woodard. It's not really anything new, but it is a solid traditional story with some great character moments.

Bottom Line: Buy it for Bonnie!


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 9/3/05

The return of Terry Molloy, after his excellent turn in Davros, is what excited me about The Juggernauts. It's the first Davros/Dalek story too - and they can work well together - just look at Genesis of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks for that.

Molloy's sparring partner is once again Colin Baker - and that's as it should be. The two are brilliant together - one of the best villain/Doctor flare-ups out there. No Evelyn in this story too, we have the joys of Melanie Bush - who appears (from the Big Finish schedule this year) to be the flavour of the past.

Scott Alan Woodard was given quite a shopping list when he was asked to write this one - and to his credit he largely carries it off. Inclusion of all of the above, and the Mechanoids - that's quite a lot to cram in. What he doesn't try and do is create a complicated story, where each challenges the other for supremacy, and each goes beyond what we know of them from TV adventures. This is a good old-fashioned Doctor Who story, and everything here is totally in keeping with the characters we know and like - and all the better for it.

The story fairly rattles along at first. Mel is away working on the Mechanoids. The Doctor is waylaid, but gets there eventually (a three month gap - tempting for other writers to fill). As a character study of Mel this story is pretty good. It continues the good work of previous Big Finish plays, where she is far more interesting to listen to than to look at. There was a little excitement that Mel got to do some computer programming - but that doesn't make good TV or audio. Her relationships with the scientists and miners are far more interesting.

The return of the Mechanoids give Big Finish another chance to shine in their sound wizardry. I know of no other robot/monster who sounds like these binary blobs. There voice is quite spooky - and they are a very fine addition to Big Finish's box of tricks.

Terry Molloy is brilliant once again as Davros, even though at first I wondered where he was (I gradually came to the realization of the truth minutes before it was revealed). Colin Baker, a master of these audio plays now, is magnificent once again - his plays remain the ones I most look forward to, and the ones which usually cut the mustard.

The Juggernauts is a fine return of the straightforward story, and I hope Big Finish will keep to this for the near future. If they alternate between the four audio Doctors, mixing companion teams, then each one will sound fresh and new when they appear again.

I'm confident that Big Finish will continue entertaining us for a good while yet. It seems virtually all our DW attention span is elsewhere these days - and there's nothing wrong with that, in fact it's completely and totally exciting - but its great to think that no matter what happens Big Finish has produced, and will continue to produce, excellent drama. 7/10


Exterminate the Daleks! by Joe Ford 13/3/05

Davros, the Daleks, the new sixth Doctor, Mel and the Mechanoids... I cannot think of a Big Finish story I have eagerly awaited this much in about two years. Only the name Gary Russell written in the sleeve niggled at me but despite the usual weak direction even he has risen to the occasion (The Wormery, Faith Stealer) in recent times.

It should be wonderful, the sort of Doctor Who story we will be talking about for years but it isn't. It certainly isn't bad and it is a great deal better than anything Big Finish have released in ages, certainly the best release since The Harvest. It gets all of the core ingredients right, provides some smashing moments but for too long the story seems to take an easy path. Episode four is excellent, the best of the lot where the struggling plot threads suddenly reach a dramatic crescendo that the story definitely needed earlier.

Let's start with the good... it is marvellous to have Bonnie Langford back in a story that exploits her character to the full. She is a star performer and it is clear now she was treated dreadfully by the TV series, the material she is given by Big Finish is far superior to anything she got in season Twenty-Four. Here we see a very different Mel from before, one who makes friends easily, who has a fantastic technical brain, who has a very moral sense and who can survive just fine without the Doctor should it become necessary. Bonnie Langford shines here with none of the annoying squeaky cleanness that made Mel so unbearable to some; she has a relaxed banter with her new friends Sonali and Geoff and she provides the climax with a real emotional core when she confronts Davros for all the horror he has caused. This scene impressed me no end, to see a once one-dimensional cipher suddenly come alive and get her hands dirty in a way even the Doctor couldn't in his past lives was very impressive. I had shivers down my back as she gave the order for Davros to be killed...

One of the problems with re-inventing the sixth Doctor's era and thus giving him a strong set of companions to work with (Evelyn, Mel) is that this gentler, kinder sixth Doctor gets shuffled to the background in favour of them. The Juggernauts is another in a long line of Big Finish stories (...and the Pirates, Arrangements of War) that put the companion first and the Doctor second but he is still a very reassuring presence, the Doctor proving a constant reminder that something very wrong is going on. The very notion of him working with the Daleks is laughable but they pull it off here with an intriguing idea of him infiltrating Davros' new life on Lethe to see what the hell he is up to. Colin Baker is typically good although I wish the writers would spend more time putting him through the wringer than his companions, Baker is never better than when he is pushed to the very limit and whilst there are a few tense moments here I never got that feeling that he has much a stake.

For someone who was getting in a terrible tizzy about the overload of continuity in Big Finish during 2003 I was shocked at how much I was looking forward to a story that dipped into the archives for ideas this much. I was under the impression that it was the continuity that was sucking all the imagination out of the releases two years ago but I have to admit I was wrong. 2004 was an even worse year for Big Finish (I counted four out of twelve releases that I enjoyed) and it is was practically continuity-free.

The trouble with the overload of past elements in The Juggernauts is how writer Scott Alan Woodard tries to put a new spin on them all. I will always salute effort and it is present in spades but by trying to give everything an interesting new spin it means the story is overly talky for its first three episodes. The Doctor working with the Daleks? Gosh! Davros trying wipe his own creations out? Never! Human carcasses installed into the Mechanoids! Yuk! The story is extremely interesting when you look at the clever things Woodard tries to do but it does seem to plod for a while whilst all the appropriate explanations are given. You would think that a Dalek/Mechanoid story would be terribly dull because of all the boring gunfights that would entail but it is not until they start blasting at each other that the story really picks up. As I have already mentioned the fourth episode is very good, where the plot moves quickly with the action not giving the audience a second to think before the next dramatic showdown takes place.

Although let's not forget it is forty years since we last heard of the Mechanoids and the bravery and vision to resurrect them now is all credit due to Big Finish. Their silky voices are perfect for audio and their new status as henchmen for Davros gives them a hook they never really had in The Chase. I don't mind continuity being used when it has a good dramatic reason and can be utilised as well as the Mechanoids are here.

I wish Big Finish would phone up Terry Molloy and give him his own Davros series, as he is such a fun character to listen to. He is the ultimate reason I would recommend The Juggernauts, the silky voiced monster is back and he's even sicker than ever. I love it when Davros tries to rationalise his plans to the Doctor, with numerous deaths on his conscience and utilising their remains for his own ends, as he comes across as more perverse and insane than ever. This is one of his better schemes for some time and is quite well thought out, preying on the greed of humans to advance his Mechanoid building schemes just as the Daleks have done in the past (Power of the Daleks). The fact that he could supplant one race of brutal killers for another is hilarious especially after all those rants about how the Daleks are the supreme rulers of the universe! How he expertly weaves Mel around his finger in the early episodes is unsettling, far more interesting than his usual screaming and his final decision at the stories climax allows us to see through the cracks in his insanity and see the man he once was. I would recommend The Juggernauts over Davros as a look at how he thinks, because it is a scheme that takes in his scope of vision and reveals how deep his lunacy is at the same time.

Bombastic, memorable and catchy, Steve Foxon's score is the best I've heard in a while. He certainly gives the dynamic last episode a real push and his "tingling of madness" score for Davros gave his justifications a disturbing edge.

Overall I really rather enjoyed The Juggernauts, it builds to an impressive climax that will leave feeling that you have listened to another Dalek story that actually felt different. It is a shame there couldn't be more action earlier on because I could imagine a TV audience giving up on this story before it kicks into gear. A shame because you would miss some cool Davros action, some good development for Mel and a worthy re-invention of the Mechanoids.

Flawed but well worth listening to.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 11/5/05

In many ways The Juggernauts appears on paper to be little more than a fanboy's dream come true complete with the inclusion of Daleks, Davros, Mechanoids and the Sixth Doctor and Mel; in truth, however, it is responsible for the rehabilitation of Bonnie Langford's Mel as this story is her own. Seperated from the Doctor at the play's beginning for three months we are presented with a companion forced to deal with life on her own. Never is this more evident than when Mel decides the best way to deal with Davros is to leave him to the Mechanoids; unfortunately the story undermines this by giving Davros a different end, setting up his next chronological television appearance. To Bonnie Langford's credit, it is a relief not to hear her in a comedic audio (The Fires Of Vulcan notwithstanding), as her performance brings out the best aspects of her character.

Colin Baker's Doctor also reverts back to his television persona as opposed to his Big Finish one, in that he is brash, flippant and overconfident throughout; although this is refreshing in itself, a mixture of both personas would ultimately work better in any future tales with Mel. The Mechanoids return, but are not overly impressive, as Davros tries to bring them into line with the Daleks; this hardly distinguishes the two and their limited vocabulary doesn't help matters greatly. Terry Molloy is also back on form and particularly vicious in his portrayal of Davros; although opposing a different Doctor (as the conclusion of The Next Life hints at) would be more welcome.

In short The Juggernauts is a missed opportunity, it makes the most of Mel but not enough of the tale's other major factors.


A Review by Ron Mallett 25/5/05

Scott Alan Woodard's new Doctor Who audio - as its title suggest - is a story with an epic feel. Still, The Juggernauts is another one of these Big Finish audios that is more than slightly derivative. However it attempts to be so in the way that the Colin Baker era was: blending old with the new. Although there are plenty examples of the old, I'm not so sure there is anything new.

Colin Baker, Bonnie Langford and Terry Molloy are superb in their central roles. The soundscape of effects is nothing less than perfect. The incidental music is particularly wonderful. So what went wrong? I think it is the story and the underlying philosophy behind it.

In a sense it's almost too easy to dig up the Daleks and the Mechanoids (remember The Chase from 1965?) and thread them into a story together, again. It comes across as bad fanboy fiction which people like myself are so often accused of writing. This is what happens when people stand on the shoulders of genius and don't contribute anything concrete themselves. In essence it's almost a fan story written to explain why Davros ended up as just a head, again (remember the Emperor of the Daleks comic from 1993?).

If nothing else it further proves what a winning combination Colin and Bonnie would have been if they had been allowed to find their legs as a team. Mel works well as a companion with a "dominant personality". I love the Doctor's declaration about hell having no fury like a Melanie Bush. Therefore I'm not saying the writing is poor but I think the concept behind it is a little lazy. Still the use of the music box as a kind of objective correlative was a bit of an obvious plant early on in the story. It should have been a birthday present or something similar rather than something given to Mel artificially by Geoff in order to remember him! By the way, did anyone ever think Terry Molloy was anyone other than Davros?


"Of course. Daleks... I should have known." by Jameson Lee 13/8/11

The 23rd series of Doctor Who was a turbulent time for the program as the Doctor was literally and fictionally on trial for his life. It also introduced a new companion, Melanie Bush, played by stage actress Bonnie Langford. Bonnie acted opposite Colin Baker in the final two adventures of the year and continued on for the following year, seeing in the seventh actor to play the Doctor on screen, Sylvester McCoy, in Time and the Rani. A computer programmer at a time when the audience had a less-informed knowledge of such a thing, Mel was meant to be an addition to the lighter approach demanded by the BBC Controller Michael Grade. She certainly was bubbly and spritely, appearing downright diminutive in contrast to Baker, but to be honest I never really took to her. In this adventure, however, she is positively sparkling! I have heard that Mel is also quite good in her other audio adventures such as Bang-Bang-A-Boom! with Sylvester McCoy and I look forward to that. Aside from her personality working well in this script, Mel's computer skills are also put to use in this story. One wonders if there had been additional time on screen to develop Mel and the 6th Doctor if they would not have been more successful.

While his incarnation of the Doctor was disliked by many fans, it has been said even by his detractors that Colin Baker got robbed by only appearing in two year's worth of adventures (the second of which was both abbreviated and of questionable quality). He has enjoyed something of a revival in the Big Finish audio adventures. On screen, he may have been a bit too jarring for some, but in the Big Finish productions his verbose and egocentric personality comes across as perfectly charismatic and eccentric; in short, 'Doctor-ish'. Personally, I always liked Colin Baker's brash and maniacal 6th Doctor. I didn't really take to what I perceived as a 'watering down' of his performance in series 23's Trial of a Time Lord, as I felt that it removed the performance's edge. I was expecting more of that gentler version of the Doctor in the Big Finish audios and to a large extent I was correct, but it works so well with higher quality scripts (something each classic Doctor Who actor has remarked on as being a major improvement regarding the audios compared to the classic serialized adventures).

In The Juggernauts, we also have Terry Molloy, who played Davros on screen in Resurrection, Revelation and Remembrance of the Daleks. Following his capture by the Daleks on the planet Necros, Davros crash-lands on the planet Lethe where he starts his life over again with one aim: to wipe out his inferior creations, the Daleks. Renaming himself Dr Vaso, he is heading a project on the planet Lethe where a new race of robotic servants based on the discarded Mechanoids (last seen in The Chase) is being developed for private enterprise. I greatly enjoyed Molloy's version of Davros on screen, finding that it at least met the level set by Michael Wisher in Genesis of the Daleks. A conniving and brilliant mind, Davros' persona humanized the Dalek's alien sense of morality that often failed to come across in some of their appearances.

This story shares a few similarities with the 1966 missing story Power of the Daleks by David Whittaker. Both stories are set on alien worlds colonized by the Earth Empire and both involve outside parties attempting to use Dalek technology to their own ends. I'm not sure if the similarities are intentional, but I find it interesting enough to note. The three 80's Dalek stories strove to bring back the menace of the creatures that had gotten far too cuddly and familiar over the years. The Juggernauts re-introduces the brilliant tactical minds of the monsters and their creators who play with the humans as a chess player would move pieces across the board. The story is one of survival at any cost which is of course horrifying to the human characters in the tale who are much more concerned with their own lives, relationships and needs. Even the Doctor comes across as alien as he works with the Daleks to undo Davros' scheme. The Juggernauts is a wonderful exploration of alien morality as it relates to the human condition. The dialog is also very sharp and witty. During the 6th Doctor's era of 1983-86, there was an intentional leaning toward intelligent and often archaic wordplay and this adventure fits into that mold perfectly.

The supporting cast sports some strong characterizations and excellent vocal talent (perhaps with the exception of Bindya Solanki whose regional accent sounds more at home in the BBC Wales version of Doctor Who).

Written by Scott Alan Woodard (who also wrote the Eight Doctor Audio adventure Absolution), The Juggernauts is a taut and well-written adventure in which the main cast are given room to move and develop, the villains enough space to be truly menacing and old ideas made new by inspired decisions. In short, it's a damned shame that this story was not produced for TV transmission, but given the dubious production values of classic Doctor Who, maybe it's for the best. As an audio tale, The Juggernauts is fantastic and comes highly recommended.


A Review by Anthony Smith 26/8/11

At the beginning of a certain story, we discover that Davros has settled on a planet, and is using a pseudonym in order to continue his rather gruesome work, secretly stealing bodies to do this. The original Daleks from Skaro don't take too kindly to this, and arrive in the latter half of the story to take Davros to stand trial on Skaro. Hang on, you all cry,this is supposed to be a review of The Juggernauts, not the absolute classic Revelation ofthe Daleks! Unfortunately, the main problem with The Juggernauts is that I was, in fact, talking about that very story. I can't think of any other Doctor Who story where homage strays so very close to pointless rewrite.

Despite this overall feeling,The Juggernauts is worth listening to for three performances, and it's interesting that all three are ones that, when seen on television originally, all were seen to be falling short of their predesessors: Terry Molloy, continually compared to Michael Wisher in the eighties, is as reliably stunning as usual. He has some wonderful scenes here, and some genuinely funny lines. Davros has kept the sense of humour he first showed in Revelation, and there are also some nice parts where he genuinely seems to want to not be seen as such a monster, the point being, as in Davros, however much he wants this, he simply can't help it. At the beginning of the story, he harvests people's organs because he doesn't seem to know what else to do with himself.

Colin Baker never fails to put a smile on my face on audio. Why did no one realise how to use his wonderful personality on TV? He is thoroughly Doctorish throughout, and his first few scenes with the Daleks are absolutely delightful, poking fun at them throughout. His scenes with Molloy are some of the best Doctor/ Davros exchanges ever. And the third excellent performance? Well, if you had told me while she was on TV that the only way I could say the name "Bonnie Langford" in 2011 was with a smile and wistful sigh, let's just say I wouldn't have believed you for a second. But, here we are. Bonnie Langford. She's really her own person in this audio, not simply "generic companion". It's nice that they are actually using her computer skills finally as well.

The rest of the cast are above average as well and, while it is wonderful to hear the charmingly voiced Mechanoids once again, you can't really escape the feeling that they are solely being used in the same manner as they were in the sixties: to make money. The Juggernauts has some truly excellent scenes and, with a rewrite from a decent script editor, could have been superb. In the end, its lack of originality really works against it, and it is very hard to come away without a feeling of disappointment.