Big Finish Productions
Red Dawn

Written by Justin Richards Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Running Time 90 mins
Released 2000
Continuity Between Planet of Fire and
The Caves of Androzani

Starring Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant
Also featuring Robert Jezek, Maureen Oakeley, Georgia Moffatt, Stephen Fewell, Matthew Brenher and Hylton Collins

Synopsis: While a NASA team investigates an 'anomaly' on the surface of Mars, the Doctor and Peri find themselves about to encounter some old adversaries and some new ones...


A Review by Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld 23/5/00

Red Dawn is the eighth release in Big Finish Production's Doctor Who audios. Is there going to be one bad audio . . . ever?!?!?

The Doctor: Peter Davison reprises his role as the fifth Doctor for the fourth time, and he really seems like he has never left. My favorite part of his performance was the response to the danger that fit perfectly in with his TV performance.

Peri: Nicola Bryant returns as Peri and she is a bit more serious in this one than in Whispers of Terror, her first audio adventure. She takes a nice big role, a change for the Peri we know, and seems to handle the situation well. Justin Richards has provided us with two different versions of Peri in his two audios so far, and I have to say I like this version better.

Others: Forbes is a nice sidekick for the Doctor, and Paul Webster is brilliantly done by Stephen ?Jason Kane? Fewell. Georgia Moffatt plays Tanya Webster well, which is fortunate because I found the other female role, Susan Roberts, kind of pointless.

Ice Warriors: As you can see on the cover, yes, Red Dawn marks the return of our favorite Martians. Lord Zzaal is really well done, while I think Sstast was lacking of things to do. But otherwise, I got a really good sense of Ice Warrior morals and such, which means that this was a perfect return story for the creatures from Mars.

Plot: Never stopped moving. It never lost my interest which is why Red Dawn marks well in my books.

Overall: Another bullseye for Big Finish.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 12/7/00

Featuring as it does the return of the Ice Warriors to Doctor Who, Red Dawn should have been something special. Unfortunately it falls a bit short of this. Justin Richards` previous contriubtion Whispers Of Terror was by and large enjoyable and imaginitive. Red Dawn is enjoyable bot not overly imaginitive.

The Ice Warriors are invaded by humans on Mars, a nice twist given their origins, and Peri is trapped on a NASA craft; and that's about it. In fairness though the Ice Warriors come across as both a noble and warlike race, although Matthew Brehner is miscast in his role. Peter Davison and particularly Nicola Bryant turn in great performances, as for once Peri is given a meatier slice of the action and her background as a botany student is exploited. Added to this are the NASA sound effects which add a touch of realism to Peri`s back story. Overall though Red Dawn still feels like a collection of set pieces, and makes you wonder why the Ice Warriors couldn`t have been used more effectively elsewhere -- such as Peladon.

The Whole Is Not the Sum of the Parts by Peter Niemeyer 12/9/00

I am really getting bummed out. Peter Davison was my favorite on-screen Doctor. Castrovalva was what sort of snagged me into the series in the first place. So I am finding it a bit of a let-down that the Davison audio stories seem to be the worst executed. I don't mean to suggest that any of them were bad, but the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy audio adventures have been, at their worst, "very good", whereas the Peter Davison ones are, at their best, merely "good".

The biggest problem with Red Dawn is that I feel like so much of it was similar to something already done in Doctor Who, and when you added it all up together, you got something that was less than the sum of its parts. The first episode seemed like a dead ringer for Tomb of the Cybermen. (Okay, maybe Peri and the Doctor were surprised to discover Ice Warriors, but you and I saw them on the CD cover, so we were kind of expecting it, weren't we?) The second episode had strong parallels to The Silurians, with the Doctor trying to mediate peace between the alien and Earthling factions that seem to be fighting only because they don't agree with one another.

Another slam against this episode was Matthew Brehner. He played the highly respected but dead actor in Whispers of Terror who was remembered for his distinctive style of aural delivery. In Whispers, this works perfectly. In Red Dawn, he's miscast as an Ice Lord. For one, his inflection sounds nothing like an Ice Warrior to me (not sibilant enough). Also, his voice was so distinct that I immediately identified him as the guy who played the actor in Whispers. In video, it can really shatter the suspension of disbelief when you realize the actor playing the stranded astronaut in Part 6 is the same actor who played the hillbilly at the top of the Empire State Building in Part 3. The same is true for audio, and I'm a little disappointed that Big Finish did such a bad job of trying to pass this one by.

Beyond that, I have more minor complaints. The story changes direction several times, and once I was finished listening to it, I wasn't really sure what it was supposed to be about. According to the liner notes, Peri was supposed to be given a strong storyline. Although she has more to do here than she did in many televised episodes, she still manages to be merely a supporting player, and she achieves none of the prominence that Ace garnered in The Fearmonger and The Genocide Machine or Evelyn in The Marian Conspiracy. I think Nicola Bryant and Peter Davison did a great job with what they had, and I must admit that Nicola's performance here was much better than in Whispers of Terror. But the plot wasn't solid enough or ambitious enough to give them much room to really, truly entertain.

Final score: 7 out of 10 (It was better than The Sirens of Time, but not by much.)

A Review by Eric Briggs 20/9/00

The Ice warriors have been used in print many times since their last actual appearence in The Monster of Peladon. Surprisingly often, their forays in print haven't been that bad. On television they're just bloody great heffalumps that whisper for no good reason. On audio the whispering is all-too apparent. And these Martians seem to be obsessed with honour... Oh God, not more honour-obsessed aliens. Does anybody remember Worf? When you think about it the Ice Warriors have never come out of the closet with this honour thing before. Except maybe in the Radio Times comic strip. When they're good, they act like post-Soviet Russians; well-adjusted people with a few privacies and inscrutable customs, who seem vaguely threatening to some people. All this whispering is silly, and is sure to turn off any non-fans who happen to hear Red Dawn.

Justin has done a bit of research for the early 21st-Century space travel, and the technical bits of the script are mostly good. < pedant > Ultraviolet radiation from the Sun does penetrate the Martian atmosphere, but much more dangerous is hard radiation like gamma rays and cosmic radiation. < /pedant >

The American accents are a damn sight better than in Land of the Dead, and the premise of having Brits along on the voyage is fine, but no Russians?

There are a number of c-word problems with this story. Mars has a lethally thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide, not nitrogen. In The Dying Days, a British conspiracy doctors the data returned from all the previous American missions to Mars to make it seem as if Mars has a hostile atmosphere, whereas it is quite breathable at low altitudes. This is preposterous, but there it is. The Martians in this story are already abandoning Mars as a dead world, which works with The Seeds of Death but maybe not with Transit.

Justin seems to be trying to evoke Season 5 here. It's his avowed favourite, and he's done some decent Pat Troughton novels in the past, but if this story has any depth below the plot it's very thin. The Genocide Machine is evocative of Terry Nation's stuff, and it's got more meat on it that this. Buy it instead.

Pretty Poor by Robert Thomas 5/12/00

Be warned it shocked me and if you have read my other Big Finish reviews it may shock you too. This is the only one I have heared so far that I have not liked.

I won't go on too long as I hate to dwell on negative aspects.

It's got a good first episode and ................. well, thats it.

The story is slow, dull and predictable. But like I said downhill after part one. As usual with Justin Richards there are shock relavations towards the end. But they are predictable and come to late to interest the story.

The Doctor is done very well but after episode one all his actions are so subtle you bearly notice him. A lot of the time he stands on the side lines.

Peri gets a lot to say and is a bit balsy. But surprisingly after reading Justin's inside note she has little to do. She has a good joke to listen out for.

My biggest gripe with this story is the two sub-plots:- <>Peri - Oh no I'm in trouble I might die.

The Doctor - Oh no Peri's in trouble she might die.

The guest characters are a bit dull and unrememorable.

In my opinion this story is bad. Better on a second listen but bad. A very good first episode which only increases the listener's disapointment.

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 8/4/01

I suppose it had to happen. The audios like the TV series and the books had to produce its duffers. Sirens of Time had been the worst upto this time – but that had plenty of interest superficially, it being the 1st, and swapping between 3 different Doctors. Red Dawn does not have that variety. It’s the worst Big Finish story by a fair margin (listened up to Storm Warning No 16).

I have never been one for “real life” space exploration. The Apollo missions and the like seem like a vast amount of resources just to get a few rocks. Red Dawn opens with “real life” space exploration – give me fantasy land spacecraft anyday! NASA’s first manned mission to Mars is dull – a collection of highly inexperienced crew, with no interest in the upcoming mission. Their boredom reflects to the listener. Only Forbes is remotely interesting, the rest forgettable – especially Paul Webster – who is one of the worst villains seen in Dr Who.

Meanwhile the Doctor and Peri (worthy of better material than this) arrive on Mars and explore the alien building. We know what will happen – the Ice Warriors are on the cover – and we get exactly what we expect. The Ice Warriors emerge from their frozen tombs, a member of the Mars mission crew is after something more than he’s letting on, etcetera etcetera.

The Doctor and Peri are actually pretty good throughout. The first episode of them exploring the alien building is excellent – the interplay well-written and interesting. They separate from episode 2 onwards, which is a shame. The Ice Warriors do not translate that well to audio. Their rasping voices are authentic enough, Matthew Brenher as Lord Zzaal doing his best – I just got bored with all the talk of honor and sacrifice.

Red Dawn is an average story, with uninteresting characters. Even the music is cheesy. And answer me something else – How did Frobisher get to work for NASA? 5/10

A Review by John Seavey 29/10/03

It's weird, but this was an audio that actually felt low-budget. I suppose part of it was a small cast, some of whom had been in previous BF audios and many of whom were trying to do bad American accents (actually, it's not so much that the accents were bad as it was that Richards didn't quite get the idiom of American speech, which made them seem subtly off.) These two things made the production seem like it was being done on the cheap, and it was hard not to imagine wobbly sets. That said, the Ice Lord's final gambit was well-played, and I loved the reaction of his sub-ordinate when he made his bargain.

The Agony And the Ecstasy by Charles Daniels 2/8/05

So I finally decided to give Big Finish a try. The first one I picked totally at random - The Fearmonger. I thought it was a thrill to listen to, fantastic, captured the era perfectly and really had fun with the medium. Jacqueline Pierce was also excellent and it was a real surprise to hear her voice in the production as I hadn't paid attention to the cast list.

After that I trusted my luck and chose another one at random. It seemed so promising - the 5th Doctor, Peri, and The Ice Warriors. Unfortunately it was unbelievably bad. Red Dawn by Justin Richards. The acting was substandard from everyone involved except for Peter Davison and the actor playing the Ice Lord. The Ice Lord however got the most painful, repetitive and downright preachy dialogue I could imagine. I was hoping that the Ice Warriors would get sick of him and kill him.

Every line he said seemed to start with "Honour is not only..." So his dialogue was basically:

"Honour is not only courage, but diplomacy."
"Honour is not only victory, but success."
"Honour is not only valour, but respect."
I'm not kidding at all on this - but at one point one of the "Honour is not only this but that" lines was SO CLOSE in wording to another line a few minutes earlier I for just a split second was worried that my player had skipped back a scene. Before I stopped and checked to make sure it hadn't skipped I heard the next line which advanced the plot and I figured out what had happened.

I forced my way through it and the Ice Lord actually gets a good scene towards the end... but the whole story could be explained like this -

  1. A group of nice people are hijacked by a greedy weapons developer.
  2. The Doctor tells the weapons developer that he is a very bad person. "You'll never win! People like you never do!" is sadly an actual quote.
  3. And the Ice Lord gives his warriors a long, elaborate and boring lecture about how to be a fair manager.
  4. And oh yeah, some bland people you don't care about die now and again.

A Review by Ron Mallett 7/4/07

Red Dawn by Justin Richards was only the ninth effort from the Big Finish team, but it must rate as one of the early successes. You know one of these audios is working when you wish you could see it on the screen, yet it loses nothing by "simply" being an audio drama.

Owing much (I would suggest self-consciously) to The Tomb of the Cybermen, this drama set out to make arguably the one story the classic series was crying out for. In a sense it is the story that should have adorned the era and would have made a far more fitting tribute to the show's heritage and a way to perhaps launch the 6th Doctor's era than what we got on screen.

Like many of the early Big Finish adventures, this one seemed a little short and it also suffered from the preoccupation with the Tom Baker version of the theme (explained on the grounds of cost at the time and now superseded by a policy of matching the right theme with the right era). The musical score was also a little raw, as were some of the performances but really that matters little when you have a ripping, if somewhat derivative, script.

Davison and Bryant put in strong performances and gave the production a strong base. Matthew Brenher was particularly impressive as Lord Zzaal, and seemed to have a very good understanding of the essential dichotomy of the Ice Warriors' basic nature. However Robert Jezek (later to play Frobisher so well) as Commander Forbes was a bit irritating to listen to: perhaps his fake American accent was a tribute to those that populated some of the infamous TV productions of the sixties (see Tomb and The Space Pirates for example) or was it awful unintentionally? We might never know.

One interesting deviation from the classic series was Peri's all-round strength as a character: she helped to fly a starship, was generally quick thinking and didn't complain at all. I think this was something that should have been incorporated into the TV series long before a certain script editor was made to do it.

The great twist of course was the "good and evil" inversion element in the story. There was something almost Malcolm Hulke-ian about it: the fact that the alien species were dealt with very sympathetically. Sure they were warlike but they were also imbued with a sense of honour (one of the central themes of the story), which was an important step in a series that overall has often been accused of being rabidly xenophobic. I noticed in the commentary of The Seeds of Death DVD release, Terrance Dicks regretted not fleshing out the motivations behind the Warriors' aggressive behaviour to make them more understandable. I also really liked the touch where Lord Zzaal failed to recognise the term "Ice Warrior", as it was after all a human invention and to themselves they would simply be Martians. When a lot of thought goes into a script, it does show.

The only real problem with this series of Davison dramas is that we really only got one full 5th Doctor and Peri adventure before Erimem joined the crew. I'm a big fan of Caroline Morris and her character, but I think it was a mistake not to indulge in a few adventures just with that pairing before launching a new companion. Many of us regret that Davison and Bryant did not get at least one more TV outing together as a combination.

In short, a very basic thriller, short and to the point. Excellent stuff.

Martian Traditional by Matthew Kresal 13/7/14

With the audios successfully up and running, it was only a matter of time before the back catalog of monsters from the show began to make appearances on audio. Following on the audio debut of the Daleks in the previous release The Genocide Machine, the eighth story in the range saw the audio debut of the Ice Warriors. Red Dawn might have been that but what else is there to say about it?

The performances are good, if not spectacular. Peter Davison is on fine form as the Doctor and the script suits him and his Doctor rather well as he ultimately finds himself uncovering first a mystery and they trying to sort out an increasingly difficult situation. Nicola Bryant as Peri doesn't quite fare as well though, largely due to a script that gives her very little to do (more on that later). The story's two American characters, the astronauts Forbes and Roberts, who are played, respectively, by Robert Jezek and Maureen Oakeley, do all right in terms of both performances and accents (and certainly better than they would nearly a year later in Minuet In Hell). The story's other two characters, Paul and Tanya, played by Stephen Fewell (better known to Big Finish listeners as Jason Kane, the ex-husband of Bernice Summerfield) and Davison's real life daughter Georgia Moffatt, do okay given what the script presents them with, though Moffatt comes across at times of exposition as simply reading off the page rather than acting. They aren't the only members of the cast though.

The story of course sees the audio debut of the Ice Warriors and brings in a number of new voices. Matthew Brenher's Lord Zzarl in particular echoes some of the voices heard from various Ice Lords in the TV series while Alistair Lock does a similar job in capturing the voice of the Ice Warriors in his performances as Sstast. Where the Ice Warriors are let down a bit is when Big Finish's behind the scenes personnel such as director Gary Russell step in to play some of the others and are instantly noticeable and frankly not that good. Overall, though, the performances of the Ice Warriors and the human characters alike work, even if there's nothing spectacular in them.

Where Red Dawn is blessed is in its sound design. As well as reusing sound effects from the original series, such as for the Ice Warriors' weapons for example, Alistair Lock also does a fantastic job of putting together a soundscape capable of taking the listener to the Red Planet. Ever present in the background of scenes set on the surface for example is subtle howling wind while episodes one and three in particular do a strong job of believably presenting a NASA mission to Mars. Also worth mentioning is the music of Russell Stone which, while it certainly does capture the feel of some early 80s TV Who scores, also can be downright distracting at times. The results overall, though, are strong and quite effective.

Where perhaps the story is a bit thin is in its script. Being early on in Big Finish's run, this hails from a time when Big Finish was still mainly aiming to emulate the TV series and in that regards it works. Writer Justin Richards captures the feeling of TV stories such as Tomb of the Cybermen (which came just a couple of stories before the Ice Warriors themselves were introduced), while also coming across as a story from the fifth Doctor's era. That is perhaps the story's problem though. It's predictable for the most part, the characters are more or less two dimensional and Peri does very little except be what she was on TV: stand around and complain a lot. Also, the handling of the Mars mission in part one echoes a bit too much Stephen Baxter's Voyage, right down to a moment in the middle of the landing (not that I wish to accuse anyone of plagiarism, though it might be worth noting that BBC Radio 4 broadcast a serialized dramatization of the novel just a matter of months before this went into studio). In short, it's too traditional for its own good.

There are some interesting ideas here though. They range from the Webster Corporation teaming up with NASA for the Mars mission (shades of which we're starting to see in the real world) to the further exploration of the Ice Warriors and their background. Intriguingly enough, the story isn't quite as implausible as you might think about the ongoing conspiracy theories about Martian "ruins" and the fact that the Brookings Report is in fact real (though it's rather clumsily explained in a moment where it does nothing except drag the story out).

At the end of the day, Red Dawn can be best described as being okay. It's decently acted, solidly produced and has traditional Doctor Who written all over it. Yet, perhaps for those very reasons, it's often overlooked because there's not much to make it stand out from the crowd. It's okay but nothing special.

A Creeping Mars Day by Jacob Licklider 1/1/17

Red Dawn is a rather odd story. It is the introduction of the Ice Warriors to the audio dramas, which was a big thing as at the time the Ice Warriors were very popular; The Seeds of Death and The Ice Warriors had been released on VHS recently and to good sales. Justin Richards was also the editor for the BBC Books range, so he was an easy pick for the writer of the story, especially considering his own book and previous audio output. That said, Red Dawn sounds like a story that should really stick out as it takes place on Mars and mixes The Ice Warriors with The Tomb of the Cybermen, two of the most highly regarded Troughton stories. Almost nothing could go wrong -- except it did. A lot of things went wrong with this audio for a many number of reasons. It isn't all bad, however, as there are quite a few things to really like about this audio.

First and foremost, Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant have such a good chemistry that wasn't really explored much on the television series. They interact great, with Bryant's Peri being almost touristlike and getting extremely excited to be on Mars. She is far from the damsel in distress on television, taking part in the events with relish. Finally, she gets a script worth sinking her teeth into, and she gets to develop a relationship with the Doctor to keep her going when he eventually regenerates into his sixth self. Davison also gets to have a good performance, as he clearly relishes the chance to be the Doctor again and just has all his faith that Big Finish will succeed in their audio series. The voice acting on the Ice Warriors and Ice Lord in this story is top notch. They're a lot better than the odd Dalek voices from The Genocide Machine, and they really help with the atmosphere, making it feel a lot like you are actually on the planet Mars. The basic plot of the story and its premise, while traditional Justin Richards, is still pretty good overall, but when you get to the supporting characters you get all the problems.

The largest problem in the story is the villain. The villain is not an Ice Warrior but is Paul Webster, played by Stephen Fewell, who is a human motivated by greed. That is nothing terribly bad except the character is a spoiled rich brat who is used to getting everything he wants. This makes the story insufferable. The rest of the supporting cast is also just as boring with a lot of them being Americans or Canadians brought in to try and make it sound like a NASA mission. I applaud the effort, but there isn't nearly enough here. The other large problem of the story is just how slow the pacing is. It is four parts, and they are pretty short parts, but there isn't enough substance to keep the story going for the four episodes. It honestly made the story suffer from being what could have been a pretty good story.

To summarize, Red Dawn tries to be a mashup of classic stories and includes some great Ice Warriors. The Doctor and Peri are great, but the supporting cast is awful and the pacing is really quite slow. A weak point in Justin Richards' career. 45/100