THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Big Finish Productions
The Time of the Daleks

Written by Justin Richards Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2002
Continuity After The Telemovie.

Starring Paul McGann and India Fisher
Also featuring Nicholas Briggs, Alistair Lock, Dot Smith, Nicola Boyce, Julian Harries, Jem Bassett, Mark McDonnell, Lee Moone, Ian Brooker.

Synopsis: As the Dalek Empire continues to spread through the galaxies, they seek, once again, to conquer the fourth dimension and travel back to the post-apocalyptic twenty-first century Earth to find a particular leader who can aid them in their quest. To the Doctor, their time device is crude and unworkable, and yet it does - leading him to wonder if the Daleks know more than they are letting everyone else believe.


Reviews

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 26/6/02

The return of the Daleks, and their first meeting with the 8th Doctor, made this highly anticipated. Written by Justin Richards, who certainly knows how to weave brilliant stories, this feeling was multiplied. The season of 8th Doctor Audios had, after a disappointing start, has blossomed - and the Daleks were here to enhance this sequence of stories that could very well turn out to be one of the best Seasons DW has ever produced - it is certainly one of the most varied and intriguing.

In Episode 1 we are confronted with an interesting premise. The Daleks are out to claim the 4th Dimension. They forge an alliance with General Mariah Learman, a Shakespearean enthusiast who also happens to have a position of power in the 21st Century. She also happens to have constructed a Time Machine made out of Clocks and Mirrors, with the help of a Professor Osric. Also brought in to the saga is Major Ferdinand, a noble trooper from the 21st Century. There's also Viola and a Kitchen Boy who seems to be pushed into the background. Add a few more assorted personnel from the 21st Century, Priestley and Hart, and you have a cast of Characters that is greater in number than usual. I felt the previous dramas, specifically Chimes and Darkness benefitted from the small cast, it was easier to distinguish the characters - and you could get to know each one more. Time of the Daleks goes for a bigger cast, but it does so with a confidence that ultimately is successful.

Justin Richards script is impressive. Here's a man who embraces the Time Travelling Science of the Doctor in a wondrous way. The story is full of anomalies and scientific treatise on Time itself. The story is replete with a vast amount of moving through Time, but is essentially set in the Vortex between the Historical Destinations. It is not so much about the different Periods of History, or indeed the people and monsters, but about Time itself.

The Daleks are superbly depicted, but we knew from the previous Doctor Who Dalek dramas and Dalek Empire series that Big Finish had the Doctors' major foes off to a tee anyway. Nicholas Briggs seems to be on some personal crusade with the Daleks - he directs them all, and I notice here he even did the Music too. Here is someone who really likes the Daleks, and brings them alive magnificently.

The leads are impressive throughout. The Doctor is central again (I think I've read that many books where he is not, it always is a great source of delight when he is the main player in the drama) and McGann again is brilliant. We have had enough stories now, where McGann has actually played the Doctor, for him to really to be seen on a par with the rest of the Doctors. He is no longer the George Lazenby of the Doctor Who world. Indeed thanks to these Big Finish Canonical Dramas, all the Doctors that had limited TV time, have balanced out the DW universe. All 8 actors have now have had time to really make a indelible mark on the legend of Doctor Who - and each time to make their portrayal different from the others, yet still the same eccentric Time Lord we know and love.

McGann is brilliant as the Doctor. Thanks to very impressive stories he has had it better than others, but his performances have shown enthusiasm and adeptness for the role. Philip Segal made an inspired choice for the 1996 TV Movie. India Fisher as Charley has less to do here than previous dramas, but does things very well. The large cast actually takes material away from the companion. The continuing arc that began with Storm Warning about Charley's being saved from Death by the Doctor, is evident again - and the conclusion leads nicely into the next release NeverLand. It's a saga that has rewarded those who buy all the releases, but it hasn't been too much to alienate the casual buyer - Big Finish have been spot on throughout.

Time of the Daleks is very inspired by the TV show. Evil of the Daleks is remembered fondly by many, and Richards' Learman/Dalek Time Machine is very much out of that story. In evidence throughout is Richards' love of Shakespeare. Learman is the reason why this story is dominated by the Bard of Stratford-Upon-Avon - she is an enthusiast believing Shakespeare to be the biggest genius in World's History. The story cleverly includes Shakespeare, but contains that many twists and turns concerning his involvement that it is only by the end that you are sure where he really fitted in to the plot.

The front cover (unfortunately the weakest for some time) should contain the phrase "Additional Material from William Shakespeare". Richards successfully includes a vast amount of quotes from the great writer in his dialogue. Learman's dialogue is heavily Shakespearean, and she is the top supporting character of the story. The Daleks too have vast amounts of memorable lines from every Shakespeare Play imaginable - there is a very definite reason too for this, and it works really well.

Whilst the majority of the story is set between Histories, with the 21st Century featuring prominently, the settings are a little confused. It's quite difficult to imagine where the action is being played out. Are they in Learman's Palace of the 21st Century, or are they back in the 16th Century? Are they in the Vortex or aboard the Dalek Ship? That's the only weakness I can see in the whole production, this ill defining of the different settings.

Like most of these Big Finish dramas the story demands that you listen to it again and again. I always do these reviews for Big Finish audios straight after hearing them once - after all that's how many times most people listen to them. I'm very keen, however, to listen to them all again. Time of the Daleks is complex, there is a lot of twists and turns that can leave you quite jumbled - but even on the first listen, it does fit together perfectly.

Time of the Daleks is another fantastic Big Finish drama. Nostalgia for the show is perfectly enmeshed with New Who, resulting in a cracking adventure. It is superbly put together by writer and production team, and it is always wonderfully entertaining and fascinating to be involved in. Very impressive. 9/10


Hitting Top Form by Robert Thomas 18/7/02

First of all I nearly made it to this without finding the spoilers that were in it but sadly didn't make the final week (will Lawrence Conquest and Nick Peirera please stand up) but what the hell life's a bitch and so's my dog.

This story can best be compared to The Monster of Peladon and Mawdryn Undeads of this world, in that they may be forgettable scripts/stories but most of the production and actors are on top form that while watching or listening you get to have some fun.

There's not a lot to fault here, maybe nothing in fact everything's on top form and there's quite a few interesting things happen in the plot. There's a fantastically over the top nutter in here who tries to steal the show and nearly does. Highly recommended for some tight, overtop and interesting little piece. It will probably benefit from more listening as it is very forgettable, not up to the par of some previous spoiler stories but then again what is?


Travesty of the Daleks more like... dear me... by David Barnes 26/7/02

I think you know what type of review you're in for. Well you would be right.

Time of the Daleks is the most imcomprehensible, boring, mind-numbing audio I've ever heard. Words fail me at its sheer inadequacy. But I'm going to have a go anyway!!!

The story opens with some Daleks on a spaceship. Lots of techobabble ensues. Stuff happens. Something bad by the sound of it. Some Daleks escape. One shouts "We SHALL AWAIT RESCUUUUUUUE!" over and over again.

Well, that was a promising start wasn't it?

I can't really comment on the plot. To comment on the plot, you need to have understood it all, to have savoured it, to have mulled over all the events and then make a decision whether it was good or bad. That dosn't apply here!!! WHAT ON EARTH (or Skaro) HAPPENED??? For a start, I haven't a clue what all that stuff with the politicians was about, nor the frequent gun battles concerning the rebels. This story pays direct homage to The Evil of the Daleks in its idea of the Daleks coming through a time machine made of clocks and mirrors. But Evil was a good story. Time is not.

The characters are all faceless, apart from that woman barking on about Shakespeare. It dosn't help that many of the characters sound the same. Many people die in a "dramatic" manner (well, they get shot by 60 laser beams and scream and some woman screams their name very loudly). But in order to have the death seem dramatic, you need to have actually cared about the characters, or at least understood them in some way. I didn't give a toss when Priestly or Major Ferdinand (I think it was him) died. I just though "Oh well, there goes another."

The Daleks are... boring. I hate to say it but I thought the Daleks were boring!!! They were the best thing about The Mutant Phase but here... they ain't. They talk a lot and explain the plot but are very dull and tired. They may be scheming a lot but surely Day of the Daleks proved that having the Daleks sit in a room and scheme all the way through the story and do sod all else is not a very good idea.

I haven't mentioned the Doctor or Charley yet have I? Maybe that is because they weren't very good. I've never been a fan of Charley but she's even worse than normal here. And the Doctor... dear God, the Doctor... He runs around, behaving like a mad man (so far so good) but dosn't really do anything noteworthy. He might have I suppose, but I was so bored by the story I can't remember (and I've listened to it twice now). Paul McGann dosn't seem to be trying here and I hope Neverland turns out to be a stonkingly good story.

Oh yes, the gimick of the story, the Shakespearean Daleks. Well, there was one in part 1 who said about 4 quotes, and then one more in part 4 who said many things. What I want to know is, why were they there??? I can just understand some of the plot concerning them but what was the point? Yes, it is very interesting to have Daleks quoting Shakespeare but they didn't need to. Many of the quotes are suitably picked but the whole subplot isn't necessary.

Time does one thing right though. It ties up The Dalek Empire series featuring the Doctor. There are several references to The Genocide Machine and The Apocalypse Element and it actaully feels that they have been building up to something, although The Mutant Phase is never referred to (which is the only one of the first 3 I own).

Overall, Time of the Daleks is just dull and too hard to understand. If a story is very good but a bit difficult then I put in the effort to try to work things out (like with The Chimes of Midnight). But this story just put me to sleep. Never before have the Daleks bored me so. 2/10


Thee will be exterminated! by Joe Ford 14/8/02

All the omens were good. The ever engaging team of Paul McGann and India Fisher as The Doctor and Charley. Justin Richards, the man responsible for the excellent current series of EDA's. The Daleks, The Doctor's most formidable foe. Nick Briggs directing who has excelled himself in the brilliant Dalek Empire series. To say I was looking forward to this one is an understatement.

Which is why I was so devastated when I first heard it. The first scene of screaming Daleks spouting out a whole lot of technobabble did nothing to inspire confidence and the confusing first two episodes didn't help either. I was so bitter that I wasn't enjoying it more that I turned it off and listened to my spanking new The Smugglers (great stuff!) CD instead. I eventually heard the last two episodes and was more impressed, there seemed a more dramatic backbone and the final twist is very, very clever indeed.

So clever in fact I was compelled to go back and listen to the whole thing again. This, like The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects deserves a re-listen to see just how everything falls into place after knowing the twist. And do you know what? I really, really enjoyed it! It was halfway through the well judged second episode that I realised that I was disappointed with every single McGann audio on first listening this year. I now firmly believe you need to have to or three re-listens to understand all the subtleties in the dialogue, direction and music (oh and the acting!).

My final judgement of Time of the Daleks is an unqualified success. it is very different to your usual Dalek story and the quoting of Shakespeare has the precise "woah, that's odd but pretty cool" effect of Evil of the Daleks that Justin Richards was after. Under a pretense of co-operation the metal meanies come across as horribly malovelent and devious. Once they reveal their true colours it is a dramatic high. And as I said before their eventual fate is very smart and twists the whole story into another, more sophisticated level.

The acting was very impressive indeed. McGann and the Daleks is something I've wanted to see for ages and his patronising of them was gorgeous. The Doctor has some terrific dialouge in episode one concerning their evil. India Fisher is the able companion as ever and such fun! Her "Could I just ask... why?" scene in episode one reminds me why I love her so much and leaves me now hoping she doesn't leave in Neverland.

The supporting cast are also great but Dot Smith makes the biggest impression as the misguided Leaman. Her fate too is truly deserving of her character but her gloriously silky voice fitted the role perfectly! The rest are more than acceptable but nothing spectacular however I feel I should mention Jem Basset for his unusual turn as the kitchen boy.

Yes it is a little similar to both Power and Evil of the Daleks but it's more enjoyable for it. There's nothing wrong with a little nostalgia every now and then if it's done in carefully measured doses and stands up as a story in its own right which this certainly does.

Finally I must say a word for Nick Briggs whose come a long way since the since Sword of Orion and embues the story with a real sense of urgency and energy. His highly distinctive music has also improved and i found it quite memorable in places.

Not an out and out classic but a solid, clever and intelligent outing for the eight Doctor with a damn near rivetting final episode. Good stuff!


Resurrection of Mistakes by Antony Tomlinson 21/6/03

Time of the Daleks should be brilliant. It features the best living Doctor, one of the all time best companions, the greatest Doctor Who monster and is written by a terrific Doctor Who author - Justin Richards (I loved his Big Finish political thriller, Whispers of Terror, and Grave Matter is in fact my favourite novel). So it is bizarre that this tale should be such a complete mess. What is even odder, however, is that Richards seems to have taken Resurrection of the Daleks to be his model for writing this story.

Resurrection of the Daleks (like Attack of the Cybermen) was nothing more that a collection of remade scenes from previous Dalek stories, loosely held together by a few vague, and clashing plot-lines. That story was an utter mess. As a result, the writers of the next two Dalek TV tales and three audio plays desperately tried to avoid Resurrection's mistake - creating original and highly plot-driven stories that only used Dalek history where it helped the overall plot.

Time of the Daleks, however, should be called Resurrection of the Daleks II. For Richards seemingly decided to compile scenes from past Dalek stories without bothering with much of a plot to tie them together. God knows why he chose to do this.

So what happens in Time of the Daleks? Well, the Doctor comes across a base in which Daleks are pretending to be peaceful in order to befriend humans (Power of the Daleks). Together, they are using arcane, clock and mirror based technology to travel through time (Evil of the Daleks). At the same time, a group of hard-bitten rebels are on a suicide mission in an attempt to blow up the entire base (Resurrection of the Daleks).

The Daleks stop the attack, though several of their number end up in a contaminated room behind a blast door (Planet of the Daleks). The Daleks then conduct a grotesque "dalekisation" on a human (Revelation of the Daleks). At the same time, the Doctor works out that, through reckless time travel, the rebels have actually caused the event that they set out to avert in the first place (Day of the Daleks).

The Daleks finally go off to conduct their plans, leaving the Doctor under guard, alongside a grenade-armed group of fighters (Revelation of the Daleks). However, the Doctor defeats the guards using mirrors (The Five Doctors). The Doctor eventually escapes, but allows the Daleks to conduct their time experiment, for he knows that all that will happen is they will blow themselves up (Remembrance of the Daleks).

Why did Richards make this hotchpotch of rehashed scenes? It hardly made sense as a writing strategy in 1984, but it really doesn't make sense now. And how did Richards think that he could get away with stealing one of the most famous Doctor Who endings of all time - the ending of 1988's Remembrance of the Daleks?

In fact, the only aspect of The Time of the Daleks that is not stolen from past Dalek stories is the Shakespearean element. However, this could have been completely dropped without changing the plot much at all.

The explanation of the inclusion of the Shakespearean themes is Richards's desire to hear the Daleks speak in Shakespearean verse. However, the fact that such an activity sounds so odd should have been a reason NOT to do it, rather than a source of inspiration (what's next - Darth Vader the musical?).

And why can't Doctor Who leave Shakespeare alone? Over the course of the series, the poor sod has been spied upon by the First Doctor (The Chase), has been kidnapped by aliens (The Empire of Glass), has been namedropped by the Doctor at almost any opportunity (see Planet of Evil) and has now been kidnapped by people from the future as they try and prevent robotic aliens from blasting him out of existence. Come on everybody, give the poor guy a break.

And what is this "Euro-wars" stuff about? The chances of Europe going to war over its currency is about as likely as a war between Fahrenheit and centigrade users.

The production itself is mostly fine. The cast are all a bit flurried though, and of all the "Season 28" tales, this gives McGann the least opportunity to shine - he ends up breathless and panicked, like a more charming version of Peter Davison. At the same time, the rest of the cast just run about shouting in exactly the way that they did in Resurrection of the Daleks.

In all, it's a bit pointless really - a right "captured/escaped/captured/escaped" load of Doctor Who silliness. To be fair, it's actually quite a bit of fun once you forget that you've heard it all before - and it does provide important continuity links with The Apocalypse Element, The Genocide Machine, Seasons of Fear and Neverland. Nevertheless, I can't listen to it without thinking what could have been - with his talent, Richards could have made a great addition to the Dalek cannon. Instead he's created something rather tired.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 7/4/04

Featuring as it does the Eighth Doctor`s first encounter with the Daleks, The Time Of The Daleks presents the listener with what ultimately is a joy to behold. Yes it withstands repeated listening in order to grasp the plot and it does boast some clever ideas. The Daleks quoting Shakespeare and Charley`s lack of knowledge about the playright being just two examples.

Castwise Paul McGann is on fine form, perhaps showing an enthusiasm for the Daleks, although he is equally as impressive waxing lyrical about Charley`s lack of Shakespeare. As a result India Fisher`s Charley seems overwhelmed, although this doesn`t detract from her performance. The most impressive has to be Dot Smith as General Mariah Learman, conveying the right amount of authority and vulnerability with ease.

Strong performances and a strong plot about time paradoxes that withstands repeated listening equals a strong winner from Big Finish.


A Review by John Seavey 11/6/04

Overall, it's one of those stories where, at the end, you just sort of say, "Huh." On the one hand, Justin Richards is right -- Daleks quoting Shakespeare is just so brain-twistingly wrong that it does lend the story a certain surrealist charm. In addition, there's some clever twists in there as well regarding the secret power supply to the time machine. On the other hand, there's loads of long, boring time paradox wibbling, rebels fighting Daleks (which never fails to not entertain), so much quoting of Shakespeare that it's hard to avoid getting sick of him, an OTT silly villain, and basically much too much dullness to really get into this. As a book, perhaps, where you could flip back a few pages to see how the author worked a specific scene, this might have worked better. As an audio, it's passable.