Big Finish: Doctor Who - ENERGY OF THE DALEKS Review

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William Egan continues his look back through the audio adventures of the Fourth Doctor.

It was inevitable that in the Fourth Doctor Adventures we were going to see our long scarfed hero take on his archenemies sooner rather than later. Compared to the regular appearances of the Daleks in the modern series, Tom Baker only met the Daleks twice in seven long years. If any criticisms can be made of Genesis and Destiny, it’s that the Daleks play ‘second fiddle’ in their villainy to creator Davros, so it’s nice to hear Baker face them off without him.

Written by the voice of the Daleks himself, Nicholas Briggs, the story takes place in 2025 during a worldwide energy crisis. Once again the Doctor’s attempts to civilize Leela have somewhat backfired. After landing in the middle of a war last time, this time he’s managed to take her right into the center of a riot! The plot hinges around the actions of Damian Stephens in the Globesphere Corporation, who has some rather sinister backers for his company - no prizes for guessing who.

It’s fair to say that Energy of the Daleks will not win any awards for the most original or even most sophisticated Doctor Who adventure produced by Big Finish. What it does provide is a highly enjoyable story, with a breakneck paced but fully explained plot. There are moments of humor in the story (the characters all ending up in Damian’s bed), but there are some darker moments such as the Daleks torturing Leela and the actual reasons for Damian’s ‘betrayal’. After the serious pure historical of the Wrath of the Iceni it’s nice to have something a bit ‘easier’ to listen to.

This was the first story Tom Baker recorded as the Fourth Doctor for Big Finish, but it really doesn’t show. Compared to his disappointing performance in Destination: Nerva, Tom is on fine form here mixing humor and drama perfectly, just as his Doctor always did. Again the decision is taken to split up the Doctor and Leela, with the Doctor instead being paired up with Damian’s former colleague Jack Coulson (Mark Benton) - now the leader of the opposition to the Corporation. It’s a nice performance from Benton, with him and the Doctor working well together, and it’s interesting to hear the Fourth Doctor working with other characters than his companions.

Of course, one of the most exciting aspects of this story is that Leela finally gets to take on the Daleks! Unsurprisingly, Leela’s way to deal with her foes is to insult them, with her describing them as ‘metal cones’. Louise Jameson also manages to successfully portray the amount of suffering her character goes through during interrogation which gives a darker edge to the audio. I’ve said before how superb Louise Jameson has been during this series and this one fully supports that view yet again. Her performances perfectly channel the earlier, more ‘savage’ Leela of season 14, and Nick Briggs is a great help providing some wonderful lines for her to scream out at the Daleks and Damian.

As I mentioned before, it’s fair to say that Energy of the Daleks doesn’t have the deepest plot in the world. The idea of the Daleks trying to take over the world using solar power is a good one and it’s clearly got some inspiration from their madcap ideas in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. The Daleks themselves don’t have the depth displayed in some other Big Finish audios but it’s nice to have them simply being ‘evil, screaming pepper pots’. Briggs is always superb with his Daleks voice, although I couldn’t help but feel that they should have had a more major role in the story, as they only feature heavily in the last 25 minutes or so.

One of the more interesting aspects of this audio is that it doesn’t feel like it’s come from the Tom Baker era at all. In fact, the whole idea of an evil corporation taking over the world with morals about the dangers of human technology seems to have slipped through from a Third Doctor story (e.g. The Green Death). The potential moral dilemmas of the story to do with technology are somewhat lost due to the fast pace, although the energy crisis feels topical in the modern day and age. It feels as if Briggs has mixed in some quintessentially ‘Classic Who’ tropes along with some ideas that crop up in ‘NuWho’ more. In general, it works well although I wish the audio had been a little longer to explore these issues in more depth.

It’s fair to say that Energy of the Daleks is a lot better than Nick Briggs’ previous Fourth Doctor Adventures effort. Although not a perfect story by any means, what it does provide is good entertainment and an easy listen. It’s worth buying just for the fact you can finally hear Leela meet the Daleks - it won’t disappoint!

Destination Nerva
The Renaissance Man
The Wrath of Iceni 

Studies archaeology by day, frees the universe of evil, injustice and cold tea by night. William walks in an eternity of cult BBC science fiction series and Big Finish. Follow him on twitter.

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