‘In the meantime, Lucie Miller, it looks like we’re stuck with each other.’By 2007, the Eighth Doctor had been knocking around the universes (yes, universes, plural) for six years in the company of eager Edwardian adventuress, Charlotte (Charlie to her friends) Pollard, who definitively wanted to be with him, any which way she could (and had done, since before Rose Tyler was a glint in Russell T Davies’ eye).
In 2007 though, Big Finish needed to give the Eighth Doctor a new challenge. A new companion. In a way that had only really been done with Tegan Jovanka, the company decided to take a big risk, and give Paul McGann’s Doctor a companion who didn’t really like him that much, and didn’t particularly want to be there. Perhaps taking lessons from the non-Southern-English roots of the Tegan character, it decided to make Lucie Miller the polar opposite of Charlie’s well-brought-up young lady. Lucie would be a real Blackpool lass, unafraid to get in the Doctor’s face, unimpressed by the ‘frock-coated ponce’ with the time machine, and initially, she’d be trapped in the Tardis on sufferance, rather than through any desire of her own to be there.
Blood of the Daleks was the story that brought her into the Eighth Doctor’s world, and it’s hard, in retrospect, not to see audio companion Lucie Miller and on-screen companion Donna Noble as distinctly similar in their initial styles.
Donna: ‘What? Where am I? Who are you? What the hell is this place?!’ – 8th July 2006.
Lucie: ‘What the hell? What’s happening? Do you even know what you’re doing? Half these controls are held on by duct tape!’ – January 2007.
When she arrives, Lucie Miller doesn’t want to be on board the Tardis – she’s pushed through its shields by a force beyond her control, and her first words make it clear it wasn’t her idea to come aboard.
The central premise of Steve Lyons’ story is so strong you wonder why it’s never been translated to TV – certainly it could still work there. On a world devastated by asteroid collision, unethical scientists have found a Dalek…and decided to build their own versions of the Mark III Travel Machine as a way of keeping their people safe and strong for generations to come. The public, lacking the persuasion of a figure of Davros’ political nous and diplomacy, have revolted against the experiments, and the leading scientist, a Professor Martez, is found dead, the work seemingly halted forever and the lab ransacked by an angry mob, forcing Martez’ assistant, Asha Gryvern, to go on the run with disgraced politician and leader of the colony, Eileen Klint.
But then a voice is heard on the radio. An answer to the planet’s distress calls. A race of would-be saviours is en route to Red Rocket Rising, to help the colony re-establish itself.
The Daleks are on a mission of mercy.
See? How can you not want to listen to that? The Daleks as interstellar Florence Nightingales is too irresistible a concept to not listen to, isn’t it? And what happens when the Skarosian Daleks meet their Red Rocket Rising compatriots? You know what happens then – you’ve watched Remembrance of the Daleks.
Amongst this chaos walks the Eighth Doctor, unique in his certainty that the Daleks are anything but saviours, though finding a slightly unfortunate ally in the literal tin-foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, Tom Cardwell, and Lucie Miller – ‘Lucie Bleedin’ Miller, alright?!’ – who has her own reasons for being on the Tardis, and who doesn’t like the man who owns her ride off the planet very much.
Lyons gives McGann’s Doctor a little more freedom to be nasty than he’d had before, more freedom to have his nose put out of joint by the new interloper in his life – especially when it turns out that Lucie Miller has been foisted on him by the Time Lords, who’ve put her in their own equivalent of a witness protection programme.
Klint, desperate for power but also for some sense of hope to give her people, almost bites the suckers off the Daleks when they arrive to offer ‘assistance’ to Red Rocket Rising. Meanwhile, Gryvern has secrets of her own, and retreats to the devastated bunker where she worked with Martez.
Events unfold with a certain Dalek inevitability – spaceships, hostages, roomfuls of extermination, intimidation, threat, bombs that fail, bombs that work, all your Dalek favourites are here – and there’s a sense in which Blood of the Daleks replays the beats of The Dalek Invasion of Earth…if some deeply dodgy scientists had been building their own human Daleks on the quiet, and the Doctor and Susan had only just met and really didn’t like each other very much. Through the action of the story, which builds its tension along a logical set of crisis-points, with several double-crosses along the way, the Eighth Doctor and Lucie resolutely fail to learn to like each other, but still manage to end up on the same side when faced with more than one faction of evil-minded metal gits. The side in the middle, desperately trying not to get killed.
For a story that will eventually become so important in the Eighth Doctor’s life, you couldn’t ask for a better cast. Quite apart from Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith themselves (though you’d be a fool to discount everything they bring to the dynamic), they’re supported by Anita Dobson (long of Eastenders, even longer of stage and radio) as Klint, a young Hayley Attwell (Agent Carter and a much-touted candidate for the first female Doctor) dealing in complicated moral and amoral matters as Asha Gryvern, and legend of the creepy Northener role, Kenneth Cranham playing somewhat against type as the heroic, if barking mad, Tom Cardwell. The story also introduces us to the mysterious Headhunter, played throughout Lucie’s time in the Tardis by Katarina Olsson, who, although she doesn’t have an enormous amount to do in Blood of the Daleks, certainly provides a thread to connect this beginning with many stories to come.
By the end of Blood of the Daleks, there’s a hideous dark irony revealed about the plight of Red Rocket Rising and its colonists, and Klint’s final broadcast to her people reveals that a new race of saviours is already on their way to help – the friendly folk ‘from the planet Tel-’ Her message is truncated, but Lyons gives the wicked sensation that Red Rocket Rising is ultimately doomed by Klint’s determination to see every alien species that expresses an interest as friendly.
For the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller, friendship may feel like a long way off – she tries to leave him twice during the course of Blood of the Daleks, he tries to leave her four times. But ultimately the relationship between them will become one of the closest and most entirely endearing, and Lucie Bleedin’ Miller will become one of the major companions of the Eighth Doctor’s life. Blood of the Daleks is where that relationship begins, and in its own way, it’s a masterpiece of abrasive humour and personality conflict that sets up a dynamic that will be smoothed over time by fun and the sharing of dangers and joys. Give Blood of the Daleks a spin today, and re-acquaint yourself with the origins of Lucie Miller.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk