Big Finish: Doctor Who - FEAR OF THE DALEKS Review

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Tony’s feeling the fear.


Fear of the Daleks is only the second Companion Chronicle Big Finish ever made. And, having caught up with Vicki years after she married Troilus and toddled off into the Trojan, and then Carthaginian, sunset, Fear of the Daleks cements in place what the ‘point’ of the range would be – it would take companions and show stories either from their unique point of view, or expand what we knew about the characters of the companions, either while they were with the Doctor, or afterward.

Patrick Troughton’s final Tardis team of course takes you into interesting areas when it comes to their post-Tardis life, because their memories of travelling with the Doctor were famously wiped by the Time Lords in The War Games, leaving them only their initial encounter with him.

Big Finish takes us boldly into Zoe Herriot’s later life, when she’s plagued by eidetically-clear nightmares of her times with the Doctor, times she’s absolutely sure (by daylight) didn’t happen.

In particular, she goes to a counsellor because of one particular nightmare which – rather neatly – we never saw play out on screen. An encounter between Zoe and the Daleks.

As stories go, writer Patrick Chapman takes us a little into the woozy, idea-rich territory of the likes of Marc Platt, with technologized astral travel, pain-incentivised possession and other half-science, half-hippy invention. The Daleks themselves come at you with the very first pre-credit sequence, but their involvement in the story itself is rather more Frontier In Space than Resurrection of the Daleks – they’re trying to achieve a particular outcome in a set of negotiations between two alien powers, more or less, it first appears, as muscle-for-hire. But of course the Daleks have bigger plans.

Rule 1 – the Daleks always have bigger plans. There’s always a point at which any group stupid enough to ally itself with the Daleks finds that out to its peril, and usually its destruction, and that’s more or less the pathway we’re on in this story too. In its fundamentals, Fear of the Daleks doesn’t re-invent an already perfectly serviceable wheel. It does though allow Zoe a more active role than she sometimes got on-screen, as she’s forced to become a tool of the Daleks and their acolytes, her mission to wreck the budding peace between the two races involved in the negotiations. And, perhaps more significantly, it underlines the shadows of its title – while Zoe’s memories have been awoken by her fear of the Daleks, there’s also a sense that the Doctor himself has a fundamental fear of the Sons of Skaro, as he quite freaks out for a few moments here, in believable Troughton ‘Oh crumbs!’ style. And most importantly of all, there’s the twist on the title that is at the very heart of the Daleks: they’re frightened of everything that isn’t them, that isn’t like them. They’re bullies, and at the heart of every bully, whether on a playground or a political stage, is the fear that they’re not good enough. They project outwards, to protect themselves. They hate others, before others can show them hate. And the challenge goes further than stopping them – the challenge is to stop yourself from becoming them.

You can tell Fear of the Daleks is an early Companion Chronicle – there’s little by way of impersonation, or even especially voice differentiation from Wendy Padbury in this story, but there’s certain an authentic voice of Zoe in a story which is told entirely by Padbury with occasional screeching interjections by Nick ‘the Dalek’ Briggs. Briggs’ Daleks too are a little more ragged than they would eventually become, but they’re certainly recognisably good enough to send the fear of the Sixties and Seventies Daleks shuddering down your spine when you hear them.

Is Fear of the Daleks an all-time classic Dalek story? No, that would be pushing it – the single hour run-time makes classic Dalek mayhem a tall order, and the story tries perhaps a little too hard to spin grand drama and epic consequence out of the results of this single point of diplomatic to-and-fro, and from the technology used to interfere with it. But it certainly stands as solid, Troughton-era, MacGuffin-based Doctor Who with a screeching Dalek flavour, while bringing Zoe as we knew her back to us, and opening up some fascinating questions for future stories, in terms of the breakdown of Zoe’s memory wipe.

If your life is feeling Dalek-light, take an hour out of your busy schedule and feel the Fear of the Daleks one more time. It’s authentically black-and-white gittery from the pepperpots of doom, shifted forward a little to allow the character of Zoe Herriot to shine.

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

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