Big Finish - Doctor Who: Dalek Universe THE DALEK PROTOCOL Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish - Doctor Who: Dalek Universe THE DALEK PROTOCOL Review

Matthew Kresal returns to Exxilon.
For a while now, fans have been teased about an upcoming Big Finish series called Dalek Universe. A series that will see Classic and Modern Who come together with David Tennant's Tenth Doctor pairing up with agents of the Space Security Service from the epic 1965-66 serial The Daleks' Master Plan and various spin-offs. Before it kicks off, however, Big Finish has offered up a prologue of sorts, featuring Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor alongside Leela and K-9, in Nicholas Briggs' The Dalek Protocol.

The multi-talented Briggs has long been on record as being not just a Dalek fan but a particular fan of the 1974 Third Doctor story Death to the Daleks. And The Dalek Protocol as a story is, in large part, a sequel to that serial featuring the planet Exxilon, its backdrop of a great space plague, and even a much older returning character (who is voiced by Briggs). And it's not just Briggs touching upon that story but also composer Jamie Robertson who infuses elements of Carey Blyton's score for the TV story into his own here. Fans of Death to the Daleks will enjoy the fun in spotting the references and recurring elements from that story.

While it leans on Death to the Daleks, as script editor John Dorney points out in the extras, this is also a sequel to other things. It ties into much of the sixties and seventies spin-off fiction that Dalek creator Terry Nation penned, including elements of The Daleks' Master Plan that seeped into the various Dalek annuals, such as android Space Security Service operative Mark Seven (Joe Sims). The return of Jane Slavin's Anya Kingdom adds to the sequel flavor, especially given the temporal hijinks means the Fourth Doctor has not met her yet, but she met him some time ago. Not that any of that is necessary to know going into the story, but being aware of it certainly adds to the flavor of the piece for the knowing listener.

As all that may attest, as does who the author (who is also the director and a cast member), this is very much your traditional Dalek story. If his script for The Conquest of Far in The Third Doctor Adventures a few years ago was his pastiching Nation's Planet of the Daleks, then this is Briggs' pastiching later Nation stories like Death to the Daleks. It's a bit of a runaround with gradual pacing, even as characters (and, by extension, the listener) receive frequent reminders of the terrible things happening elsewhere as all this is taking place, something that perhaps wears a bit thin across four episodes. Even the character archetypes receive faithful pastiching. Indeed, it's easy to imagine that if Nation had written a Fourth Doctor era sequel to Death to the Daleks, it could well have sounded like this story. Whether that's your cup of tea is, of course, entirely up to the listener.

That said, there's lots of enthusiasm and fun on display, something the cast brings to the forefront. The season 15 TARDIS trio has rarely sounded better, with Tom Baker and Louise Jameson bouncing nicely off each other while John Leeson's K-9 gets a reduced role in proceedings. Slavin and Sims do well as what are, essentially, co-leads of the story, nicely (re)introducing their characters ahead of the Dalek Universe series. The supporting cast also do well, including Jez Fiedler and Anna Mitcham playing Exxilons and Kingdom's underling, respectively. Lastly, there's writer-director Briggs in not one but three roles, not only voicing the Daleks with his usual skill but two other characters. While not unusual for Briggs to pop up in supporting roles, the characters he takes on here are major ones, leading to moments where you suddenly realize he's talking to himself essentially. Perhaps this is because I've spent nearly 15 years listening to Big Finish, but it was something that yanked me out of the story at times, despite how well Briggs plays the roles. On the whole, though, the cast is clearly having a ball bringing the script to life.

In the final analysis, The Dalek Protocol is a neat pastiche/sequel of a story. One that its writer/director enjoyed making, as did its cast, and should be just the ticket for fans of those mid-1970s Dalek adventures and annuals. Is it essential listening ahead of the Tenth Doctor's arrival in the Dalek Universe box-sets? Of that, this reviewer isn't so sure, given how standalone the story otherwise seems to be. But there are worse ways to spend your money and exterminate a couple of hours of your time than giving The Dalek Protocol a go.

Doctor Who: Dalek Universe - The Dalek Protocol is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 May 2021, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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