Big Finish: Doctor Who - Looking Back At THE DALEK OCCUPATION OF WINTER - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - Looking Back At THE DALEK OCCUPATION OF WINTER

Moo warms up to a different kind of Dalek adventure.
There are so many Dalek stories out there by now, so it’s entirely reasonable to ask how something new can be done with them. Take the recent TV outing Revolution of the Daleks. I personally really enjoyed it, but it’s entirely valid to point out that it borrows heavily from earlier Big Finish offering Blood of the Daleks.

In 2018 however, a truly new take on the Daleks came along. Big Finish debutant David K. Barnes made a contribution to The Early Adventures range: The Dalek Occupation of Winter.

It starts off feeling just like a typical William Hartnell story, with the Doctor and companions Vicki and Steven arriving on an alien planet where they find something is off and there’s a menace bubbling under the surface.

The title gives the game away somewhat, but knowing there are Daleks involved actually adds to the suspense this time. You go through the opening section of the story knowing they will be showing up, but that’s all so that Barnes can subvert your expectations and offer a superb twist on the formula.

Because this time, the Daleks are helping the locals. Or so it seems anyway. There’s always a little bit more going on, and as the title outlines this is a Dalek occupation.

The difference is that occupation here is the other kind of occupation. Employment, purpose, career. The planet Winter has the Daleks keeping the citizens busy with a Dalek production line, and there’s a political thematic core here. Daleks have been fascist archetypes since their debut, and here it explores them getting into arms production. The brightest of the population are doing their research, the less academically inclined are off to the factories, and the rich and powerful are complicit in the entire operation.

While answering the question of how the Daleks can maintain their power over the civilisation, it’s a story that humanises the people complicit in keeping them in power: The need for employment and economic stability and how this goes hand-in-hand with the evil forces staying in charge.

This kind of political storytelling isn’t laid on too thick. The story and characters come first, and Barnes stays focussed on these things, but the themes and message are there. It’s never preachy but it is there, and getting that balance right goes a long way towards elevating the story. Not only is it a unique take on the Daleks, it’s also a very relevant story in today’s climate.  Credit to Barnes for pulling that off! I must also single out the cast; Maureen O'Brien remains excellent as Vicki while Peter Purves, doing double-duty as both the Doctor and Steven, is pitch-perfect. Nicholas Briggs is still the definitive Dalek voice after so many years, and he succeeds in that rare feat of making them actually scary here.

Overall then, The Dalek Occupation of Winter is a superb offering for the titular villains. Big Finish have done a lot of stories with them over time, but this is a truly unique take on the maniacal peperpots that stands out from the crowd.

“Moo” is the pseudonym used by this Doctor Who fan. He can usually be found procrastinating by thinking about Doctor Who. Follow him on Twitter @z_p_moo for more of his unusual takes, but do so at your own risk.

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