Thursday, 25 November 2010

Blood of the Daleks written by Steve Lyons and directed by Nicholas Briggs

What’s it about: "People of Red Rocket Rising, my fellow citizens. Our long night is over. I've been contacted by a benevolent people. They too have known great trials, but they have overcome them and made it their mission to help others do the same. They have offered us refuge, and passage to the nearest human worlds. They have the resources, and the patience and compassion, to evacuate every one of us. My fellow citizens, my friends, rescue is at hand!"

Breathless Romantic: Its very interesting to see the subtle differences between this eighth Doctor and the one from the main range. He’s far less Tiggerish and has a more sulky, forceful nature and he feels a little more dangerous than we are used to. This is all healthy development perhaps as a result of his previous experiences with Charley and C’rizz (assuming the Lucie relationship comes after The Girl Who Never Was). He actually feels more like the amnesiac eighth Doctor from the BBC range, still with moments of gentleness but forcing home his points with real drive. It’s fascinating that both BBC Books and Big Finish took on the eighth Doctor and he began his life as something less than popular with his fans and both ranges decided to take him in a whole new direction and radically alter his character. I guess it’s no different than the quantum leap of the Doctor from Dragonfire and Remembrance of the Daleks and whilst this is only the first story to feature this harder eighth Doctor if he keeps this up he will certainly be more enjoyable to spend time with than the up’n’down guy from the main range.

It is his real hair. Lucie calls him a frock-coated ponce and an alien weirdo…geez it won’t even be this hard with Donna! A rubbish driver in her opinion. He gets a proper nark on about having Lucie dumped on him by the Time Lords, he’s furious at their interference in his life again. He declares it is too late for the people of Red Rocket Rising without even trying to see if there is anything he can do. I love his ruthless condemnation of the Daleks (and rightly so), if he saw the slightest hint of redemption he would be thrilled but he doesn’t think they are capable. It’s really nasty when he gets a live cable to his back! The Daleks peg him as a terrorist whose actions have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Daleks (interesting spin, they should be in politics). Thinks he looks sharp but he actually looks as though he’s never shopped anywhere trendy in his life. About the same age as Lucie’s dad? The Daleks get very excited about the Doctor! At times he is bitingly witty the likes of which we haven’t seen since Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor at his height. The Daleks reckon him to be an efficient ally! He will not allow there to be two races of Daleks and will help one side commit genocide to prevent this – wow. He gets a newsflash from Lucie, if she waited for him to save the day she would still be waiting. Lucie revises her opinion slightly and calls him gutsy and he apologises to her for the deadly situation the Time Lords have put her in. The Doctor’s plan is sheet murder and he has to walk into the heart of it. For the Doctor this is like a recurring nightmare, he could stop the birth of this new race of Daleks just like in Genesis of the Daleks. He taunts the dying Daleks, praying for a scrap of decency but mocking their unflinching prejudice even in death. He genuinely tries to leave Lucie behind (that would have been a short partnership!) but the TARDIS cannot leave without her.

Luscious Lucie: This is a really interesting take on bringing in a companion on the show; the Doctor is forced to shack up with her (and unlike The Ribos Operation this is not an amicable understanding). Lucie is dumped on the Doctor by the Time Lords in a witness protection scheme, she has seen something that she cannot remember and her life is in danger because of it. As far as Lucie is concerned she is supposed to be on her way to her first day at work and she is not thrilled to find instead that she has been shoved in a magical cupboard and sent to a post apocalyptic world! What I really like about this approach is that we are asked to take most of this on faith, on Lucie’s word and because she is so (dare I say it) unlikable for most of the first episode you have to wonder if something far more insidious is going on. Consider my appetite whetted…

Lucie is cocky, she’s mouthy and she will stick up for herself. She’s from 2006 and not from Preston. She’s nearly 20 thank you very much! She spends most of the first episode being cold and argumentative, a far cry from the warm-hearted sonova that she would become.
I really like how suspicious the Doctor is of her – clearly he’s had his fingers burnt in the past with companions and its great to see a bit of northern attitude in the TARDIS. She’s cagey because she doesn’t trust the Doctor either. Where she comes from tin foil hats are usually not a good sign. Lucie knows the Doctor is a Time Lord…how? Their relationship can be summed up with her spitting at him ‘you can get stuffed, nice not knowing you!’ in the first episode. Lucie wants to live a bit, to see a few things before she has to go back to her life. She’s hopelessly naïve at this point, shouting ‘Oi Mr Dalek, over ‘ere!’ to hitch a ride with the metal critters. Once she is their prisoner she’s even mouthier to the Daleks than she was to the Doctor! She admits that the Doctor is just someone she hitched a ride with. She needs the Doctor to stay alive as he is her ticket out of here. Even at the story’s conclusion they are only uneasy allies.

Standout Performance: I didn’t even realise that was Anita Dobson until Nick Briggs read out the cast list in his deliciously melodramatic fashion. She’s really rather good. However the regulars steal the limelight in this story with Paul McGann getting his teeth into some dark material and Sheridan Smith holding her own beautifully in her debut story.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Those who forget the past are doomed.’
‘For your species of mutants there can only be extermination!’
‘We came to make sure that the blood of the Daleks remain pure!’
‘We have come to help! Fish and chips for all!’

Great Ideas: The TARDIS is not even scratched when a speeding car smashes into it. The people of Red Rocket Rising are like animals, using the exodus to surrender to their baser instincts. The fallout of the asteroid strike is literal acid rain, earthquakes, tidal waves and most of the population died within minutes. Martez needed human tissue so he violated barely dug graves and took living specimens. I love the Daleks offering the hand of friendship…the devious bastards – they caused the disaster in the first place! ‘We wish to help you’ indeed! Painting the Daleks as patient, compassionate saviours is fantastic and it shocks me that writers can still find new facets to these creatures. A much-maligned species to be pities who have offered their help to prevent the people of Red Rocket Rising from becoming like them? The Doctor suggests that the Daleks are afraid of everything, which is a really good point. Martez found a crashed Dalek spaceship and began to turn his own people into Dalek mutants based on the creatures he found in the wreckage. He sent out a invitation to the Daleks to help him with a birthing of a new strand of Daleks but instead they deflected the asteroid in an attempt to destroy the abominations. When they realise they have not succeeded they land under the cover of helping them to find the mutants and murder them. The Daleks shot down the exodus ships and the ionic dust in the atmosphere is from the engines of the evacuating ships. The waited, watching this world die. Martez realises what she has done when his Daleks call their own brothers reinforcements. Their creed is that everyone is an enemy of the Daleks, everyone must die and all this death and destruction doesn’t make them rethink that one bit. The blood of the Daleks must remain pure. Inside of a Dalek is described as like someone throwing up a squid dinner! Oh God how unlucky can one planet be? Help is coming from a world populated by people like the survivors, a world called Telos! Argh! The ending is intriguing, a Headhunter takes an assignment to find Lucie Miller and there is nowhere in time and space she can hide from her…

Audio Landscape: Lucie drops in on the TARDIS with an unforgettable scream, poisonous winds, people screaming, grinding, squealing metal, rumbling ominous thunder, pitiful Dalek voices offering help on the comms, the landing ramp extending, Dalek voices echoing around the valley, the Dalek heartbeat, the quirky mutant voices, sonic screwdriver, Dalek blasts battering at the door, bloodthirsty crowd attacking the Daleks, the utter destruction as the two factions of Daleks tear the ¤¤¤¤ out of each other, pitiful dying screams of the Daleks, sticky sickly mutants…

Musical Cues: The music is superb with some really dramatic beats and bursting with tension and excitement. It makes the story feel really urgent and important. There’s unforgettable choral music as the Daleks arrive. Listen to the music as the Daleks ask for the Doctor, its crashing drumbeats and really aggressive.

Result: A juicy dramatic production to kick start the eighth Doctor’s new series. It starts rather weakly (the first 15 minutes are a little awkward) but as soon as the Daleks arrive it just gets better and better, adding layers to the apocalypse storyline and truly driving home their dislike for the unlike. In fact it is a fabulous story for the Daleks because they are absolute evil bastards; indiscriminate murderers, perverse plotters and genocidally evil. The pace is extraordinary after the ponderous, overlong chapters of the Divergent Universe arc so it feels like an action packed breath of fresh air, unpretentious and exciting. Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith get to butt heads furiously throughout but there are hints of the magic to come and this is certainly an intriguing take on the usual orphan companion introduction. Attention grabbing, which was exactly the right note to start this series on: 9/10

Buy it here from Big Finish:
Part One:
Part Two:


Adam Graham said...

I actually really enjoyed Kenneth Cranham as Tim Cardwell, the crazy conspiracy guy who'd happened to be right. He was the type of crazy you need to have around some times. And the final scene of the war between the Daleks and the Human/Dalek mutants was priceless.

Zagreus said...

I HATED Sheridan Smith as Lucie Miller in this first appearance. But I pushed on, hoping that I'd warm to her (or at least find her more tolerable) over time. Unfortunately that didn't happen, as I pretty much despised every second of her performance in every episode that followed in this first series. I still haven't managed to bring myself to listen to the three series that follows.

From a company that went to great lengths to improve the legacy of the likes of Peri, Turlough, Tegan, and even Adric and Mel, it still amazes me that they could have created a character this intensely irritating, petulant, whiny, and severely unlikeable. And that voice was like nails on a chalkboard.

David Pirtle said...

Breath of fresh air is right. I'm only partly through the Divergent arc, and I had to take a break and listen to something else Paul McGann has done to remind me that he can be a great Doctor.