Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Juggernauts written by Scott Goddard and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about: Within a small mining colony on the dark and distant planet of Lethe, events are occurring the results of which could dramatically affect things on a universal scale. For within the dingy corridors of the artificial biosphere, the lone survivor of a devastating crash has expertly wormed his way into the lives of the colony¹s personnel. A scientist known as Davros. Separated from one another across space and time, the Doctor and Mel find themselves in very different predicaments: Mel has been employed on Lethe, while the Doctor has been imprisoned aboard an alien spacecraft. Both situations are inexorably linked, however,and at the apex of the two sits Davros and the terrifying possibility of a new threat even more powerful than the Daleks! Rescuing Mel and stopping Davros should be the Doctor¹s primary goals, but could it be that this time, Mel does not wish to be rescued? And might Davros actually be working on something for the benefit of the civilised galaxies.

Aristocratic Adventurer: The Juggernauts does something very unusual and gives Mel the focus but that hardly means the Doctor is sitting quietly on the sidelines, especially not this Doctor! Although there are plays that give him more development it is fascinating to see the Doctor working for the Daleks and inveigling himself into Davros’ little set up to bring the insane little Hitler down. He finds the TARDIS a sight for irritated iregulai! When he regains consciousness he calls out for Evelyn. Upon seeing the Daleks he tells them it isn’t a pleasure and this time he really seems to relish in provoking them, especially when they reveal they want something of him! The Doctor hasn’t been rescued; the Daleks want to recruit him to prevent the creation of a species that would go on to threaten them. I was surprised that he didn’t laugh in their faces at that but he agrees to help the Daleks in the re-capture of their creator for Mel’s sake. Mel makes a valid point; how can a man with such colourful taste in clothes have such drab décor in the TARDIS? He sweetly admits that it didn’t take Mel long to make an impression on him (a compliment…he really has changed!). Davros blames the Doctor for his degeneration and he staunchly denies this, saying the twisted genius cannot accept responsibility for anything. The relationship between the sixth Doctor and Davros is as good as it gets, in their three stories together they have developed an ugly mutual respect for each other whilst still maintaining that they are enemies. I love the quiet tension between them with Davros spending all this time building up something (even if it is something as vile as the truth behind the Mechanoids) and the Doctor coming along and pulling it all down. The Doctor cannot reveal the fate of the Daleks and Davros wonders if that is because he has a hand in it? He even doubts himself once a lifetime. Mel says that his is a noble heart. You have applaud any story that makes the Doctor work for the Daleks and Davros is attempting to wipe them out! What an ingenious role reversal!

Generous Ginge: Astonishing that Mel can be given such development, exposing the ineptitude of the characterisation in the late eighties for the companions. Whilst The Fires of Vulcan and The One Doctor really gave Bonnie Langford something dramatic and fun to play respectively, it’s not until The Juggernauts that she actually has a vehicle to really show what she is capable of. We get to see her surviving on her wits and intelligence in the future, making friends and even pursuing a romance of sorts. You’ve got to watch these geeky redheads; as soon as your back is turned they are up to all sorts! The Juggernaut programmed wouldn’t be at the stage it
is without Mel’s help, despite her ‘primitive’ education. She feels sorry for the Professor not knowing that she is actually working for Davros. Isn’t it amazing how likable Mel is when you tone down her character and let her fit in, Bonnie is really given the chance to be more natural here. Despite wanting to stay on Lethe, the Doctor has shown her the universe and as soon as he turns up again she will have to say goodbye. She admits that working with the Professor has been a welcome break from the Doctor and Davros admits she is a programming specialist. I loved the quiet moment Mel gave Jeff ‘just a kiss…don’t make a fuss’, she likes him. Jeff gives her a music box so when she is off flying around the universe she will have it to remind Mel of him. What I liked about the writing here is that Mel is taken in so much by Davros that she tells the Doctor he is wrong and it feels right that she should say that (unlike, say, Adric in Four to Doomsday when he sounded like a dick for believing Monarch). Hell hath no fury like a Melanie Bush scorned! She’s socialising in a bar, playing games, acting like a normal person! Mel always ensures there is a backdoor in every programme she writes. She’s furious when she realises the Doctor is working with the Daleks. I love it when she gets mad – ‘You will not hurt my friends Davros!’ and turn the Mechanoids on him. Mel is responsible for Davros’ near total emaciation in Remembrance of the Daleks! Her reaction to Jeff’s death is really upsetting; she admits they were almost more than just friends. She breaks down over everything when she gets back to the TARDIS and plays the music box in a solemn last scene.

Standout Performance: Whilst Bonnie Langford is very good in this standout showing for her character it is Terry Molloy who gives the most memorable performance, really selling the kindly Professor routine and slipping into his growling and purring psychotic Davros menacingly.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Daleks? Where did you find these, a jumble sale?’

Great Ideas: Separating Mel from the Doctor and forcing her to find a life for herself in the future was a great place for this story to start. The Juggernauts are the most advanced service robots ever built with a retro design to please the Earthers.
I loved the sequence of Mel talking to the Professor from the Doctor’s point of view…how his kindly voice suddenly becomes Davros! Davros has infiltrated the small mining colony on Lethe and Kryson knows exactly who he is because he is a stimulant addict and can see through the disguise. Time does not always heal, Davros is even more scarred and disabled but his mind is still alert. It was never his intention to become the stuff of nightmares but to use the Daleks to bring order to a chaotic universe. Was it a foolish dream for him to want a legacy? The Daleks come to him in desperation expecting Davros to solve all their problems and now he has had enough! This was a chance for him to start anew and everybody liked him as Professor Vaso. He created the Mechanoids as re-imagined Daleks, the ultimate Dalek killers! They are self sufficient, self-repairing and self-replicating and human blood leaks from inside them. When they open one up inside and Davros has been carving up personnel and hooking up their heart, brain and blood. Davros is trying to negotiate contracts with hospitals so at the moment of termination the various facilities collect the component parts and ship them to the Juggernaut facilities. What a sick, sick idea! I love it! Offering customers immortality…only Davros could try and commercialise something as sick as this! The deceased miners have all been turned into Mechanoids. Can Davros no longer be held accountable for the Daleks actions just as a parent can be for a child’s? When the Juggernauts attack Davros his self-destruction mechanism is activated. The Doctor ponders that if Davros is allowed to die it is unfair that someone like him has found peace. Did they go ahead with the Juggernaut programmed then, considering what we saw in The Chase?

Audio Landscape: An impressive soundscape in this story. When I first started listening to Big Finish stories I found they used to be at their most vivid in the earthbound stories but they have really got the hang of futuristic environments now. What could have looked dated on screen becomes another world on audio. The story opens and closes on an explosion, sirens, footsteps on metal grating, I love how the noise cuts as the escape pod closes around Mel, the aching, groaning hull, bulkheads crashing to the ground, glass smashing, an impressive blast radius, lots of electronic voices, shower jets, the Dalek heartbeat and doors, those gorgeous Mechanoid voices, hovering (!!), the poorly sounding Dalek that can’t quite get ‘EXT-TERMINATE!’ out, a Gary Russell tannoy, the Peter Cushing movie control room noises, a heartbeat, the impressive production line stamping metal and all out war as the Daleks and the Mechanoids blast the ¤¤¤¤ out of each other! The story closes on the music box.

Musical Cues: There are creepy electronic stings, very reminiscent of Davros and just as effective. Nice mournful xylophone playing by Jeff. The music gets very exciting as the Daleks and Mechanoids fight!

Result: The Juggernauts throws lots of interesting ideas into the mix and lets the resulting drama bubble to the surface. It’s a quiet piece for the most part but with a great role for Mel, the Doctor at his sarcastic best and Davros insidiously trying to redeem himself in the most revolting way possible its never boring. Gary Russell directs this story with precision, creating a very believable futuristic environment. Episode four picks up the pace and features what we have been waiting for all along, the Daleks and the Mechanoids blowing the crap out of each other! An assured production with plenty of funky set pieces but lots of intelligent undercurrents too: 8/10

Artwork by Simon Hodges @


Celestial Fundy said...

I enjoyed this story a lot.

It was great to hear the Mechanoid voices again. However, I thought the idea of the Mechanoids containing human organs seemed a bit pointless. They seemed effective enough just as robots.

Bonnie Langford is fantastic in this (and in her other audios). It does seem awkward though, that she comes across so differently to the character we saw in the t.v. show. It's hard to imagine the capable Juggernauts Mel turning into the Mel we see in Paradise Towers!

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