Monday, 11 April 2011

The Human Factor written and directed by Nicholas Briggs

What’s it about: Alby Brook and Gordon Pellan are following the best information they have to locate Suz in Dalek-infested space. But what is it the Daleks want with her? On the slave planet Guria, Alby discovers Suz is already gaining a reputation as something of an angel of mercy. Could it be that she is now working for the Daleks? But as Suz and Kalendorf travel from planet to planet a murmur of defiance is growing… 'Death to the Daleks… death to the Daleks…’

Angel of Mercy: It really hurts Suz when Karlendorf reminds her she is the only slave that volunteered to work for the Daleks and only the truth hurts. Each time she is summoned to the Dalek Supreme she knew it more and more that it had no soul and yet it knew how to invade the very heart of her. She hates herself for saving so many lives to aid the Dalek cause and begs for the Supreme Dalek not to use her name like she is a collaborator. She screams that she doesn’t want to die and they know that so of course she will do their dirty work for them. She wants Kalendorf to come along and give her hope. After a time it appears that Susan has figured out how to manipulate the Daleks and with the backing of the Supreme Dalek they are deferential to her. She has the same doubts that the Daleks might never be defeated. Susan convinces Morebi and his rebels to sacrifice their lives to draw attention away from their undercover rebellion – is she starting to think like a Dalek already? Kalendorf tells her she almost sounds like a Dalek (‘It had to be done.’). She screams at the Dalek Supreme that she thought Alby was dead and he was somebody she had fallen in love but it would never understand that.

Anti-Hero: I really like Alby even though there isn’t a great deal to his character. He reminds me very much of Miles O’Brien from Deep Space Nine, a really likable everyman sort of bloke who it is incredibly easy to torture because he is so nice. Turns out Alby is a spy, a security operative for the Earth Alliance. He comes from a broken home, he lived in a slum in Proxima Major, he was a juvenile criminal and joined the army in order to escape. His sentence was suspended for agreeing to work for the Security Service. A life with no real hope or beauty until he met Susan Mendez. He’s been given new legs; they were blown clean off during the Dalek attack.

Knight of Velyshaa: They only let Kalendorf tag along to keep Suz happy which is completely out of character for them. He’s spent all of his life training to fight for the glory of his people, since birth every fibre of him has been attuned to the needs of combat and in all that time his people have been living under the shame of defeat. He knows what the impulse to strike a blow feels like, it lives in his heart as though the battle has never ceased, as if the defeat at the hands of the Earth Empire had never come about and yet he can still wait. He proves to be a very competent mediator.

Standout Performance: There are two scenes where Sarah Mowat will really make you stand up and pay attention; her first scene with the Dalek Supreme where she admits she doesn’t want to die and will do as they want and then when she admits to it later that she loves Alby. Astonishing the amount of unsettling drama they can get in dialogue scenes between a human and a Dalek and Mowat pitches her performance perfectly.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Have you ever looked into the eyes of someone for whom survival has no meaning?’
‘You must kill them. Kill them all!’ – what a great shock moment as Susan orders the Daleks to kill the rebels.

Great Ideas: The Dalek War would go on with or without Susan giving hope to the slaves but would their spread throughout the galaxy be quite so effective? A group of workers are refusing to work on one of the Garazone moons. They have massacred the Robomen and burnt them alive. It took half of their forces just to disable one Dalek, how will they stand up to a hundred of them? Two Daleks would be enough to deal with all of the rebels. Imagine the thought of being told that you might have to work under the thrall of the Daleks and the rebellion may not even come until long after you have died? If Morebi and his rebels had been captured they would have been interrogated and they would have found out about their secret message in Suz’s speeches so she orders them all killed. Kalendorf wonders what an army of Daleks thinks as they wait in the ranks before battle, itching to get out there and start killing. Rheinsburg had a huge top-secret project with the Earth Alliance Security Service called Project Infinity but nobody knows much about it. It comes as quite a surprise when the Dalek Supreme orders their saucer not to attack because the life of Susan Mendez is more important to them than the planet Guria! The cliffhanger is great with Alby having survived several Dalek assaults only to find himself under fire from the Earth Alliance Security Forces!

Audio Landscape: Dogs barking, horses whinnying, the Garazone jingle, the Dalek heartbeat, a montage of speeches Susan gave the slaves on different planets in the Dalek Empire, the echoing voids of Kalendorf’s mind as he communicates telepathically, the cruiser descending on the moon, jets firing, the landing ramp disengaging, crackling fire, the fat of burnt corpses, screams of ‘DEATH TO THE DALEKS!’, a Dalek saucer descending, Dalek firepower destroying the warehouse, Guerrier is a world of vicious winds and a lively, stormy sea, firing on the Dalek saucer, hyperlink communications, the cruiser screaming through the atmosphere, there’s a wonderful shock moment when Alby thinks they are being saved by the rebels and you hear the Nazi-esque chanting of the Daleks suddenly, gunfire.

Isn’t it Odd: There’s a really horrendous scene that is completely out of synch with the rest of the production that sees the Gurian leaders brought before the Daleks and laughing uncontrollably because they are so nervous. Its inclusion baffles me! I did a little Dalek extermination dance when Highness was blasted to smithereens!

Standout Scene: There’s a terrific moment when Kalendorf first lands on one of Garazone’s moons and the scream of a Dalek mutant echoes through the valley and we experience the true horror of the massacre-taking place. They are literally scooping the Daleks from their cases like oysters from a shell, suspending them and torturing them, making them scream. Alby and Suz get so close to meeting, seeing each others faces over the video link and its really exciting!

Notes: I have recently listened to The Apocalypse Element that shows the Daleks at their murderous best destroying all life in the Serephia galaxy so they can build a power bas there. Which is where their Empire has spread out from in this series. I really like it when Doctor Who and the spin off material weaves around each other like this and it’s systematic of the sort of thought and scale that has gone into this series. The rebel worker who is stirring up trouble is called Morebi, which is a Terry Nation character name if ever I heard one! The planet Guria – is Simon in charge?

Result: With the introductions out of the way the story is really starting build into something very engaging. The best scenes still feature Susan Mendez and her wrestle with her conscience as she becomes a Dalek puppet and Mowat and Gareth Thomas share some very strong character moments. Nick Briggs has been completely let off his leash with this series and it is action palooza with exciting dogfights, gun battles, and scenes of torture, incredible explosions and storm lashed planets. It’s an incredible soundscape and it you get pulled into the action to a point where you are ducking bullets and wincing at tortured Daleks! The Guria sections weren’t quite as gripping (especially the badly characterised leaders) but the direction and the performances were still strong and the whole piece ends on an unexpected cliffhanger. Great shocks moments abound in this second chapter: 8/10

Buy it from Big Finish here:

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