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The Time of the Daleks
on 9 April 2016
This is the 32nd story in the Main Range series by Big Finish, first released in 2002. Written by Justin Richards, this story features the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann), travelling with Charley (India Fisher). In the last few stories, where the Doctor and Charley have been travelling together since the Doctor rescued Charley from the destruction of the R-101, the Doctor has been growing increasingly concerned with odd anomalies in the timeline. Could any of this have anything to do with Charley’s rescue from her apparently certain fate in Earth’s timeline?
This story is also the fourth and final in the Dalek Empire arc, which started with The Genocide Machine, and continued in The Apocalypse Element and The Mutant Phase. It’s also the first story in the BF range which has the Eighth Doctor meet up with those oldest of the Doctor’s enemies, the Daleks. So the story is notable for a number of reasons, and important within the Doctor’s own timeline.
When the Tardis is caught up in some temporal disturbance, the Doctor makes a quip, which he is somewhat startled to find is not picked up on by Charley – surely she’s heard of William Shakespeare? But when it appears that she hasn’t, the Doctor knows that something quite impossible is going on, and follows the clues to where the trouble appears to have started. On Earth, General Mariah Learman is determined to quash opposition to her dictatorship. And the rebels are determined to make her bring Shakespeare back, before he’s forgotten completely.
This is a story which could have worked, but which turned out to be a bit of a jumble, with too many ideas which don’t really come across well, or don’t come across in an audio format. There is a lot of confused action, with people, groups of people, travelling through time conduits, and fighting, much of which gets a bit muddled in a purely audio format, and which leaves the listener trying to catch up with what’s going on.
The storyline with the Daleks is good in so far as the Daleks are always good value, and pitting them against the Eighth Doctor allows for a great interaction between these two implacable foes, who know each other so well. But the involvement of the Daleks in the other goings-on which unfold in the story remained a bit obscure, and over-complicated.
The parts of the story which involved the ‘master clock’ and the mirrors seemed all too silly to be believable for one moment, and the subplot with Shakespeare really stretched any credibility.
The story is redeemed, barely, by a great performance by Paul McGann as the Doctor, and by the Daleks, who are, as always, amoral and totally driven by their own evil schemes. The Emperor Dalek’s booming voice always sends chills down the spine.
The story is important for being an Eight/Dalek story, for following the thread of the impact of Charley’s rescue, and for being the last part of the Dalek Empire arc, and also for leading then into the events in the BF audios #33 Neverland and ultimately #50 Zagreus. It’s those things which hold the audio together, not the plot, sadly.