2 out of 2 found this review helpful.
I haven't always felt too kindly toward Barnes's stories in the past: They often seem like a big mess of misplaced emotion and ill-advised attempts at being epic and all-encompassing in scope just for its own sake. Yet, always at the core of the stories are some pretty cool and original ideas. I guess this is probably my favourite Barnes script yet, and it is executed brilliantly. I admit it, too: I love the Daleks, and though they're often not handled as the terrible threat that I think they always should be, I usually try and snap up everything with their name on it...I just can't help it!
I liked Charley travelling with Doctor number Six. It was an interesting little twist, and at this point in the arc at least you wonder chiefly how it is that DOctor number eight doesn't remember her in the time of Storm Warning. Here she comes very close to telling Six the truth, but it doesn't quite work out the way she'd planned...
Despite being somewhat in awe of the revelations and inherent cleverness of the script, i have a few problems:
The story is too dependent on one's knowledge of past adventures. Even if one can follow the narrative reasonably without, teh script is littered with nods and winks. This is a common Barnes trait, it seems, and I must say I'm not terribly fond of it. Everything from Planet of the Daleks to Resurrection of the Daleks to Big Finishs own The Mind's Eye and Terra Firma is referenced in some wayy, and there's even what I think is a gag against Terry Nation, with Antares being referred to as a galaxy instead of a solar system at one point. I think this is actually a misunderstanding of Doctor Who fans, who misinterpreted some of the statements in The Dalek master Plan, and that Nation knew exactly what a galaxy was, so this gag is not only kind of lame but falls flat as well. The sad thing is that unless you know all this stuff, you'll just be befuddled for a good portion of the play, or at the least wondering why the characters are talking in such a stilted, strange fashion.
Then there are a couple of questions, or holes which the script seemingly forgot to plug. Either that or I'm misunderstanding a couple of things myself. Spoilers here!!!!:
If the experimental subjects remember Charley from Folkestone, this presumably refers to the events of Terra Firma. I assumed this took place far in the Daleks' future, given Davros's condition in that story, but it seems to be the past from the perspective of Brotherhood of the Daleks. So, if the experimental subjects remember her, why don't the Black Dalek and its entourage? Of course, Daleks being time travellers means they can occasionally reach different points in their own timeline, too, but you'd think the Daleks would check on this sort of thing periodically to make sure they don't erase their own history by accident. Presumably that's what the Time Controller Dalek is for. Perhaps he needed to be present in this story to sort out this mess! Linked to this is the matter of the Doctor himself, who hasn't experienced the Folkestone events yet, yet presumably must have experienced other events in the future timeline of the Daleks. So, why are they more interested in Charley when they create a replicant of the Doctor? Hasn't it been a big deal ever since Genesis or maybe even Day of the Daleks that the Daleks get their hands on the Doctor's memories and knowledge so they can have a glimpse into their own future? Yet they seem obsessed with the idea of Charley and that she reveal where she really comes from. Admittedly the idea of Charley possibly being a replicant designed to infiltrate the TARDIS is a good one...and Charley even thought of it herself! This would sort of have consequences by the time of Patient Zero, though they aren't what one would expect, and for this bit of subversion and cleverness Big Finish should be commended. However, all this begs the question: when was the Doctor replicated anyway? I don't think he was separated from Charley at all up until that point. While the twist of the Doctor in the cell being a replicant was pretty potent and gave me a real chill, I don't see how or when it was done, or why the Daleks never really made a bigger deal of it, since the process of replication usually involves a detailed recording of one's memories. Charley's question of "what have you done with the real Doctor?" never seems to be answered.
The disorienting feel this story occasionally has is something I really like, though. There are basically two false endings; three if you count the fact that the Doctor and Charley nearly clear off in the TARDIS at the end of episode three. There's a real feeling of tension throughout and Charley is at several points just about to break with the truth. She is acting a little obvious, though, I must say; the Doctor always seems on the point of catching on throughout these arc stories and it's kind of bizarre to me that he doesn't. TO be honest, while parts of the Charley arc work for me, and I do like the character, generally I feel it is simultaneously too obvious and convoluted (I assure you such a thing is possible) to work. I admit that it's really interesting, though; Doctor Who has never worked so hard to keep a character going and make her history with the Doctor so strange and complicated.
And, you know...Daleks singing Bolshevik anthems! My god...what'll they think of next. Yet, despite this sort of being played for laughs, the gravity of the story and its implications means that we don't at all stop taking it (or them) seriously. This is probably the weirdest thing that's ever been done with the Daleks, and while a part of me was dubious as to whether this would really work, I found the result really captivating. I nearly felt sorry for Daleks having their natures pulled at and subverted in such a way. Also, The Word is lurking just around the corner, struggling to get out. I knew that it would escape in the end, and when it did, it was both a horrible end and a grand moment of triumph. Exterminate!