Blood of the Daleks 2.

TV Unsurprisingly, this review contains a few spoilers so don't read it unless you've heard 'Blood of the Daleks' first. I'll just reassure you that once again, it's really, really good and you should go here and listen to it here if you haven't already or you're waiting for the cd.

Who is the mysterious Mr. Halburt and what does he want with Lucie Miller?

Unlike the television versions, Doctor Who spin-offs have always been good at plot arcs. Whereas the Key To Time Season was handstrung by telling essentially the same story four or six times, in the first few seasons of the McGann audios, the problem of Charley Pollard become heart rendering and in the books the amnesiac Doctor, stuck on earth for nearly a century was a fertile ground for stories and mysteries and cultural investigation.

The arc in this new BBC7 series has begun. Lucie and The Doctor are very much stuck together by the timelords, he apparently hiding or protecting her after she's witnessed something unknown - that much was apparent from Part One. Now, a Mr. Halburt has engaged the services of someone called the Headhunter (played with a sinister professionalism by Big Finish stalwart Katarina Olsson), an apparent bounty hunter with the facility to travel all time and space, to find the reluctant companion.

It's all very mysterious, all very Lost, but unlike the Bad Wolf scenario were anything was possible and the reveal was inevitably going to be disappointing, this has very specific parameters, and turns this whole season into a chase and it's going to be really fun as the clues are revealed over the coming weeks as to what the Northerner saw, why the timelords want to hide her, and the connect with their antagonist.

But that's for the future. Tonight's concluding part of Blood of the Daleks was an eclectic mix of traditional and nu-Who, authentic enough to have the announcer give a recap beforehand (which if this had been television would have no doubt featured on-set photos of the cast looking at something far off) but with the contemporary spin on the Doctor's arch foes seen in the new series - they fly and say 'Elevate!' as they're doing so.

Hayleyatwell1 After the setting up of the world and the tragedy in the opening part, this was the Dalek heavy end of the story, with Nick Briggs doing over time on the ring modulator to create a cast of hundreds. Perhaps knowing that this story was to be heard by a much wider audience than something like the Dalek Empire stories, writer Steve Lyons concocted a straightforward meat and potatoes plot riffing on Genesis of the Daleks or Spare Parts, in which a proto-Davros, Martez (a chillingly clinical Hayley Atwell, pictured), living beyond his own execution in the body of one of his young female lab assistants was employing a crashed ship from Skaro to breed a new race using the inhabitants of his world, Red Rocket Rising, as fodder.

Unsurprisingly, the classic Daleks decided that these new boys weren't pure enough and set about trying to eradicate them, and in a twist I loved, the Doctor was helping them. Seems that he always regretted not using the right all of those centuries ago and wanted to nip this genesis in the bud, "I had chance like this before", he says, "and I chose not to take it. Big mistake." This was catharsis for him and it revealed a much darker streak in the Eighth Doctor than we've seen before (well since the whole Zagreus thing), deciding that it's a perfectly viable option to use one evil to destroy potentially an even greater one. Even after all these years, the Daleks still have the capacity to push buttons -- whenever they talked about racial purity, a chill went down my back.

If this had been made for television the result would have been Dalek porn, as the two factions went to war, with the tiny human colony jammed in the middle, their ravaged world becoming a shell. If last week the story resembled the BBC's Day of the Triffids, this had all the hallmarks of Spielberg's War of the Worlds with the Doctor and everyone else dodging in and out of buildings trying to escape the carnage. The atmospheric sound design here has a much greater depth than most Big Finish production, with one scene in which the Doctor and Lucie viewed the first meeting of the two factions from the top window of a building being particularly potent. The score too was far more apparent, with a lovely use of the strings to punctuate the catastrophe.

Daleks_3 Inevitably, comparisons can be made with the new television series, with the mass Dalek army flying through the air, despite apparently being the classic models according to the cd box of the first episode, probably looking exactly like similar scenes in Doomsday. The resolution too smacked of The Age of Steel, but the final end to the conflict, fittingly for audio, was more to do with the Doctor's persuasive powers rather than some massive explosion. The theme of parallel development was repeated here too. I remember wondering, watching that mid-second season two parter what it would be like if the Telos Cybermen actually ever fought the parallel Earth versions and I imagine the results would have been something like this - although given that the former frequently couldn't walk or shoot straight and took ages to build a bomb the contest might not have been as even handed as this.

In this month's Doctor Who Magazine, in reviewing the opening episode, Matt Michael noted that unlike Rose, there wasn't much time set aside for the listener to get a handle of Lucie, for us to love her. I'd dispute that this is actually too important, and that unlike Rose, we're seeing the adventure largely from the Doctor's point of view - she's actually part of whatever the problem he's dealing with. Lucie had less to do in this episode and yet she was still given that moment which all companions seem to have, when dealing with Tom Cardwell (whom I'd marked for death but turned into something of a heroic figure) and his explosive batteries, when they realise that whatever the Doctor is doing must be right and they should be doing everything they can to help him.

The reason I like her, apart from Sheridan Smith's delicious performance is that she's actually bringing out a new side to the Eighth Doctor. I'd love to know what the kids listening to this are making of this version a character, so huggable on screen, so aggravated on radio. I don't think he laughed for this entire fifty minutes except in mockery, and he's no doubt got a permanent scowl which says 'the timelords have bloody gone and done it to me again'. As I said last week, and I'll probably to continue to keep saying, the chemistry between the two actors and so characters is brilliant - it's like someone has taken Clarke Gable and Claudette Colbert's characters from Frank Capra's It Happened One Night and dropped them in a Tardis together. Sort of. The Doctor's less charming than Gable, but you get the idea. Screwball. As in comedy.

But what I really love about this is that it isn't afraid to drop in continuity references - it fits within the classic series more fluidly. In one exchange, the Doctor wonders if the Daleks were fighting the Movellans, the Mechanoids or each other and there's a lovely twist at the very end, in which Anita Dobson's vacant President Klint reveals that the woes of the Red Rock Rising aren't entirely over - some change from an arena in which just saying G-word is a major event. Only a fan though would also still be stressing about were in the Eighth Doctor's timeline this is set; according to the Gallifrey spin-off the Doctor was still in the divergent universe in the closing episode in which case the timelords are all but destroyed. In which case this might be happening before Storm Warning, but that doesn't seem right either. Any ideas?

Next Week: The Tardis lands for the first time properly in the year of my birth. Scary.

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