We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re taking a brief break from the Main Range, and listening to Blood of the Daleks, Part One and Part Two, the first in season one of the Eighth Doctor Adventures range of audios. It’s an exciting and popular part of the Big Finish library, and I’ve been looking forward to it. Let’s get started!
Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!
We don’t have a solid date for this story. We can establish that humans are in one of their interstellar colony periods, and sufficiently far enough ahead that the Daleks have been mostly forgotten by the inhabitants of the colony in question, Red Rocket Rising (who names these places?!). We will also see that the Daleks are fighting a war, but we don’t know which one; we can reasonably guess that it’s not the Time War, as the Doctor would certainly have been aware of it and included it in his list of guesses. (I am fully prepared to be proven wrong by later releases, however.) The Eighth Doctor is traveling alone, his most recent companion (not one that I’m familiar with yet) having departed. He is stunned when a young woman appears suddenly in his TARDIS while in mid-flight.
The woman’s name is Lucie Miller; at nineteen years old, she was on her way to her first day of her first job when she found herself in the TARDIS. After some argument, the Doctor tries to return her to 2005, but is unable to; there’s a shield of some sort in the time vortex. Literally bouncing off, the TARDIS lands on Red Rocket Rising—and finds a planet in the wake of a disaster.
Having suffered an asteroid impact, the planet’s two suns are now obscured with ionized dust, and the planet is crashing into an unnatural winter. The Doctor and Lucie fight their way through a mob of survivors, then encounter the acting president of the planet, Eileen Klint. She tells them that several exodus ships already took survivors away, but there are no more ships; and unknown to her, the ships were shot down by the Daleks near the planet. Klint is now desperately broadcasting a distress signal; and while the Doctor is nearby, she receives an answer…from the Daleks.
The Doctor meets Asha Gryvern, a young woman who was the assistant to one Professor Martez, now deceased. Martez had found a crashed Dalek ship, and salvaged machines and information from it, and had taken the notion of advancing human evolution in that direction. Using first the dead, and then the living, he transformed humans into a new breed of Dalek mutants. Although the details were not known to the leadership, he was tried and sentenced to death. However, as the Doctor deduces, he evaded death by transferring his mind into Asha’s body. Now, his new Daleks are nearly ready.
Meanwhile, the Doctor catches Lucie in a mistake: she knows he is a Time Lord, though he has never said it. He questions her, and she admits that the Time Lords took her from Earth and dropped her with him; she is in “witness protection”, as he puts it, because she has seen something important. She does not recall what it is, however, as her memories have been blocked.
As the Daleks land and appear to be there to help the survivors, the Doctor and Lucie meet a paranoid old man named Tom Cardwell. It becomes clear, however, that Cardwell knows something no one else does: The true nature of the Daleks. He survived a Dalek attack, and remembers. He allies himself with Lucie to attempt to thwart the Daleks’ plans; because, of course, they are not there to help. Instead, they are there to hunt down the new Daleks, and then wipe out the humans. They reveal that they were responsible for the destruction of the exodus ships, and for the asteroid crash in the first place, as even then they were aware of Martez’s work, and wanted to destroy it. They cannot tolerate an impure line of Daleks.
As the Daleks go to battle with each other, the Doctor convinces Martez that his work is a crime and an abomination. Appalled at himself, he halts the production process, leading his Daleks to kill him. The Doctor, Tom, Lucie, and Eileen then work to prevent the Dalek flagship from crashing, which would have destroyed everyone. The Daleks successfully wipe each other out, with assistance from an impromptu resistance movement led by Cardwell. As the humans begin to pull themselves together, the Doctor and Lucie leave—in fact, the Time Lords won’t let him leave without her. At last appearance, Klint receives another answer to her distress call; though it is cut off, it is seen that the new responders are from a nearby planet called “Tel—“ Presumably, this is Telos, the second home of the Cybermen…and Red Rocket Rising’s problems have only just begun.
Somewhere, sometime, a woman calling herself a Headhunter is contacted by a Mr. Hulbert. She takes a commission, under which, anywhere in time and space, she will find Lucie Miller. It seems the Doctor and Lucie’s troubles have also only just begun.
Much as the new television series differs from the classic series, these Eighth Doctor Adventures differ from the Main Range. The Main Range stories are set in a serial format like the classic series, usually spanning four half-hour episodes (approximately anyway); these adventures are closer to an hour, with two episodes. They seem to be very fast-paced, which is a great decision in light of the excellent banter between the Eighth Doctor and, well, anyone else. Paul McGann is fantastic as always; even aside from the fact that he was the final televised Doctor for many years, his performance truly justifies the fact that he was the “current” Doctor for so long. It’s interesting to note that this release was made after the revived series had been on television for some time; possibly the Eighth Doctor Adventures benefit a bit from the perspective available in the revived series.
Lucie is a tempestuous companion here at the outset, especially given that she doesn’t want to be there. She’s very much like Donna Noble in terms of her arrival on the TARDIS and her attitude, so much so that I suspect she is a partial inspiration for Donna, who had yet to be added to the series. Sheridan Smith is not an actress I was familiar with prior to this audio, but she seems excellent at the role, and I hope for good things in future audios. The other characters were also well-played, although it seems unlikely that someone as oblivious as Eileen Klint would rise to such political levels in the real world (though, given the state of the US presidential election, I shouldn’t assume that, I suppose). Asha/Martez, as well, is a bit stereotypical—the Doctor even unfavorably compares him to Davros, though not by name—but then, it would be hard to have a non-stereotypical villain at this point.
I found it interesting that the Doctor is anxious to destroy Martez’s Daleks here. He specifically references Genesis of the Daleks and his missed opportunity to destroy the nascent original Daleks; and he regrets the decision. It’s a huge change from the Fourth Doctor’s “Have I the right?!” and, I think, reflects his growth toward the man who will one day become the War Doctor.
There are a few good lines to be had. Most notably, Lucie gets in a meta joke about the Doctor’s hair not being real; it’s a reference to the wig McGann wore in the television movie. He is still wearing his original costume, or a variation of it; she references his velvet coat. Their dialog in general is very good; Lucie, though the same age as Rose Tyler at her first appearance, is much more lively and animated than Rose, and much less given to introspection. It’s a good look for her.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this story. I read in several places that it’s a good jumping-on point for the audios, and I would agree with that assessment. I’d recommend it to anyone, and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.
Next time: Back to the Main Range with The Fearmonger! See you there.
All audios reviewed in this series can be purchased here from Big Finish Productions; link to this story is below. This and many other audio dramas are also available on Spotify and Google Play.