The latest set of Big Finish Early Adventures starts with the superb Dalek Occupation Of Winter by David K Barnes. It’s David’s first piece for Big Finish and a triumph on many levels. It’s two discs of classic first Doctor with Peter Purves as Stephen Taylor and the Doctor and Maureen O’Brien as Vicki. Both share narrating duties.
The Early Adventures range is distinct in being a mix of narration and dialogue recreating those missing adventures now only available as off-air cassette-tape recordings. As the story isn’t always clear from their dialogue, visual description is provided by narration over the soundtrack. This format is mimicked in this range, and it’s not as easy to do as to described. Between David’s writing, Peter and Maureen’s reading and Lisa Bowerman’s direction, this is a masterclass in the style.
As the title reveals this is a Dalek story, and cue Nick Briggs as a host of the metal monstrosities. Daleks are present on a world in the grip of an endless winter, yet the human population is thriving. We and the TARDIS crew know something must be wrong, yet the locals are oblivious. We experience events through the eyes of brother and sister Amala and Kenrik Vost (Shvorne Marks and Matthew Jacobs-Morgan) and also those of city leader Gaius Majorian (Robert Daws) and his chief of security Jacklyn Karna (Sara Powell). As the blinkers are pulled back we learn the full horror of the Dalek’s plans, and also how far people will go to look after themselves at the expense of others. It echoes Dalek Invasion Of Earth in this regard, and the whole story feels very much of the period.
There’s a complex moral problem running through the core of the story as the Doctor, Steven and Vicki have to debate the overarching need to defeat the Daleks and the implications for the locals if they do. As Maureen O’Brien observes in the extras interviews, there’s a strong dose of realism in this story, and it avoids easy answers. It’s one that will stay long in the mind and is a great start to this new run of adventures. It’s also David K Barnes’s first excursion for Big Finish, and we suspect it won’t be his last.