Shadow of the Daleks 1 is the first of two volumes, which together make up an eight-part story. It sees the Fifth Doctor sucked into the Time War; the devastating temporal conflict between his people and the Daleks which belongs in his own personal future.
Compelling the Doctor to repeatedly encounter the same faces, Shadow of the Daleks has been created during the Coronavirus pandemic. Making a virtue of the recording restrictions, these are an intriguing set of adventures, happening all over time and space.
The Spirit of the Game
It is always pleasing when this Doctor’s cricketing enthusiasms are brought to the fore, something mostly forgotten on-screen. In Aimed at the Body, amid the 1930s Australian outback, he encounters the controversial England cricket Captain Douglas Jardine; infamous for his aggressive “bodyline” tactics, which many felt were outside the gentlemanly traditions of the game.
Jardine is touring in the company of his lady friend Flora and her mother when their guide goes missing… and the Doctor appears. Then things really start to get odd, as the environment changes around them and the Doctor must work to gain the volatile Jardine’s trust.
Establishing the puzzle of the lightly connecting storyline, writer James Kettle steeps this tale in historical detail. In the extras he reveals he has co-written a screenplay about Jardine and it is interesting to hear the subject of fair play considered here. We also loved the reference to WG Grace – one for the Black Orchid fans!
In Lightspeed, the Doctor finds himself trapped onboard a spacecraft. Puzzlingly he encounters the same faces again, now recast as the passengers and crew. Taking its cues from various action movies, including the obvious Keanu Reeves one, writer Jonathan Morris adds an engaging temporal twist. As the Doctor befriends fellow passengers, as well as an unflappable member of cabin crew, and deals with an unhelpful AI, this is a lot of fun!
Shelter from the Storm
Offering a welcome respite, The Bookshop at the End of the World see the Doctor wander find the warm welcome of a bookshop-cum-pub. Suffering from amnesia, he struggles to collect himself as we meet the other patrons; his fellow travellers this time recast as quiet poet Madeline, blunt Frank Richenbach and the unpleasant Elroy. Writer Simon Guerrier spins an atmospheric tale, with secrets slowly revealed in an effort to jog the Doctor’s memory. We begin to learn about his fellow customers, the forthright barkeep and the storm still raging outside.
Finally, Interlude offers a seemingly altered timeline; with medieval Italy aflame, the Doctor finds himself forced to join a troupe of actors. Naturally, they all wear very familiar faces. Although his successor would have been quite at home, it is great to hear the Fifth on the stage. In a story we do not wish to spoil, from writer and sometime Sontaran Dan Starkey, we were kept guessing throughout.
A Socially Distanced Rep Company
Shadow of the Daleks’ cast all have impressive Big Finish and Doctor Who CVs. Two are household names. Anjli Mohindra, best known as Rani from The Sarah Jane Adventures and Queen Skithra in Series 12’s Nikola Tesla episode, has guested in various BF stories including the recent Eighth Doctor Time War range. Dervla Kriwan, though relatively new to BF, appeared in Torchwood Soho and effortlessly owned the recast role of Quill in Class. She, of course, played Mercy Hartigan on-screen in The Next Doctor.
Jamie Parker, a familiar television face, was in the recent Callan boxset and will join Colin Baker in the forthcoming Plight of the Pimpernel. Rounding out the cast, Glen McCready is a ubiquitous vocal talent across video games and audio drama, as well as being in the cast of BF’s excellent Space: 1999 reboot. In short, this is a terrific cast and they have lots of fun with the chance to play multiple roles.
For his part, Peter Davison plays the Doctor mainly on the backfoot, trying to fathom what is going on. We loved the moment in Lightspeed when his life-saving solution was a source of embarrassment – not something later incarnations would worry about! On Dalek duties, Nicholas Briggs again demonstrates an impressive range of voices.
While it is difficult to judge the overall story at the mid-point, what we have heard so far had certainly been fun. In terms of the sequence, it was odd that Interlude ended the set. Given its tone as a breather from the hostilities, The Bookshop at the End of the World might have been better placed there. That said, it does not actually feature any Daleks at all, so perhaps that led to the decision.
As the title suggests, the Dalek threat throughout is more by implication. They barely get a mention in one story and have fleeting appearances in the others. It is interesting to see the Fifth Doctor encountering modern Dalek forces though, and he notes their newer riveted design. We imagine in this incarnation he cannot learn too much about them, or the Time War, although that remains to be seen in November’s concluding volume.
With a diverse set of stories and intriguing use of the Doctor’s arch-enemies, Shadow of the Daleks 1 is well worth a listen.