Shadow of the Daleks 2 is comprised of four single-episode stories, concluding the Fifth Doctor’s puzzling encounter with the Time War; the temporal conflict between the Time Lords and the Daleks of which he should have no knowledge.
Seemingly compelled to meet the same faces over and over, the Doctor leans more and more of his predicament as he progresses, before finally dealing with the inciting incident.
Echo Chamber has an interesting gimmick at its heart; trapped on a broadcasting satellite, the Doctor’s forced to stand in for an opinionated talk show host. Writer Jonathan Barnes has really had fun with his concept, with a Doctor entirely out of his comfort zone; as he observes, he has had other incarnations better suited to the task!
In truth, the story is pretty slight, with shades of Bad Wolf’s Gamestation, but it ably fills the time and the zany adverts are a delight. We also loved the ominous concluding reveal that reminds us of the lurking threat of the Daleks.
Up second, Ronald Moore’s Towards Zero plays with the setting of a country house murder mystery. We loved the shock of the Doctor’s murder at the beginning… and the follow through which sees him arriving to solve it. While the Fernbridge family are pretty monstrous, Anjli Mohindra’s Jennifer becomes a likable companion figure. We enjoyed the pleasing references as the Doctor got to the heart of the mystery.
Beginning at the End
Lizzie Hopley’s episode takes a different approach to those reoccurring faces; in this instance the three principals are well aware of their doppelgängers. In the mysterious Castle Hydra, people are being rounded up and placed in the dungeons, while at the same time the castle is under attack from mysterious forces. This tale has some historical fun and was full of surprises.
Finally John Dorney, who script edited the set, pulls all the threads together for Effect and Cause. Bringing those Daleks out of the shadows, his story ably provides answers to the mysteries we have been teased with throughout. Suffused with the inevitability of what we have already learned, he unlocks the puzzle while also treading the line of keeping the Fifth Doctor in the dark about the war in his own personal future. Our only slight complaint would be that we felt there were some similarities with the ground covered by The Legacy of Time, released only two years ago.
With another varied bunch of stories, there are some great ideas at play here. As discussed in the Extras, it is fair to say that they are pretty high-concept; attention grabbing and benefiting from the shorter duration. Throughout, Peter Davison leads this impressively versatile cast, who we discussed in Part 1, with a Doctor who at times sounds appropriately weary.
Conceived in extraordinary circumstances, Shadow of the Daleks is further proof of Doctor Who’s ever-flexible format. Making a virtue of lockdown restrictions, the eight stories have provided another twist on Big Finish’s occasional anthology releases; interesting to consider as this monthly range draws to a close in favour of boxsets.