With the Daleks determined to thwart the Movellan Manoeuvre on Earth, the momentum picks up in this second and concluding instalment of the current incarnation of The New Counter-Measures audios from Big Finish.
Alerted to their presence, the Daleks commit to wiping out Movellan’s ambition. Predictably, they are unconcerned if the price is the incineration of the Earth. Conversely, the surviving Movellans hope to reinforce their depleted forces and confront the Dalek menace.
The team find themselves forced into the middle of the conflict between these two sworn enemies. Meanwhile, a resurgent Lady Clare is trying to rebuild leverage. Determined to reassert her manipulative control of the Movellans, it’s entirely fitting that Clare’s response to first contact with the Daleks is one of admiration.
Events begin in the immediate aftermath of the clash with the Movellans in the previous story, as the group explore a ruined factory looking for clues. The team separates, and its members are soon entangled with the plans of each of the invading forces.
Ken Bentley’s direction focuses on the action and momentum elements of Roland Moore’s plot-driven script. A series of captures-and-escapes push the story forward to an end point that is both surprising and thoughtful.
With the 1970s context of The New Counter Measures firmly established in earlier boxsets, there’s less time spent here exploring the culture, society or technology of the era. The time period is still evoked by the absence of technology that would greatly aid the team’s efforts. Walkie-talkies stand in for smartphones and, with no option to ‘Google it’, research remains an old-school, analogue activity.
Strong sound design, courtesy of Joe Meiners, and the appropriately strident musical score by Nicholas Briggs (who also voices the Daleks), both help to bring impact to the battle sequences and moments of high tension. The logic of the story means that these clashes are small-scale skirmishes and not a full-scale clash of civilisations. Yet they dramatise the ruthless rivalry between the two races very effectively.
The characters of Counter Measures have not enjoyed much time for self-reflection in their high-stakes adventures before now. But, amidst the worsening peril, Roland Moore manages to have members of the team consider questions of unrequited love and of self-sacrifice without that additional narrative feeling forced. It’s an extension of the usual framing of the team’s world that adds to the emotional texture of the closing scenes.
The costs that accrue to the struggle to keep humanity save once again loom large in the finale. The Dalek Gambit closes the dramatic circle on the affairs of The New Counter Measures team. Despite the losses they have endured, it’s clear that Toby and his team will be continuing their work as guardians of the planet, even if their travails may no longer be audible to others.
The New Counter-Measures: The Dalek Gambit is available now from the Big Finish site.