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Terror Firma

Doctor Who: The Big Finish Audio Adventures #72
Eddy Wolverson

Apologies in advance for your impending headache! "Terror Firma" is an audio adventure that I'd long looked forward to despite being disappointed by every eighth Doctor / Dalek showdown thus far in every medium. Why? Two reasons – One, Joseph Lidster, writer of two of my favourite Big Finish audios, the brilliant "Rapture" and controversial "Master." Two, Terry Molloy – the man who is Davros.

On top of that, and quite in spite of myself, I've really taken to the eighth Doctor's era; an era which all things considered seems to stretch further than even the fourth's or seventh's and shows no signs of letting up soon (I make this the eighth Doctor's 96th adventure, and that's excluding "Shada" and all the "Short Trips" etc.!) As good as the BBC books were at chronicling the eighth Doctor's pre-"Storm Warning" adventures, you cannot beat having Paul McGann actually playing the Doctor. He has gone from strength to strength in the role, and although in the divergent universe I didn't think he matched his exceptional second audio 'season' performances, "Terror Firma" brings him back up to those lofty heights and possibly beyond.

A great deal of credit for this needs to go to Terry Molloy. The majority of the first three episodes comprise a basic two-hander with Molloy (as Davros) and McGann, both actors clearly relishing every line. Make what you will of continuity, this is certainly the furthest down the line that we have encountered Davros and I think he is at his most interesting.

Lance Parkin's "Davros" allowed us to explore many of the twisted Kaled mutant's neurosis, even sympathise with him for his extensive suffering before turning him heel once again and reminding us that a leopard can never change its spots. In this play, Joseph Lidster more subtly portrays Davros as a character worthy of our pity, a creature with a massive personality disorder which after endless centuries of pain is finally overwhelming him – he is finally becoming a Dalek; The Emperor Dalek no less. As always Molloy is absolutely excellent in the part, manically shifting between Davros and his alter ego.

There is so much of note to talk about in this play, but above all else it is controversial possibly beyond even "Master." In "Terror Firma," as part of his campaign to 'break' the Doctor, Davros has harvested the Earth, turning more than 8 billion people into Daleks. The timing of this play was also a little strange – I'm not sure exactly when it was written, but when it was released "The Parting of the Ways" was fresh in my mind and intentionally or not, Lidster has created a possible link to the new series that some fans will accept and others (including Russell T. Davies I believe) will reject – Davros becomes the Emperor Dalek as seen in that episode (not the Emperor Dalek, just to confuse things further, that perished in "The Evil of the Daleks"!)

In "The Parting of the Ways," the Emperor Dalek harvested the dregs of humanity to "…cultivate pure and blessed Dalek." This is no new idea as fans of the classic series will attest to, but the potential link between these two stories is hard to ignore. Moreover, Davros / Emperor Dalek spends a great deal of "Terror Firma" ranting about being God, having created a new race of Daleks and the 'end of everything' virus which the fourth Doctor hypothesised about way back in "Genesis of the Daleks," effectively giving him the power of life and death of every being on Earth. This certainly struck a chord with me after watching "The Parting of the Ways" and hearing Nicholas Briggs' Emperor Dalek rant on about being …"the God of all Daleks!" At the end of the day I guess we'll never know, but from the ending of this adventure the Emperor Dalek sets off into space with his 8 billion (gold? This is audio after all!) Daleks… who knows what to do? Perhaps "…to fight in a bigger war…"

I'd like to say 'continuity-aside' and talk about the story itself, but continuity is the story of "Terror Firma," not only in terms of established Dalek history but in terms of the Doctor's own personal history. The liner notes in the CD admit that the whole story came about as a result of Gary Russell's "…obsessive desire to tie-up continuity," quite an irony considering that whole divergent universe arc was abandoned to make these further eighth Doctor adventures more accessible to the casual listener! Brilliant as it was, I must admit that by the end of part four my head was pounding! Here goes nothing.

After the TV movie, the eighth Doctor flies off for 75 (and counting) adventures in print with Sam, Compassion, Trix etc. and even on occasion Benny, the Brigadier and sometimes even Romana (who seems to regenerate… and unregenerate it seems. Time Ladies!) On one occasion the Doctor even encounters Davros, who is subsequently atomised in yet another Dalek Civil War, but it seems that they both have forgotten all about that (the eighth Doctor's memory is notoriously bad… and Davros is, after all, quite mad) and somewhere between "War of the Daleks" and "Terror Firma" Davros was reconstituted, probably by some strange alien species, shoved into yet another escape pod and launched alone into the into the depths of space again. That'll learn him. Oh yeah, and all that nonsense about Davros blowing up Skaro in "Remembrance of the Daleks"… that wasn't really Skaro after all, that was just Antalin.

Now then, sometime after "The Gallifrey Chronicles" when Gallifrey has been reborn (so Russell T. Davies can have the Daleks destroy it) and everything has been put back in the box (here's the really confusing bit) the Doctor bumps into brother and sister tag-team Samson in Gemma in library on a future Earth (though it is unclear when. Presumably after "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" but before "The Parting of the Ways." According to "the Shooting Scripts," Captain Jack says there were ten Dalek occupations of Earth between now and 200,100 so it could be any one of them!) They follow the Doctor into his mysterious blue box and take off for glorious adventure after glorious adventure until one day Davros shows up, brainwashes Samson and Gemma, wipes the Doctor's memory of them, invades Earth with his new race of Daleks and sends the Doctor off on his merry way alone (where "Storm Warning" begins…) in order to laugh at him, as revenge for blowing up Skaro… which as we know didn't actually happen, but it seems Davros forgot that too, probably something to do with being resurrected, thrown back into his post-"Remembrance of the Daleks" escape pod and lobbed into to the Time Winds. Therefore I should say, in order to laugh at him as revenge for blowing up (what, in his madness, he still sees as) Skaro.

Suffice it to say that after 96 adventures, the eighth Doctor's timestream does seem to contradict itself a tiny bit. Well, it's Doctor Who innit? At the end of the day 'a freak time wind' or a 'gravitational transdimensional shift' could account for the whole lot. It could be worse – it could be Star Wars with that forgetful ol' Owen Lars.

Imagine my surprise then, when against all the odds "Terror Firma" is an absolute triumph. It grips you from beginning to end, and as ludicrous as I've made the continuity sound the play is genuinely shocking and it makes the listener feel as if anything can happen…. and it does! Ever pictured a Eutermesan as Emperor of the Daleks? Picture it. Ever imagined a Doctor that goes from utter delight at being a Lord over Time once again that he cannot even bring himself to fear his imminent extermination, to a broken man contemplating unleashing Davros' 'end of everything' virus himself? Ever imagined the French Resistance as a familiar alien menace? Imagine it. And all within a hundred minutes! And don't even get me started on forgotten companions from a past we didn't even know about…

Superb writing, even better performances and superb production make "Terror Firma" a fitting end to the legacy of Davros – a much more fitting end than "War of the Daleks," which will probably end up being slung in the bin by the end of this astonishing play (it will certainly save you hours of head-scratching and shameless theorising!)

Lawrence Conquest

There were numerous things wrong with Big Finish’s 8th Doctor ‘Divergent Universe’ arc, and one of those was the cliff-hanger finale where the 8th Doctor finally returned to his original universe. No doubt Alan Barnes and Gary Russell thought the Doctor immediately bumping into Davros and the Daleks at the climax of The Next Life would have the fans squealing in delight, but as far as I’m concerned it just showed how lazy and small minded the authors are: for all the immense size and scope of an entire universe of time and space the Doctor Who universe is terribly small with the same characters tripping over each other time and time again – if the writers utilised the real epic scale of the universe a trip to a ‘divergent’ one for variety wouldn’t have been necessary in the first place…

Anyway, be that as it may, Joseph Lidster has inherited that cliffhanger ending, and the unenviable task of spinning out a four episode adventure that starts at what would normally be the midway point for a standalone tale. As such, it’s no surprise that the flashback storytelling process is used, though Lidster goes back a surprisingly long way – all the way back to before Storm Warning, in an attempt to seemingly tie up the entire 8th Doctor audio series into one long devious plan of revenge by Davros. It’s a brave and bold move, but it doesn’t quite convince for one simple reason: Davros’ plan is utter pants.

Having explored the gaps between Resurrection and Revelation, and Revelation and Remembrance, it comes as no real surprise that Davros’ third Big Finish outing picks up the evil scientists tale immediately post-Remembrance of the Daleks. Those with long memories will remember that this period in Davros’ life has already been previously examined by the book range, but War of the Daleks is so universally disliked for its retconing of the series that only the most anal “it all fits into one seamless canon!” fan will regret this audios blatant disregard for it. Unfortunately both War of the Daleks and Terror Firma paint Davros as a bit of an idiot frankly. Picking up on both the “I am not a Dalek!” ending of Resurrection and the comic-strip style Emperor casing in Remembrance, Terror Firma takes the obvious view that Davros himself changes over time into the Dalek Emperor. Unfortunately though the rather unsubtle method of displaying that dramatically is to have Davros suffer from schizophrenia, gibbering and ranting as Davros one minute, then the Dalek Emperor the next. Terry Molloy does his usual sterling job in the role, but with this amount of gibbering to do Davros comes over as a weak minded idiot, and his character has now been reduced to that of a latter-day Master, wherein the only justification for his existence is to see the Doctor suffer. As such, his plan is grand, needlessly over complicated, and faintly rubbish.

Away from Davros himself the play seems very unsure of it’s tone. On the one hand Lidster seems to be going for deep heavy emotional stuff, with the Doctor destroyed by Davros plan, and C’Rizz exhibiting a disturbing “I talk to dead people” routine – then the next moment we’re faced with a bunch of human resistance fighters who are busy having a good old cockney knees up next to the Dalek base, led by the clichéd comedy drunkard Harriet (Julia Deakin). Lidster may well have been aiming for a nightmarish confusion in the minds of the listener, but veering between heavy emotion and comedy knock-around means the play never settles down into one tone – is this comedy or drama? This trait carries on over to Charley, who rather annoyingly seems to jump from her ‘jolly hockey sticks’ persona to over-emoting every other scene.

Finally one other thing puzzles: we’ve been informed that the main reason for the 8th Doctor coming back to ‘our’ universe was so as to not baggage the series down with continuity for the new listener. So what do we get with the first new 8th Doctor audio? – a story that not only relies heavily on Davros’ past history, but also ties in continuity from Storm Warning and has C’rizz bring along more baggage from his past. Yeah -nice one Big Finish – that’ll really work for the new fans…

With Terror Firma Joseph Lidster has not only tried to tie up continuity issues but produce an ambitious experimental adventure, but unfortunately the entire enterprise – from Davros’ ridiculous plan, to the Doctor’s happily flying off after seemingly the majority of Earths population has been destroyed – lacks any credibility, relying on shock revelations in place of good plotting. Terror Firma is certainly different to any other Dalek story you’ll hear, but unfortunately it’s also easily Davros’ worst outing for Big Finish. Ambitious, but highly flawed.

Steve Manfred

"Terror Firma" is the best audio in the mainstream Doctor Who range that Big Finish have done since "Davros," so about two years then. It is in fact well into my Top 10 of the whole range. I'm having something of a Michael Grade moment in writing this as I didn't think Joe Lidster had this in him based on his previous two main Who audio scripts, but this time he knocked the material well out of the park. On top of his fantastic script, we had the best performance Paul McGann has ever given us, India Fisher and Conrad Westmaas giving us their A+ games as well, and a fantastic guest cast top-billed by Terry Molloy as Davros who's as exceptional as he has been ever since "Revelation of the Daleks."

Gosh... where to start... I'll get the negatives out of the way first. There. Done. I didn't have any. Well, not with the story itself and how it functions within itself anyway. My only tiny, tiny niggle is that it's not very easy to place this story date-wise into either the future history of Earth as established so far or into the Davros/Dalek timeline established by the TV series and by the Dalek Empire audios, but upon reflection, I think I can find some ways to do this after all, so that qualm is pretty well quelled.

I think I'll just sort of free-wheel it here... I'll start with that trick of the narrative that Joe used back in "The Rapture" which comes up again here where someone says one word at the end of a scene which then jump-cuts us directly into the same word being used as the first word of the next scene in a completely different location. At the time of "The Rapture" I think we wondered if that wasn't in fact a new idea that first-time director Jason Haigh-Ellery was trying, but it seems it was Joe's idea now as it recurs here. In "The Rapture" this seemed to add to the muck, but here it's a very welcome relief and kick-in-the-rear to the story when so many of the audios of the past two years have seemed to have scenes that just went on-and-on-and-on. It helped with the pacing no end. If other writers want to steal this idea in future, I hope Joe lets them.

Paul McGann's game seems to have been raised two notches, and I've got to think that's because he had Terry Molloy to play off of and had to do it just to keep up. He seems to find a steel in his Doctor that's always "sort of" been there but it really hardens in his lengthy confrontation scenes with Davros, and he manages to convey that while at the same time convey the Doctor's mounting sense of vulnerability as he slowly but surely realizes how much Davros has mucked up his life and that of his companions and for how long a period of time.

Terry Molloy has been fabulous in both of his recent audios and was even better here as he had to play both the regular Davros and the Emperor Dalek that he's finally turning into all the way, and states in-between the two. Davros by himself can be scary enough, but a Davros set against himself is even scarier since he really could do _anything_ in this state, including breaking the glass on that virus he's finally created, the one the Doctor suggested in their conjecture way back in "Genesis of the Daleks."

Conrad Westmaas has taken C'rizz another step forward with him not taking crap from people anymore, in the wake of what happened to him with his father in "The Next Life," and he's really becoming quite a dangerous character now. The scripted actions and Westmaas' determined performance had me thinking that even before that delicious final scene where we find out he's taking along the ghosts of everyone he sees die along in his mind, or at least he thinks he's doing that. I remember India Fisher describing Charley's final scene in "Zagreus" as the "bunny-boiling" bit, but here C'rizz has not only boiled the bunny, but a cat, a dog, and a school of goldfish as well and is serving them up with a complete place setting. Eek!

India Fisher continues to be as good as she always has been, effortlessly turning with Charley's frequent mood swings as she meets Daleks, then ordinary partying people, then realizes the ordinary people are all that's left on the whole of Earth thanks to the Daleks, then realizes the ordinary people are really a resistance movement after all... and so on.

And then... (gosh there's a lot in this)... we were introduced to two _more_ companions of the Doctor. People who were travelling with him that we've never heard of before whom he was made to forget by Davros' intervention... said intervention ending just as "Storm Warning" began and turning out to be the reason the Doctor was looking for the TARDIS manual in that opening scene way back when. This is the brother and sister team of Samson and Gemma (the former's name plugging that hole "Minuet in Hell" left about a forgotten "Sam" companion that helps with the newer notion of the BF audio and book universes being different from each other). They're a pleasant couple who are the type we wish we could get to know better... or at least we would if we didn't know they'd meet such a grisly fate at the hands of Davros, who captured them and used them to help him enslave and convert Earth into a new Skaro to replace the one the Doctor destroyed in "Remembrance of the Daleks." Lee Ingleby and Lizzie Hopley had something of a task in making these two companions not only likeable but believeable and legitimate while at the same time double-crossing everyone because they've been made into Dalek agents. And they pulled this off extremely well. (O, and I loved the flashback bit at Studio 54 where the guitars came to life).

On top of all of that, there's their mother, played with aplomb by Julia Deakin, who maintains a relentlessly cheerful attitude in the face of the near genocide of the human race in a way I wish I could. This party-heavy character who is really a lot more than that isn't a million miles away from her character on "Spaced," but it is certainly different from her, and though sometimes puzzling as the script requires, she's always a shining light in every scene, if such a thing is possible on audio.

And what of the general plot? If you stop and type it out in a few short sentences, it can easily read as self-indulgent fan crap. It doesn't come over like that at all though, because Joe Lidster has masterfully made the story about the emotional conflict between Davros and the Doctor and this war they've been in since "Genesis of the Daleks," and all the "companions we never knew" business comes across completely within that context, as just more pawns/casualties for Davros to use against the Doctor. All of the Emperor Dalek business also works not because it's just neat to know who's in charge of the Daleks but because we're listening to a familiar character degenerate before our ears and because his familiar children, the Daleks, have realized they have to deal with it and want to stabilize the Emperor, any Emperor, once and for all. Joe Lidster has taken these potentially superficial science fiction happenings and made each one integral to the development or degeneration of familiar characters we either love or love to hate, and that's when science fiction outscores all other forms of drama (to me anyway). Bravo!

Mr. Steve Foxon has risen to the occasion as well on music and sound design (and showed Murray Gold a thing or two about how it should be done, imo). He's found sounds and chords that exactly match the moods of every scene and underscored all this high drama perfectly, and he's kept the sound fields moving around a bit more than we're used to lately to aid with that. This was yet another reason why this audio is one of the best Big Finish have ever done. Nicholas Briggs helped some on the Dalek voices and sounds of course, too, and I was pleased to hear he got the Dalek voices back to the perfection they were in the recent "Dalek Empire" spinoff audios and away from whatever wasn't quite right about "The Juggernauts."

Last but certainly and definitely not least there is producer/director Gary Russell, who assembled all of these elements and made them play together with perfect clarity and perfect drama, taking some risks along the way and making them all pay off big time. This was one of the most entertaining plays you've given us, well, ever, and you should take a bow. And then another. And as many more as you like. More like this please!

10 out of 10 for "Terror Firma."

Richard Radcliffe

There seems to be a general feeling amongst fans that Big Finish are tailing off in their story telling. Reviews over the Web, ratings given on various Websites present the latest offerings as nowhere near as impressive collectively as their previous output. I'm not quite sure the reason for this (could it be the new series?), but I know what I think, and that is that Big Finish are just as good as they always have been. They are still producing top notch Doctor Who stories. Their output is supremely varied in its story types, and the performances are consistently excellent. There might the odd story that doesn't quite measure up, but that's true of every era of DW, in any medium. It's a fact though that Big Finish never plunges the depths that TV and Books and Comics have plunged, and they consistently lead the way in effective and entertaining Doctor Who.

Terror Firma is something of a re-invention for Big Finish. The Alternate Universe Arc of the 8th Doctor/Charley and C'Rizz had to be curtailed because of the new series and the new fans that would bring on board. At the end of The Next Life the Doctor and companions did indeed return to our universe, and were promptly confronted by a load of Daleks - proof that they were indeed back in the traditional Doctor Who, our universe.

The Doctor celebrates this fact, and is gloriously exuberant throughout, despite the apparent trauma he experiences. He comments on how wonderful it is back being a Time Lord in the proper universe. He's rather modern here too, quoting popular sources Buffy-style throughout. Some come off, but some were cringeworthy (the Bond impression). For all his exuberance here though, McGann can still play the key scenes with the right level of intensity - and he bounces off Davros superbly. It's not quite in the Colin Baker league - but it's a good enough performance against one of the greatest DW villains.

Terry Molloy is monumental as Davros again - and no doubt he will be in further productions. He's completely nailed this part - and I find the whole character absorbing and intriguing, because of Molloys brilliant portrayal. The way he switches from Davros to Dalek and back again is superb - the perfect union of voice artist and audio wizardry.

I expected great things from the Doctor and Davros, and their respective actors. What has surprised me here, and it's a pleasant surprise, is the intensity of C'Rizz (Conrad Westmaas). A violent streak emerges as he struggles to come to terms with our universe and its problems. His demands of Charley also indicate a deeper character than I had previously envisaged. I didn't want C'Rizz to survive the Alternate Universe - but now I am glad he has. Charleys part unfortunately is diminished as a result of this change of emphasis - let's hope it's only for 1 story.

Joseph Lidsters story is a strange one. There's so many things it reminds me of. There echoes of The Rapture - his 1st Big Finish script. The boozy atmosphere is here, and in the character of Harriet we have another Caitriona. She emerges better, just, by the end. There's also a nod to early Dalek stories with the setting - Folkestone, not Bedfordshire - but similar type of conceit here. There's a stack of quotes from previous stories, and too many "and all that's" by the Doctor for the fans to complete the sentence.

Interestingly however, there is also similar ideas to the new TV Series, especially the way the Daleks interact with Human Beings. Whether this is intentional homage to the Eccleston Season I have no idea - but it instantly struck a chord. Maybe Big Finish and the TV series have merged in my own conscience thanks to the brilliant voice power of Nick Briggs.

There's similarities a plenty aswell with the characters of Gemma and Samson. They are supposed to be like Charley and C'Rizz - I think that's the point of it all. Davros motives here echoeing another TV story - Evil of the Daleks - as he tries to understand the Doctors motivations, and why he is so successful in his battles with his Daleks.

I've rather enjoyed the audios recently featuring Doctors 5 and 6 and 7. There seemed to me too many 8th Doctor audios in recent years. There's been a little break now before Terror Firma, and it has done the whole 8th Doctor audios no harm at all. They have come back refreshed, if not as new and inventive as they have been previously.

There's a good Doctor Who story in Terror Firma. But it's a story that has been told before over many stories. Thus Terror Firma feels to me like a mish-mash of previous Davros/Dalek ideas all bunged together to create a reasonable whole. The only startling part is the Hokey Cokey antics of the party, dominated by Harriet - and these grate, rather than fit in nicely to the narrative.

I couldn't help but quite like Terror Firma, especially the contributions of Terry Molloy, Paul McGann and Conrad Westmaas. Yet I was also quite disappointed by it, with its lack of originality. I'm convinced this TARDIS team can bring us some classic adventures in the future. The final few minutes of this release really point the way forward to very good times ahead. A restart for the series, yet with so much that is over-familiar. Mixed bag this one. 6/10

Joe Ford

I cannot decide whether Joseph Lidster is the best of the worst writer on the Big Finish payroll. He displays strengths and weaknesses in abundance and they keep cropping up in every story he writes. He enjoys languishing in dramatic angst and making his characters face terrible choices and look hard that themselves which can result in startling drama (the fascinating second episode of Master) but alternatively can plunge into the depths of embarrassing melodrama (pretty much all of The Rapture). He loves piling on twist after twist until the listener has no idea where the story is going (The Longest Night is a perfect example, with the story beginning with terrible explosions and things only getting worse and worse from then on). And he adores his shock endings (the suicidal ending to his recent Sapphire and Steel play will remain in my mind for a good while). Terror Firma contains all of these characteristics of Lidster’s writing and while it remains entertaining throughout it revels in the prime Lidster characteristic (which left me shaking my head with disbelief at lengths he would go to to shock), his lack of subtlety.

Someone turn me into a Dalek would they and then I could exterminate those interminable bores Charley and C’rizz. They really are not interesting; Charley needed to leave ages ago when the character ran out of steam (ooh, about two seasons ago) but she trundles on and on, never having much to contribute beyond the clichéd companion hysterics. I have no idea why the character (or the actress) has been kept around for so long unless Gary Russell has some great master plan that will see her go out in a blaze of glory. When she is asked if she wanted to keep travelling at the end I groaned when she said somebody should try and stop her (wish I could). As Terror Firma confirms she really has nothing left to say that’s worth listening to and it would make a refreshing change to have somebody else join up with the Doctor. C’rizz is really starting to get on my wick, especially in Terror Firma, which seems to be implying there is something fascinating about the fact that he has the ability to kill people. I can see what Big Finish are trying to do with his character, frighten us to death with this silky voiced murderer but the trouble with C’rizz is that his background and general personality just aren’t very interesting. So instead he’s just a boring killer. The final scene of this story is quite hilarious (unintentionally, of course) where the chameleonic freak starts chatting away with all the people he has killed (in his head of course, its not like he’s weird or anything) and promises to deal with the Doctor and Charley later…ooohh scary! Why can’t the eighth Doctor get some decent companions? You know, a couple of friends who don’t break down and cry and tell him they love him or want to kill him…just two nice people who compliment him and make his life fun? People like, ooh I don’t know, how about Gemma and Samson? Before I go into who they are may I just point out how utterly hysterical it is how much more entertaining these two are when compared to Ms Melodrama (that’s Pollard) and Psycho Lizard.

We’re back in revisionist territory here but this time Big Finish is playing about with its own history, a somewhat new spin on what has become a very tiresome idea. I rather enjoyed the sudden reveal that the eighth Doctor had companions before Charley who we have never heard about and Joe Lidster brilliantly constructs a history between Samson and Gemma and the Doctor (including when they first met and many of their adventures). They have a very relaxed chemistry together and sound as they have been travelling together for ages, which certainly help to pull of this intriguing concept. What I didn’t buy was the second twist that Davros has been watching the Doctor’s adventures ever since he abducted Samson and operated on him. While this does explain the “Doctor we have been waiting for you! Ahahahahahahaha!” cliffhanger (still one of the worst moments in Big Finish history, the point where they genuinely sold out) it seems bizarre that Davros would go to such extraordinary lengths to hurt the Doctor by meddling with his favourite planet whilst he’s away in the Divergent universe when he could just have killed him before he met Charley. What if the Doctor was murdered in the Divergent Universe and never got to see Davros’ revenge plan? Davros would be watching through Samson and go “Oh bugger, and I’ve gone to all that trouble of turning the human race into Daleks and now he’ll never see it! Dagnabbit!” So big thumbs up for Lidster suggesting a history for the eighth Doctor that we never knew about but thumbs down for him trying to fuck about with it the second we learn about it.

What’s this? Davros has turned the entire human race into Daleks! Oh yes and he’s giggling about it like a madman! One thing this audio does put across very well is how much Davros hates the Doctor and when you see the lengths he has gone to to hurt him it reminds you of how deeply deranged Davros actually is. During several tense and frightening scenes the Doctor and Davros discuss their troubled history and it is astonishing to be reminded of the ground they have covered and the electrifying emotions brewed between them. What should have been a terrifying reminder of his absence from our universe is embarrassingly skipped over when the Doctor leaves the Earth at the end of the story satisfied that a handful of humans can sort out the horror Davros has done to the Earth (he converted billions of humans into Daleks!). It’s another example of the story not thinking through its ideas (which are pretty good overall) but Lidster seems to be much more interested in hopping to the next twist rather than deal with the one he has just set up.

Another silly twist comes at the end of episode three where the Daleks are revealed to be the French resistance we have been hearing about for the first three quarters of the story. The Daleks have turned against Davros because he is mad? It never stopped them before! I refuse to believe the Daleks would skulk about having secret meetings to try and overthrow their dictator, more like they would swoop in en masse and kill him outright. Equally bizarre is their acceptance of Davros the second he drops his humanity and embraces his Emperor personality at the end of the story…a personality shift that actually isn’t that significant. And yet the Daleks suddenly accept him, despite the fact that they were plotting his downfall just seconds before. And what on Earth is all this madness about C’rizz becoming Emperor of the Daleks just because he has taken a life? Couldn’t they have just chosen any casual murderer? Ideas, ideas, ideas…no follow through. It is where a decent script-editor is required but that position has been vacant (or it seems that way) for far too long now.

Another annoying feature of this story is the amount of shouting every character has to do. Charley is shouting about an Earth ruled by Daleks. C’rizz is shouting about his dead missus (again). The Doctor is shouting at Davros. Davros always shouts but he gets more than his average number of melodramatic rants here. The Daleks can’t help but shout. Nobody seems to be able to communicate unless they are splitting glass with their voices. The supposition seems to be that shouting equals drama. But, not unlike The Rapture, shouting simply equals a big headache. Whilst it is nice to have a story that pretends it is important and has some amount of relevance on the Doctor Who universe (unless the rest of BFs output this year) it would be nice if everyone could just calm down a bit and deal with the dramatic plot without bursting my eardrums. I blame the director.

Paul McGann seems to appreciate the meaty dialogue offered to him and gives his all round best performance since…Neverland! It’s like this Divergent Universe thing never happened (hurrah!). It is nice to see Big Finish capitalise on the unexplained time between the TV Movie and Storm Warning and flesh out his era a bit more. If only they would do the same thing with his current timeline, booting out his two tedious companions and giving him something interesting to do we’ll be laughing.

It is a story that is far too interested in making a point to make a point. I did enjoy the story because there were a lot of clever ideas going on in there but I just wish there could have been a few less and the ones chosen could have been treated more sensitively and in greater depth. This is perfectly entertaining shock Doctor Who and pleasingly full of important moments but it is still a long way from being excellent, primarily because of the lack of subtlety.

With one or two re-drafts to iron out the rough edges this could have been something really special.