Doctor Who: Dalek Empire III [Big Finish]

In 2004, Big Finish released a third series of audio adventures in their successful Dalek Empire series.  These stories featured the Doctor’s most popular enemies, but not the Doctor himself, nor any of his allies.  Instead, they chronicled the efforts of various people to avoid, rebel or resist the Dalek Empire’s expansion into the Milky Way galaxy.

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After the first two series (see here and here and here), the Daleks were virtually destroyed and most of the human characters were dead, so it seemed like the story might be over.  Evidently, this is what writer Nicholas Briggs (who also voices the Daleks on TV) also wondered, before picking deciding to pick up on some loose story threads from the first two series and tell the tale of what happens when the Daleks return, thousands of years later.

This time around the story is told over six episodes (The Exterminators, The Healers, The Survivors, The Demons, The Warriors and The Future) and focuses on a disparate group of characters as they become increasingly aware of the menace that the Daleks–whose prior invasion has been relegated to myth–continue to pose. Somehow, the Daleks always manage to find people who are willing to trust them, even though they have no capacity for empathy at all, and this time is no different.  A devastating plague has hit the outer worlds, far away from earth civilization, and the Daleks appear out of nowhere determined to cure it.  Of course, the audience isn’t fooled, but the situation is so bad that it is believable this time around that the malevolent force is able to find their foothold.

Amongst those who realize the truth are Commander Frey Saxton, who is basically the head gardener of a world far away from earth.  She and her colleagues find they are forced to become warriors to stave off the Dalek menace. There is also Galanar, a mysterious agent who has been sent an undercover mission to find evidence of the Dalek threat.  And last but not least, there is Siy Tarkov, who knows more than anyone.  He was part of the framing sequence of Dalek Empire II, which ended with him attempting to warn the earth of the danger twenty years earlier.  Unfortunately, he was confounded by circumstance, and is now teaming up with Amur, the daughter he never knew he had, to find the proof that will convince the earth authorities to act before it is too late.

These characters are essential to the success of Dalek Empire III.  The Daleks, obviously, are one of the most iconic aspects of Doctor Who, but they are not interesting in themselves.  They only work as a story point when there are interesting people around to react against them, and in this case Dalek Empire III mostly succeeds.  There are good performances and some interesting twists and turns along the way to keep the listener engaged.  Probably most importantly for me, Briggs’ treats the story as more of an actual  adventure (albeit a desperate one), rather than as the sort of existential nightmare that we got in the first two volumes of the series. For this reason, and thanks to an overall lower quantity of genuinely stupid stuff, this series is better in my opinion than either of its predecessors.  The ending doesn’t completely work, with some bizarrely abrupt pacing coming in the last few minutes, and an ambiguous denouement, parts of which work but parts of which feel contrived.

Interestingly, the cast for the series includes David Tennant as Galanar.  Even more interestingly, Galanar is a not-quite human character who is smarter and stronger than a normal human, who might be the last of his kind, who can change his physical appearance, and who can psychically engender trust in the people around him.  Weird, right?  Galanar was an interesting enough character that I wouldn’t mind seeing him again, but it’s hard to imagine David Tennant playing him again now that he’s known to the same fanbase as the 10th Doctor (a character he first played less than a year after this audio series concluded!)

There is one more Dalek Empire series, which is apparently more of an anthology of stand-alone stories that take place in the midst of the first two volumes.  I only have these because they were part of a really cheap Humble Bundle deal, so it’s a bit unlikely I’ll be getting that other one unless something that happens again.  But who know?

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