Doctor Who: Dalek Empire IV: The Fearless [Big Finish]

A few years after the previous series, Big Finish released their fourth and final (at least so far) set of Dalek Empire audio dramas, this time consisting of four episodes subtitled The Fearless. Never having been a big Dalek fan, I have only acquired all of these dramas via special Humble Bundle deals.

For some reason I was under the impression that Dalek Empire IV was an anthology of different stories set at different times in the existing continuity, but now that I’ve finally listened to it, I find I’m quite wrong. The drama does take place concurrently with the original Dalek Empire, but all four episodes are definitely one continuous story, following the characters Salus Kade and General Agnes Landen.

Some Spoilers Ahead

Kade is played by Noel Clarke, who is known to Doctor Who fans as Mickey Smith, who appeared in Seasons 1, 2 & 4 of the revived series. Kade is not anything like Mickey (except maybe at the end)–he is a blue collar worker who suddenly finds that his off-the-beaten-path colony world is under threat by the Daleks. He reluctantly rises to become the hero of his people, leading as many as possible to safety, and is eventually persuaded to become one of the “Fearless”–specially trained and equipped human soldiers who form the heart of earth’s defense against the Dalek invasion. The mastermind of this strategy is General Agnes Landen, who is played by Maureen O’Brien (Vicki, a First Doctor companion from the mid-1960’s). O’Brien is definitely playing against type here, as Landen is both ruthless and oddly motherly in her determination to do whatever it takes to defeat humanity’s enemy.

As always, the characters are the key to the success of any Dalek story. Clarke does a great job with Kade, making him someone who is in equal parts damaged, heroic, and a bit scary. As much as the adventure is a war story, it is also about Kade coming to terms with what has happened to him and how he will respond to it.

The story’s plot is also solid. Early Dalek Empire installments went a bit overboard with some of the non-linear storytelling, and at first I was worried that this one was going to do the same, but very quickly things settled down and the script simply let the characters and situations play out in a way that was clear and engaging. The middle chapters of the drama are all about Kade and his team being sent on a mission to assassinate Susan Mendes, the so called “Angel of Mercy” who features strongly in the first two Dalek Empire series. People familiar with those stories will know that Susan doesn’t die at this point, but in spite of that there are still loads of twists and character bits that the listener is never bored. I didn’t find the ending completely satisfying emotionally, but I guess I rarely do.

Each of the episodes of The Fearless comes with ten minute or so bonus track that features writer / director (and Dalek voice) Nicholas Briggs talking with some of the actors, especially Clarke, O’Brien and Sarah Mowat (Susan Mendes). These interviews are more interesting than normal because the actors frequently ask questions back to Briggs about what motivated his writing of the series. So for interested fans there’s a lot of insights to be gleaned.

It’s been ten years since Big Finish did any Dalek Empire, and while like I said, I don’t especially love the Daleks, I did like these characters and the way Briggs can tell a story that he’s passionate about, and I’d certainly be open to it if he decided to go back to that well again.

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