Doctor Who: Shadow of the Daleks 2 [Big Finish]

Thanks to the enjoyable quality of the first volume of this story, I’ve gone ahead and invested in another Big Finish release–Shadow of the Daleks 2, which brings this mysterious collection of stories starring Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor to a close.

(Daily Doctor Who #159)

Spoilers ahead!

Both Shadow of the Daleks volumes are made up of four standalone episodes by different writers, which all contribute to one over-arching plot. The general concept is that the Doctor has been following a signal through time which has been mysteriously leading him into different odd settings, all of which see to be populated by copies of the same three or four people. This allows the adventure to be performed by the same “troupe” of actors, with each of them taking on different roles each time, other than Peter Davison as the Doctor and of course, Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks.

Yes, the Daleks are involved, but the Doctor doesn’t know how–they just seem to be bleeding through reality at different points. It’s a pretty cool set up that sustains itself well all eight episodes of the story, thanks to some clever scripts and solid performances by the whole cast. In addition to Davison and Briggs, this includes Dervia Kirwan (Miss Hartigan from The Next Doctor) and Anjili Mohindra (Rani Chandra on The Sarah Jane Adventures and the Queen of Skithra on Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror, plus Jamie Parker and Glen McCready, whose other work I’m not familiar with. Everyone does a good job.

The first story in this volume is Echo Chamber by Jonathan Barnes, in which the Doctor finds himself hosting an angrily-toned radio call-in show, with no memory of how he got there. The whole set-up is vaguely reminiscent of an episode of Sherlock where the titular detective has to solve a murder during a best man speech, even if its not quite as clever as that. But it is a well-done “bottle episode”, and listening to an audio production of the Doctor being confused as he’s trying to do an audio production leads to some interesting meta-moments.

This is followed by Towards Zero by Roland Moore, in which the Doctor arrives in a classic English detective novel-type setting, only to find that all the suspects recognize him as the man who was murdered! Of course, he begins to investigate and quickly discovers he is in contracting time loop, a little bit (but not exactly) like something that happened in one of the stories in the first volume. Towards Zero doesn’t offer a completely satisfying conclusion to its mystery, but it is a good story that is a lot of fun to listen to.

Castle Hydra by Lizzie Hopley comes next, and in this one the Doctor finds one variation of the people he’s been continuously encountering have been noticing some of the others–and then drawing them through dimensional barriers, imprisoning them and experimenting on them! It’s quite a horrifying prospect that gives the story a unique tone, helping it to stand out from the quirkiness of the first two.

The last story is Effect and Cause, written by John Dorney, who was one of the conceptualizers of Shadow of the Daleks and the script editor for the other seven parts. Effect and Cause has the job of wrapping up the whole series, which has often been a weak point for Doctor Who (remember Trial of a Time Lord or The Armageddon Factor?) but in this case is done quite well. The story has the Doctor “crashing” into several other time travelers who are more aware of the way that they have “Dalek personalities” lurking beneath their own then the other iterations of the cast have been. The Daleks themsevles are also nearby, also conducting a time traveling operation–an attempt to destroy Gallifrey before it has a chance to thrive, implied to be in response to the Doctor’s actions in Genesis of the Daleks and thus part of the Time War.

The story concludes with a revelation about the people the Doctor keeps encountering which is quite bleak, and yet provides the opportunity for all of them to make quite a heroic sacrifice. It gives the episode, the volume and the whole story quite an emotional and apt conclusion. Thanks to this, I feel pretty confident giving Shadow of the Daleks 2 a pretty high recommendation, although of course it works best if you’ve listened to part 1 first.

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