Sunday, 30 April 2017

224 - Alien Heart/Dalek Soul

This is release number 224 in the main range. Let that sink in. a whole 224 stories released since 1999 – more than the entire run of the “classic” series plus all of the New series up to The Doctor The Widow and the Wardrobe. What took the TV series 48 years Big Finish have achieved in 18, surely cause for a celebration? Well if not a celebration then maybe a shake up, a change of direction, a reinvention, a re-emphasising? Anyone? Well like it or not thats what Big Finish have done at least for three releases & we will have to see how successful these releases are – Big Finish have decide to go for a “double bill”, two stories per release rather than one, linked but different and what better monster to put in this mini reboot but the Daleks?.
So two stories with complementary titles (rather like series 9 of the TV series remember The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived etc) we start of with Alien Heart/Dalek Soul and they are about as tonally different as it is possible to get, but strangely they really do compliment each other. Whereas Alien Heart is pure pulp sci-fi in the 1960’s mould – it really could pass muster as a Hartnell story, Dalek Soul is as grim and as bleak as it is possible for a Doctor Who story to get.
Alien Heart by Stephen Cole
The Doctor (Peter Davison) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) discover that ten planets have been utterly obliterated and are concerned that the planet Traxana is next in line for the same treatment, what follows is a boys own adventure featuring giant green space spiders, human colonists on a base, thrills and spills aplenty and a bit of a sucker-punch ending (well it was for me) Halving the episode count makes the plot go faster, every line seems to matter and we lose the capture/escape/run up and down corridors padding that can sometimes (but not always) take the urgency out of proceedings, because things on Traxana are urgent and the threat level is ramped up and up as the pieces start to fall in to place as to what is really going on. This is a plot based old school story and should really appeal to the more “trad” Who fans.
Dalek Soul by Guy Adams
Now this is different, but you will be happy to hear different in a good way because the Daleks have won, they are occupying the planet Mojox and developing a virus to wipe out the “rebels” (read freedom fighters), but they are not developing this virus alone, they have an ally in their Chief Virologist – one Nyssa of Traken and they also have a chief quisling and propagandist a really nasty piece of work called “The Doctor”. Nyssa experiments on live test subjects and has a lot of blood on her hands, encouraged to work hard by The Doctor to aid their Dalek allies in wiping out the indigenous population. Is it a nightmare, is it a parallel universe, are they playing along? To quote the Prisoner “That Would be telling”, but this release pulls no punches and is genuinely nasty in its portrayal of a totalitarian regime. Special praise to Sarah Sutton as Nyssa as she plays a different type of Nyssa, or maybe someone Nyssa could have been in different circumstances. Cold, cruel and disturbing and played just right – superbly crafted, paced and acted.
Big Finish experimented like this before with the three parts and one part stories that emerged around 90-ish in the range, so time will tell if these double bills work or not. I found that the even though there was a tonal difference there was enough for these stories to work as a double bill – not quite a four parter but two different but linked parts of a fractured whole. A Brave move that might just work. 8/10.