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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Dalek Contract


Starring: Tom Baker
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £8.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 059 6
Release Date: 30 June 2013

These creatures have ravaged half the cosmos. They’re experts at this kind of thing. Nothing can stand in their way.” The Doctor and Romana find themselves in the Proxima System, where Cuthbert has been conducting his infamous “experiment”. Meanwhile, living conditions on Proxima Major have become harsh and hostile. Climate change has turned the landscape into a freezing wasteland, and an alien power has condemned much of the population to life inside internment camps. For those still clinging to their freedom, the struggle for survival is now beyond desperate – and outsiders such as the Doctor and Romana are only seen as a threat...

The first time the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) met the Daleks in a Big Finish production, it was in last year’s single-disc release Energy of the Daleks, which just didn’t seem substantial enough for such a momentous occasion. The 2013 rematch is a two-disc affair, beginning with The Dalek Contract and concluding a month later with The Final Phase, forming what is essentially a four-part serial. Now that’s more like it!

Adding to the epic quality is the return of David Warner as Cuthbert, from The Sands of Life / War Against the Laan, who has recruited the Daleks. It does seem unlikely that the CEO of a massive interplanetary enterprise would be naïve enough to believe that the Daleks would honour a business contract. By comparison, Mavic Chen, the Guardian of the Solar System in The Daleks’ Master Plan, was deluded by his own sense of grandeur into believing that he was superior to the Daleks. Cuthbert does not seem so unbalanced, and even Chen made contingency plans lest his “allies” betray him. Nevertheless, Warner makes a splendid foil for Baker, matching the lead actor’s levels of gravitas, humour and sheer larger-than-life performance.

A rather more straightforward confrontation comes courtesy of K9 (John Leeson). Here writer / director Nicholas Briggs has the metal mutt battling the Daleks, something that Terry Nation and the television production team strenuously avoided in Destiny of the Daleks. Still, I think Nation would be pleased to know that K9 recognises the creatures’ superior firepower! There’s also a memorable quip from the Doctor about the Daleks’ radio broadcasts to the rebels.

Briggs evokes the Seventies with some decidedly Nation-esque rebel names, including Halka (Jane Slavin) and Sterris (a brief role by John Dorney). Meanwhile, Alistair Lock generates even more nostalgia with his sound design – not just the Daleks’ energy weapons, but every opening door, every launching rocket and every alert siren sound as though they were created by Dick Mills back in 1979. As a musician, Lock proves to be at least as good as Jamie Robertson at mimicking a Dudley Simpson score! The sound design is only briefly let down by an unsubtle bout of jeering from a crowd of Halka’s supporters.

The CD’s 15 minutes of extras are especially interesting this time, including some discussion by Briggs of the storyline’s genesis, which initially involved a different companion.

I recommend that you listen to this disc and The Final Phase without too much of a gap between them, especially since there are no recaps at the start of each episode. Thanks to its evocative and epic soundscape, and the culmination of ongoing plotlines, this is my favourite story of the season.


Richard McGinlay

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