A spaceship from the Dalek science division arrives on
the planet known as Zaleria during the time of the creatures'
second occupation. But why are the Daleks so interested in
Zaleria? They haven't taken Susan Mendes (the so-called the
"Angel of Mercy") into their confidence. The needs of the
science division supersede all other instructions and standing
orders, including the protection that is usually afforded
to Suz by the Dalek Supreme. The Doctor has also arrived on
Zaleria, and he makes contact with Suz's co-conspirator Kalendorf.
But the Time Lord knows far more about the planet's secrets
than he is letting on...
WARNING: THE THIRD AND FOURTH PARAGRAPHS
The Maltese Penguin,
Her Final Flight and
it, Return of the Daleks has been issued free to subscribers
of Big Finish's regular monthly Who releases. However,
unlike its predecessors, this is a Seventh Doctor story rather
than a Sixth Doctor one. More importantly, whereas Her
Final Flight and Cryptobiosis were far from earth-shattering,
this single-disc release is essential listening.
This is because it unites the Doctor with characters from
Big Finish's Dalek Empire series. It is also the first
Empire-related production in more than two years. Despite
the Doctor Who series title emblazoned on the front
cover, this feels like more of an Empire story than
a Who story. Suz (Sarah Mowat) and Kalendorf (Gareth
Thomas) play larger roles in the play than the Doctor (Sylvester
McCoy), particularly to begin with. Perhaps the production
should have kicked off with the Dalek Empire theme
and ended with the Who theme. Instead we get the Who
music at both ends. The tale appears to take place partway
through the third episode of the first series of Dalek
to the Daleks!". For those of you who aren't
familiar with the series, the Doctor's dialogue contains handy
character studies of Suz and Kalendorf, as do the CD's sleeve
As for when this story takes place within Doctor Who
continuity, that's rather more tricky to explain. This isn't
the first time the Seventh Doctor has revisited the planet
Spiridon, the setting of the Jon Pertwee serial Planet
of the Daleks. In the Doctor Who Magazine comic
strip Emperor of the Daleks, he saw Davros thaw out
and take control of the Dalek army frozen beneath the planet's
surface. It's possible that Return takes place after
Emperor: acting on information supplied by the Doctor,
Davros might not have located and defrosted all of the deep-frozen
Daleks, because he may have assumed that there were only ten
thousand of them (as theorised in Planet), as opposed
to more than a million (the figure revealed on this CD).
However, given the Doctor's references here to his "last"
visit to Spiridon, which do seem to refer to the events of
Planet rather than those of Emperor, it's more
likely that the strip takes place after this CD as far as
the planet and its people are concerned, though the CD undoubtedly
takes place after the strip from the Doctor's point of view
(he is travelling alone prior to the TV movie). It is entirely
conceivable that thousands of Daleks remain frozen after this
audio drama, for Davros to subsequently find. The Seventh
Doctor's concerns about not wishing to interfere with established
history, though explicitly referring to the destinies of Kalendorf
and Suz, could also indicate that his visit to Spiridon in
the comic strip took place in the planet's future.
in deference to Nicholas Briggs's current stardom as the voice
of numerous monsters in the BBC television series of Doctor
Who, this CD marks the first instance of the front-cover
credit: "Nicholas Briggs as The Daleks"! He certainly earns
his dues, playing an astonishing number of different Daleks,
as well as some Ogrons and a Zalerian, who often converse
with each other and all sound distinct from one another. The
Dalek in charge of the heat ray sounds a bit silly, though,
coming across like Leonard Rossiter or Captain Pugwash (a
character who was, incidentally, brought to life by the original
Dalek voice artist, Peter Hawkins).
Apart from such minor blips, this story, written by Briggs
and directed by John Ainsworth, boasts universally strong
performances - in spite of a few instances of duff dialogue,
such as the Doctor asking himself: "What secrets will unfold?"
doubt, this is Big Finish's best free-to-subscribers release
to date. You can still get hold of it if you include Year
of the Pig in your subscription, so catch it if you can.