Doctor Who
Short Trips: Dalek Empire

Editors: Nicholas Briggs with Simon Guerrier
Big Finish
RRP: £14.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84435 150 3
ISBN-10: 1 84435 150 5
Available 18 December 2006

Everybody remembers the Doctor's most terrifying adversaries, the metallic, murderous Daleks! Here they are again in a collection of ripping yarns that draw upon the events and themes of Big Finish's acclaimed series
Dalek Empire. But never fear: no prior knowledge is necessary. The good Doctor in his many incarnations is on hand to guide us through the terrible events before, after and during the Daleks' ruthless onslaught...

This volume does away with Big Finish's recent practice of stating at the beginning of each story which Doctor and companion(s) feature in it. This is probably because not every tale in this book actually includes the TARDIS crew.

Four of the stories - Kalendorf, by Nicholas Briggs; Alby and Suz, by Sharon Gosling; and Mutually Assured Survival, by Justin Richards - focus instead on main characters from Big Finish's Dalek Empire audio series. These narratives, particularly the first three, help to introduce unfamiliar readers to the world of Dalek Empire. They also act as handy aide-mémoires for those fans (like me) who have heard the series but whose recollections of the earlier episodes have become a little fuzzy. These tales also develop a running theme of the power of hope.

A much older Kalendorf reappears in the final short story proper, James Swallow's Museum Piece, which also features the Eighth Doctor and drops hints that might refer to the Time War. This is not the two heroes' first meeting, however, as Kalendorf first encounters the Doctor, this time in his seventh incarnation, in the subscribers-only audio drama Return of the Daleks, the script for which is presented towards the end of this book. Personally, I would have placed the script earlier on in the book, certainly before Museum Piece, which gives away plot elements of Return. Some readers (myself included) will not have heard the audio before reading this book.

Five other stories - Natalie's Diary, by Joseph Lidster; Private Investigations and Hide and Seek, by Ian Farrington; The Best Joke I Ever Told and The Eighth Wonder of the World, by Simon Guerrier - feature the Doctor and his fellow travellers. Interestingly, Natalie's Diary and Private Investigations, both Seventh Doctor adventures, both also convey the Time Lord's exploits via accounts written down by other characters: the diary of an escapee from the Daleks, now being read by a student, and a lecture presented by a researcher who has amassed evidence from such diverse sources as television news reports and minutes from governmental meetings. The format of Natalie's Diary provides particularly dramatic reading, especially since the narrative is split into four separate instalments. The Best Joke I Ever Told tackles the thorny moral issue of whether it's ever acceptable to make jokes about those who carry out genocidal atrocities.

The development of the Daleks in the more recent television series of Doctor Who is evoked in Alby, which makes reference to the creatures' personal shields. This story, as well as The Eighth Wonder of the World, Mutually Assured Survival and Museum Piece, all deal with lone Daleks cut off from their comrades. Like the lonely creature depicted in the television episode Dalek, these warriors crave orders or death, and their mindset makes for riveting reading. I should point out, though, that Big Finish is not merely copying the TV show, because the TV show itself emulated Big Finish when it based the central plot of Dalek upon that of Jubilee.

The book also includes an afterword by Briggs, which addresses the question, "Why Are Daleks Supreme?" With all these add-ons, I am forced to wonder whether some commissioned stories didn't make it into the final collection. Without Return of the Daleks and "Why Are Daleks Supreme?", this volume would have run to just 160 pages. Lending further weight to my theory, four incarnations of the Doctor - the first, second, fourth and fifth - are conspicuously absent, despite, rather misleadingly, being depicted on the cover.

However, Dalek stories in any number are always welcome as far as I'm concerned. This remains a very enjoyable anthology - it's an empirical fact.

Richard McGinlay

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