Doctor Who
The Time of the Daleks

Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 903654 61 0, BFPDWCD8K
Available now

The Doctor is surprised when Charley claims never to have heard of a playwright called William Shakespeare. A time anomaly leads them to 21st-century Britain, whose Shakespeare-obsessed ruler has commissioned time experiments in order to witness the plays' original performances. The Daleks claim to be Shakespearean scholars who only want to help...

Just a few years ago, fans might have been forgiven for writing off Paul McGann as a one-off, the "George Lazenby of Doctor Whos", as McGann himself once put it. However, this audio adventure marks his tenth starring role in a Doctor Who story, including the 1996 TV movie, and he has at least one more yet to come, in the form of next month's Neverland. One of his predecessors, Peter Davison, claimed that he didn't feel like a "proper" Doctor until he had battled the evil Daleks (in Resurrection of the Daleks). Now that McGann has performed in a Dalek serial himself, there can surely no longer be any doubt that he is a "proper" Doctor too.

On a number of occasions I have praised the Dalek scripts written by Nicholas Briggs (who directs this tale) for managing to hit upon new and interesting ways to depict the metal meanies. Now writer Justin Richards has similarly risen to the challenge by having his Daleks quoting Shakespeare! Don't worry, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, and this is not the first time that the Daleks have pretended to be friendly for their own ends - they used similar tactics in Patrick Troughton's debut story, The Power of the Daleks.

It is clear that Richards was also inspired by Troughton's other Dalek serial, The Evil of the Daleks. The mirror-based time machine devised by Professor Osric (Ian Brooker) is notably similar to Edward Waterfield's invention, and the now familiar booming voice of Evil's Emperor Dalek is heard once again.

The 21st-century setting of this story, in which the UK has divorced itself from a now bankrupt Eurozone, marks the writer out as something of a Euro-sceptic!

Richards' plot is rather complex, dealing as it does with time paradoxes and potential changes to history, which exhibit themselves by affecting the memories of only a select number of people at a progressive rate, as possibilities crystallise into probabilities and then into actuality. However, plenty of Dalek action will help to keep you entertained as you struggle to wrap your head around the less tangible concepts.

Richard McGinlay