Doctor Who: Energy of the Daleks. Audio Book Review

ENERGY OF THE DALEKS by Nicholas Briggs

Big Finish, CD £10.99, download £8.99,

Reviewed by Chris Limb

“Mankind’s eternal struggle to reconcile economics with compassion – not a pretty sight, is it?”

The Doctor brings Leela toLondonin the year 2025 – he was aiming for 2015 – to find a city in crisis. The international energy shortage has led to increased austerity and suffering, and although the GlobeSphere Corporation is promising to deliver a plentiful new energy supply it is at a price many will be unable to afford, much to the anger of the large crowd of protestors gathering outside their headquarters in Trafalgar Square. As the peaceful demonstration is violently suppressed by uniformed guards in blank visors, the Doctor begins to suspect that GlobeSphere and their resident genius Damien Stephens are merely pawns of something far worse as he detects the handiwork of the evil Daleks behind the faceless corporation…

Given how often they appear in the series these days, it is surprising to remember that Tom Baker – still the longest serving and for many the definitive Doctor – only encountered the Daleks twice and on both those occasions spent most of his time at loggerheads with Davros. It is pleasing therefore that thanks to Big Finish he has been afforded a chance to have another crack at his archenemies, this time freed from the shadow of their creator.

Energy of the Daleks is a surprisingly contemporary tale as well – whilst the protestors’ treatment might have been shocking had this been broadcast in 1977 when it is nominally “set”, to modern ears it doesn’t seem like much of an extrapolation, which is shocking in itself.

Thankfully – as if we were ever in any doubt – the Doctor comes down firmly on the side of the 99% and although separated from Leela in the rush gains a new temporary companion in activist Jack Coulson (Mark Benton). Tom Baker and Mark Benton work well together, the latter providing just the right level of questioning and bafflement to keep the story moving. Never having encountered the Daleks on screen, Louise Jamieson is in fine belligerent form whilst dealing with the “metal cones” once they have taken her prisoner allowing us to see the familiar foe through new eyes.  Writer Nicholas Briggs puts in a number of sterling performances as various Daleks – managing to make them all sound distinguishable – essential in an audio story.

The Daleks are up to their old tricks, hoping to wipe out the human race, but it is their relentless enthusiasm for the task that accounts for their popularity and much of the enjoyment of the story comes from working out just how they’re going to do it this time. As ever they seem to prefer to lurk in the background for much of the first episode, something that imparts Energy of the Daleks with the atmosphere and tension of a classic TV story, despite some of the more contemporary themes.