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Doctor Who: Renaissance Of The DaleksThe TARDIS is drawn to a meeting with General Tillington, an American general heading up an anti-alien agency called Global Warning in the U.K., in 2158 – a year after the Daleks should have overrun the entire planet to begin a ten-year occupation of Earth. But the Daleks are on Earth as tiny toys that are all the rage among kids and collectors. Global Warning employs a number of “time sensitives” who foresee the Dalek invasion that the Doctor thinks should be in progress, and yet they can’t pin down when or how it will happen, and for that matter, with the timeline apparently already disrupted, neither can the Doctor. With the help of Tillington’s seemingly rebellious son Wilton, the Doctor escapes and returns to the TARDIS and begins trying to track down Nyssa, who he left in an earlier point in Earth’s history to test a piece of temporal communications equipment she’d invented. But Nyssa isn’t where or when he left her – she and one of the Knights Templar who was pursuing her have somehow been transported to the American Civil War, where they aid a wounded former slave. The Doctor rescues them, but the TARDIS then leaps into the heart of the Vietnam War, where they rescue yet another passenger, a tough-talking female helicopter pilot. But unknown to the Doctor, Wilton has brought his toy collection with him – the miniature Daleks – and the tiny but deadly Daleks sieze control of the TARDIS. They need the Doctor’s time machine – and, of course, him to pilot it – to launch a new and more devastating invasion of Earth.

Order this CDfrom a story by Christopher H. Bidmead
directed by John Ainsworth
music by Andy Hardwick

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), William Hope (General Tillington), Stewart Alexander (Sergeant), Jon Weinberg (Wilton), Nicholas Deal (Mulberry), Richie Campbell (Floyd), Regina Reagan (Major Alice), Nicholas Briggs (Daleks / The Greylish)

Timeline: between Circular Time and Return To The Web Planet

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: Renaissance Of The Daleks was promoted heavily as being one of Big Finish’s biggest catches – a story written by Christopher H. Bidmead, the script editor from the earliest days of Davison’s era and writer of such pivotal TV stories as Logopolis and Castrovalva. But when one looks up close, it’s not quite as advertised: the only writing credit anyone will fess up to here is “from a story by Christopher H. Bidmead”, which made me a bit nervous. Having now listened to Renaissance, I think I can see why no one’s wanting to claim a more definitive credit than that.

Doctor WhoOn further reflection, though, Renaissance is absolutely typical of a Bidmead script – the whole plot seems to revolve obsessively around one or two obscure theoretical concepts that grabbed his eye somewhere, and he even references Logopolis explicitly (though that turns out to be a bit of a non-sequitur). But in the end, Renaissance holds up even less coherently than Frontios did. It’s a mess that in places makes little sense dramatically or scientifically/pseudo-scientifically, a problem that hasn’t dogged Bidmead’s TV scripts on quite this level.

This being the first CD to sport Big Finish’s new cover artwork style, and a new direction overall under the guidance of new producer Nicholas Briggs, it also features “CD Extras” sections with behind-the-scenes moments and interviews with the cast. I was surprised to learn that most of the cast members playing Miniature Dalek, anyone?Americans actually were American, or at least Canadian, because whether it was their interpretation or a directorial decision, they saddled their characters with such over-the-top stereotypical accents that I assumed they were British actors faking it. Not that the characters really invite much more of an in-depth interpretation based on what’s written, mind you.

The Daleks, as typical for an ’80s script, don’t make a proper appearance until quite some way in, and when they do finally make their presence felt, it’s by way of a plot device that you’d expect to see in a fan film whose budget only allows for a bunch of Dapol Dalek action figures. The story rationale behind the miniature Daleks strains credulity to say the least; at least in the Daleks’ various 1980s TV appearances, you knew they’d sneak Davros in somewhere. Not so here. For once, it would’ve been a relief. I was also relieved when the lamentably-named Global Warning outfit was alternate-timelined back out of existence at the end of the story, as they seemed to be serving essentially the same function as the London branch of Torchwood in the TV series (and yes, I’m aware that Big Finish couldn’t mention Torchwood even if they wanted to).

Renaissance Of The Daleks is, quite sadly, one of the biggest stumbles in the Big Finish library. Everyone both inside and outside of Big Finish may have been jazzed at the prospects of a Dalek story by Chris Bidmead, but surely, at some point, someone on the inside must’ve realized that this one was a train wreck of storytelling logic. (Maybe it was whoever decided that there shouldn’t be a more concrete writing credit than “from a story by…”) On the other hand, that unfortunately means that Renaissance fits in nicely along some of the televised train wrecks of ’80s Who.