The TARDIS arrives at the height of an alien world’s occupation by the Dalek Empire. Susan Mendes is there as well, serving as the Daleks’ “Angel of Mercy,” urging local populations on subjugated worlds to cooperate in order to live (and perhaps fight another day). But the locals here know all about the Daleks – this is far from their first encounter with them. Even with the Doctor and the rebellious Kalendorf working side-by-side, it may not be enough to stop the Daleks’ audacious schemes as they enslave the planet’s citizens and begin a desperate dig beneath the surface for an objective they refuse to name. The locals also have a history with the Doctor, as it was he – in a different incarnation – who helped them begin the fight against the Daleks…when their world was known as Spiridon.
written by Nicholas Briggs
directed by John Ainsworth
music by Nicholas Briggs
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Gareth Thomas (Kalendorf), Sarah Mowat (Susan Mendes), Christine Brennan (Skerrill), Hylton Collins (Mendac), Jack Galagher (Aytrax), Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)
Notes: This story combines elements of Doctor Who with the Big Finish audio spinoff series Dalek Empire (namely, the characters of Susan Mendes and Kalendorf), and is a direct sequel to the Pertwee-era TV adventure Planet Of The Daleks.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: A subscriber-only, single-disc special release from the end of 2006, Return Of The Daleks is part of a certain breed of story that, thankfully, Big Finish doesn’t give us too much of. Return Of The Daleks is a story so lovingly lathered with continuity that only a fan could love it.
Now, not that I’m complaning about a play that gives me an hour of Sylvester McCoy and Gareth Thomas, two of my favorite actors in British SF. I’m just saying that there’s a reason this is a subscriber-only disc: at least with most of Big Finish’s usual monthly Doctor Who output, there is some concession made to the possibility that someone might be listening to Who for the ears for the first time. Not so with Return Of The Daleks – this is a gift to the devout followers.
Not that it’s perfect either, though. I’m keenly aware that the Dalek Empire audio plays are a spinoff of Doctor Who, so expecting them to remain two distinct universes is kind of like expecting Torchwood to never touch on anything in Who continuity. But there’s something about the space-opera quality of Dalek Empire – and of this story – that just somehow isn’t Doctor Who. And more to the point, Dalek Empire is all about the foibles and the nobilities of its cast of characters. Dalek Empire has always seemed to be all about saying that ordinary humans, with their wits and imagination and luck, can beat the Daleks – you don’t have to have an unstoppable Time Lord at your side. To reveal now that the Doctor did indeed step in and push things in a certain direction, as his seventh incarnation is wont to do, diminishes that message ever so slightly.
Dalek Empire isn’t the only storyline that gets messed with, though; we find out here that at some point, the seventh Doctor spends several years as a prisoner/slave of the Daleks. This revelation instantly brought Terror Firma, with its two “missing” McGann companions, to mind – much like that story, this one just seems to be throwing that kind of monkey wrench into Doctor Who mythos just because it can, for a moment’s worth of shock value. Not a good enough reason.
It’s a bit of a jumble, though there’s a neat idea reaching back through Doctor Who history at the heart of it. It has Doctor Who on the cover, and Doctor Who theme music at the beginning, but Return Of The Daleks just feels like Dalek Empire. And maybe that’s why this one was a subscriber freebie.