Empire of the Daleks
A masterpiece! It would not be hyperbole to say that Empire of the Daleks is not only one of the best, but possibly the best Doctor Who story out there. The Daleks are evil and threatening; it is wholly believable that these creatures are capable of creating the havoc depicted in this epic. The characters are all three dimensional, and Mark Triyad gets absolutely golden scenes in his last story. Colonel Crichton is shocking as the post-apocalyptic UNIT colonel, and Dara's realisation that her parents were most likely victims of the Dalek holocaust is truly heart rending. An example of Doctor Who at its finest. (9/10)
Empire Of The Daleks was the first Audio Drama I actually heard on tape, the others I'd listened to in Real Audio format. So I was ready for much better quality…and I really must say that Real Audio doesn't do these stories any justice. So ordering these tapes is a far better idea (trust me).
Being one of his slightly later stories, Jeff Coburn was all tucked in the role of the Doctor and played him quite well when battling the evil force of the Daleks. Sheri Devine seemed to still be fitting in a bit, but was mostly OK. And Peter Hinchman was quite excellent as well, and although I'd only heard him for six episodes I was sorry to see him go.
This Audio Drama was the best I've heard so far. Mostly for it's fast moving, and yet slightly complex and entertaining plot. And, once more, it resembles absolutely no fanwank for other Dalek stories. I must admit I did like the climax for episode two. That sure was good stuff.
And it even came wrapped up with, yes, every who fan's nightmare: Star Trek continuity! I personally don't like Star Trek very much, and was slightly annoyed with the constant reference in the early episodes. But even I grew to like some of these factors, and accepted it as good fun.
There aren't many bad parts of the story. At first the Dalek voices don't seem right, but you really do get used to it. But one or two different actors couldn't have hurt. (Well they all sounded the same.)
All in all, on the scale of one to ten, I give this a nine.
The TARDIS lands on a dead planet that turns out to be Earth conquered by the Daleks. That’s all of the first episode. The TARDIS Crew discover the Daleks changed history in the 1990s and wiped out humanity. After a chase wiping out the few human survivors, the Doctor goes back in time and stops the invasion from happening. Mark finally has enough of this crap and shacks up with a bimbo. OK, there’s a bit more to that but none of it’s particularly important.
The producers of the DWADs were of the firm opinion that Doctor Who had gone to dogs when JNT took over, in regards to the ‘weakening’ the Master and the Daleks. The lead actor was quoted as saying ‘by the time Sylvester McCoy came about, the Daleks, the most feared creatures in the galaxy, could be done in with a simple handgun. Really, how could they conquer half the galaxy if a two-by-four could smack its head off?’ Coburn himself was a budding Who fan and probably did not know the “weakening” occurred in Eric Saward’s Resurrection and Revelation of the Daleks, which were written by a man who thought the Daleks ‘were past it’ anyway. Anyone who has seen Remembrance of the Daleks will remember it featured flying Daleks tackling a whole army single handed, and the Doctor noting that if the Daleks attacked in force nothing, not even he, could stop the bloodshed. Weak? Hardly.
Of course, fan attitudes change over time and the production team ‘detesting’ JNT could have been forgiven if Empire of the Daleks actually improved them as characters or enemies. For a start, they don’t have an empire, merely a united front that have cheated history to save themselves. Rather than using their own nuclear strength, they fire asteroids at Earth (a tactic made famous in Babylon Five) which simply leaves the planet rendered a cold rubble-filled rock full of embittered humans – and making any mineral resources far harder to exploit. They are shown to be lazy rather than cunning (hoping the Doctor will unite the human survivors for them to exterminate), slow on the uptake (having to interrogate prisoners to confirm patently obvious facts), and prone to panicking (even going so far as commit suicide in despair which, if Death to the Daleks had not already established, would be the moment the audience switched off). They also are destroyed with ease, and their defeat is similarly unimpressive as the Doctor switches off their ability to cheat history. They are only shown as a few small taskforces too terrified of human retaliation to show their hand and even when they warn themselves about future problems they fail totally. They lack cunning, subtlety and are naive enough to believe the Doctor will be loyal to them even after they betray him. Even though they don’t trust him, they then allow him full access to their time corridor technology. Coupled with the poor dialogue, terrible voices and models, this story arguably weakens the Daleks more than the JNT era ever could.
The plot itself is not particularly original – the Daleks conquering Earth was done before in The Dalek Invasion of Earth (unsurprisingly), and the idea of the Doctor trying to prevent such a future was the entirety of Day of the Daleks, and the latter two episodes are a direct sequel to Resurrection of the Daleks. The plot resolution is straight from The Claws of Axos. Empire of the Daleks is split into two stories, a three parter set after the attack and a three parter set before it (there is no cliffhanger reprise to episode four, emphasizing the new start). The idea that UNIT survived the destruction of humanity is ludicrous, unless they used their know-how to escape the massacre, and it rapidly becomes obvious they are all disposable characters because history is going to be rewritten anyway. Episode three becomes a drawn out chase sequence as the TARDIS Crew and UNIT run up and down corridors, chased by Daleks, teleport to a new corridor and run up and down it, losing more expendable characters at every minute.
There are some redeeming features – with Mark’s romance with Serena being surprisingly credible, especially as they both hardened survivors with a dark sense of humor. His shutdown following her death is excellently played, as is the surprise between the two when they meet again. The Doctor being out of his depth in the carnage is played well by Coburn. The idea of UNIT being staffed not by the best and the brightest but a random collection of survivors with dubious morality (including a rapist) is good, but played rather crudely, and its clear the apocalyptic material does not suit the comedy Eleventh Doctor.
This story’s strengths are smothered by the roll call of anniversary elements (Daleks, UNIT, Mark’s departure) and ultimately all it does is cancel out Skaro’s destruction in Remembrance of the Daleks. Its nostalgia element is almost all it has going for it. In the modern era of Dalek Empire, Jubilee and the Cult of Skaro, Empire of the Daleks’ failure is rendered even more pretentious.
Personal Appreciation: *
It didn’t live up to the hype. But then, the hype was so ridiculous it ruined the story before I heard it. As Serena Ryan says, “Tell it to someone who cares!”
The happy-go-lucky scamp Doctor isn’t cut out for complete Dalek carnage – and they’re not even as nasty as the average Christopher Eccleston episode. He believes that improving the universe will keep his companions safe in their lives without him, and thinks of them as family. Despite his clear intention to cancel this ‘wrong’ history, his compassion makes him try to save the inhabitants. He’s rather pessimistic, with his failsafe plan effectively helping to create “the wrong history” so if he fails to change it, it will become the one we experienced. Must be a Time Lord thing. Despite Dara’s ******** he’s got the hang of sleight of hand enough to save the day. He plays dumb a **** of a lot in this story and yet somehow everyone falls for it. He is devastated when Mark leaves, almost begging him to stay even though he clearly knows Mark would never leave Serena (clearly the Doctor fears being left alone with Dara).
Mark’s military training and Klingon meditation tactics allows him to put up with Dara’s “wit”, and he’s never heard of Daleks before – which is fricken **** unlikely unless we assume the various Dalek wars are historically cancelled out because of the wackyness in this adventure. He claims to be from the twenty first century (it’s hard to make out), and he never celebrated Christmas or similar pagan festivals even though they existed in his time. A nice bit of jazz leaves him speechless, and seeing Serena alive blows his mind, leaving him a gibbering wreck. His transition from battle scarred warrior to sensitive new age guy is actually believable. His Tricorder and phaser get used a **** of a lot.
Dara did an O level in chemistry at Cambridge (her school, not the college) which she joined by a scholarship to please her prim and proper family. I dare say she didn’t pass. She’s getting incredibly exasperated with the Doctor’s eccentricity, and is more concerned about her school uniform than the destruction of a planet (not cause she likes the outfit, she thinks her dad will be mad at her... he needs an excuse?) . She does into denial, insisting she’d have been better off staying with her friends and family (oh, if ONLY!) even though she would certainly have been killed in the Dalek attack. She is ****** rude about the Doctor behind his back, especially his magic tricks, and acts like anyone will take her word over his. She likes holding big guns and making quips (who’s she trying to impress? Mark?) and has no faith in the Doctor’s ability to survive.
The Daleks here aren’t the usual ones you’d see in official BBC-sanctioned stories. For a start they are ALL matt black with silver trimmings, an extremely tall ‘neck grille’ of corrugated silver, and their eye stalks miss the “eye” bit, making these the shoddiest Daleks since that campaign in 1993 to build a Dalek out of recycled cola cans... actually, they look worse than that, because it’s clearly just ONE tiny model turned into two (or even three for the crowd scenes) normal-sized Daleks by trick photography. Their voices are worse – slightly slurred nasal voices with American accents, like the ones in Revelation of the Daleks only more irritating (to be fair, the DWADs had a pretty decent modulator that broke just before this story was made, so the sound effects are a last-second replacement). The Daleks are prone to suicidal panicking, not particularly clever and one blast from a Star Trek phaser would blow them to the great Nation Estate in the sky... in the normal way, but not this time. They get easily frightened on their own and like to travel in packs on trans-solar discs, sending five Daleks to handle a single sniper. Wusses. They obey a highly-strung Dalek Supreme, and if concussed they will believe anyone that talks in a Dalek voice is a real Dalek (for crying out load...) and gullible enough to accept that the Doctor will betray all his ideals and become a loyal servant if they tell him to. Their death rays can be defeated by throwing sand at them. In short, these are the weakest, most pathetic and un-fist-worthy of any Daleks I have ever seen. They deserve to have their histories swallowed up in a time loop.
We only ever meet three aliens who use time corridors – the Daleks and the Borad and the Crenach. I don’t think it would be too much to speculate that the ‘London Underground’ of time corridors might be down to the Daleks. But no. It has to be a surprise. In a story called Empire of the Daleks. With Daleks on the cover. Oh, God, kill me. Kill me now.
“Rush hour must be like Star Wars!” Shut up, Dara Hamilton! SHUT UP!
Why is the Master’s theme tune playing? The ******* never shows up. Not that I’m complaining – though even David Segal enunciating ‘ho, ho, ho,’ would be better than the Dalek voices.
The Doctor hasn’t encountered the Daleks for a ‘regeneration or so’. Does that mean all those Segal stories with Daleks are not real? Fair enough.
Does surviving an apocalypse somehow automatically grant the superhuman ability to make Hollywood quips while fighting alien death machines?
The Daleks note the Doctor’s TARDIS was last seen as police box... what else have they ever seen it as? In fact, logically they’d nuke every police box they see just to be on the safe side.
The Doctor noting this ‘heart to heart’ with Dara is exactly like the one in Tomb of the Cybermen doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the writer.
The ruined Earth scenes told by Serena are **** good, and bit where she and Mark celebrate Christmas with a jazz album is touching. Why couldn’t this creativity extend to the main plot? WHY?!?
Buford Metter sounds like Ringo Starr, which is a mercy since he's being played by Chip Jamison. Colonel Chrichton’s dialogue, however seems to be written for Adrian Edmonsen. I can see him now attacking Daleks with cricket bats and aiming guns at his own side... yeah, Dirty Eddie versus the Daleks, THAT would be coolest Doctor Who story ever told.
What the **** is all this about Daleks animating the corpses of their prisoners and sending them to attack the living? Why don’t we get to see/hear it? All that crap in UNIT HQ when we could be getting The George A Romero of the Daleks?!
Dara dubs Serena ‘Sarah Connor’ after the hard-bitten female survivor of The Terminator franchise. Oh, how dearly Mark and Serena wish to break her neck. If only... if only...
Who saw the evil coward sacrificing himself for the greater good? Or that all the nice characters in the horrific nightmare of the future have become a tad callous?
Why use a Blake’s 7 teleport sound effect when Daleks have their own teleport sound effect? Or the Liberator side arm for sonic grenades? However, that “dying scream as UNIT soldier shot in the back by Dalek” is pretty convincing.
While massive props to the Doctor’s back-up plan, he manages to convince a fugitive murderer and rapist to aid him fighting alien robot people with one off-screen phone call? What the **** did he say? Were Metter an insane UFO nut, I could buy it, and besides, he’s not exactly useful anyway?
They used the Mind Bending Battle music from Brain of Morbius, one of the most evocative and creepy bits of Who music ever... AND HAD DALEKS SHOUT THROUGH IT! WHHHHYYYYY?!?!
Props for having a Mr Saward and Mr Peel pestering the UNIT hotline with Dalek ideas. Smackdown!
“I’d like to shake your hand,” Oooh! Another cunning use of audio drama...
I notice Chrichton’s “UNIT aide” is oft mentioned but never seen. Is it something to do with the fact the character was played by Jeff Coburn in his pre-Doctor days? Gosh! I mean, the last thing the DWADs would do is double up the cast, would they?
The conclusion is dangerously similar to The Time of the Daleks, with the Daleks getting caught in a time loop that stuffs up their history, rendering their future a blank slate. Sounds almost like setting up for a Time War or something.
While I will miss Mark and Peter Hinchman, I can only thank ***** that we won’t have to put up with gratuitous Star Trek references from now on.
All this effort to give the Daleks credibility... then a solo Dalek appears at the end of the season in The Augury of Death, then it will be three Doctors before they show their ugly metal faces again in Iron Legion... as ANOTHER solo Dalek... This was all for nothing! NOTHING!!!!
Preposterous Plot Points:
The Daleks can’t even pronounce “Exterminate” properly. And the cast can’t pronounce “Daleks” properly. Maybe the TARDIS translation circuits are on the blink? It would explain Serena’s Cockney dialogue through her Bronx accent...
The idea that an asteroid strike could wipe out all but a handful of humans that just happen to be UNIT troops who just happen to know all about the Doctor and just happen to be able to cover his escape as he learns all the info they just happen to have... This is so unlikely it’s starting to sting.
Why do the Daleks keep offering the Doctor a chance to surrender? Why not just kill him? The story rather RELIES on them already knowing how to muck about with time, so they don’t need his knowledge of time travel! And Daleks write “KEEP OUT THIS MEANS YOU” on their property?!? [OK, the Doctor admits it’s a rough translation, but the Daleks leaving any message reeks of bad characterization.]
More Dalek insanity: saving Skaro. At least War of the Daleks had the Doctor pointing out how ridiculous it was that the Daleks would give a crap about the planet enough to save it. Here we are to expect that, forewarned about the destruction of Skaro’s sun, every Dalek ship available formed a cordon sanitaire around the sun to protect it from the Hand of Omega? Even if that could work it would, as the Doctor says, wipe out pretty much every Dalek ship... leaving Skaro intact but deserted. What good is that? ****, since the Daleks can cross time and warn themselves about the Hand of Omega, why not warn themselves not to use it or simply ‘don’t go looking for it in the first place’? Why haven’t they caught the Doctor before now? And how come the Dalek factions united if Davros is still alive?
The Doctor plans to take Serena with them as they go into the past and change history. Which would cancel her out of existence. Is it mindless compassion? Because he can’t bear to hurt Mark’s feelings? Or does he actually have some kind of plan to sort out history so she’ll be all right? On a similar note, while the Doctor might be a helpless romantic in setting up a surprise date with Mark and the Serena of the normal time line, it’s a bit cruel that he lets Mark wander in with no knowledge and bump into a woman he loves yet has never met him before or reciprocates the feeling.
So, a convicted murderer, rapist and pedophile spends three minutes with the Doctor and suddenly sacrifices himself to protect the schoolgirl he would have, in another history, raped without a thought? Since he dies without affecting the plot, why is he in the second half at all?!?
The past Supreme Dalek orders its future self to commit suicide for failing to stop the Doctor... why not blow itself up in the present and prevent that failure from happening?
Gratuitous use of the title:
DALEK: The Empire of the Daleks is reborn!
Any even vaguely memorable Dalek dialogue is very obviously stolen from the TV stories.
DALEK: You must now choose: submit to the will of the Daleks or be exterminated!
Peter Hinchman finally loses the war against unconvincing dialogue...
MARK: For a bunch of salt and pepper shakers, they sure are tough.
MARK: Where did you get a slug-thrower like that in a place like this?
DARA: What are they doing here?
DOCTOR: What they always do: conquer, enslave and kill every entity they can find.
Chricton refers to “more pissing rounds” to attack the Daleks.
Serena on UNIT troops --
SERENA: Yeah, you can usually find them mixed with the other dead soldiers in the streets.
The fact “Metter the Scumbag” wants to rape Dara is disturbing... how could he find her attractive?
BUFORD: Big girl in a little school girl’s uniform! Hmm, very nice. I’m your friend!
Crichton gets all hard and mature and adult:
CRICHTON: Face down on the ground now! I’ve had it with you, scumbag! THIS IS THE LAST TIME!
Serena’s last words --
SERENA: Mark... you can let go of me now...
This story struggles to connect the DWADs to the TV series, implying that the Jeff Doctor is a future incarnation not too long after Remembrance of the Daleks. However, the fact that the series is not above remaking stories – and the fact the destruction of Skaro is put down to a non-specific “Gallifreyan probe” rather than the all-powerful Hand of Omega – suggests not. After all, in this story Dalek history is totally rewritten. For good. Presumably a move in the canonical Time War. So this is definitely Unbound. Few.
What Could Have Been Done To Improve It:
- A better idea for a story other than JNT-Hating Retcon of the Daleks.
- An expansion on the zombie prisoner idea instead of a throwaway line by a UNIT trooper.
- Lose the UNIT troops chanting Klingon war cries. And shoot whoever came up with the idea.
- Set the story in America to explain the accents and landscapes.
The Party Line:
A masterpiece! It would not be hyperbole to say that Empire of the Daleks is not only one of the best, but possibly the best Doctor Who story out there. The Daleks are evil and threatening; it is wholly believable that these creatures are capable of creating the havoc depicted in this epic. The characters are all three dimensional, and Mark Triyad gets absolutely golden scenes in his last story. Colonel Crichton is shocking as the post-apocalyptic UNIT colonel, and Dara’s realisation that her parents were most likely victims of the Dalek holocaust is truly heart rending. An example of Doctor Who at its finest.
The Awful Truth:
Well, SOMEONE was at the sugar when they wrote that. Sickeningly arrogant, that summary would be ludicrous even if Empire of the Daleks was
actually any good. Instead, there are two three parters under an
umbrella title that seems deliberately avoiding trying to be any good
or original, and occasionally failing. Mark Triyad does, admittedly, do
wonders but he’s not exactly up against stiff competition. The Dalek
voices will make you perforate your own ear drums long before you
realize how derivative both plotlines are. Big Finish would laugh
themselves to death if they heard both the story AND the party line.
Last updated: Friday, March 21, 2008