Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures # 1.4
Written by: Nicholas Briggs
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Mark Benton & Nicholas Briggs
Duration: 60 mins approx
Chronology Placement: Set after “The Wrath of the Iceni”
Synopsis: The Doctor and Leela find themselves in the middle of London at the time of a new energy crisis. The GlobeSphere Corporation seems to have all the answers – but several thousand protesters beg to differ. What is the connection between the National Gallery and a base on the Moon? Has radical thinker Damien Stephens simply sold out, or does he have a more sinister agenda? The Doctor has detected a mysterious energy reading. Could it be that the most evil creatures in the universe have returned to claim ultimate victory once and for all?
Despite Tom Baker’s seven-year tenure in the role of the Fourth Doctor, the character actually only met the Daleks twice on-screen – once with Sarah-Jane in the iconic “Genesis of the Daleks” and later on with Romana II in “Destiny of the Daleks”. With so few interactions between the Fourth Doctor and the Daleks, it makes complete sense that Big Finish would want to pit the quintessential incarnation of the Doctor against his most iconic enemies to celebrate the first series of Fourth Doctor adventures, and as an added bonus, the story also provides us with Leela’s first encounter with the creatures – fixing a missed opportunity during the series’ original run.
Placed mid-series to counter audience fatigue, “Energy of the Daleks” is surprisingly restrained in its use of its titular enemies and instead places the focus on the Daleks’ Robomen slaves, evoking memories of the classic First Doctor adventure, “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”, in which they made their sole televised appearance. Nicholas Briggs’ adventure feels tonally similar to the 1964 classic, with the Daleks attempting to take over a near-future Earth using brainwashed corpses of its populous to act as the muscle.
Briskly paced, the hour-long adventure has a lot of ground to cover and Briggs’ script deftly whisks the Doctor and Leela through the plot, condensing what might have once been a multi-episode serial into a single release. Despite this haste, Briggs does develop the secondary characters well – particularly Mark Benton’s Jack Coulson. Mark Benton is no stranger to the Doctor Who universe, having notably appeared as Clive the conspiracy theorist in “Rose” who met an untimely end at the hand of an Auton. This release gives us a glimpse in what Benton would have brought to the role of a companion, showcasing his wit and warmth as he works alongside Tom Baker’s Doctor – it’s a great pairing and one of the highlights of this adventure.
Another highlight is Leela’s interactions with the Daleks, coming eye-to-eyestalk with the Doctor’s greatest enemies for the first time. It is great to see her courage in the face of pure evil, and her resolute faith that the Doctor will save her and defeat them. Louise Jameson has been absolutely marvellous in this series, developing the character of Leela far beyond the “skimpily-clad savage” stereotype she was in her televised appearances. Tom Baker’s infectious enthusiasm for the series continues to show through in his performance, and this release features snippets from behind-the-scenes which showcase his ad-libbing and general mischief-making whilst recording. That joy and fun radiates beyond the production process and is evident in the final product itself, making these audio adventures really stand out.
“Energy of the Daleks” is a thrilling action-adventure set in the near-future, which is paired with an interesting comment on this generation’s energy consumption and the potential of an energy crisis on our horizon. Briggs wisely avoids becoming too preachy with his narrative, but the message is there for anyone who looks beyond the dramatic set-pieces. As with his work on “Destination: Nerva”, Briggs throws the listener into the deep end with seemingly contrasting locales – contemporary London and a satellite orbiting the moon – but draws his plot threads together to form a very satisfying narrative tapestry in the end.
Bringing the Fourth Doctor and the Daleks together should be a winning combo, and unsurprisingly it is, resulting in one of the strongest Fourth Doctor Adventures yet. With pitch-perfect pace, and a clear narrative thrust, “Energy of the Daleks” is another strong example of how Big Finish is able to modernise the classic eras of Doctor Who to create wonderful stories that rival (and sometimes surpass) the televised serials.