Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious – “A Dalek Awakens”
Starring: Jodie Whittaker and Nicholas Briggs
Played at: Escape Hunt (Reading)
Synopsis: Step on board a doomed spaceship, where a rogue Dalek has tapped into the power system, in an attempt to recharge its weapons. Should the Doctor’s most feared enemy be successful, it will exterminate all in its path. You, the Doctor’s friends, must prevent this catastrophe. Shutting down the ship’s power core will ensure the Dalek cannot activate its weapons. However, the ship’s life support systems rely on the same energy source, meaning that shutting down the power would result in the death of all 10,000 passengers. You have just 60 minutes to find a way out of this impossible situation. You must defeat the Dalek to allow the spaceship to continue safely on its journey. Take too long and your destination will be extermination!
[No Puzzle Spoilers]
Originally launched in March 2020 and subsequently put on hiatus during the initial COVID-19 lockdown, “A Dalek Awakens” is the second official Doctor Who escape room from Escape Hunt after its Cyberman-themed adventure “World’s Collide”, which came out in January 2019. What distinguished “A Dalek Awakens” from its predecessor was the fact it was revealed to be a tie-in to the ambitious multi-platform narrative called “Time Lord Victorious” and it also featured a full-size Dalek replica inside the room that you would have to interact with, and ultimately defeat. Keen to experience as much of “Time Lord Victorious” as possible, and up for a battle of wits with a Dalek, I encouraged my wife to book us a stay-cation in Reading with a visit to Escape Hunt as my treat, and a two-hour spa treatment pamper session as hers.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 remained a factor in our trip and we had to experience the whole Escape Hunt experience from underneath our masks, but it wasn’t too restrictive and didn’t ruin the immersive element at all. Our chirpy guide explained our task as the Doctor’s helpers whilst we were outside the room, although he spent too long talking and we missed most of the beginning voice-over from the Doctor to set the scene. From what we did hear, Jodie Whittaker embodied the character perfectly (even as a disembodied voice) and before we knew it, we were under threat from the deadly Dalek and made to stand perfectly still in order to shield ourselves as it scanned for life signs. This added a real sense of risk to the experience, and while we never found out what punishment we’d receive if we’d been “caught”, I liked that the Dalek was looking for us periodically.
The room itself was quite minimalistic in its design with all of the content located within the walls. This was a bit different to escape rooms we’d played in the past and made the game feel a lot more linear than I’d have liked. The production values were top-notch and the Dalek in the corner made it feel like you’d stepped onto a Doctor Who set, even if it was behind protective fencing. While the Dalek did interact with us on occasion, it felt scripted and after we’d achieved checkpoints in the narrative – I’d have loved it if it had been a bit more random, or even related to the countdown to add more tension. Nicholas Briggs performed the voice, creating even more consistency with the show and giving players that authentic Dalek experience.
The story itself is relatively thin on the ground, and the connection to “Time Lord Victorious” is somewhat tenuous, although it was recently announced that Big Finish had partnered with Escape Hunt to produce a Fourth Doctor adventure “Genetics of the Daleks” that would act as a prequel to the adventure. From what I can gather, the Escape Room is towards the end of “Time Lord Victorious” and deals with the final fate of one of the Daleks from the main plot. Again, it’s a bit tenuous, but I do like that the Thirteenth Doctor gets to have some part in “Time Lord Victorious” as she is absent from the novels and audios. However, this is not an essential experience by any means, and instead acts as an epilogue to the main plot which looks to be told primarily through the books, audio dramas and comics.
As we attempted to rescue the 10,000 passengers aboard the Starship Future, there were plenty of nods to Doctor Who lore located within the puzzles. None of the puzzles required any prior knowledge of the show, although they were all science-fiction themed and often used vague terminology to confuse and obfuscate proceedings. In terms of difficulty, we did struggle with the logic of some of the puzzles and one of the puzzles appeared to not be working on the day we visited, so it felt like we skipped a bit – which was actually beneficial to us since we escaped with just four seconds to spare. Reflecting back over the experience, it felt as if there was a lack of exploration and red herrings in the room, and I’d have liked to have seen the puzzles running concurrently rather than tackling them one at a time. Content-wise, the room seemed big enough for 2-4 people to enjoy, but any more than that would see people standing around with hands in pockets.
Production-wise, “A Dalek Awakens” was gloriously big budget and is probably the closest I’ll ever get to defeating a Dalek for real. However, the escape room itself felt surprisingly hollow as if most of the budget had been spent on securing a life-size Dalek and authentic voice actors. It wasn’t terrible, but it lacked a sense of immersion beyond the cosmetics and the puzzles felt too linear compared to past escape rooms I’d played. For me, the best moments were the interactions with the Dalek and I would love to have seen more of those to distinguish this adventure from the other escape rooms I’ve played. Overall, “A Dalek Awakens” was a fun experience but it could definitely benefit from some fine-tuning to make it into a “must-see” for Doctor Who fans. Oh, and the two-hour spa treatment was awesome too!
Score – ★★ ½
Doctor Who: A Dalek Awakens is currently available to play at Escape Hunt Reading and Escape Hunt Birmingham, and can be booked for 2-6 players. Escape Hunt also has a number of other escape rooms including the Cyberman-themed Doctor Who: World’s Collide, all of which are available to book on its website here.