It’s time for the second half of this makeshift “eight one-parters forming a sort-of whole” story and see how it comes to a close. The first part was a mixed bag of good and average, with the whole “meeting the same people in different roles” thing wearing a bit thin by the end. Is three more episodes worth it before getting to the big finale? Well…
Something is very wrong. The Fifth Doctor is lost in the Time War, heading for an encounter with his oldest and deadliest enemies… the Daleks!
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Let’s start with the final part as it was the only story of the four that I didn’t have any issues with. The TARDIS crashes into another time ship and the two ships land on an unknown planet, with The Doctor convinced he’d found the source of his issues. He meets the usual faces and finds out they’re the time travellers he bumped into, but before he can put anything else together the group is assaulted by a quartet of Daleks. They watch as a previously injured member of their party runs to, and gets killed by, a Dalek but mysteriously the evil pepperpot vanishes as well. In the confusion they retire to their time vessel and when The Doctor starts its engines he hears a familiar heartbeat-like sound, puts two and two together and finds out that the time travellers are Kaleds, the regular people that the three remaining Daleks would be if it weren’t for Davros, somehow existing alongside their regular timeline versions.
He also reveals that the devastated planet they’re on is Gallifrey and if they don’t stop the Daleks all Time Lords past and future will cease to be, plus the echoes of the three pilots he kept meeting seven times in a row was a message to bring him here and stop it… a lot of info and stakes-raising at the last moment! The three Kaleds leave the ship and intentionally get themselves killed in order to take the Daleks with them and save the day as the Doctor leaves with the unique notion that the Daleks just saved Gallifrey, all while trying to remember a war of some description he’s beginning to forget… It was a satisfying end, though overall I think three parts and then this story would’ve been better as the linking narrative of meeting the same actors different roles wore thin quite quickly!
Speaking of which! Part 1, “Echo Chamber”, was very nearly going straight into the bad as I normally dislike fourth wall breaking stuff, but it turned out entertaining enough. The Doctor is hosting a radio talk show, and badly, with no memory of how he got there, presented as if it was a show you the listener are listening to. As he takes calls he begins to gain more confidence but also goes “off brand” and ignores instructions to only cover things that make people angry. He then searches backstage and finds a rogue machine feasting off of anger, somehow, and while he shuts it off and leaves a warning for none to approach it again, the “familiar faces” vanish. He heads back into the TARDIS to try again… It had some fun bits, but it also had some more cringey fake futuristic radio ads… (that’s the second time in recent memory…)
Part 2, “Towards Zero”, had a fun premise of The Doctor arriving in a manor house and having to solve his own murder, his apparent mother, brother and sister all being suspects. Turns out it’s just another weird reality bubble that slowly starts to collapse in on itself, with all three family members having been guilty as the loop repeated itself. There is a bit of drama as The Doctor is escaping, knowing that any chance to save the people now worried that their world is literally folding in on itself is gone as the regulars always vanish in the end. It wasn’t the best story, but for 20-odd minutes it was fine.
… Yeah, they really couldn’t be bothered with this cover, could they?
Part 3, “Castle Hydra”, was the only bit I didn’t really like. The Doctor arrives in a prison where three people have been capturing duplicates of themselves for both experimentation, or in order to use in prison to serve somebody else’s life sentence (which was a funny idea, if nothing else!) These are of course the same three The Doctor kept encountering, and while it was a good idea that “why would The Doctor be the only one who realised”, there wasn’t much to it. The castle that served as a prison kept coming under attack and it turns out that it was due to a malfunctioning telepathic machine that was making inmate’s dreams become reality. It was fine, but I just never got into it, and was really tired of the concept by this point…
Beyond following on from “Shadow of the Daleks 1” there isn’t much! This is one the first times we see (or hear) Kaleds since their introduction in “Genesis of the Daleks”, which given they’re all either killed or turn into Daleks isn’t really a surprise…
Shadow of the Daleks 2 has a higher hit-rate than 1, but it also wore thin quicker. Luckily the first two stories had more of a unique spin on them compared to some of the SOTD1 stories, but it really began to falter in Part 3. Thankfully the final part was a satisfying end to this “hands tied, let’s make the best of it!” run of stories. That being said, I’m looking forward to a good old fashioned four parter or two next month though, especially ones with some different actors in…