Dalek Universe kicks off proper with one hell of a two-parter by the always impressive John Dorney. To say the plot twists and turns would be an understatement, and to properly talk about how much I enjoyed this story I’ll have to stop here and wait until we get to the spoilerful review itself! SERIOUSLY DON’T READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU’RE PLANNING ON LISTENING TO IT LATER. … Let’s take a look!
The far future – Anya Kingdom of the Space Security Service is on a mission investigating an SSS ship crashing on a distant jungle planet. Unknown to her superiors, she’s searching for something very specific… but what she finds is completely unexpected. Her old friend, the Doctor. With a completely different face and no idea what he’s doing there.
The Time Lord soon finds himself drawn into a conspiracy involving voracious predators, time travel and a malevolent businessman.
History itself is breaking down. If he makes a mistake, it could mean the end of everything…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Yay, individual covers! Just in time to see Joe Sims staring out at you with his dead eyes! …. Yay?
The opening of the story sees Anya Kingdom on a top secret mission within a rescue mission on the planet Myra (yes, straight in there with the Daleks Master Plan reference! I believe that’s all the old planets revisited now…) her superior Esther Malkin (Juliet Aubrey) actually not being her superior but blissfully unaware of that fact. That is until they find Mark Seven, who is the reason why Anya had gone on the mission in the first place. The team then find signs of life in the medical bay and find The Doctor, though not the one either Anya or Mark Seven were expecting, and much to Anya’s shame even though it’s been like seven or eight lives since their original travels together The Doctor hasn’t forgotten Ann Kelso, the person he thought he was travelling with until it turned out to be Anya undercover. The Doctor makes sure to immediately out Anya to her fellow SSS officers as a higher up spy before then deciding to try and find out who exactly pulled him from his time and his TARDIS then plonked him down on a hostile planet.
Once they escape the invisible creatures (an odd concept for audio, when you think about it…) their attention becomes focused on Sheldrake, a company that is advertising free time travel to the rich and famous beginning at midnight, as the probable cause of all the issues which now includes Anya having visions of a future Doctor giving her warnings. The team have a quick awkward conversation with a Pastor before heading inside, and as the team splits up the pastor returns and confronts The Doctor, seemingly shooting him before vanishing. Just before the end of part 1 Anya and Mark Seven arrive to see The Doctor regenerate into a new female incarnation played by Gemma Whelan. Now THAT’S a cliffhanger!
Top marks to whoever did the shadowy Tennant in the middle of the picture, looks great!
Part two kicks off with the usual post-regeneration zaniness before Mark Seven heads off to try and take down Sheldrake and its owner George Sheldrake (Mark Gatiss) the official way only to be stopped by assassins sent back in time by George when he found out what he was doing (benefits of time travel) Anya and The Doctor eventually find Sheldrake’s machine and The Doctor removes a key component… before telling Anya she’ll never forgive her and popping into the pastor’s book which turns out to actually be a TARDIS. Big twist number two then as inside this TARDIS is The Doctor tied up as the apparent female Doctor reveals herself to be another incarnation of The Meddling Monk who used an image projector to look like The Doctor, complete with fake regeneration effects. It’s here where the ball drops and The Doctor realises he’s in the pre-Time War universe and therefore something must be SERIOUSLY wrong with time, so he convinces the Monk to head back outside and help him fix Sheldrake’s machine and save all of time.
The Monk goes along with the plan, especially as her TARDIS won’t move, while Anya, Mark Seven and Malkin deal with the outside world, where all of time is happening at once. The Doctor figures out that the one who snatched him out of time and sent him there was him, right now, so he does that to make sure he’s here to stop it (classic paradox!) At a critical moment The Monk decides The Doctor must be lying to her and is planning on stranding her in time again, so pops in her TARDIS and tries to leave but ends up … going somewhere or other. Something very dangerous as The Doctor was pleading for her to stay because he didn’t want to lose yet another one of his people… Close to giving up hope he then sends messages back in time to Anya, which therefore are the future visions she’s been having, and she arrives in time to help him shut the machine off.
*phew!* It was quite the ride, but an extremely fun one. At the end The Doctor tries to use more conventional time travel to get back to his prior point in time but the Daleks detect him and try to destroy the craft, making The Doctor realise that pre-Time War doesn’t just mean more Time Lords but means the Dalek Empire is still around. So for the time being The Doctor is stuck in the pre-Time War era of the show! A fun concept, let’s see how it continues…
Honestly? Not a lot! I will admit the Part 1 cliffhanger, while fun in a “how will this be undone way” (given we know that’s not how the 10th Doctor’s time ends!) it was a bit too close to the Stolen Earth / Journey’s End cliffhanger, and the “all of time at once” concept has already been done in much the same “spaceships and dinosaurs in London” way in “The Wedding of River Song”.
Still, reusing some ideas is hardly a crime, especially in a near 60-year-old franchise!
The overall cover, though with the exception of the Mechanoid it could’ve been the cover for just this two parter!
The Doctor’s time with Anya Kingdom (alias Ann Kelso) began in “The Sinestran Kill” and ended in “The Perfect Prisoners”, where as he previously met Mark Seven in the recently released “Dalek Protocol”, all of which happened during his Fourth incarnation.
As already mentioned the cliffhanger bears resemblance to “The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End”, a 10th Doctor TV story that timeline-wise only happened quite recently. Also already mentioned is the “all of time happening at once” concept being used in the 11th Doctor TV story “The Wedding of River Song”.
As for The Monk? Well he/she first appeared in the 1st Doctor TV Story “The Time Meddler”, and has since made many more appearances, especially on audio. The Monk here mentions that she crosses her own time stream so often she’s not even sure what order she’s in, though given she doesn’t know about the Time War but remembers what The Doctor did to her in her original TV stories it’s safe to say it’s after the original Monk but before the Rufus Hond incarnation…
What else can I say? It’s one of those crazy John Dorney scripts that’s just a delight to go through. Twists, turns, great dialogue, fun action… it’s what you want in a Who story, and if the rest of the series is even half as good we’re in for a fun time!