It’s time for the final Dalek Universe set and we kick off with a more self-contained story that does at least set up the Davros and Dalek-filled two-part finale while also telling its own tale. Is that tale any good though, that’s the main question and frankly the answer is… It’s alright. Let’s take a look!
The Doctor’s attempts to return home have led him to the middle of a war zone… and a familiar voice.
The travelers have arrived on a planet made up of crashed space-ships where they encounter River Song… Or do they? Because she’s dressed as a Movellan and claims to be a member of that robot race. Is she undercover, a duplicate, or something more sinister?
And more importantly… who is her son?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
I appreciate the effort gone into this but Anya looks like she’s accidentally fired her gun while looking at something upsetting…
The story plonks the Doctor in the middle of his Fourth and Fifth’s self in terms of televised Dalek stories as he and Anya observe a space battle between Daleks and Movellans. Trying to avoid them both they find a distress call and soon get pulled in its direction against their will, crashing into a planet that is made up entirely of crashed ships, which is a fun concept. They encounter a Movellan “child” called Kamen (Mathew Jacobs-Morgan) who appears to be leading a group of colonists who had become trapped on the planet but soon we meet his “mother”: a Movellan that looks and sounds exactly like River Song…
This set up of location, time period and the River mystery was really great but sadly as I’ll detail in the “Bad” section the story doesn’t really get going after that. Still, the end, which sees River reveal she was the Movellan all along but all her mental willpower was being directed towards keeping Kamen in check but in the end the “emotions” that were being withheld overwhelmed the “boy” and incapacitated him. River gives one of her cryptic hints at what the Doctor must do next (“find the First Movellan”) and then vortex manipulates out of there, leading to Anya and the Doctor being trapped on the planetoid as Daleks begin to knock on the door…
As I mentioned I really liked the first ten minutes of set up and scene-setting and the last five or so minutes, but the 45 minutes in the middle felt like it didn’t really go anywhere. Some crazy Movellans were running around attacking randomly due to artificial effects of the planetoid, so they were the “enemies” of the piece so to speak but beyond a few chase sequences it didn’t amount to much. Anya does very little and the River reveal was teased for too long, by the time we found it was River rather than some sort of duplicate I’d stopped caring.
So, it’s not awful or anything but it’s definitely the weakest of the Dalek Universe stories…
That’s a busy cover, but it does at least get across everything that happens in the three stories!
The Movellans and their war with the Daleks are all introduced and established in the Fourth Doctor TV story “Destiny of the Daleks”. They have also featured previously on audio in the Fourth Doctor story “The Movellan Grave”.
That’s it really. No indication as to where in River’s muddled timeline this occurs for her, though Anya recognises her thanks to the two meeting in the Eighth series of The Diary of River Song, specifically “The Queen of the Mechanoids”.
The First Son had a good beginning and end but was let down by a weak middle. A shame after such a strong run of stories to get a mediocre one, but it does if nothing else set up the two-part finale well…