Big Finish Review: Doctor Who – Time Lord Victorious: Genetics of the Daleks
The second of two Time Lord Victorious releases from Big Finish this month sees Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor enter the saga in Genetics of the Daleks. Conceived in association with Escape Hunt, this new release is intended to be enjoyed either as a prequel to the escape room adventure, A Dalek Awakens, as well as a standalone audio drama.
Check out the rest of our Time Lord Victorious reviews and features below:
- Book Review: Doctor Who -Time Lord Victorious: The Knight, The Fool and The Dead
- Big Finish Review: Doctor Who Short trips: Time Lord Victorious Master Thief / Lesser Evils
- Big Finish Review: Doctor Who – Time Lord Victorious: He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not
- Big Finish Review: Doctor Who – Time Lord Victorious: The Enemy of my Enemy
- Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - Mutually Assured Destruction
- Interview with Time Lord Victorious producer / writer James Goss
Genetics of the Daleks has been written by Jonathan Morris and directed by Jamie Anderson. It is available to purchase on the Big Finish site here and goes on general release on the 31st December. Here's the synopsis…
There are 10,000 humans in stasis aboard Starship Future. Ten thousand humans expecting to wake up on a distant planet, their new home. But twenty years into their journey, Starship Future takes on board fuel – and something else. Something that’s been waiting, frozen in space, for a very long time.
Something with a plan.
Unless the Doctor can help, it looks like the people of Starship Future have no future at all...
Once again, I'll be joined by my regular Big Finish co-reviewer and massive Doctor Who fan, my 14 year-old son Ben, to discuss this latest release.
“’Just one Dalek.’ Famous last words of countless civilisations...”
Tom Baker's debut into the main narrative of the Time Lord Victorious is a tenuous one; there's a fun tie into the previous release Mutually Assured Destruction, though the Fourth Doctor's involvement is more a passing nod towards the future Eighth Doctor's encounter with the Daleks. But Genetics of the Daleks has another purpose, to act as a prequel to Time Lord Victorious escape room adventure, A Dalek Awakens. Having enjoyed enjoyed previous Escape Rooms Cyberman-based adventure World's Collide, I can imagine that a Starship haunted by one lone Dalek will work perfectly in this setting.
Of all the Big Finish releases for Time Lord Victorious so far, this is the most successful, providing an entertaining, self-contained story even with that dark tease of more to come as the credits roll. The lone Dalek and a ship full of people in cryogenic freeze has shades of 2005's Dalek meets Baker's The Ark in Space. But this is far more than just a Dalek-fuelled spectacle of violence, even with a few gruesome deaths thrown in. Throwing in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe with crew replaced by criminal agents (tying nicely to Baker's eigith series of The Fourth Doctor Adventures) and a Dalek seeking to rebuild his race by experimenting on sleeping victims, and you a nightmarish scenario of twisted schemes, machinations and full on body horror. Jonathan Morris packs a lot in to the one hour running time and yet it never feels rushed.
Baker is at his finest here, whether its riffing on classic Doctor Who one-liners or gleefully standing up to criminal agents or the Daleks. He commands every scene. This might be one of the most enjoyable Fourth Doctor Big Finish stories of recent times; and that's with the Doctor not turning up until nearly quarter way through the running time.
It helps that there is a solid cast backing him up. Joseph Kloska is as close to a classic companion character as we get in Pilot Finlay, the innocent crew member who finds his colleagues have been replaced by enemy agents. Pippa Haywood is perfect as the no-nonsense Captain Graff; it was refreshing to see use common sense - the moment she realises the Doctor is not an enemy stowaway, she has the intuition to realise he can help her. On the other side, Clive Mantle is a lot of fun as evil Medical Officer Chuke, while there's plenty of depth to Nina Toussaint-White's Security Officer Swann, who switches from cold and ruthless to something of a redemptive arc in the story's final act. Andrew James Spooner makes less of an impact as Dalek mind controlled-Professor Brooke, but still serves the story well, while Nicholas Briggs is pitch perfect as the snarling, insidious Dalek mutant controlling Brooke's mind.
There is plenty of tension throughout; the sense of danger is palatable and the Dalek's final plan is as grand as it is deadly. The build up to the final showdown is superbly paced and never feels rushes. Yes, you have to pay attention to the twists and turns of each character, but they all feel real, their motivations understandable. For a story that is essentially a prequel to an escape room narrative, it does a stellar job. My only criticism is the cruelty of that final cliffhanger, necessary given that this remains very much a prequel story.
Genetics of the Daleks is a fun -if somewhat loose - addition to the Time Lord Victorious range and one of my favourite Tom Baker stories at Big Finish. It feels both classic and Nu Who, while still feeling quintessentially like a Fourth Doctor story.
The announcement of Genetics of the Daleks came as something of a shock, due to the belief only Doctors Eight through Ten would appear. But in hindsight, the lack of Tom Baker would have been denied one of the best Fourth Doctor stories of recent years.Cleverly, the story links itself to the associated Escape Room A Dalek Awakens, while also being a perfectly self contained horrific story filled with enough action to emerge Victorious (pun intended) over all the other Big Finish Time Lord Victorious releases. It manages to convince you that the Escape Room is a perfect way to continue this story, ending on a surprising cliff-hanger, but also if you can't access the live experience, then you don't feel you've missed out on anything truly important. In fact, I have an inkling that you may miss more only doing the Escape Room...
Tom Baker gives his best performance of the year here, perfectly balancing comedy and seriousness, especially when he confronts the lone Dalek, and despite not appearing for a good while, he still manages to steal the story within his first few lines. His interactions with said villain are truly engaging, from learning about what his future self does to the Dalek Time Squad, to his pure horror at what this one Dalek has achieved. It cements just how lucky we are to have this man making new stories for us to this day. The Dalek itself comes across as a truly chilling villain, despite being a lone survivor, and reminds us how these guys work most effectively when isolated to a single threat. Indeed, here its machinations result in pure body horror, that would most certainly not have been able to be achieved on TV back in the 70's, in perhaps one of the most evil schemes concocted by the Daleks yet.
Surprisingly, the Dalek isn't the only threat of this story. The criminal agents going around replacing people in cryo-sleep is a truly exciting sub-plot, helping carry the story for the first fifteen minutes and throughout the scenes the Doctor isn't around. Their continued threats to murder people's families are truly distorted, being no nonsense ruthless killers, and Swann even manages to commit an act of goodness by the climax of the story. It's not just the criminals though; even Graff, the kind hearted captain trying to save her crew, ends up in a dark place at one point. The Dalek-possessed Brooke also slightly homages the way the Dalek mutant possessed Lin on TV in 2019's Resolution, to the point the mutant stays out of its casing for a good while, despite being the weakest of the cast members involved.
The setting is perfect for the story, slightly inverting the space cruiser genre (which are probably my favourite) within the show, and helps to bring the Dalek and the body-snatching-esque criminals an elevated sense of threat and would work perfectly within the connected escape room. With a huge body count, pure evil villains and an enlightened performance from Tom Baker, Genetics of the Daleks is an incredibly strong contribution not just to the whole Time Lord Victorious narrative, but Doctor Who as a whole. We are all the more better for its existence.
In the behind the scenes interview, producer Emma Haigh talks the concept of Genetics of the Daleks - a Big Finish adventure designed to tie into the Escape Room adventure for Time Lord Victorious. Together with writer Jonathan Morris, that discuss the challenge of creating a stand alone Dalek story that also has to lead into A Dalek Awakens.
Tom Baker is as delightful as ever, talking memories of Doctor Who, never giving up the role fully because of the fans and just how he always gor the best lines! The rest of the cast delve into their characters; Pippa Haywood discusses the pride in playing a noble character like Captain Graff, while Clive Mantle channels his inner villain to play Medical Officer Chuke. Nina Toussaint-White delves into the psychopathy of Security Officer Swann, basing on her Villainelle from Killing Eve, while delighting in her character's dark and brutal death scene! Andrew James Spooner talks playing that classic amoral scientist in Professor Brooke, while Joseph Kloska (Pilot Finlay) talks his competitive side in his previous escape room experience and the opportunity to revisit the story in A Dalek Awakens.
The final discussion around the Daleks is a lovely note to end on, as Tom Baker talks about them being old friends. It's moments like that that make these extras an essential part of any Big Finish listening experience.