Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - Time Lord Victorious: The Enemy of my Enemy
Big Finish continues to explore the Time Lord Victorious range this month with The Enemy of my Enemy, a story that picks up with the cliff-hanger to last month's He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, and sees the Eighth Doctor forced to work with the Daleks. Check out our review of that story here.
Doctor Who - Time Lord Victorious: The Enemy of my Enemy has been written by Tracy Ann Baines and directed by Scott Handcock. It is available to purchase at the Big Finish site here, before going on general release on the 30th November. Here's the synopsis...
The people of Wrax are happy to begin peaceful negotiations with the Dalek Empire. The two species are preparing to engage in an alliance that will last throughout the ages.
The only one who seems to object to this happy union is the Doctor. He knows that you can never trust the Daleks.
But more than that, he knows that the Wraxians should never have existed…
Once again, I'll be joined by my 14 year old son Ben, the world's biggest Doctor Who fan, to discuss this latest release...
"Now this is something I never thought I would see. The invincible, war mongering, inscrupulous, murdering Daleks. You're terrified."
While the connection between last month's Time Lord Victorious offerings were rather vague, there is a real sense of a bigger story unfolding as we move into the third Big Finish audio Enemy of my Enemy. Dalek stories are always guaranteed to have an energy about them and this one is no different. With the Eighth Doctor captured by a Dalek Time Squad (what a great concept), the hook is an exciting one. What do Daleks fear?
The idea of an alliance with your worst enemy to fight an even greater evil is not an original concept, but it works very well here. It allows us to see a different side to the Daleks, that can be incredibly entertaining. Coming in peace to the people of Wrax, they are much more restrained - and arguably more interesting - as they work with the Doctor to solve the mystery of the threat to the universe itself. Given this incarnation's experiences with the deadly pepper pots, it also adds an intriguing momentum to the Doctor's story too. You know the alliance won't hold forever - and Tracy Ann Baines' script has a number of fun twists in the inevitable outwitting one another - but it never disappoints.
The supporting cast are strong too. Rachel Atkins has a steely, cool demeanour as Sarathin, President of the Wraxians and certainly holds her own against the Doctor and the Daleks. I certainly felt there were shades of Blake 7's Servalan in her portrayal, which played nicely on the enemy of my enemy theme. Raj Ghatak, manwhile, gives an enthusiastic, obnoxious energy to Boros; like Sarathin, his sense of eliteness makes for a compelling character and adds some character to the Wraxian population. It is not a big cast, but through them, you get a sense of the general population.
For those paying attention, there are some interesting ties to the unfolding Time Lord Victorious mythology. The weapon at the heart of the story will be familiar to anyone who listened to the delightfully violent Short Trips story Master Thief (check out our review here). The new alien creation, the Kotturuh, are fleetingly mentioned, perhaps to give their eventual time in the limelight they deserve. And the ending hooks in nicely to the events of novel The Knight, The Fool and The Dead (check out Ben's review here).
Like He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, Enemy of my Enemy works as it's own story but seems to be more successfully part of the Time Lord Victorious narrative too, in a way that last month's entry wasn't. It does something interesting with the Doctor and Daleks - not an easy feat after five and a half decades - and with a compelling hook and ongoing mystery, is sure to be one of the favourites once this continuing story arc is all over.
We're quite deep into the Time Lord Victorious narrative now, both in audio and not, so we're certainly starting to receive some of the bigger stories unfold. While last month's Eighth Doctor offering wasn't strongly connected to the narrative, The Enemy of My Enemy ramps things up to another level.
While we saw Brian the Ood last month, this time around we get a Big Finish offering of the other core supporting character(s), the Dalek Time Squad. At first glance they may just have a swanky name, but looking further in you get a sense these Daleks are very much their own beings, which perhaps make them more dangerous and menacing. While the scientist and commander have their own hidden motives as Daleks do, the strategist (who ends up filling the companion role) has great lines against the Doctor, and is most certainly the strongest individual in the squad (figuratively and mentally).
The way they manage to manipulate the Doctor into working with them and gaining his trust is perhaps an unsettling element, but you can't quite tell if the Doctor is as naïve as the Daleks think. Once again Paul McGann is great in the role, clearly relishing the opportunity to work with the Daleks, and actually has a great friendship of sorts with them as allies.
The plot is a fairly decent and enjoyable one, with a nice call-back to Master Thief (which probably makes you re-evaluate it's connection to the overall arc), and while the Wraxians aren't the best villain ever, they're certainly a great opponent for the Daleks to play off against. While initially it may look like they're in a stalemate, you never can quite predict the Daleks leading to a surprising and nasty conclusion, ending with a lead in to Eight and the Daleks heading to the Dark Times to combat the source of the changes to time (check out my review of The Knight, The Fool and The Dead for more detail), promising a very exciting encounter...
The behind the scenes interviews with producer Alfie Shaw, director Scott Handcock and Paul McGann, talk about the concept of the Daleks going against form in this story and Handcock spending days screeching in Daleks voices as he channels Nicholas Briggs during recording. There's a lot of talk about the approach to recording in isolation, something which Briggs explores and how conducive it is to record as a Dalek by being locked in a box!
Writer Tracy Ann Baines, a big Doctor Who fans talks about the exciting process for the Doctor and the Daleks and the differences from her usual work on film and TV. Particularly noteworthy is her exploration of how the Daleks serve as the Doctor's companions for the story and how she tried to recreate some of the standard Doctor-companion banter.
Actress Rachel Atkins (Sarathin) enthusiastically explores how to record audio from her studio (her back bedroom) in isolation and her joy reading the script. Finally, actor Raj Ghatak (Boros) elaborates on recording his first Big Finish in isolation. Both gives some good insights into their characters, which is conveyed in their enthusiastic performances in the tale itself.
Finally, there is a six and half minute music suite from composer Ioan Morris. It's a moody, atmospheric piece; the vocal backing sequence is particularly effective, while the sweeping, heavy chords and techno beat give the score to Enemy of my Enemy a truly epic sci-fi feel.