Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blood of the Daleks

Well. My Doctor Who nerdiness might have reached critical mass. I'm doing something I've never done before: listening to a radio play. Plus, I'm going to review it, which will be difficult as I've never reviewed something in this medium before. I listened to this while I was working out, and I'll probably listen to more, considering they distract me from the terrible boredom of working out. Alright, let's dive in.


The Eighth Doctor is surprised to see Lucie Miller suddenly materialize in the TARDIS control room. They argue for a bit, and when the Doctor attempts to drive her home, the TARDIS gets stuck on this weird planet where an asteroid strike is slowly creating a nuclear winter. They get involved in the President's attempt to reach somebody - anybody on the radio to rescue them. Unfortunately, the Daleks show up, offering a hand in friendship. But all is not as it seems.

This story represents the first two episodes of the first "series" of ongoing Eight Doctor audio adventures from Big Finish Productions, whom have held the audio license for a long time. It stars the original Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, who does a terrific job. Apparently other Big Finish productions feature original Doctors as well, including Colin Baker, in an attempt to fix the Sixth Doctor's reputation (and he allegedly succeeds!).

This is sort of hard to review because I've never critiqued an audio drama before. Let's take a look at story basics and then take it from there. Does the story, the bare minimum of plot, make any sense? Why yes, it does. The story is twisty and features enough plot to keep the characters busy and keep them from being stagnant figuratively. It's also rather gripping, but kind of obvious in the sense that you know the Daleks had something to do with the asteroid and you know the Daleks have something up their sleeve.

What is surprising is the twist at the halfway point, the end of the first episode. This twist? I did not see coming. I was standing in the gym lifting weights and when this bomb dropped, my jaw fell open and I stopped lifting. I'm sure I looked like an idiot standing there. I quickly regained my composure and enjoyed the rest of the first episode. So yes, the story functions quite well.

Next basic: can I follow along with what's happening with no visual cues? Yes... mostly. There are some instances of noises and whatnot where I had no idea what was going on, but these moments are few and far between. The beginning is a little disorientating, but I think that's the point. Also, I wasn't always sure if characters were speaking to each other or having little asides to themselves. But these are all very small things in an otherwise larger "picture". I could follow along, even while working out, and I was quite drawn into the story.

The acting is quite impressive, which would make sense if they really wanted to sell me on a Doctor Who audio production. Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor is just so different than all of the others (thank heavens) but still has obvious echoes of the Doctor: he's arrogant, he's charming, he has that sense of authority in everything he does, and he always has faith in humanity. This Doctor, however, is a bit ruthless. He engineers the death of mutant Daleks by allying with regular Daleks! That's cold blooded, son. But he's not as ruthless as Seven or even Ten at the end of Family of Blood. He's a more caring Doctor, quite unlike Six.

[Fuck me I'm a goddamn nerd. I'm like Trekkie level nerd at this point. I need a girlfriend.]

The rest of the cast is good, including the actress playing Lucie Miller. When I found out the character is supposed to be in her teens, I kind of guffawed as the actress sounds much older than that (turns out she's three years older than I am!) but this isn't a huge problem.

What's really goddamn impressive is how the Daleks sound. The production manages to give each Dalek (within a scene) a different pitch in voice, making it obvious who is talking and when. It's a small and subtle thing, but it greatly adds to the listener's comprehension. Plus, it's always exciting to hear Daleks warble "exterminate" at the Doctor.

On the whole, it's pretty good. Without any visual components to worry about, the audio productions can do big stories. But the reverse of this is also true. With no visual aspect, the action, however complex or simple, can be tough to follow. Blood of the Daleks seems to straddle this line pretty good. There's some epic stuff going on in terms of visuals that you couldn't pull off with the BBC's budget, but the writing keeps it clear enough to be entertaining.

Will I listen to another one of these? Probably. But maybe I'll listen to some Sixth Doctor ones and try and give that big galumph a chance. It's not like I have anything better to do than immerse myself further into Whovian nerdiness already. God I should just cut off my genitals - I'm never getting a girlfriend ever again at this rate. Hahaha.

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