There are a lot of very clever ideas in Jonny Morris’ latest script for Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor, which sees the return of Bonnie Langford as Mel for the first time in far too long. It’s more overtly political than some stories – appropriate given that, as script editor Alan Barnes notes in the extras, they were making a Dalek story that would have fitted into the Cartmel era – and while some of the politics may be a little less than subtle, much can be forgiven for the discussion between the Doctor and a politician about the definition of a tyrant… Mary Conlon is absolutely chilling as Celia Dunthorpe in these scenes.
The story almost casually sorts out a number of hanging continuity threads from other McCoy stories – his knowledge of aspects of Dalek history and behaviour in Remembrance of the Daleks notably – and there are plenty of little Dalek Easter eggs (no, not that sort!) for those who know their Skarosian history. (Nick Briggs’ excitement at getting to intone certain phrases from a Troughton story is almost palpable – between this, Return to Telos, and The Prisoner, he might as well be living in the 1960s!)
Morris gives Bonnie Langford plenty to opportunities to show Mel’s stronger facets, and it’s also good to hear McCoy without all the angst of the recent Ace/Hex plotlines. There are multiple environments in this story and the listener’s point of view has to be clear at all times – a great job by Ken Bentley and Wilfredo Acosta (the sound engineer whose work can be heard on Good Omens and many other Dirk Maggs productions).
Verdict: A strong start to Big Finish’s next hundred main range tales, and a good jumping on point for new listeners. 9/10