David Tennant is back as the Tenth Doctor! With Big Finish Productions. Battling Daleks! But there is also a feel of the 1960’s about Dalek Universe 1

Dalek Universe may be the title of this set, but it is more of a wider celebration of Terry Nation’s ideas and influence. The Tenth Doctor teams up with his old frenemies, Space Security Service agents Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven. Together, they are faced with mysteries, potential chronoclasm, and betrayal. Dalek Universe 1 is a fast-paced, epic, thrill ride of an adventure, with constant twists and turns to keep listeners on the edge of their seats.

Doctor Who: Dalek Universe 1 – Buying Time (c) Big Finish

Buying Time by John Dorney

The set starts off with a script that is so enjoyably packed with action and snark. If I had to choose one word to describe Buying Time it would have to simply be; fun. It is hard not to smile all the way through and the story sets up extremely positive expectations for the rest of Dalek Universe. John Dorney ensures that all fans can have a good time with this set, regardless of their knowledge of previous stories. There’s enough quick background to help listeners understand returning characters or themes, but the pace keeps moving and it never gets bogged down with exposition.

Those character dynamics and their history shine through so clearly, particularly in the brilliant performances by David Tennant and Jane Slavin, as The Doctor and Anya Kingdom. There is a tension throughout their interactions but one laced with respect, care, and no small amount of regret. Anya is intelligent and intuitive, a character that it’s hard not to like, even, I think, for a Doctor who can’t seem to trust her.

However, there’s no time for these characters to waste worrying about if they are friends or not. They have to stop the kind of temporal shenanigans only a greedy capitalist with time travel can create. Then we are faced with an insane ending that ramps up the excitement to a whole new level!

Doctor Who: Dalek Universe 1 – The Wrong Woman (c) Big Finish

The Wrong Woman by John Dorney

Trying to review this story without spoiling anything is a challenge. Early on in The Wrong Woman Anya and Mark must try to avoid explaining to their supervisor, Esther, all of the insanity that they just witnessed and that is still ongoing. I feel very similar trying to review this episode! It’s certainly an adventure that gets going with a bang and does not let up. It twists, turns, and rotates in various directions until it has defied the expectations of the listener. Dorney said in the behind the scenes interviews that the idea behind the story is something he thought up when he was around twelve years old, which is just fantastic. So hold onto those childhood plot ideas everyone, you never know when they may come in handy!

Throughout the various twists, Gemma Whelan seems to be having an absolute ball as she plays The Newcomer. Her performance is wild and funny. The chaotic energy really fits perfectly into the tone of this story. She also plays excellently off the rest of the cast throughout, but particularly in some one on one interactions near the end of the story.

As The Wrong Woman unfolds, every character has to adapt to their own hectic situation and there are many questions to answer. Will Anya ever be forgiven? Can The Doctor resist heart-breaking temptation? Will someone please give Mark a break? My new favourite android is having a very tiring day. However, as the thrill of one adventure closes another will have to begin.

Doctor Who: Dalek Universe 1 – The House of Kingdom (c) Big Finish

The House of Kingdom by Andrew Smith

The House of Kingdom opens on a very bored Doctor, having spent the last 12 hours stuck waiting around a space station. Similar to the rest of this box set though, the action gets going right away. Space pirates, mechanoids, and estranged relatives! It’s all here in this tense closing story about tough choices and betrayal.

The character dynamics provide all the highlights, as they do throughout Dalek Universe 1. Anya has spent much of the previous stories looking for redemption but here is a chance for her anger to really be on display. Now forgiveness is something she can choose whether or not to grant. It’s also clear that The Doctor’s perspective on the situation is very much influenced by his own guilt and loss. Another source of contention between Anya and Merrick is his treatment of Mark. The way that Anya defends Mark’s personhood and cares for his treatment here says a lot about their relationship.

Mark Seven may be a straight-talking android but he also has a warmth that comes through in Joe Sims’ excellent performance. Mark is best contrasted with another character in this story; Dr. Abigail Crane. Maria Teresa Creasey plays the character in a very intriguing manner. She is calculating in a very serene way. Above all she is cold. She feels immediately much more robotic and unfeeling than Mark ever did. As Andrew Smith draws this adventure to a close, Mark has a key role to play in a final act that will have listeners immediately checking the release date for Dalek Universe 2 (it’s July 2021, you’re welcome).

Overall

Dalek Universe 1 is an incredibly exciting start to a series. My anticipation for the future instalments has gone through the roof! The story was recorded during lockdown with everyone in their own spaces, instead of together in the studio, but it doesn’t feel disconnected at all. That’s thanks to excellent direction from Ken Bentley, immersive sound design from Howard Carter, and standout performances and chemistry amongst the cast. The focus on team and interpersonal relationships, during such an action-packed and quick moving story was balanced perfectly.

Fans with the background on previously referenced adventures and material will have a lot to dig into here. Still, I’d imagine even those who are newer to Big Finish or the Classic Who elements will not be overwhelmed and can easily and quickly connect with these characters and feel the excitement in the stories. This series is a must-listen in a year of Big Finish that has already promised so much more excitement!

Doctor Who: Dalek Universe 1 (c) Big Finish

Synopsis

This title was released in April 2021. It will be exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 July 2021, and on general sale after this date.

Time has gone awry. The Doctor is lost, without his TARDIS. But he’s not alone. The Space Security Service agents Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven haven’t always been on his side in the past, but now they are here to help him.

And he’s going to need them – because the oldest foes of all are waiting to strike. Ready to take down their greatest enemy…

1.1 Buying Time by John Dorney

The far future. Anya Kingdom of the Space Security Service is on a mission investigating an SSS ship crashing on a distant jungle planet. Unknown to her superiors, she’s searching for something very specific… but what she finds is completely unexpected. Her old friend, the Doctor. With a completely different face and no idea what he’s doing there.

The Time Lord soon finds himself drawn into a conspiracy involving voracious predators, time travel and a malevolent businessman.

History itself is breaking down. If he makes a mistake, it could mean the end of everything…

1.2 The Wrong Woman by John Dorney

The team’s investigations have taken an unexpected turn – but the signs all still point to Sheldrake. With the clock ticking down to the launch of the time tunnels, the Doctor, Anya and Mark split up… but soon discover how hard it is to fight a foe who can always keep one step ahead of you.

But stopping him is only half the battle. The Doctor says that time can be rewritten – and Anya is searching for redemption. Can she put history back on track? Or is the Doctor’s future never going to be the same again?

1.3 The House of Kingdom by Andrew Smith

The Doctor and his friends are trying to locate a scientist to help them on their quest… but an attack on a space-station alters their plans.

Rescued by Anya’s grandfather, Merrick, and taken to Neptune, the Doctor and Mark discover her family history. A story of betrayal and loss.

Will the Kingdoms be reconciled? Or are they destined to continue the mistakes of the past?

This boxset release contains all three stories, plus additional behind the scenes interviews.

Cast

  • David Tennant (The Doctor)
  • Jane Slavin (Anya Kingdom)
  • Joe Sims (Mark Seven)
  • Juliet Aubrey (Esther Malkin)
  • Nicholas Briggs (The Mechanoids)
  • Maria Teresa Creasey (Dr Abigail Crane)
  • Mark Gatiss (George Sheldrake)
  • Chris Jarman (Pastor / Vesht)
  • Kevin McNally (Merrick Kingdom)
  • Gemma Whelan (The Newcomer)

Credits

  • Cover Art by Simon Holub
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
  • Music by Howard Carter
  • Producer: David Richardson
  • Script Editors: John Dorney and Matt Fitton
  • Sound Design: Howard Carter
  • Written by John Dorney and Andrew Smith

Dalek Universe 1 is available now from the Big Finish website. The title is priced at £24.99 on CD and £19.99 to download. The Big Finish App, available for free on Apple and Android devices, makes listening even easier.

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