After a thrilling first instalment in the series, listeners’ anticipation has been high for Dalek Universe 2.
This follow-up takes a step back from the breakneck pace of the previous set, in favour of a slower character exploration. That’s a riskier choice but it really pays off as emotion and understanding builds through all 3 adventures in Dalek Universe 2.
Cycle of Destruction by Roy Gill
It’s time for a story of nature vs nurture (vs the other kind of nature). The Doctor and Anya have survived the cliffhanger ending of Dalek Universe 1, but now the mystery of Mark has to be solved. There’s no better way to get to know your android friend than meeting the family… and experiencing some memory downloads. It’s not only the listeners, Anya, and The Doctor who are looking for information here. This story is really a journey of self discovery for Mark Seven. This is where he is from but is it really his family? Joe Sims really plays up the vulnerability of Mark wonderfully in this story, particularly during and after a flashback of the upbringing he remembers.
Mariah Six is the best new character in Dalek Universe 2 and Nina Toussaint-White is the star of the show. Her ambitions are so clear and yet her motivations are still mysterious throughout the story. She is a model below Mark Seven but no less complex of a person. She has been forced to deal with a life of stagnation and confinement and thankless work, regardless of her clear talent, drive, and resourcefulness. It’s hard not to have sympathy for her plight. But that also makes it hard to trust her as things take a turn for the worse in this facility and a mysterious “cycle” is killing people. Is it her ambitions that make her suspicious, or is it human prejudice against a robotic personality?
Cycle of Destruction toys with some interesting concepts but its strength is in how we get to understand Mark and how he understands himself. It sets the stage nicely for The Trojan Dalek and in turn, The Lost.
NOTE: Also, the alien bears were lovely!
The Trojan Dalek by John Dorney
This adventure has, simultaneously, some of the most light-hearted and some of the darkest scenes in this set. David Tennant is definitely having some fun with this one. And there are finally a good number of Daleks! Well, depending on your definition of Dalek. There are a lot of really cool moments and ideas (like a Dalek that asks “why?”) and the title itself can apply to the story in multiple ways that are so interesting to consider. Do we have fake Daleks hiding in real Daleks? Real Daleks hiding in fake Daleks? Some weird mixture of the two? Where does a Dalek end and a Dalek begin? John Dorney continues to write stories that take listeners to some very unexpected places.
One of the best sequences comes during the climax as the action jumps back and forth between two different scenes. One scene with The Doctor is much more focused on those and other intriguing aspects. The other, featuring Mark, is incredibly emotional. The intensity really ramps up in those scenes with Mark and how he reacts to his old friend Felicity. Felicity has a terminal injury from the very start of the story. Mark is still trying to convince everyone that as an android he is unable to love or hurt like a human, but he is very unconvincing. The final scenes and that last choice feel like a perfect moment for an arc that had built from the first story and continued on to here. It then has a heavy presence and weight on the final story.
The Lost by Robert Valentine
The Lost starts off like it’s a legend being told. The style draws listeners in immediately, even while you may still be reeling from the end of The Trojan Dalek. It sets the tone for the dream-like atmosphere of this story. The team finds themselves trapped in a bubble dimension full of fairy-tale architecture. There’s a surreal quality surrounding their whole situation that is both eerie and entrancing.
The characters are forced to deal with grief, regret, and mistrust as The Lost attempts to manipulate them. The tension comes from wondering just how much they can take in this stressful environment without snapping. How well do they really know each other? Can they be honest and can they still be friends once their secrets are out in the open?
This story is the highlight of the boxset. Dalek Universe has not been afraid to take risks and this slower, character-driven piece was the perfect choice for the Dalek Universe 2 finale. A great performance from Jane Slavin, once again, as Anya is forced to function through a cocktail of stress and regret. Then we get a final plan from The Doctor that not only is formed very clearly because of the losses incurred during earlier stories, but also sets up the rule-breaking Time Lord victorious attitude that we know is to come for this character.
Dalek Universe 2 is a heartbreaker of a story, with plenty of loss to go around. The really brilliant thing about it is that each story is so distinct and yet they all feel extremely connected. The emotional beats follow through from one adventure to the next in a very satisfying way. Things feel much more serious than in Dalek Universe 1. There’s less focus on the fun and excitement. Instead, the mysteries are darker and the characters face more anger and hopelessness. It is once again not what I expected and that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. This is hopefully a classic case of things getting darker before the dawn. This travelling team has been through the ringer by the end, but their luck may be about to change.
I can’t wait to find out in Dalek Universe 3!
This title was released in July 2021. It will be exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 October 2021, and on general sale after this date.
These tales take the Tenth Doctor, Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven deeper into family histories, aboard the strangest of space stations and to a truth that might tear them apart…
2.1 Cycle of Destruction by Roy Gill
After Mark starts behaving oddly, the Doctor and Anya find themselves on a strange planet with their friend missing. Searching for him they find their way to an isolated research base. The corridors show signs of animal incursions and the scientists are behaving strangely. But a big surprise is waiting for them.
Because this is where Mark Seven came from. They’re about to find out who he is. But is that information too dangerous to know?
2.2 The Trojan Dalek by John Dorney
The Doctor, Mark and Anya head for an SSS space station searching for the missing temporal scientist, Arborecc. But the officer in charge denies all knowledge of his presence and demands their departure.
Unwilling to leave so easily, the group split up to investigate… and uncover a heinous plot involving the Doctor’s oldest foes. Or do they?
2.3 The Lost by Robert Valentine
When the Doctor’s latest scheme to get back to the future fails, the team’s ship crashes on a strange world, potentially trapping them forever.
Searching for replacement parts, they find their way to a building where heart-breakingly familiar faces await them.
Lies are about to be exposed. Everyone will learn the truth. And nothing will be the same again.
This boxset release contains all three stories, plus additional behind the scenes interviews.
- David Tennant (The Doctor)
- Jane Slavin (Anya Kingdom)
- Joe Sims (Mark Seven)
- John Banks (Crispin Torr / Jason Four)
- Pippa Bennett-Warner (Fliss Keeley)
- Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)
- Barnaby Edwards (Arborecc)
- Avita Jay (Moran Kez / Hera)
- Kevin McNally (Merrick Kingdom)
- Leighton Pugh (The Lost)
- Blake Ritson (Major McLinn)
- Nina Toussaint-White (Mariah Six)
- Cover Art by Simon Holub
- Director: Ken Bentley
- Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs
- Music by Howard Carter
- Producer: David Richardson
- Script Editor: John Dorney & Matt Fitton
- Sound Design: Howard Carter
- Written by Robert Valentine, Roy Gill & John Dorney