Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blood of the Daleks [8th Doctor + Lucie Miller]

So here we are. It's all change as the Eighth Doctor meets Lucie Miller (Sheridan Smith). This story, written by Steve Lyons, and released in 2007 was made at the request of BBC Radio 7 (as was). Accordingly it reflects a style more like the new television series. Made up of two episodes, approximately an hour each and featuring the introduction of a new (very) Northern companion with a Time Lord entanglements and an air of mystery this is a whole new era for Paul McGann's Doctor.

And what better way to usher in a new era of Doctor Who than with the Daleks.

The Doctor finds himself 'lumbered' with Lucie Miller who - it seems - has been placed in his care as part of a Time Lord witness protection programme. Or something. Suffice it to say they do not hit it off. The Doctor doesn't like doing Gallifreyan dirty work and Lucie isn't the sort of girl who is going to take anything lightly. After some verbal sparing and an attempt to take her back home (and being blocked from doing so) The Doctor and Lucie find themselves on the planet Red Rocket Rising.

Red Rocket Rising has to be one of the unluckiest planets in the Universe: struck by a meteor, invaded by Daleks and breeding ground for a home grown mad scientist of its own and then once saved by the Doctor alm...ah but spoilers. I should beware.

Blood of the Daleks rattles along at a good pace and has some interesting parallels to 'Genesis of the Daleks', which make the Doctor's responses all the more interesting. He's not pulling punches with anyone and becomes the focus of all hopes and expectations with glorious naturalness. This is an old school Doctor. Perhaps the Daleks bring the best out of him. They certainly do out of McGann who gets some great Doctor-ish moments, particularly when going head-to-head with Asha (an rather excellent Hayley Attwell - who has and is developing into something of a proper movie star these days. But I digress.).

He's also rather good at grumpy clashes with Sheridan Smith's Lucie. As with Hayley Attwell Big Finish nipped in and grabbed Sheridan Smith before she took that step towards genuine stardom. Her Lucie Miller might have been invented to define the word 'feisty' (or 'gobby' depending on your point of view) but she's able to make Lucie seem genuine at almost every point. Being Northern helps I think. I don't know whether Big Finish went for a northern companion as a sort of ironic echo of a northern Doctor but most Doctor Who companions seem to have been drawn from that odd part of London and the Home Counties (even if they were aliens and even if the actors playing them were northern,) The only exception being the lightly northern Dodo. So it's rather refreshing.  The point being I think we've all met women like Lucie. She feels, sounds and acts pretty much like a real human being.

That's partly the writing, of course.

McGann and Smith are given excellent support from the rest of a rather strong cast: Anita Dobson as Eileen Klint, the most senior politician left on Red Rocket Rising. She's political down to her toe nails and generally unable to see the danger the Daleks present until it is almost too late. I said this story has echoes of 'Genesis of the Daleks' , it also has much in common with 'Power of the Daleks'. Kenneth Cranham (one of my favourite actors btw) does a lovely job as the tin-foil hatted Tom Cardwell. A man whose conspiracy theories and fears turn out to be true, even if people struggle to take him seriously in that tin foil hat. There's a scene in Part Two where he's describing to Lucie Miller what happened to him at the hands of the Daleks, which is hairs on the back of the neck raising brilliance. All hail the Cranham. (Oddly he always reminds me of the Madoc.)

There's some real bite to this story too with the Daleks being at their devious best (at least initially) and their superior race complex is given an excellent twist (if that's the right word).

If you want to start with McGann's Doctor on audio and are more familiar with the New Series than the old this might be a good place to start. Let's see how this continues shall we. Next up the excellently titled 'Horror of Glam Rock'.

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