Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Apocalypse Element

I admit, the fanboy in me was pretty blown away by this story the first time I heard it. The Daleks invade Gallifrey and win! This doesn't quite hold up so well after repeat listens, but it's still a pretty good story, and there is some fun to be had. Stephen Cole's story is exciting and epic, but it's also a bit too much at times. The story is overly complicated and just goes on for too long. However, as part of the Dalek image rehabilitation, it works well. Not only do the Daleks invade Gallifrey successfully, they actually have one of their masterplans totally succeed, despite the Doctor's best efforts.

Once again we have the wonderful Evelyn Smythe traveling with the Doctor. Also, Romana (Lalla Ward) returns to Doctor Who. Following up on book continuity, she is the President of Gallifrey, although in this story she has been a prisoner of the Daleks for twenty years. Her dreary opening soliloquy at the beginning of episode two from her cell is fantastic and one of the highlights of the story. Ward works well with Colin Baker's Doctor, and there is definitely some good chemistry here. Also returning are the characters of the (interim) President, Vansell, and Captain Raldeth from "The Sirens of Time" which is a nice bit of Big FInish Gallifreyan continuity.

I won't even try to fully summarize this labyrinthine plot, as it's overly long and convoluted. Suffice it to say it satisfies the fanboy wish of the Daleks invading Gallifrey. The Daleks also set of a disastrously destructive chain reaction with their "apocalypse element" which needs Time Lord technology to contain it to stop it from burning out the entire universe. Interestingly enough, the Doctor and Romana's efforts to control the reaction ultimately fail, until the Daleks (who are finally able to gain full access to Gallifrey) step in and provide the power lacking to stop the element. The Daleks drain their own life energy completely in sealing off the galaxy already destroyed by the element. The Daleks also accelerate time so the element burns itself out. This leaves an unpopulated galaxy ripe for Dalek conquest which turns out to have been the Dalek's plan all along. (Kind of a mess, huh?) This is where the real seed of the Dalek Empire begins. There originally was a link between this story and "The Genocide Machine" where the Daleks would reveal that they found out about the apocalypse element from the library on Kar-Charrat, but this was trimmed due to timing reasons. They really should have cut something else as it provides the much needed link between these two Dalek Empire stories.

One again the Sixth Doctor is great here. He's fiery and full of entertaining rants. At one point he explodes at poor Evelyn who is failing to grasp the scale of the destruction that the element is causing, but then quickly does an about face and offers her a lovely heart felt apology. He's also quite heroic at many points. He enters the gravity well alone knowing he has to face deadly Dalek mutants free from their Dalek shell and deadly in the zero gravity environment. He also immediately abandons the effort to curtail the element to race to Evelyn's rescue when he realizes she's trapped by the Daleks. Evelyn gets a lot of good material here too. When the Doctor makes her retina print the only one able to bypass Gallifreyan security locks, her witticisms on this are hilarious. There's also some interesting subtle hints about Evelyn's eye being used to open the powerful Eye of Harmony which may be their way of undoing the silly "half human" Doctor claims of the 8th Doctor's disastrous TV Movie.

I guess I have gotten a little older and more jaded as I don't quite get the same enjoyment out of this epic Dalek/Time Lord war story as I did nearly a decade ago when I first heard it. The story is too long, and the plot is a little too convoluted. Still, that doesn't prevent it from being exciting. Nick Briggs knows exactly how to direct these Dalek stories and the music, sound effects, and Dalek voices are all done perfectly and add the requisite excitement to this Dalek war. We may never get to see, read, or hear how the Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords ultimately played out, but this is about as close as we'll ever get. Perhaps it's better that the Time War will forever have taken place "off screen".

Rating: Good

1 comment:

  1. I didn't think it was a messy plot. It's all explained rather well, I thought. It's a Doctor Who Meets Die Hard Meets Sci-Fi Action Movie and one of the best of the early releases. In fact, having read your review I re-listened and enjoyed just as much as before.

    I think the Daleks plan is suitably devious. The Doctor, Romana, Vansell and everyone on Gallifrey knows that the Daleks destroyed an entire galaxy as a ploy to get Gallifrey's barriers lowered, they know exactly what the Daleks are after... and then the Daleks pull the Rug of Rassilon right out from under their feet as they reveal their true intentions. No one sees it coming. Not even the listener.

    Unlike many fans, I've never been bothered about seeing/hearing the Time War as whatever is written will NEVER live up to what the fans have had time to create in their heads.