Big Finish, Part 83 – The Apocalypse Element, by Stephen Cole
At a conference on Archetryx between major temporal powers, the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn discover that Romana has been missing for twenty years and that the Daleks’ newest weapon — the Apocalypse Element — threatens not only the Time Lords but the entire galaxy. This time, genocide is only the beginning…
We haven’t had the pleasure of a Dalek story (unless you count Davros on his lonesome in the play of that name) since The Elite – which was quite some time ago, really. So the pepperpots of destruction are long overdue a return to the chronology. The Apocalypse Element goes some way to living up to its title – Timelords getting political, planets smashing together, an entire galaxy being wiped out, Romana returning from the dead, battles in the corridors of Gallifrey’s grand council chambers – there’s a hell of a lot to take in here, and to make it even more complicated, it’s all a part of an arc plot (The Dalek Empire) that encompasses three more main range Who stories as well as setting up two spin-off series (Gallifrey and Dalek Empire, natch).
But is it any good? Well, Stephen Cole does a bang-up job of setting characters up to blow them to pieces. Worlds collide, redshirts scream and sizzle – I’m also in the process of reading Cole’s Past Doctors novel Ten Little Aliens, and there’s a parallel in the way that he presents his characters as being caught in something they just can’t stop. Once the set-up is done – once the first episode is out of the way and the Daleks come into the open – the plot roars forward. The Doctor is as helpless as anybody else in these events, eventually losing his temper with Evelyn and going on a massive rant – Colin Baker with the brakes completely off.
There’s not a lot for Evelyn to do, surrounded by Timelords as she is for the latter half of the play. She gets shunted here, pushed there, and manages to puncture the pomposity of the Timelords at occasional moments, but the meat of the companion’s role in this play actually (and understandably) goes to Lalla Ward, here giving Romana a much harder edge than she had in the TV series.
If you like your Daleks bloody and ruthless, then there’s plenty to get your teeth into: destroying an entire galaxy as a bluff against Gallifrey is as nails as it gets in my opinion, but there are other moments of terror, such as their misuse of retinal scan technology, that ought to make any listener squirm in their seat.
Continuity aside – and this play both relies upon and sets a lot of Who continuity – this is real Dalek peril. Excellent stuff.
Artwork by Simon Hodges @ http://hisi79.deviantart.com/