Big Finish Folly, Part 124 – The Juggernauts, by Scott Alan Woodard
Caught up in a space battle, the Doctor and Mel are separated. Mel spends months as a technical assistant on the colony world Lethe, working on Professor Vaso’s Juggernauts program while she waits for the Doctor to return for her. She enjoys her work, and even has the beginnings of a relationship with a co-worker. Meanwhile, the Doctor wakes as a prisoner of the Daleks – and they have a job for him. Davros has escaped, and intends to destroy the Daleks with his new creations, and the Daleks demand that the Doctor stops him. Where is Davros? Ah. Lethe…
This is one ambitious storyline. There’s a heck of a lot going on here: the creation of the Mechanoids, long before the First Doctor encounters them, the tension between Davros and the Daleks, the tension between the Doctor and the Daleks, the battle between the Doctor and Davros, and not least the story of Mel’s life amongst the colonists and workers of Lethe. On its own that last would have made The Juggernauts a more than interesting character piece – Mel’s development here rivals anything that has been done for the original Big Finish companions like Erimem and Evelyn. To have Mel partially responsible for the creation and development of the Mechanoids is also quite a neat concept, and they come across on audio as extremely creepy in their prototype formats.
Obviously Ol’ Sixey is used to seeing Davros in the laboratory environment – see the play Davros near the start of his mammoth chronological run – and we get references to that here. Unlike that play, this one isn’t quite so nuanced, with less room to play with in the verbal sparring department. Davros comes across as a much less assured opponent, more easily frustrated by the Doctor’s blithe deconstruction of his plans. Horrible plans they are though, all for “the greater good” as Davros sees it. What matter if people must die to provide the core of the Juggernauts? Davros can see a way to finance his schemes.
The moral reversals at the heart of the play – the Doctor working for the Daleks; Davros fathering the Dalek-killing Mechanoids – get over-shadowed a bit by the more character-based arc that Mel is part of for the first couple of episodes. Once the Doctor turns up again and the partnership is resumed, the subplot hangs rather on reacting to the presence of the Daleks on Lethe, over-shadowing the battle between the Daleks and the Mechanoids instead.
And the rather explosive ending? Hmm. Not convinced. It’s an odd, very final resolution that I reckon doesn’t quite fit. It’s one thing to do that, it’s another to focus as much on the resolution of Mel’s romantic arc and expect the two things to mesh well together. For my money it’s too much in one finale. A valiant effort, but not the smooth storytelling experience that Big Finish are renowned for.