Big Finish Folly, Part 159 – Enemy of the Daleks, by David Bishop
Bliss used to be a paradise planet. The Galapagos Islands of space. But when the TARDIS brings the Doctor, Ace and Hex to Bliss, it’s been over-run with ironweed plants, and the air is heavy with the stench of burnt silk and static electricity.
Worse, the Daleks are coming, on the trail of a lost patrol of starship troopers. Holed up in the Roarke 279 research facility, Lieutenant Beth Stokes is preparing her last stand against the invaders.
But there’s a secret on Bliss, a secret guarded by the obsessive Professor Shimura…
This time, could it be the Daleks who need saving?
No spoiler tags required here – any “…of the Daleks” title should be doing exactly what it says on the tin. And what Dalek stories often do best – aside from scraping away a civilised veneer to reveal the very worst of humanity’s traits – is the “base under siege” affair. Here we have the last survivors of a thoroughly annihilated refugee fleet, traumatised, scared, afraid to even carry on, turning up in time to witness the birth of a race that even the Daleks will fear. And that puts them at the very bottom of the ensuing food chain.
Once again we’re looking at the consequences of trying to defeat ultimate evil by becoming even more evil – science without ethics. Death abounds, despite Hex’s very best efforts to help and to heal. The Doctor, aware of the future consequences of his own actions, has no real choice other than to allow one catastrophe to avoid another. It’s a determinedly dark – grimdark, even – story, never light listening. The mad scientist in question, Professor Shimura, is decidedly unhinged, an unrestrained combination of Moreau and Frankenstein, and the Daleks are exactly as you’d want them to be – merciless, murderous, back-of-the-sofa killing machines. You can’t even feel sorry for them when the Kiseibya (sounds a little too much like Kasabian for me…) start burrowing into them.
As far as character development goes, the trend here is testing Hex until he breaks, and we’re close to the edge now. There’s so much death and destruction around him, so much of it preventable, that he needs to shut it out, get away from it all. No longer innocent, he’s in danger of losing all hope. It’s a brave move to do such a thing to a Tardis companion, and tellingly, it bears some resemblance to what happened between Evelyn and Sixie way back down the continuity when they tried to save Cassie from the Forge. That’s not an accidental echo, by the way…
Summing up? A solid adventure with a heavy theme and very high bodycount. A lot more satisfying than many adventures in this Seventh Doctor run so far.