Can the 1980’s really be THAT long ago to be nostalgia? I remember the first broadcast of Time and the Rani like it was yesterday – however 28 years really have passed since Season 24, and the more things change the more they stay the same – The Doctor is Scottish again, we have a Tory government again, the world seems just as dangerous as it did in the 1980’s, the legacy of Thatcherism is running rife after Osbourne’s first all Tory budget. As I said, the more things change…
What is different though is how Big Finish have unlocked the potential of Mel Bush – never a fan favourite for her TV appearances Big Finish have really transformed her into the companion she was never really allowed to be on the TV. Bonnie really was hamstrung on TV by the legacy of Violet Elizabeth, and really all she did was scream. Big Finish have rectified this completely, and nowhere better than We Are The Daleks.
Coming after the momentous 200th release, this starts a new era for Big Finish, a great jumping on point for new listeners, and what a great story it is – an homage to previous Dalek stories, a satire of the 1980’s mantra of “greed is good”, a period piece in the same way that Remembrance was a period piece in 1988.
Imagine if Season 24 had been a bit more like season 25 and 26, still with the kitsch and the glitz, but Sylvester playing the darker rather than the clownish Seventh Doctor, imagine Bonnie being given the same sort of character development as Ace or Rose had, and you are somewhere near to We Are The Daleks.
It’s 1987, and London is dominated by the Zenos Tower, a modern construction in the shape of a Dalek – Alex Zenos has made a business partnership with The Daleks who rather than “conquer and destroy” have the mantra “invest and return” – the ultimate nightmare for an old Liberal – THATCHERITE DALEKS! They have an offer to make the UK the centre of a galactic trading zone, and are at their devious best manipulating newly elected MP Celia Dunthorpe (Mary Conlon) into their way of thinking, playing on her greed and prejudices, her lust for personal glory, her ambition to make the UK head of an empire again – perfect Dalek Quisling fodder.
As a background to this a new computer game console called Warfleet is sweeping the nation, offering state of the art graphics and online play in 1987, and it isn’t long before the connection between the two becomes apparent…
This is a classic Dalek story, it works on so many levels – it feels familiar, it has rebels, oppressed worlds, an Emperor Dalek and the beginnings of the Dalek Parliament seen in Asylum of the Daleks. McCoy is wonderful, he is my favourite classic era Doctor by a country mile, and he has rarely been better than he is here, completely shedding his Season 24 persona and becoming the frightening, dark, manipulative Seven of seasons 25 and26 and beyond. His speech to the Dalek Emperor in the final act is chilling – he lists his names The Doctor, the Ka Faraq Gatri, The Oncoming Storm – brilliant stuff.
I cant finish this review without heaping more praise on Bonnie Langford, getting to play the character Mel really should have been, using her skills as a computer programmer, showing her bravery, using her intelligence, she is absolutely stunning here – a completely believable, three dimensional character.
So a great beginning to another (hopefully) 200 releases for Big Finish, my favourite classic era Doctor being the Doctor he should be, Daleks, politics, multi layered thought provoking story about greed and ambition and the exclusion of the other. Well worth the investment of time, as it returns a 10/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson
The year is 1987, and Britain is divided. In Bradford, strikers are picketing and clashing with the police. In the City of London, stockbrokers are drinking champagne and politicians are courting the super-rich. The mysterious media mogul Alek Zenos, head of the Zenos Corporation, is offering Britain an economic miracle. His partners wish to invest – and their terms are too good to refuse.
While the Doctor investigates Warfleet, a new computer game craze that is sweeping the nation, Mel goes undercover to find out the truth about Zenos’s partners.
The Daleks have a new paradigm. They intend to conquer the universe using economic power. The power of the free market!
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Melanie Bush), Kirsty Besterman (Serena Paget), Angus Wright (Alek Zenos), Mary Conlon (Celia Dunthorpe), Robbie Stevens (Niles Bunbury/Frank Lewis), Ashley Zhangazha (Brinsley Heaton), Lizzie Roper (Shari), Dominic Thornburn (Afrid), Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks).
Written By: Jonathan Morris
Directed By: Ken Bentley