Audiodrama Review: Doctor Who: The Final Phase by Nicholas Briggs
Cuthbert's plan for the Proxima System is reaching its final phase. The Doctor and Romana have been separated. The Doctor is aiding the Proximan fight-back. Romana and K9 are prisoners of the Daleks. And as the countdown to the opening of the Quantum Gateway begins, the Daleks reveal their true intentions…
The second “season” of the Fourth Doctor Adventures comes to close with the revelation of the true nature of Cuthbert’s experiment and the involvement of the Daleks. While it does a capable job of wrapping up the “season” and, for all intent purposes, bringing the relationship of The Doctor and Romana I to a reasonable conclusion, it does somewhat underwhelm.
This is Mary Tamm’s final performance before her untimely death, and one would imagine that if she were in poor health, the story could have been modified to give her a grand farewell. On the other hand, Romana’s change at the beginning of “Destiny of the Daleks” doesn’t quite allow for too much of a sendoff within continuity, so perhaps this relatively soft resolution is the most fitting.
Of course, that does bring to mind one of the issues with the story. The Daleks’ plan is to take control of Cuthbert’s experiment, an inter-dimensional gateway that would give them access to all time, space, and dimensions, and conquer “infinity”. All well and good, and typically overblown, but also a big enough issue that one would expect The Doctor to comment upon it when he encounters the Daleks again in the very “next” adventure!
Obviously, that wouldn’t have happened; “Destiny of the Daleks” came out first, and there was no way for the Big Finish folks to know that this Dalek adventure would end up being the last Doctor/Romana I excursion. It’s just an unfortunate circumstance. Just as it is unfortunate that the Dalek voice effect gets seriously grating over the course of an hour.
The Dalek plan is typical for them; they are so bent on conquest and destruction that they can’t see the implications of their own folly. What isn’t so well-rendered is Cuthbert’s grand design. His mysterious identity boils down to being a living time paradox: he has come to the realization that the only man capable of making sure the Conglomerate exists is himself, and thus he wants to go back in time to set up the Conglomerate.
All well and good, but in parallel to the Dalek uber-destructive plan, it’s a bit small and indistinct. It also requires Cuthbert to be so focused on his “destiny” that he doesn’t recognize that the Daleks are the threat that they are. He ignores what is plain as day more than once, even to the point of denying what is right in front of his face. That doesn’t quite add up, given that Cuthbert would need to be observant and intuitive to succeed in his quest for economic domination.
It’s the synergy between the Dalek and Cuthbert plans, the same single-minded pursuit of power and dominion, that undercuts the finale. The latter just doesn’t compare to the former. And since that is essentially the extent of the storytelling, beyond The Doctor’s frantic attempts to stop the Daleks and the massive warfare taking place throughout, it’s broken at the heart of it. It may answer the questions about Cuthbert that were raised all the way back in “The Sands of Life”, but not in a particularly grand way.
The sound design is excellent as always, but that almost detracts from the final product in this case, given the amount of armed combat involved. It’s a very busy, noisy production, and that’s even before one takes into account the constant grating of the Dalek voices! I found myself exhausted with the story before I was even halfway done, which was more than a little worrisome. It was worth sticking with it to the end, if only to get resolution on the mysteries, but I was finding myself hopeful for something a little more balanced in the third “season”.
Price: $8.99 (download version)
Acquisition method: Big Finish website
- Resolves the Conglomerate arc
- Good farewell for Mary Tamm
- Production is very noisy
- Some mysteries have disappointing answers
- Get ready for a constant barrage of Dalek voices