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Audio Drama Review
The year is 2163 – ten years after the Daleks invaded the Earth,and one year until the Doctor, in his first incarnation, will help to bring the occupation to an end. The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Peri to Scotland – enslaved, like everywhere else on the planet. But there are rumours of Dalek-free islands off its coast, places where resistors and refuseniks are coming together, gathering arms and armour, preparing to strike back against the enemy. When the Doctor falls in with an unlikely group of freedom fighters making that dangerous journey to Orkney, he finds himself trapped – not only by the Daleks, their robotised henchmen and their human collaborators, but by history. Because history shows that for another year, resistance is useless...
There is a notable emphasis on follow-ups in the current Sixth Doctor and Peri trilogy. The previous story, The Widow’s Assassin, was a sort of sequel to Mindwarp, and the next one features the return of the Rani, while this one has got the Daleks in it.
In fact, Masters of Earth takes us back to a very specific point in Dalek history: their occupation of our planet in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. This is not Big Finish’s first visit to that classic story. The Fifth Doctor and Nyssa went there in The Mutant Phase, though that was more of a brief stopover. In this adventure, the Sixth Doctor is very much trapped in the period, with the TARDIS inaccessible, and he is desperate not to interfere with established events, in which his first incarnation has already played a pivotal role.
Writers Mark Wright and Cavan Scott pack in plenty of perils for our heroes to face, in an expedition narrative in the style of Dalek creator Terry Nation, but with a Scottish setting as a twist. Actually, many of these dangers read like a list of greatest hits from Nation’s 1960s Dalek stories, including Robomen, Varga plants and a Slyther. We shouldn’t grumble, though, because Nation himself was endearingly apt to repeat former glories. Meanwhile, remaining truer to the 1980s Colin Baker era, the incidental music of Nicholas Briggs (who also directs and, of course, voices the Daleks) synthesises the styles of composers Roger Limb and Dominic Glynn, as well as his own Dalek Empire.
I must say it’s good to have Peri (Nicola Bryant) back as a ‘current’ rather than ‘past’ companion – that is, in stories set after her departure from the television series. Both she and the Doctor have matured since they last travelled together, particularly the latter, who is far more thoughtful these days, though they still have a few disagreements, and Peri wryly remarks that some things never change.
My only real complaint is about the structure. Part Two of this four-episode tale feels low on plot development to me, while Part Four packs in so many dramatic revelations that I wonder whether some of these should have been moved to an earlier instalment. Mind you, as the Doctor knows all to well, you mess with those timelines at your peril…
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