It seems appropriate to take a pause from Big Finish after last week’s adventure, The Juggernauts, to go to another of those special Doctor Who extras that may have slipped past your respective radars. In November of 2020, while we were all locked in our homes due to concerns around Covid-19, and Doctor Who could not come to our screens because putting actors together could be a dangerous thing, a 5-part animated series was released featuring our favorite armored tanks, the Daleks. And what other race would we get to encounter? How about the far less grating Mechanoids? “Zero, Zero. Mechanoids. Zero!” I love hearing them speak and zero seems to be a favorite number, but they are far from zeroes in my book!
Each episode runs approximately 10 minutes and manages to pack in quite a lot. Visually, the adventure is a mixed bag. Explosions look like something only a 1990s video game could love but there are such impressive moments throughout the series that I can turn a blind eye to those silly explosions. What stands out most is the lack of any humanoid characters. The story opens at The Archive of Islos during a Dalek attack. There are humanoid soldiers on floating space platforms that get blasted, and that’s the last we see of anything humanoid. We have one robot, The Sentinel of the Fifth Galaxy, who is vaguely reminiscent of a human in that it has a head with 2 eyes and two arms, but the lower trunk is more akin to the robot in The Waters of Mars. The guardians of the library are basically pillars with heads that topple over easily when shot, which looks ridiculously silly, and one wonders what they would do if a vandal came in and knocked them all over anyway. (And I couldn’t help but wonder who made them!) And then we have the Daleks and Mechanoids which… well, we know what they look like. Oh, and there’s the chief antagonist, the unnamed entity which pursues the Daleks relentlessly. It’s a big amorphous shape in luminous green.
Another thing you’ll notice is that the series covers a lot of vistas. Some are really impressive too. If this were a video game, getting to each locale would be wonderful. The Archivists essentially live in the Louvre in space. Skaro looks impressive but Mechanus was amazing as the floating platforms moved as needed. The desert world looks great too, but features for too short a time, however, I was immensely impressed that the artists went to the trouble of having dust motes float through the air.
It’s great when you get a threat that actually scares the Daleks. They are sort of the ultimate baddie in Doctor Who, heaven knows why, but to give them something to be afraid of really ups the ante. When Skaro falls, I had a brilliant idea pop into my head but the story doesn’t use it. Like The Juggernauts, I start to think Doctor Who might have been called Doctor MO, as in Missed Opportunity. They could have used this as the foundation of The Daleks. It’s like the authors of Doctor Who forget that their story features TIME TRAVEL. We could have used this to explain why, when we first encountered the Daleks in 1963, they hailed from a dead world. Alas, not to be.
“Would you care to apply for a membership card?” There’s not much humor in the story, but having one of the Archivists ask that of a Dalek was delightful. The Mechanoids sound marvelous and I was surprised to realize that even under that synthesized sound, I could hear a voice I recognized; that of Anjli Mohindra, who played Rani in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Speaking of voices, the Dalek Strategist (an old-school Dalek) has a marvelous voice, utterly dripping with menace. The Mechanoids would make superb Christmas ornaments too; another missed opportunity there. I could finally decorate my entire tree with Doctor Who merch and my wife wouldn’t object! And to round it all off, the music is fantastic.
The most interesting element is that the Daleks seem to evolve to appreciate beauty in this story, but it’s the what they call beautiful that’s really interesting. It starts when they attack the space Louvre to destroy things of beauty and end up appreciating the beauty of destruction. But what really gets me is that the story ends with a threat to the Daleks: “you have no idea what is coming for you”. The problem with this adventure is that it’s part of a bigger, multi-platform story that requires too great an investment in time for me to make. There are audios, comics, books, short stories and even live experiences designed to tie in with this adventure making it a sadly unfulfilling one. I live in the US, and we will never have a Doctor Who experience here, and with Covid having impacted people’s desire to travel, my guess is, I may never get to experience it.
So yes, this was a step in the creation of a bigger, more inclusive Doctor Who and should be applauded for the attempt, but it’s important to make those inclusive things available to all who want it. This entry into the list of extras is a good one if you can accept a stand-along story with no real conclusion, but if you want to dive into the whole story, it might be a larger investment than anyone is going to be able to make without exterminating one’s life savings. ML