REVIEW: The Time of the Daleks (2002)

An Audio Drama by Big Finish (#32 in the main range)

Imagine suddenly finding out that an insanely famous person, one that everyone should know about, is suddenly forgotten by almost everyone around you. William Shakespeare, for example, perhaps the most well-known playwright in history and a HUGE bit of British cultural heritage. What if he suddenly disappeared? It would be frustrating, confusing and even bring on ideas that one had entered a Mandela Effect timeline. That is the seed planted here for this serial, The Time of the Daleks, but rather than grow that seed into something interesting and beautiful, I’m afraid to report that this is probably the first “stinker” in the Eighth Doctor series of Big Finish audio dramas. So then, the question is: what happened?

“The Doctor has always admired the work of William Shakespeare. So he is a little surprised that Charley doesn’t hold the galaxy’s greatest playwright in the same esteem. In fact, she’s never heard of him. Which the Doctor thinks is quite improbable.

General Mariah Learman, ruling Britain after the Eurowars, is one of Shakespeare’s greatest admirers, and is convinced her time machine will enable her to see the plays’ original performances. Which the Doctor believes is extremely unlikely.

The Daleks just want to help. They want Learman to get her time machine working. They want Charley to appreciate the first-ever performance of Julius Caesar. They believe that Shakespeare is the greatest playwright ever to have existed and venerate his memory. Which the Doctor knows is utterly impossible.”

Where do I start? This episode barely makes sense in any way whatsoever. The plot is strange, but not in a good way. I’m not sure I could explain what exactly the Dalek plan was, other than declaring themselves “The Masters of Time!” and forcing The Doctor to help them even though he never actually does. It’s full of technobabble and almost magical nonsense with overly complicated and somewhat logicless “wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff” to pad everything out.

There is a forced story thread of Shakespeare being missing from time, first brought up as Charley has no idea who The Doctor is talking about during a random discussion. This immediately somehow coincides conveniently with an entire cast of characters that endlessly talk about the importance of Shakespeare and fear his erasure from time – that’s just sloppy writing. The Daleks go from being pretty sinister (as they always are whenever they pretend to be good) to utter buffoons that actively allow The Doctor to defeat them. There’s no reason for the Doctor to outsmart them, he just sort of sits back and lets them unravel their own plans. The whole thing seems like it should be epic and grandiose, but it’s somehow anemic and hollow.

There isn’t much more to say here other than – what a missed opportunity! What a shame that The Eighth Doctor’s first Dalek face-off was so weak and muddled. I’m sure there was a good idea here at some point, but Justin Richards seems to be a writer that I keep running afoul of. One of my first reviews on this entire site was for Red Dawn, which I disliked as well. I plan to listen to all of these in order, so I’m sure I’ll come across him again, but boy does he need to pull out all of the stops to win me over. I honestly can’t say I’d recommend this, even though it is the fourth of series within this monthly range called Dalek Empire (including a few other dramas I’ve already heard). Honestly, I’d skip this one.

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