Friday, June 13, 2014


The debut Big Finish story for Doctor Who's 40th anniversary year, is also its best - which is not to say there aren't other awesome tales from that year. "Jubilee" is the 3rd story from what I call (in my head at least) "Rob Shearman's Trilogy of Awesome": "The Holy Terror", "The Chimes of Midnight", and "Jubilee". I didn't think I would ever love a Dalek story more than I love the classic "Genesis of the Daleks", but, I do. I've watched and heard so many Doctor Who stories over more than 30 years, that I don't think I am capable of picking a favorite. I don't even think I could pick a favorite Big Finish story. But, this is at or near the very top of the heap.

"Jubilee", perhaps more than any other Dalek story, has a Dalek in it that is a genuine character. It's funny - the Dalek in this story, fundamentally bears all the same attributes of the power hungry, murderous, one-note Daleks that have come before and since, but through the brilliance of Shearman's script, (and the performance - more on that later) this Dalek feels so unique compared to every other.

This story is set in a deranged, frightening England. An England that was invaded by the Daleks back in 1903. The Doctor and Evelyn arrived and thwarted that invasion. One hundred years later, the Doctor and Evelyn arrive just in time for the Jubilee celebrations. But, the Doctor and Evelyn don't know anything about an invasion in 1903, and they certainly don't recognize this "English Empire" they encounter in 2003. As the story progresses, the Doctor seems to think he is in 2003 and fighting the Daleks in 1903, at the same time. Something has definitely gone very wrong.

The world of this English Empire is frightening. England rules the Earth, and they are not a benevolent ruler. The President and his wife (played by real life husband and wife Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayers) are deeply disturbed. Both performances are at times over the top, and at others very understated. The script takes you on a roller coaster with them. There are times you feel horribly for the poor wife of the evil president. Later, you realize she's just as barking mad as her husband. The President wants to cap off the grand jubilee celebrations with the public execution of their lone remaining prisoner from the invasion: one lone Dalek.

Hmmm, a lone Dalek left over from a war and imprisoned. Sound familiar? Yes, Rob Shearman would later do a (very loose) adaptation of this story as "Dalek" for the first series of the revamped Doctor Who a couple of years later. I do not in any way want to besmirch "Dalek". It's one of the best stories of that first series, and as an action story that did major rehabilitation to the image of the Daleks, it was a triumph. But, this is a very different, greatly superior story. In "Dalek" you get the tiniest taste of interactions between the lone Dalek and the Doctor and then later the Dalek and the companion. Here, you get a feast, and it's so succulent.

I really have to sing the praises of Nick Briggs. He always does a superb job of voicing the Daleks, both for Big Finish and TV. Here, his performance is simply extraordinary. The scripting and writing manage to make you feel sympathy for this Dalek, while at the same time loathing it. Evelyn's one on one scenes with this Dalek, are just mesmerizing. Evelyn is terrified of this Dalek, but desperate to help it. Their interactions are incredibly compelling. Both Evelyn and the Dalek come away from their encounters transformed.

There is a mix of dark humor and just well... dark in this story. All of the characters in this story are fundamentally off. The revolution against the tyrannical government is just as evil and twisted as the regime they want to overthrow. In a fight between the humans and the Daleks, there are no good guys to cheer for. Shearman set out to make the Doctor and Evelyn the only likeable characters in this story, and succeeded. There's something wonderful about the "fun for the whole family" aspect of Doctor Who, that I really wouldn't want to ever change. This story, however, is a great example of how triumphant Doctor Who made strictly for adults can be.

I just can't say enough about "Jubilee". It's so dreary, while at the same time hilarious. You'll chuckle and then try to stifle it because it's also so disturbing. Colin Baker and Maggie Stables are terrific here (as always), but they really just NAIL it in this story. This is one of those stories where Evelyn is so well written and performed that it further cements her status as the greatest Doctor Who companion of all time. Fortunately, at this stage, there are many more stories with this pairing to come. Big Finish did really good Dalek stories before this one, and would do some great things with them after this one, but no Dalek story has ever come close to being as powerful (and at times as ridiculous) as "Jublilee".


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