Can Doctor Who work without the Doctor? We’ve had Doctor-lite stories, but they still feature the Doctor in some way. We even had a Doctor-less precursor episode top the Daleks master Plan. But has there ever been a feel Doctor Who story without him?
The Curse of the Daleks was one of the first Doctor Who stage plays born during the days of Dalekmania and it seems that it fits the bill for a Doctor-less story. And as such, gets my vote for “Yes, Doctor Who can work without the Doctor” that is, if it is done with the Daleks.
Big Finish made a big and bold decision to turn the few Doctor Who stage plays – stories most fans have only read or heard tales about – into radio dramas, as a diversion from their usual original adventures. This is a great move if you ask me because it means that we get to be a part of something that we could only have read about, unless we were fortunate enough to see the plays during their original stage runs. One can only hope that one day they will see the fan interest in adapting other stories, such as Colin Baker’s “last” story before the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration, for instance.
Big Finish may have taken a bold step in producing these adaptations of the stage plays, but they resisted the temptation to bring them “up to date” in order to fit in with modern sensibilities and styles.
This means that The Curse of the Daleks might seem dated in its attitude toward women in the work place. While this may be the case, the story really doesn’t suffer too much from it. Sure it’s not ideal to have the women in the stories be stuck in a more chauvinistic time or to have the men thinking that they are the superior gender but if you can look past that, there is a wonderful story underneath.
Some rather talented actors have been cast in these adaptations, however, and the play benefits – it doesn’t feel like a black and white era story but very new and fresh.
Update the characters to fit modern story telling and you could have the makings of the best Doctor-lite story for the new series ever.
“Really” You say? “Best Ever?”
Ok, those might be strong words and let’s face it we are going up against Blink, but I truly felt that this was a strong story. It felt like it had the best of the “Classic” Who with elements that make the new series great as well. It has thieves, Daleks, heroes, Daleks, accidental on purpose landings on the planet Skaro, Daleks, and a murder mystery theme that really does keep you guessing until the big reveal.
Sure some people may be Dalek’ed out, but what if they were on their own? Not another face off with the Doctor? I’m willing to be that even the most die hard “bored with the Daleks” fan would change their mind with this story.
If I had one downside to talk about – because let’s be fair you can’t just have all nice things to say can you – it would be that this story features heavy narration where Big Finish usually has none. Now, I call it a downside, but that is mainly because I am used to not having any and it makes it feel like a radio drama rather then a TV show, or stage play. That said, it is wisely used narration, as there are moments in this story that you could not do in a normal sightless radio drama without it. So while it may be a con, it is one that is easily overcome by the story being told.
If you haven’t yet picked up a stage play adaptation by Big Finish, then this may be the one to begin with.
Curse of the Daleks stars:
Michael Praed (Ladiver), Patric Kearns (Captain Redway), Beth Chalmers (Marion Clements), Nick Wilton (Rocket Smith), James George (Bob Slater), John Line (Professor Vanderlyn), Derek Carlyle (Harry Sline), Glynn Sweet (Dexion), Denise Hoey (Ijayna), Nicholas Briggs (Narrator / Daleks)
Find out more at BigFinish.co.uk.