Another day, another Doctor Who review! This time we’re journeying with the Eighth Doctor and his companions the Daleks(!) to the planet Wrax, where we encounter a race of bad eggs who might just be worse than the Daleks themselves…
You’ll notice I said, “his companions the Daleks”? That’s one of the neat twists that writer Tracy Ann Baines has woven into the plot of ‘The Enemy of My Enemy.’ And whilst you may be thinking that we’ve seen all this before (here’s looking at you, ‘Death to the Daleks’) believe me when I tell you this is an altogether more nuanced take. Some of the Daleks have more defined personalities in this story – or at least, tantalising hints of one – and this helps to break up the potential monotony of the Daleks’ extermination cries (something we also saw in the first episode of the Daleks! spin-off series.)
Now, as with any Doctor Who review, I must caveat this with a mini spoiler alert (look away now): we actually have a scene where a Dalek saves the Doctor’s life. It may sound sacrilegious to the Whoniverse, but trust me it works – and the irony of the occurrence certainly isn’t lost on the Doctor! Of course, it’s a tactical move on the Daleks’ part, but it makes perfect sense in story terms.
Underneath all of this, the listener is left in constant doubt as to who can be trusted, and who the real enemy is. The Doctor is caught between something of a power struggle between the extermination-bent (but slightly unnerved) Daleks, and the equally unpleasant Wraxians, who possess a weapon that can change the evolutionary course of any species it nominates. It’s a clever idea, and a clear thematic nod to an earlier Time Lord Victorious tale, ‘Master Thief.‘
Another thing I should point out in this Doctor Who review is the story’s pace. It carries straight on from its predecessor ‘He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not,’ which I appreciate. I always enjoy Doctor Who stories that leap straight into the action, and aren’t prefaced with nameless characters talking about things I don’t understand, often getting get killed within the first three minutes of the action. I believe Eric Saward (former Doctor Who script editor) referred to this writing technique as a “grab,” and I loathe it. Everyone should do it the Tracy Ann Baines way. The Prime Strategist has spoken.
(I should say, I do love and admire Eric Saward as a writer, just not his penchant for “grabs”!)
Baines also tells the story in a neat, linear fashion with an uncluttered cast, crafting a Time Lord Victorious tale that is very followable – much appreciated when writing a Doctor Who review. Particularly when it’s audio, and you have to work extra hard to follow the action. I’ve lost count of the number of radio dramas I’ve walked away from, having no concept of what I’ve just listened to!
Similarly, newcomers to the Time Lord Victorious arc needn’t fear any confusion. Yes it picks up where ‘He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not’ left off, but you can absolutely appreciate this story in its own right, with no knowledge of prior excursions. And although it ends on something of a cliffhanger, the story is by no means ‘unfinished.’ Nonetheless, there’s lots to be intrigued about if you plan to follow the Time Lord Victorious story beyond this point.
(As an aside, if you’re curious as to where ‘The Enemy of My Enemy’ fits into Time Lord Victorious, then chronologically it comes just before the TV story ‘The Waters of Mars,’ and the novel ‘The Knight, the Fool and the Dead.’ See below.)
But how to wrap up this Doctor Who review? I must say, I really enjoyed it overall. The Daleks are typically Daleky (thanks to Nicholas Briggs) without being boring or predictable. The Wraxians are a fascinating race, and their motives aren’t as clear-cut as you might think; you may have a different opinion of them at the story’s conclusion. In addition, Paul McGann is wonderful as the Eighth Doctor, as always.
But as I say, the real highlight for me is the idea of using the Daleks as the Doctor’s companions without being cheesy, and without jettisoning Doctor Who canon as we know it. The Doctor’s interplay with his deadliest enemies was great fun to listen to, and as I mentioned above, the story’s cliffhanger left me intrigued as to how this relationship is going to develop.
But what do you think? Did you enjoy ‘The Enemy of My Enemy‘? And are you enjoying Time Lord Victorious so far? Let me know in the comments below.
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