Reviewed: Alien Heart/ Dalek Soul

It’s promising to see that Big Finish have decided to change pace somewhat with their Doctor Who release schedules and offer something a little different for their listeners in terms of structure.

Alien Heart/ Dalek Soul marks a welcome change of pace for the Doctor, moving away from the classic four-part story structure that you normally get in the Main Range, and from the grandiose box set offerings like Dark Eyes, and plonking us in the middle of solid, sharp storytelling. This adventure shakes things up and serves well to engage listeners who may be used to tales being told in a certain way.

Whilst the stories are linked, they could almost be boiled down to two separate two-parters linked together over a longer time. Where Alien Heart by Stephen Cole serves as a more standard Who setup up, Guy Adams’ Dalek Soul pushes Doctor Who into newer territory for bolder performances.

That’s by no means a dig at Alien Heart; it’s certainly interesting enough, with a slight base-under-siege feel to it, some rather disgusting spider-like creatures, and a nice reveal of an old enemy (hint hint). It’s your standard land and run for the Doctor, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But where the story dovetails is in its rather remarkable resolution. Dalek Soul is one of the sharpest and most original Dalek stories that Big Finish (or their TV counterparts at the Beeb) have offered in a while. There’s some interesting throwaway comments about Dalek speech patterns, and a very good mystery to unravel as well as, very importantly, one of the finer Peter Davison/ Sarah Sutton performances. Both actors have different approaches to their regular characters in this story, and it works beautifully. In fact, this may be one of Davison’s finest ever performances in Doctor Who, which is saying something! He’s gripping, quite frankly, and his performance here (possibly a sequel or prequel to Resurrection of the Daleks – it’s a thinker) is engrossing. Some of it is downright disturbing at certain points, especially when approaching the character of the Fifth Doctor and what we know of his personality. Sutton backs him up with a reproachful performance that adds subtle layers to the character of Nyssa and serves as the centrepiece of the action for the audience.

What we can take from this is that Big Finish have cracked the code when it comes to offering a new tempo for their Doctor Who stories; if they choose to use this path more often, we could end up with even more memorable adventures than this.

And that would be difficult to do considering the incredibly strong start they’re off to here.

Alien Heart/ Dalek Soul is out now from Big Finish, £14.99 as a CD or £12.99 as a download.