What happens when you think the evil force that has been ruling over your nation has been removed from power, but turns out to still have a lingering influence? Or that its successor turns out to be even worse? Nope, this isn’t the United Kingdom in 2023, but 144 years down the line in 2167.
After the Daleks is Big Finish’s sequel to First Doctor television story The Dalek Invasion of Earth and while released in August 2021, it’s worth revisiting now because of the parallels to the present. It’s a contemporary story, but set in the far future and also in the style of 1960s Doctor Who.
The opening story of the seventh series of The Early Adventures range focuses on Susan Foreman after she leaves the TARDIS and seeks to help Earth recover from its society-destroying Dalek invasion, and acts almost as the seventh to 10th episodes of its TV prequel.
Marcus Bray is the governor of Zone 5, where the UK is, and has very different ideas to Susan about how a post-Dalek society should operate. He wants to get things back to normal, such as having Big Ben bonging again, having good trade relations with international neighbours, and stopping the violence that can sometimes make London’s streets a scary place to be. Ah, well, that’s familiar.
Now the Daleks are not in charge, their influence should have waned. But some people still think they’re Robomen, there’s a Dalek shell still about, and a self-interested ideology that festers in the Palace of Westminster.
This story sets up a depressing but totally believable picture of a future Britain, and then takes Susan and basically makes her ‘the only adult in the room’. Which, given how ‘young’ she is when she leaves the TARDIS, is one of this story’s greatest strengths as this is the beginning of the adult Susan encountered several times by the Eighth Doctor.
But her endeavours to help the human race are undone by her own alien status, which is used by others to stir up hate once she stands for election to make her ideas known. The stakes get higher and higher, exposing the rot at the heart of Zone 5 politics, before a big episode two cliffhanger.
David Campbell (played by Sean Biggerstaff in this release) is not forgotten and his point of view is used more for the next episode as Susan’s situation becomes more concerning. Events don’t move forward too much when Susan is not involved, but that’s because other plot strands are accelerating instead to built up to a final episode where the personal, political, and the despicable collide.
It packs a lot into the final half-hour, but it feels like the chaos that erupts is inevitable in what has been shown of all the characters up to that point. It’s truly a story about what bad people do in bad situations, and why it’s usually they who emerge strengthened in the peacetime afterwards while normal people continue to suffer. Within its brief as part of The Early Adventures, it feels like 1960s Doctor Who, while also being a product of the 2020s and a story that would slot into the revived era of the show.