After two anthologies with a mixture of two- and four-parters, we are finally treated to a single six-part story with the First Doctor (Stephen Noonan) going up against the iconic, titular pepperpots (voiced by director and script editor Nicholas Briggs). Full of twists, nostalgic references, and funny moments, Fugitive of the Daleks is an outstanding masterpiece that revitalises an unconventional Classic era format in the best way possible.
(I’ll do my best to avoid revealing any major spoilers, before the Daleks can pinpoint my location!)
In Carthage, decades after her departure in The Myth Makers, an older Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) says goodbye to her grandson Antiphus and enters the TARDIS, only to find the Doctor apparently feeling unwell. They make their first trip to Perpetuity Station, where the Doctor receives medical attention until things don’t turn out to be what they seem involving the crew on board, before the Daleks arrive to capture him in their time machine. As the Doctor and Vicki resume journeying across time and space, with the Daleks in pursuit, they end up in various locations and unravel the mystery of the Doctor’s amnesiac behaviour as they go along.
The plot brilliantly acts as spiritual successor to The Chase, and The Daleks’ Master Plan to a lesser degree, by utilising the experimental storytelling structure without being derivative. There were a number of intriguing historical events that I learned for the first time in the story, such as General Custer in 1876, before the Battle of the Little Bighorn; and also the first Solvay Conference at the Hotel Métropole in Brussels, 1911. A fascinating way to incorporate some educational elements, paying homage to the early historical serials of First Doctor era. Ironically enough, on the same day as Fugitive of the Daleks was released, I decided to try out The Chase on BBC iPlayer; followed by The Keys of Marinus shortly afterwards (good thing I wiped my memory before watching the former serial).
Jonathan Morris has nailed the gravitas (or should I be saying “mavitas”?) and pacing in his script, after writing some of my personal favourite Dalek audios, The Curse of Davros, We Are The Daleks, and Emancipation of the Daleks — all underrated gems! He is a real expert in devising unique, compelling Dalek concepts that attempt to manipulate or rewrite Earth’s history; the Terry Nation of Big Finish.
What can I say about Stephen Noonan, hmm? Ever since our first taste of him as the First Doctor, his uncanny William Hartnell impression continues to shine with the mannerisms and vocal tics. Not just in the previous two boxsets, The Outlaws and The Demon Song, but also his cameos in the Once and Future 60th anniversary event; with an expanded appearance in the fifth chapter, The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50. It’s a real honour that Noonan has already joined the line of Doctor recasts at Big Finish, alongside Michael Troughton, Tim Treloar, and Jonathon Carley. I’ll say no more, hmm!
Honestly, I didn’t expect Vicki Pallister (later known as Cressida) to return as a companion… and it works splendidly. I love how Maureen O’Brien adds layers of maturity in her portrayal, whilst maintaining Vicki’s youthfulness. Although Dodo Chaplet (Lauren Cornelius) doesn’t appear until during the latter half of the story, I’m very pleased that she gets an opportunity to meet Vicki, as they both played significant roles in the Doctor’s life. It also helps having The Incherton Incident briefly recapped with flashbacks, plus referencing former companion Steven Taylor who Vicki and Dodo knew all too well.
I have such a soft spot for six-part audios, which is why I consider Fugitive of the Daleks to be the best First Doctor Adventures release so far. Right up there with Kaleidoscope, The Auton Infinity (Forty 2), and Cold Fusion, the format gives enough room for the main characters and plot to develop whilst avoiding unnecessary padding. Not to mention the supporting cast — Mark Elstob, Ashley Cousins, and Gary Turner — who have mastered voicing multiple guest characters and changing accents; plus Genevieve Gaunt superbly stepping in as Hedra. And I also want to give Christopher Naylor, best known for voicing Fourth Doctor companion Harry Sullivan, a shoutout for applying his painting skills to the outstanding cover artwork (which belongs in the Louvre)!
For anyone who has yet to try out a Big Finish First Doctor audio, go for this one. It’s a perfect starting point. We have no idea what’s next for the range, but I hope they’ll do a boxset at some point featuring the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, (Carole Ann Ford), sometime before travelling with Ian and Barbara is what I have in mind.
Fugitive of the Daleks is available now from Big Finish.