The Fourth Doctor Adventures second series approaches the final furlong with Nick Briggs taking us back to Cuthbert and the Conglomerate with The Dalek Contract. The title evokes memory of the AudioVisuals story The Destructor Contract in which Cuthbert first appeared; beyond that this is actually the follow up to The Sands of Life (Cuthbert Annals I) and War Against the Laan (Cuthbert Annals II).
Once more we get to savour David Warner as Cuthbert, listen out for Toby Hadoke as Mr Dorrick and keep an ear out for John Dorney as Sterris. So far this series has had 5/5 in terms of good stories; will this be the sixth?
A peruse of the Big Finish product page gives the following synopsis:
‘These creatures have ravaged half the cosmos. They’re experts at this kind of thing. Nothing can stand in their way.’
The Doctor and Romana find themselves in the Proxima System, where enigmatic Conglomerate CEO Cuthbert has been conducting his infamous ‘experiment’. An experiment which might accidentally rip the universe apart.
Meanwhile, living conditions on Proxima Major have become harsh and hostile. Climate change has turned the landscape into a freezing wasteland and an alien power has condemned much of the population to life inside internment camps. For those still clinging to their freedom, the struggle for survival is now beyond desperate and outsiders such as the Doctor and Romana are only seen as a threat.
What is Cuthbert really up to in the Proxima System, and just how does he expect the dreaded Daleks to fit into his plan?
The Doctor and Romana appear in the Proxima system and are immediately attacked, forced to land and join up with the local freedom fighters. This would be all well and good except that the Daleks have been hired by Cuthbert to run security (don’t worry, they have their own agenda) and the rebels are attacked. The Doctor and Romana are split up and the Doctor tries to drum up support to fight the Daleks.
Meanwhile what is Cuthbert up to? What is the nature of his experiment and more importantly does he really think the Daleks are on his side?
Everything comes to a head at the end of the story and we look forward to the conclusion next month!
Both Tom and Mary are in fine form and David Warner allows everyone to play off him from ultra-dry Mr Dorrick (Toby Hadoke) to Romana. John Dorney is also tucked away in the cast as well.
The story has many of the trappings of a standard story – the TARDIS is attacked with missiles, dangerous damage to the universe and so forth but none of this hides the deeper story (which I hope is covered in The Final Phase) of who is Cuthbert that the Doctor had never heard of him before? That along with the final resting place of the brown sauce for the chips and the universe will hold fewer mysteries.
The story doesn’t try to do anything except be part I of a two-parter and is as good a listen as the rest of the series. We may not have any more of Mary Tamm to look forward to after next month but what we have had has been a joy.