“I have no choice but to let the Daleks dehumanise me, but I will not tolerate the same treatment from you!”
The Doctor and Evelyn arrive on Archetryx, the location for talks between time-travelling races, including the Time Lords. When the planet Archetryx is threatened by a Dalek assault squad, the Doctor and Evelyn become embroiled in an ever-deepening mystery.
What has become of President Romana, missing for twenty years? What lurks in the vast gravity wells of Archetryx? What is the secret of the ancient element the Daleks are synthesisiing – and how does Gallifrey feature in their plans?
The Doctor finds that if his oldest enemies cannot conquer the universe they will watch it go up in flames…
There’s certainly a lot going on here, not only do we get Daleks, not only do we get Gallifrey but we get Daleks INVADING Gallifrey! And on top of that we get Romana! Can all these things be juggled successfully or will it all end up in a big mess on the floor of the Panopticon?
The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn’s relationship seems to be working quite well. Maggie Stables is entertaining to listen to and is able to bring some gentle comic touches that suit the character well. The excitement and curiosity Evelyn has when seeing strange and wonderful things for the first time comes across well and clearly has a positive effect on the Doctor.
Speaking of which, there can be no doubt that Colin Baker has grasped the opportunity Big Finish presents with both hands and is throttling every last screed of energy from it – he’s determined to be the Sixth Doctor that he never got the chance to be on television. The creation of Evelyn, a companion not linked to the television series, meant that they weren’t restrained by the precedents and limitations set down by the television series. In both The Marian Conspiracy and The Spectre of Lanyon Moor we have started to see a warmer, more caring character who only occasionally shows his pompous, bombastic side – which is the opposite of the TV show and is surely the way the character would have had to progress had he continued. In this story, the Doctor is given plenty of chances to show what he’s really made of and Colin Baker makes the absolute most of it.
When it was announced that Lalla Ward (the greatest Romana of them all) was going to be in this story, and that Romana would be the President, I jumped for joy. Her portrayal of Romana was one of the few things that made series 16 and 17 of the TV series any good and I couldn’t wait for this. I wasn’t disappointed either, she gives an awesome performance as the Time Lord president, held captive by the Daleks for twenty years; and then, when she finally escapes and gets back to Gallifrey, her reaction to the Dalek invasion is, dare I say it, awesomer (I know it’s not a word, but who cares).
We also have our first original recurring characters, The President from The Sirens of Time returns, having stepped in to keep things running during Romana’s absence (he’s just keeping the Seat of Rassilon warm for her). We also see the return of the Celestial Intervention Agency’s Vansell – also from The Sirens of Time – and he has a much bigger part to play in this story as it’s Vansell who gets tricked into allowing the Daleks onto Gallifrey believing them to be victims of the Daleks seeking refuge. He thinks he’s getting his hands on some fearsome technology, instead he gets an army of Daleks loose in the Citadel. Whoops. He’s technically a good guy but he’s a sneaky, sell-his-and-your-mother kind of good guy. You can imagine him being the enthusiastic protege of the Castellan from Arc of Infinity.
So the cast are all great, but what about the rest of it?
The writing is excellent, the music is really good and the direction is superb. The Apocalypse Element goes all out right from the start and never lets you catch more than a quick breath. The episodes are all longer than normal at about 35 minutes each but they need to be because there’s a lot of plot and a lot of action. But the best thing is that there’s no padding at all. In fact so much happens, it’s impressive that they manage to get it all in. There’s even a perfectly acceptable explanation as to why Human eyes can open the Eye of Harmony in the TV Movie.
The Daleks are at their conniving best, just like in The Genocide Machine, they have taken their time and spent twenty years getting their plan ready, and as soon as it’s time, they strike. Attack, counter attack, race against time, battles, deception, it all ramps up and the tension mounts as everything leads to the Dalek’s attack on Gallifrey. The Doctor, Romana, Vansell and everyone on Gallifrey knows that the Daleks destroyed an entire galaxy as a ploy to get the barriers lowered, they know exactly what the Daleks are after…and then the Daleks pull the Rug of Rassilon right out from under their feet as they reveal their true intentions. No one sees it coming. Not even the listener.
It’s a genuine epic, with a massive sense of scale and performances to match. Where The Genocide Machine failed to live up to expectations, The Apocalypse Element takes those expectations and kicks them in the nuts.
The Doctor: Colin Baker | Evelyn: Maggie Stables | Romana: Lalla Ward
With: Anthony Keetch (Co-ordinator Vansell); Michael Wade (The President); Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Voices); James Campbell (Assistant Monitor Ensac); Neil Corry (Alien Delegate); Andrew Fettes (Vrint / Captain Raldeth); Karen Henson (Monitor Trinkett); Alistair Lock (Dalek Voices); Toby Longworth (Monan Host); Andrea Newland (Commander Vorna)
Writer: Stephen Cole | Director: Nicholas Briggs | Music: Nicholas Briggs | Release Date: August 2000 | Running Time: 2 hour 17 minutes | Number of Episodes: 4
Set Between:The Spectre of Lanyon Moor and Time and the Rani