Saturday, 10 June 2017
This fourth part of Dalek Empire IV, the eighteenth and final instalment in the Dalek Empire series overall, plays out like that lovely old mixed metaphor of Sir Tom Stoppard's: "all the skeletons in the cupboard are coming home to roost". This finale sees quite the showdown between our two major players, Commander Salus Kade and General Agnes Landen. Briggs gets a good deal of tension out of delaying the confrontations between this pair, but when they do arrive they're electrifying. Together they make for a fearsome combination, both orphaned children of war, the one a marine named 'Fearless' and the other the woman in whose image these marines have been moulded. The idea that Kade and the other Fearless are, as it were, children in Landen's image is not entirely surprising - it's a fairly common trope, going back to the Doctor being used as the Cyber-template in Spare Parts, and as we've noted there's always been something a bit ... motherly about Landen's relationship with her protégé - but it works. As O'Brien puts it in the CD extras, "if you see a marvellous young person who's got this something, whatever it is, in whatever field, in your field, and you know about your field because that's what you've spent your life doing, and you can impart to this person some of what you know and what you think, and see that person rise up - they're like your own creation, aren't they?" And as with the Daleks and Davros, the children quickly outgrew the parent: Kade is a more fearless fighter than the woman who created him.
The Fearless, Part 3 follows Kade's mission as he and the other members of the Spacer-wearing Fearless set out to kill Susan Mendes, the Angel of Mercy, each of them on their own in deep space as they close in on the ship carrying her, the Amorist. I was unsure about centring the story around assassinating the first series' lead character; the Kade and Landen stuff was far and away the most engaging material of the first two discs, and as such it's a shame to split that pair up and spend most of our time on a plan to kill a character we know from having heard Dalek War cannot possibly die in this set of stories. It seems like an artificial tension, though one which, as the story goes on and we reach a new twist, Briggs goes some way to justify. The revelation that the Susan Mendes of this story is in fact a robot duplicate isn't immensely unpredictable, but it does help keep what happens here distinct and less like it's playing second fiddle to Dalek Empire I: a new bit of political intrigue in another part of the conflict rather than retreading old ground. Better still, the final twist of the knife - traps within traps, schemes within schemes - promises some excellent Kade/Landen material in the grand finale. It's quite the rug-pull.