Review – Big Finish Doctor Who #8: “Red Dawn”

This is the next in line of my Big Finish Productions Doctor Who retro-reviews.

#8 – “Red Dawn”

From Big Finish’s site:

Ares One: NASA’s first manned mission to the dead planet Mars. But is Mars as dead as it seems?

While the NASA team investigate an ‘anomaly’ on the planet’s surface, the Doctor and Peri find themselves inside a strange alien building. What is its purpose? And what is frozen inside the blocks of ice that guard the doorways? If the Doctor has a sense of deja-vu, it’s because he’s about to meet some old adversaries, as well as some new ones…

Written By: Justin Richards

Directed By: Gary Russell


Peter Davison (The Doctor); Nicola Bryant (Peri); Maureen Oakley (Pilot Susan Roberts); Robert Jezek (Commander Lee Forbes); Stephen Fewell (Paul Webster); Georgia Moffett (Tanya Webster); Hylton Collins (Sub-Commander Sstast); Matthew Brenher (Lord Zzarl); Alistair Lock (Zizmar); Jason Haigh-Ellery (Sskann); Gary Russell (Razzburr)

***minor spoilers ahead***

One of the most iconic alien races of Doctor Who – the Ice Warriors – makes its Big Finish debut!  And what could have been a show piece turns into a slow plod through a basic introductory episode.  I think I might have thought more highly of this episode had it not followed the amazing Dalek reintroduction in “The Genocide Machine,” but what can you do?  Add to that Ice Warriors are generally portrayed vocally as being very similar to the old Sleestaks from The Land of the Lost, only without the evil hiss, so they come across a little silly, especially if you have to look at them.  The good news is you don’t have to look at them; this is radio!

In all fairness, I rather enjoy the Ice Warriors as a race.  They’re what Star Trek: The Next Generation tried to make out of Klingons – honorable, vicious, and complex.  The Ice Warriors here don’t come across quite so complex, but their honorable and deadly nature comes shining through.

Sadly, the first three acts of this story are average, just average, really average.  By many standards, that’s not too bad.  By Big Finish’s standards, it’s almost a train wreck.  The fourth act gains a little ground when secrets are revealed about the crew of the Ares One – too little, too late, and with much wasted potential.  One note of interest is the reference In this final act to the Brookings Report, which is well-known in most UFO enthusiast circles.  Sometimes it amuses me that the British know American history and policy better than the Americans.

On the whole, this one’s worth the listen, even if only to give a new baseline for quality.  It’s a solid introduction to the characters of the Ice Warriors, but very little else.  It will definitely make you appreciate just how high Big Finish standards normally are.  As I keep saying, it’s very difficult not to be spoiled by this series, but the side effect is that you tend to be less forgiving of the handful of lackluster episodes.