But I have one goal before Capaldi begins (just to date this). Reach “Zagreus”, which I'm treating as the end of McGann season 1. To do that means listening to “Time of the Daleks”, which I've seen lumped in with “The Genocide Machine”, “The Apocalypse Element” and “The Mutant Phase” as Dalek Empire Season 0.
I'm not entirely sure how relevant that is, except they seem to be Big Finish's first Dalek stories for each Doctor. I first noted that “The Apocalypse Element” had barely anything to do with “The Genocide Machine” except its antagonists, and the same is true of “The Mutant Phase”. I figured it may have been building to something with the epic ending of “The Apocalypse Element”, but “The Mutant Phase” does something else entirely.
It does that whole pocket universe/alternate timeline thing Big Finish like to do every now and again so they can go properly outrageous in their storytelling. This time the Daleks are defeated by something that is making them mutate. I see what they did there. It also has echoes of the Dalek divide that came in New Who when they started to use humans to recreate their race, and then the pure blooded got angry at how they weren't real Daleks.
Of course this mutation is a bit more drastic than that, and has the added bonus that the new Daleks are far more dangerous than the originals, they become more efficient at killing and actually manage to exterminate everything in the universe. All without a battletank. The drawback being these new Daleks are way more animalistic. Oh, and there's that whole Dalek purity thing. So that normal Daleks have to recruit the Doctor to help them solve it. Which is a very good trick, and something New Who has obviously done with 'Asylum of the Daleks'. But I think here it works a lot better.
In 'Asylum' the Daleks basically recruit the Doctor to do what he normal does, fight Daleks, it's just this time it's insane ones. In 'Mutant Phase' the Doctor is sought because he has to solve a problem to keep the entire Dalek race alive. Sure a regeneration ago he might have realised he can't commit genocide before they're even born, but this is a natural consequence of their actions. Maybe this one's fair? Davison's performance in this is genuinely fearsome, as he gets those Doctor/Dalek blinders on that he performed so well in The Ressurection of the Daleks. Except the entire universe hangs in the balance, and he meets the Dalek Emperor again.
We do get to see a rather neat trick of the Dalek Emperor psychically take over a human as an avatar. Which is pretty impressive. The guy had been in close contact with the Emperor for years so it makes a certain type of sense. It's something that if you're doing regularly definitely needs some strong rules for.
As for the one aspect that originally delayed me listening to this, compared to “Earthshock” Nyssa gets a decent showing here. Getting to be an engineer and someone from the Liz Shaw mold of being pretty damn intelligent all by herself. Hell, she's even working on the TARDIS in the beginning. While I originally wanted to see more of her time with Davidson just to make the audio adventure make a bit more sense, now “The Mutant Phase<” has made me very intrigued about this Companion.
Cover by Colin Brockhuirt, because Big Finish's was pretty bad