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Doctor Who BF 40: Jubilee

December 12th, 2009 (11:48 pm)

I finally got round to listening to Jubilee, Robert Shearman's sixth Doctor audio drama for Big Finish which is a grandparent to his celebrated ninth Doctor television episode Dalek. Jubilee, recorded in September 2002 and released in January 2003, is very much of its time, made when the return of Doctor Who to television seemed very remote. Much of it comes across as a commentary on the conflict between the Doctor and the Daleks as a foundation myth. Indeed, an inexact parallel could be made between the misogynist English Empire of Jubilee and some of the worst aspects of pre-2005 Doctor Who fandom, a predominantly male world where women were often rare sights. Something of this world was dramatized in Daragh Carville's Radio 3 play Regenerations in 2001. It's no surprise to find the dialogue of Jubilee peppered with references Doctor Who fans of a certain age would know, such as the psychologist's idea that Daleks represented fathers and every child wants to kill its father, explaining the Daleks' popularity, which I think was included in one of the Peter Haining books in the 1980s (perhaps The Key to Time, though I might be mixing it up with Barry Norman's story about his daughter's breakfast table confession of fear of the Daleks). Miriam Rochester, painted butterfly presidential consort not quite willing to be this alternate reality's Catherine the Great, quotes the blurb to Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks ("...without conscience, without pity...") at one stage.

The story opens out into an exploration of the aspects of human nature which the Daleks represent; the Daleks are always with us, speaking to and from the worst parts of human nature. Like its television kinsdalek, the Dalek held in the Tower of London is a soldier which demands orders; it keeps finding the officers it seeks wanting, though, and is changed by the experience. Likewise the English Empire bears the marks of a colonized society, seeing humanity through a Dalek prism, obsessed by racial purity - even leaving the soil of the motherland contaminates, as the prime minister of the United States is forced humiliatingly to admit - and justifying its hegemony by culturally sclerotic obsession with the defeat of the Dalek invasion by the Doctor in 1903. The time paradox B-plot sometimes feels a burden on the story, but it helps reinforce the idea that human and Dalek aren't automatic moral opposites; the brutalized humans who live out their lives in Dalek costumes for the entertainment of President Rochester horrify us as they horrify the captured Dalek, and for not dissimilar reasons.

The Dalek of Jubilee doesn't need to absorb a time-traveller's DNA to repair itself; it's experience which builds trust and leads its fellow-Daleks to be alienated from it. Fittingly for the sixth Doctor era in which the story is placed, the music - from versatile co-director, Dalek vocalizer, and American sub-ruler Nicholas Briggs - builds a similar atmosphere to Roger Limb's cues from Revelation of the Daleks. Jubilee is often nastier than the sixth Doctor's sole television confrontation with the Daleks, but funnier too, until the grand guignol starts to really hurt.