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Audio Drama Review
In the Galactic Census, idyllic Strellin is recorded as a Grade Three planet – its inhabitants possessing neither advanced technology, nor knowledge of other worlds. Accordingly, Strellin is protected: landings by off-worlders are strictly prohibited. Unless, of course, those off-worlders are officials of the Galactic Census itself, come to investigate the origin of a mysterious sub-space signal – a signal no native of Strellin should be able to send… Breaking all local by-laws, the time-travelling Doctor and his companion L/Wren Mrs Constance Clarke (AWOL) have just landed on Strellin, too. But they and the Census officials aren’t the only off-worlders to have come here. Inside a nearby monastery, the monks of the reclusive Brotherhood of the Black Petal are guarding a strange and terrible secret. Something that might bring disaster not just to Strellin, but to every civilised world in the galaxy…!
Order of the Daleks is brought to us by Mike Tucker, the writer who gave us stories such as the wartime Cyberman novel Illegal Alien and the Daleks’ Big Finish debut in the audio drama The Genocide Machine. Before he was a writer, Tucker was a special effects man, which perhaps explains why his ideas tend to be high-concept and very visual (which is no bad thing in an audio drama – as the saying goes, the pictures are better on radio).
Here his concept involves Daleks that have somehow inveigled their way into a monastery, and are currently trundling around in casings fashioned from wrought iron and stained glass, for reasons that I won’t disclose here. A conspiracy, a vow of silence, martyrdom, fear of women – all the monastic tropes are here. This could have been called Brotherhood of the Daleks, except that Big Finish have used that title already.
In the classic series tradition, the Dalek presence is not revealed within the narrative until the end of Part One. In the meantime, Tucker’s plot has enough intrigue to keep us going, including a monk rendered mute by the sight of something horrifying, a Star Trek Prime Directive type situation on a medieval planet, and an uppity assessor from the Galactic Census Bureau. The assessor, Pendle, is played by John Savident, best known as Coronation Street’s Fred Elliott, though his character in this play often reminded me more of Victor Meldrew in full “I don’t believe it” mode.
The plot bears comparison to The Power of the Daleks (a group of Daleks have crash-landed and are trying to return to full power) but in a more primitive setting. There are also shades of The Time Warrior, because the Daleks care as little as Linx the Sontaran did about interfering in the cultural development of a primitive planet.
Nicholas Briggs voices the Daleks, as usual, and he also plays the monastery’s abbot, Tanapal. This comes in useful because Tanapal has been compromised by the invaders, and begins to sound ‘Daleky’ whenever he is in communion with them. Meanwhile, the two Jamies help to keep the production values big – that’s director Jamie Anderson and musician Jamie Robertson, whose score contains elements of Briggs’s Dalek Empire theme. The isolated music track at the end of Disc One is well worth a listen.
The excellent Miranda Raison returns as Bletchley Park escapee Constance Clarke alongside Colin Baker’s Time Lord, though there’s no development of her story arc in this opening instalment of a trilogy of Sixth Doctor releases, despite the blurb drawing our attention to the Wren’s AWOL status. We may expect that to follow later. For now, the Daleks dominating the proceedings is the order of the day – which is exactly the way it should be.
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