Order of the Daleks almost sets itself up for a fall. The publicity put into this adventure (in Big Finish terms) was huge. The specially created ‘stained glass’ Dalek is indeed a thing of beauty and certainly lends a huge originality when looking at the creatures anew – I mean, just gaze at it for a moment. Stunning. But does the story justify such a spotlight?
What we have from writer, Mike Tucker (Dust Breeding; The Crawling Terror) here is something excellent, something typical, and something different. So yes, the adventure works but no, the spotlight is not necessarily earned.
In this release – can you believe the 218th Main Range story?! – we have devious Daleks, plotting and scheming in the shadows, harvesting the local populace for their own gains and acting very much like the Daleks of yesteryear that operated independent of Davros and created their own means of empire-building. Tucker knows how to throw an audience into the thick of things by blending body horror, literal horror, well-paced action, and solid Dalek stratagems. In fact, in this story, he brings something new to the table in terms of Dalek ideas and technology, and that doesn’t include the pepper-pots sporting a fancy new coat of glass armour. In truth, the stained glass effect so drawn upon from their recent promotion barely registered for this reviewer. Yes, it’s nice to get something new visually to imagine for this story but it doesn’t affect the plot too much. However, a new form of Dalek is always fun so good job on all fronts for finding something new to draw in new listeners.
(The idea that this audio medium has given us a new Dalek design is, in itself, rather marvellous, and we definitely applaud that.)
The Dalek scheme also makes sense and develops their devastating goal for Universal domination well. These are the Daleks of the Davison, Baker, and McCoy eras – that went for conquest on their own terms and needed no one but other Daleks to lead them.
On the other hand, we’re offered a somewhat tedious back and forth between the Doctor (Colin Baker) and Constance (Miranda Raison) – that is, Mrs Clarke, as the Doctor is forced to call her. If this pair have truly chosen to travel with one another, this reviewer, based on this story, can’t fathom why. Their friendship seems barbed at best and fractured at worst. Mrs Clarke seems keen to explore one moment and resentful to be involved at all the next. Whilst Old Sixy works well with authoritative friends such as Mel Bush and the wonderful Evelyn Smythe, the Doctor and Constance seem at odds with one another, their relationship a mutual convenience rather than a healthy respect. It jars the tale somewhat.
When it comes down to it, this is a Dalek story that’s fairly enjoyable, but, unfortunately, by no means a classic. There are some excellent visuals, which is slightly odd for an audio play but also shows how much time and effort Big Finish put into their individual stories. There are some new ideas in Dalek lore from Mike Tucker, but nothing that jumps out at the listener with an urgency to listen.
Order of the Daleks is out now, priced £14.99 on CD or £12.99 as a download.