Reviewed: Big Finish’s The Kamelion Empire

When Kamelion was introduced in The King’s Demons, we knew only that the Master had found him. Why someone would leave a shape changing robot just lying about was not answered. Until now. The Kamelion Empire by Jonathan Morris takes the listener back to Kamelion’s home planet where we learn that he is not alone. There are many, many Kamelion robots, but what happened to their creators, the Kamille?

One way of getting around the issue of a crowded TARDIS is to not have anyone else in the plot. A lot of the run time of The Kamelion Empire is spent with our four leads, the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding), Vislor Turlough (Mark Strickson), and Kamelion (played here by impressionist, Jon Culshaw). I think this is a great approach to take every now and then as it highlights the relationships between the TARDIS crew. Hearing Tegan and Turlough bicker will never get old.

The lack of a supporting cast is by no means a hindrance. They are all excellent in their roles and I didn’t really notice that they were they only ones there. It wasn’t until I listened to the interviews at the end of the release did I realise how special it was.

The cast is alone because they are exploring a desolate world. The planet of Mekalion (anagram fans don’t have much work to do here) is a dead world.  Whoever once lived there is long gone, but someone must have activated the recall signal that drew Kamelion and the others to the planet. There is a race of gorilla-like aliens on motorbikes, but they lack the technological know-how to use the Kamille technology. 

These aliens are the one part of the plot that I did not get on with. They take up a lot of airtime in the first half of the story and end up being much less interesting than the concept and ideas that the piece plays with later on. They would be an exciting visual, but on audio they primarily consist of grunts and screams, like the Ogrons or certain political parties we couldn’t possibly name here.

Whether by plot necessity or a fundamental aspect of the character, Kamelion never quite feels like a member of the TARDIS team. He is always detached and distant. There are moments when it seems like they are all bonding, but then the trust is broken again. Over this trilogy, Kamelion has been fleshed out without ever been given a personality.  However, this could be because he is an emotionless robot; nonetheless, he never has fun with that like K9 does.

The villain of the piece is exciting. I thought that the play was going one way, but it changed drastically, ending up in a very different place to where it started. I won’t spoil it here, but you should definitely give it a listen. It takes some time to get going, with lots of plot points to set up; fortunately, the pay-off is worth it.

The Kamelion Empire is available form Big Finish for £12.99 as a download or £14.99 on CD.