Emissary of the Daleks

Posted in Audio by - August 19, 2019
Emissary of the Daleks

Released August 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

After nearly five years apart in Big Finish’s main range, Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant instantly rekindled their superb chemistry and recaptured the nuances of their time together as the Sixth Doctor and Peri in ‘Memories of a Tyrant’ as the beginning of a trilogy continuing with Andrew Smith’s ‘Emissary of the Daleks.’ Landing on the planet Omnia, the two find a Dalek-occupied world like few others, almost devoid of actual Daleks and under the apparent stewardship of their appointed Omnian figurehead, Magister Carmen Rega. On a world where the slightest show of resistance can be met with devastating retaliation, however, a resistance force still fights to survive and expand, and the burnt-out remains of a Dalek serve as proof that these invincible masters can be defeated and bring the Doctor and Peri squarely into the emotional fight for freedom and survival.

With the advent of the Time War that by necessity features the Daleks as the Time Lords’ ultimate enemies as well as because of the creation of so many spin-offs outside of Doctor-led adventures that likewise feature the Daleks as a known commodity to prove the guile and intelligence of so many protagonists, the famed denizens of Skaro in recent years have been more prevalent than ever before in the audio medium. While this truly serves to prove just how omnipresent and relentless the Dalek threat has been at every point through time and space, however, it also means that it’s increasingly difficult to find novel storylines outside of the Time War context that don’t simply retread familiar ground, meaning that the classic Doctors who have already faced the Daleks countless times before are often put at something of a disadvantage. And while few would ever say that following in the footsteps of the superb Dalek Empire series from Big Finish is a bad decision, ‘Emissary of the Daleks’- with a few necessary modifications- is very much an instalment in that series in all but name, providing an engaging but far too familiar storyline.

Despite the familiar ground of a suppressed population mining for the Daleks and a seeming collaborator whose intentions tread perilously between purely benefitting the Daleks and ensuring the local population has at least a semblance of life, ‘Emissary of the Daleks’ definitively succeeds in creating a more methodical and thoughtful pace and an atmosphere of oppression that the characters fit into perfectly. With the Daleks fairly scarce due to the dangers that the background radiation of this world that is so rich in crucial vitanium poses to them, the danger posed from afar combined withthe conflicted situations in which Carmen Rega finds herself when her son is found to be in the resistance as she must try to retain a sense of measured control and indifference work wonderfully to heighten the tension and layer events in believable emotion. Nicholas Briggs is able to imbue the more verbose Daleks who cannot exclusively rely on numbers to mount their threat with a surprising degree of nuance as well, but it’s truly Saskia Reeves as Carmen who steals the spotlight here as she slowly learns the truth of the Daleks’ plan and their threat becomes all the more personal.

By necessity, the script focuses on a very intimate cast of characters, making their motives and actions all the more understandable and developed but sacrifcing something in terms of world-building that simple background dialogue relating to Omnia’s history cannot quite overcome. Still, this does mean that even the less crucial roles on display are given some meaningful material, and William Ellis as Aldo Rega in particular excels as the man caught squarely in the middle of this conflict who must repeatedly come to terms with who his mother has become. This also gives both Baker and Bryant plenty of time to shine as they become entwined in these planetary affairs and face seeming death on multiple occasions, and both give their typically strong performances that highlight both the genuine danger of the Daleks and the peril of simply being associated with the resistance even if the unique qualities of this duo aren’t necessarily emphasized. While the script does rely on a few narrative conveniences such as the Daleks seemingly being unaware of the unique properties of the vitanium that is so important to them and characteristically again choosing to believe the Doctor will help them as they lead them to their laboratory and allow him to formulate a plan to defeat them while under their supervision, the plot always flows cohesively and more importantly never forgets the true emotion at its very core.

Ultimately, ‘Emissary of the Daleks’ is another story featuring incredible production values and efforts from all involved. However, there’s little that’s truly unique about it, and the trajectory of the plot is wholly predictable at every step, meaning that this wholly competent and enjoyable story will likely be lost in the vast sea of Dalek stories around it that must be held to a higher standard simply because of the sheer volume.

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