SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW
Released November 2016
The Daleks are unequivocally the Doctor’s most iconic but also most overrepresented foes, meaning that any return appearance of the denizens of Skaro must truly do something unique to prove its necessity. While experiencing the Daleks being the Daleks and simply blazing through any force before them still causes a rush of nostalgic excitement and makes for an entertaining story in its own right, the rejuvenation of Doctor Who both on television and under Big Finish’s tutelage has led to a much more discerning audience that also expects something novel and perhaps even more cerebral. To that extent, ‘Order of the Daleks’ is absolutely an unqualified success that proves that there is still plenty of new life in this ages-old enemy.
The Doctor and Constance arrive on the planet Strellin, a planet which has not yet made contact with any alien species but one which has garnered interest from the Galactic Census because of a subspace signal emanating from a nearby monastery. John Savident’s auditor Pendle and Olivia Hallinan’s probationary auditor Asta thus quickly form an unlikely alliance with the Time Lord and his companion as they investigate the Brotherhood of the Black Petal, ultimately uncovering a stranded sect of Daleks undertaking perhaps the most horrifying experiment they have ever conceived. On the verge of dying, the Daleks have used key members of the Brotherhood to ensure them a supply of necessary nutrients, adapting to their monastic surroundings by using stained glass and wrought iron for casings, utilizing the severed larynxes of other beings to supply their voices, and keeping damaged mutants alive in the stomachs of other creatures.
While the imagery employed is stunningly vivid and intimates a greater degree of body horror more commonly used with the Cybermen, the scope of this lone group’s plan is immensely sinister, exploiting the secret at the heart of the Black Petal in order to exponentially increase the power they hold over individuals. While ‘Order of the Daleks’ may not satisfy those wanting to see the Daleks at their most classically powerful, it will most certainly appease those looking to experience their resourcefulness and most audacious scheming.
The presence of members from the Galactic Census helps round out this release, giving the Doctor and Constance individuals they can speak to on level terms on this otherwise simple world. Asta, in particular, undergoes an incredible amount of development in this one story as her character seizes the opportunity to prove her mettle and worth, and both Pendle and she would most certainly be welcome back for a future encounter. However, alongside Colin Baker and his usual incredibly strong and engaging performance, Miranda Raison as Constance Clarke is really the standout start of this story. She is somewhat stern and curt at times, but she displays an overwhelming sense of self-confidence and bravery that makes her yet another perfect companion for the Sixth Doctor. It should be noted that this is really the first time that she admits that she just might be starting to become a little too overconfident because of her travels with the Doctor, an intriguing moment of insight and growth whether it carries through to future stories or not.
‘Order of the Daleks’ has everything going for it, able to take presumptions arising from the overexposure of the Daleks and completely subverting them to offer something wholly unique. With an incredibly visual monastic environment that both the script and enemies embrace whole-heartedly, this is an enormously enjoyable tale from beginning to end that marks a strong continuation of the Constance era.