The Daleks have been around for over fifty years now, and so doing something new with them while staying true to their character is a difficult task. But the cover and promotional art for Order of the Daleks, the latest in Big Finish’s monthly range, boldly flaunt its new take – a Dalek of stained glass.
Before they meet this colourfully designed villain, the Sixth Doctor and his companion Constance Clarke land on Strellin, one of those medieval planets which somehow still have similar religious orders to Earth. Here they encounter Assessor Pendle and his trainee Asta from the Galactic Census, who’re here to investigate a mysterious signal. This leads them to a monastery, where the Brotherhood of the Black Petal are guarding a mysterious secret... yeah, alright, that secret is the Daleks. Having crashed on Strellin, a Dalek squad has found a gruesome way to survive.
The fact that it’s a small number of wounded Daleks allows this story to take on a smaller-scale yet more horror-inflected tone than the more epic stories of, for example, the War Doctor series. This is something that writer Mike Tucker pulls off effectively, with some genuinely scary moments, even making the blob-like mutants inside the casings into a credible and nasty threat. The stained-glass Daleks of the cover, their casings repaired by the monks, are either a great visual idea or a very silly one – opinions will be divided on this.
The Daleks’ scheme itself is suitably evil and over-the-top, though the way they use the monks to their advantage does raise questions of whether it fits within their usual modus operandi of racial purity. Also, when the truth behind the ‘Black Petal’ is revealed, it comes in a rather exposition-heavy way and we never really get to see a lot of its effects.
Nevertheless, Colin Baker’s on fine form as the Doctor and it’s good to hear his relationship with the inexperienced yet practical Constance develop. John Savident is perfectly cast as the petty, arrogant Pendle, who comes at odds with the Doctor to amusing effect, particularly in the story’s early sections. Olivia Hallinan’s Asta gets the story’s strongest character arc, as she must step out from under the shadow of her overbearing superior. The monks themselves don’t leave as much of an impression, though do all get defined characteristics and something to do in the story.
Order of the Daleks is a worthy Dalek story, then. Despite some areas where the script could be refined, it’s on solid ground when using the Daleks to horrific effect, and its new ideas set it sufficiently apart from the hundreds of other Dalek stories – even if that cover Dalek could probably be defeated with a hammer.
DOCTOR WHO: ORDER OF THE DALEKS / DIRECTOR: JAMIE ANDERSON / AUTHOR: MIKE TUCKER / STARRING: COLIN BAKER, MIRANDA RAISON, JOHN SAVIDENT, OLIVIA HALLINAN, NICHOLAS BRIGGS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW