It seems that Daleks are like busses, you wait nearly a year for a Dalek story, then two turn up at once. First, we had Power of The Daleks released on the BBC Store (I’m waiting for the blu-ray, but a review will be coming next year) and now we have Order of The Daleks. This is also the second Sixth Doctor story we’ve had from Big Finish all year, with the other being Vampire of The Mind that was part of The Two Masters Trilogy. Luckily for us, we have ol’ Sixie ending the Big Finish Monthly Range for the year, with three Monthly Range stories in two months (talk about being spoiled!) but lets delve right into Order of The Daleks shall we?
In the Galactic Census, idyllic Strellin is recorded as a Grade Three planet – its inhabitants possessing neither advanced technology, nor knowledge of other worlds. Accordingly, Strellin is protected: landings by off-worlders are strictly prohibited. Unless, of course, those off-worlders are officials of the Galactic Census itself, come to investigate the origin of a mysterious sub-space signal – a signal no native of Strellin should be able to send…
Breaking all local by-laws, the time-travelling Doctor and his companion L/Wren Mrs Constance Clarke (AWOL) have only just landed on Strellin, too. But they and the Census officials aren’t the only off-worlders to have come here. Inside a nearby monastery, the monks of the reclusive Brotherhood of the Black Petal are guarding a strange and terrible secret. Something that might bring disaster not just to Strellin, but to every civilised world in the galaxy!
Considering one of the most poorly received Sixth Doctor stories is The Twin Dilemma, it seems somewhat ironic that we start Order of The Daleks with twins having what can only be described as a dilemma. Luckily, it’s not long before the Doctor and Constance arrive on Strellin, a countryside like planet with space-buffalo and the smells that accompany them. We quickly learn about the Brotherhood of the Black Petal, a set of monks who live on Strellin and who are amazing at stained glass work. (Looking at the cover, I can’t help but wonder what they might create…)
I have to admit that I thought that Order of The Daleks would be rather dark in tone, as Big Finish’s interpretation of the Sixth Doctor can be quite dark, especially when you throw the Daleks in. What I must say is that the first episode of Order of The Daleks is rather lighthearted and banterous, allowing some of Colin Baker’s brilliant comedic timing and inflection come to the fore.
What follows in the rest of the first episode is classic Doctor Who conventions, the Doctor and his companion are captured by the locals, they try and understand what’s going on and the locals try to capture the TARDIS to harness it’s power. Like I said, classic tropes.
The conclusion and cliffhanger of the first episode of Order of The Daleks reminds me somewhat of the first cliffhanger in The Daleks, and it’s absolutely great.
The second episode starts with the Doctor and Constance split up (another trope) and the Doctor starts to understand more about the odd goings on on Strellin. Personally, it’s really hard to talk about the second episode of Order of The Daleks, mainly because it’s all been said and done before; there’s nothing really new here, not that that’s a bad thing. Sometimes the simplest stories are the best, the ones that know how to get from A to B and don’t mess about with how to get there. Sometimes, not tampering too much with a classic formula is the best way.
One thing that is interesting to note that transpires near the end of the second episode, is that the Daleks that have crashed and are now trying to rebuild on Strellis are part of the Dalek Emperor’s personal guard, much like the Cult of Skaro in the new series of Doctor Who. Both the Cult and this subset of Daleks also has a black Dalek as a leader; it’s nice to know that throughout the Doctor’s life, the Daleks have always had a similar hierarchy.
The conclusion of the second episode is arguably better than the first, with the Daleks using their influence and the idea of religion to bind their minds and ideologies with that of other species, which is a terrifying concept and a new take on brainwashing that works really well.
Now, normally, I listen to a release in one sitting, especially whilst reviewing, in order to fully understand everything and get all those little details. This time however, due to a number of really dull reasons, it was simply not possible, and I had to sleep between listening to the first two episodes (disc one) and the latter two (disc two). But does this have an advantage and make for an enjoyable listen? There’s only one way to find out.
Luckily for me, the third episode begins with a little recap of what’s happened. Boy, the Daleks are being naughty. Of course, the Doctor knows how to scare these naughty Daleks, giving our Doc more time to try and figure out how the hell he’s going to get out of this mess. Who knew that the Daleks were so cold for that reason?
We get to know some more of the black petals, although I have to say it’s delivered extremely expositionally (why isn’t that a real word?!?), which is a shame, as I’d’ve rather learned about the black petals some other, slightly more interesting way.
One thing I have to give Mike Tucker credit for, is making the Daleks vulnerable and in need of assistance. I’m not sure why they don’t bring Ogrons everywhere, but that’s another story. Anyway, the Daleks are using the people of Strellin (are they Strellins?) to help them get back to their former ‘glory’. It’s strange how you can draw parallels between the Daleks plans and that of peoples who have recently gained power.
Whilst the Doctor learns about the black petal and the flowers that they protrude from, and I must say that it’s a fascinating concept. And then you get the final cliffhanger of Order of The Daleks. Yet again, it’s typical of a Doctor Who Dalek story from the Classic era; the Daleks are making a promise. The Daleks will reign supreme!
The final episode starts with the Strellins (still not sure if that’s right) rising up against their Dalek visitors. There’s nothing quite like a good revolution is there? One thing I would say is that I absolutely love Constance Clarke in this story, I have to admit, this is the first story I’ve reviewed with her as the Sixth Doctor’s companion, and Miranda Raison is stellar; I just wish that we got to hear more of her. Hopefully we will in the upcoming Absolute Power and Quicksilver, both being released next month.
During the latter half of the final episode of Order of The Daleks, it seems that everything is falling neatly into place. A little too neatly if you ask me; I don’t know why, but it seems as if the Doctor and his pals have too much of an easy time of trying to defeat the Daleks. I have to give huge props to Colin Baker’s performance during a monologue that he brilliantly gives. Talk about brainwashing in a positive way.
Of course, with this being a Doctor Who story, ultimately there’s a happy ending, even if some of the outcomes are somewhat bittersweet. Like I’ve said multiple times in my review, this is very much ‘Doctor Who By Numbers’ which is absolutely great if you love Classic Who. Why mess with a proven formula?
Overall, Order of The Daleks is a solid story, I personally feel like a name like Flower Power of The Daleks would have suited it better, but that’s just me. The Doctor and Constance were both absolutely great, the Daleks were as Daleky as ever and the concept was certainly engaging. I have to say though that the secondary cast didn’t really resonate with me that much, which is a shame as it would have added another dimension to the story. What a cracking story it is though.
Should you want to purchase Order of The Daleks, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £14.99 for a physical version, or a download for £12.99.