Illuminate! Illuminate!

Big Finish Folly, Part 106e – Order of the Daleks, by Mike Tucker

Order of the DaleksWe’re still on our semi-regular peregrinations around the previous incarnations here, before carrying on with the Seventh Doctor’s Main Range adventures. And the Dalek stories are turning up like buses at the moment. Ol’ Sixey and Mrs Clarke feature against the most intriguing Dalek concept we’ve seen in the last few years…

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!

Of course, it’s the Daleks. Could hardly be anybody else, given the story title, could it? But oh, what beautiful Daleks! Very rare to be saying that, when the fascistic pepperpots make everything ugly just by their proximity to it. All praise to the designer Chris Thompson for bringing the stained-glass Dalek to life on the front cover. And the juxtaposition of Daleks and organised religion is one of those very creepy things that makes perfect sense when you think about it – isn’t all religion basically about pointing at your enemy and shouting “exterminate!” at them?

There’s a lot of riffing on stories from elsewhere, which is another thing that Doctor Who always does very well – most notably, according to the interview extras, the original, aborted Alien 3 script and The Name of the Rose. There’s also a few sly takes on Star Wars and Star Trek in the dialogue – not much, but just enough to bring a smile to the face. There’s also a lot of unnecessary running around as the Doctor leaves the monastery to go and look at a field of flowers that provide the power for the scheme the Daleks are desperate to take back to their High Command – we can’t see the field, obviously, so that seems a bit redundant. Perhaps it would have been better to stay with the claustrophobia of the interior of the monastery, contrasting that with the body-horror of Daleks in fluid-filled sacs, and the bright artistic casings. One scene that works especially well in that regard is Mrs Clarke and Asta breaking into the Galactic Census’s shuttle, only to realise that there is a Dalek creature in there with them. Nice use of a screwdriver too – you don’t find many companions doing that sort of thing. Mrs Clarke certainly doesn’t take any shit.

The McGuffin of Daleks gaining telepathic powers to take over the Abbot’s mind is a little silly, but well-executed, and effects-wise does send a shiver down the spine. It doesn’t quite serve to raise Order of the Daleks into the dizzy heights of a masterpiece, especially when heard hard on the heels of Dalek Soul, but it’s certainly a fun, punchy story.

****

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