Doctor Who Main Range 254: Emissary of the Daleks review

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After creating a well-received encounter for the 1980s era Cybermen last year, writer Andrew Smith again returns to the Monthly Adventures – this time pitting the Sixth Doctor against the Daleks.

Arriving on a remote planet, principally to satisfy the Doctor’s curiosity regarding such an isolated society, he and Peri find a world under occupation. Some twelve years since losing a war, the people of Omnia are ostensibly ruled by one of their own; a collaborator who facilitated the brutal Dalek invasion of their world.

Life under the Daleks is harsh, with the civilisation given a day one restart and all talk of its history supressed. The populace are forced to mine a rare mineral and live under a strict curfew – enforced by ‘the watch’ and administrated by Carmen Rega, a puppet leader who acts as the mouthpiece of the Dalek Supreme.

Naturally, it is not long before the time travellers gravitate towards a nascent resistance movement and find themselves deep in trouble.

Once again, Andrew Smith provides a solidly plotted tale in which we get a real sense of Omnian society, as well as a story which delivers an emotional dilemma. He draws on a real-world parallels for the Dalek occupation, as revealed in his backstage production notes, and we particularly enjoyed the use of oral history to keep indigenous stories alive. Longer term listeners might hear some similarities with Big Finish’s Doctorless Dalek Empire series, although by its nature this is a tighter, more self-contained tale.

Andrew Smith’s take on the Daleks is enjoyably brutal; they exterminate without compunction creating a real sense of danger throughout. Additionally, the Daleks on Omnia clearly detest the authority Carmen Rega wields and they are delightfully keen to find fault with her decisions, which makes for added tension.

This is another gratifying outing for the Sixth Doctor, who is granted the opportunity to be both deductive and heroic, and Colin Baker again proves what he could have done onscreen if given the chance. Relieved of the bickering, he and Nicola Bryant’s Peri are a well-matched pair and she has plenty to do when the story forces them apart.

In the guest cast, Saskia Reeves is terrific as the conflicted Carmen Rega, while William Ellis entertains as the rather naïve budding revolutionary Aldo. As ever, Nicholas Briggs voices an impressive panoply of Dalek voices and some time is spent in the Extras discussing the decision to make the Dalek Supreme more like booming, resonant modern Emperor rather than the high-pitched one of old.

Action packed and full of Dalek nastiness, this is another sure fire hit!