The adventure continues for the Sixth Doctor and Peri! After last month’s reunion of sorts in ‘Memories of a Tyrant‘ the duo now find themselves up against a very familiar threat.
The threat isn’t so much of a secret with a title like ‘Emissary of the Daleks‘. However, writer Andrew Smith isn’t trying to keep it a secret from us. Instead the listener is in the know and it’s fun waiting for the first mention of Daleks. The Doctor and Peri are on the planet, Ominia. It’s not how the Doctor remembers, but when is it ever? The planet has seen better days and slowly, as details trickle down, we understand what’s happened.
Andrew Smith is a master at the slow burn. This isn’t the action packed space thriller that we’re used to, especially with Daleks. The story is familiar enough, it’s not reinventing anything nor does it pretend to. Instead we’re treated to an inside look. Think Dalek Empire. The resistance that we’ll encounter isn’t the sort of underdog that we’re accustomed to. It’s a bare bones, ‘au naturel’ look at what it would be like to be captured by the Daleks. Gone are the thrilling corridor or space chases, replaced instead with shuffling through dungeons.
Character development is your friend
If you’re familiar with Smith‘s work it’s often procedural. He’s a former police officer and perhaps that informs his understanding that the mundane can provide worthwhile detail. Instead of throwing surprise after twist he grants us time to allow the story to unfold. Characters have time to be more than tools and bring more to the plot than simple pace and exposition.
Taking a closer look at the title of the piece, we’re treated to a character who is indeed an Emissary of the Daleks. I hesitate to say who it is, though it’s not a surprise or even a secret. Each actor fits themselves rather organically into this oppressive world. Saskia Reeves deserves higher praise than I can come up with for her portrayal of Carmen Rega. No one feels forced and each performance is rooted in reality but Reeves gives a strong, nuanced performance in a Dalek story. That fact alone makes it feel exceptional.
It’s such a privilege to hear more stories with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. The ease and comfort with which these two interact is always enjoyable to listen to. The way they bring in the rest of the cast and set the tone is something special.
This isn’t the Sixth Doctor from TV, full of flash and pomp. ‘Emissary of the Daleks‘ covers familiar ground. Most Dalek stories will. However it’s the perspective that we’re treated two with some genuinely very good performances, none of which are over blown or exaggerated, which makes this story so well done. The Daleks aren’t the focus of this adventure, they’re the set piece. The charm of this story is in the little things and character development. For a Dalek story that is hugely refreshing!
On the planet Omnia, a young man leads the Doctor and Peri through the battle-scarred ruins of a city. Among the rubble he shows them proof that their invaders and new masters, thought to be invincible, can be defeated. The proof is the blasted, burnt-out remains of a Dalek.
But this is a Dalek-occupied world like few others. For one thing, there are few Daleks to be seen. And for another, the Daleks have appointed an Omnian, Magister Carmen Rega, to govern the planet as their emissary.
Why are the Daleks not present in force? And can the Doctor and Peri risk helping the Omnians, when the least show of resistance will be met with devastating reprisals from space?
- Colin Baker (The Doctor)
- Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown)
- Bruce Alexander (Hingus)
- Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)
- Ray Cezan (Kalib / Scientist)
- William Ellis (Aldo Rega)
- Natasha Karp (Shayna / Tasha)
- Richard Keith (Watcher / Operative)
- John Rayment (Gordus)
- Saskia Reeves (Carmen Rega)