Dalek Empire 1: Invasion of the Daleks

Starring: Sarah Mowat and Gareth Thomas
Big Finish Productions
ISBN 1 903654 37 8, BFPCDDE01
Available now

Geologist Susan Mendes is captured by a massive invading force of Daleks and made one of their slaves. When she stands up to her oppressors and explains that an efficient workforce needs food and rest, she is surprised to find her demands being met...

Nicholas Briggs really likes Daleks! It was his enthusiasm that prompted Big Finish to produce their Dalek Empire trilogy of spectacular battles between the Doctor and his mechanised foes. Now Briggs has written, directed, scored and provided some of the grating Dalek voices for this four-part series of CDs, which is also - a little confusingly - called Dalek Empire. This time, however, the malevolent pepper pots go solo.

By "solo", I don't mean that the Daleks are the main protagonists, as they were in the TV21 comic strips of the 1960s (although Tim Keable's strip art on the inside of the CD sleeve does capture the flavour of those adventures). More in the style of the Dalek books of the '60s and annuals of the '70s, the heroes of this story are the humans who resist them.

Sarah Mowat takes the lead as Susan (Suz) Mendes, a sympathetic and believable main character. Her plea bargaining with her ruthless masters is reminiscent of an employee trying to obtain reasonable working conditions from an uncaring boss! Mark McDonnell plays Alby Brook, an undercover agent for the Space Security Service (which featured on TV in the epic Daleks' Master Plan) who escapes the invasion but swears to rescue his friend Suz. Doctor Who spin-off stalwart John Wadmore portrays Gordon Pellan, a not particularly brave newsreader. Gareth Thomas, star of Blake's 7 and, more recently, MJTV's Soldiers of Love, relishes his shady role as Kalendorf, a member of the Knights of Velyshaa (the force that crippled Gallifrey in The Sirens of Time) who becomes a slave alongside Suz.

Kalendorf's clan is not the only reference that is made to The Sirens of Time, Big Finish's first-ever Who release - Invasion of the Daleks also features the robotic Drudgers from that same story. Several more narrative threads are picked up from previous Dalek tales, especially those produced by Big Finish. For instance, the Dalek Emperor acts upon intelligence obtained from the Kar-Charrat library, which was introduced in The Genocide Machine, and the Daleks' base of operations is the Seriphia galaxy, which they conquered in The Apocalypse Element. The invaders robotise certain of their slaves, as they did on TV in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. This process of building upon established foundations helps to accentuate the grand scale of the Daleks' schemes, while also managing to avoid being too obtrusive or off-putting to new listeners.

The dramatic device of using transmitted information, such as public news broadcasts and spaceship distress calls, to convey story details also adds impact and realism to the Dalek threat. An impressive first strike.

Richard McGinlay