Written by Mike Tucker
Directed by Jamie Anderson
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) John Savident (Pendle), Olivia Hallinan (Asta), Robbie Stevens (Boswyck/Raspak), Sam Fletcher (Rosco/Gabber), Joseph Kloska (Habrild), and Nicholas Briggs (Tanapal and The Daleks).
Big Finish Productions – Released November 2016
This month sees the welcome return of the Sixth Doctor alongside his latest audio companion L/Wren Mrs Constance Clarke, played with a perfectly clipped RP by Miranda Raison. This is actually Mrs Clarke’s fifth audio appearance to date but in a timey-wimey fashion this reviewer will be revisiting her first trilogy of adventures from last year at a later date.
This story sees the Doctor and Wren Clarke arrive on the idyllic backwater planet Strellin which has protected status but from which a signal is emerging which suggests that outside technology has infiltrated this primitive society. This has attracted the attention of the Galactic Census, who have sent assessors to investigate. The elder of the two assessors, Pendle is played by John Savident, who is still best remembered as Coronation Street’s Fred Elliot. Even without his regional accent there are still a few familiar mannerisms which add to the enjoyment of Pendle’s continual insistence in his own superior knowledge which rubs everyone up the wrong way. His trainee Asta is voiced by Olivia Hallinan whose many TV credits include Lark Rise to Candleford and the Torchwood episode Out of Time.
The four protagonists soon find themselves facing the monastic order of the Black Petal headed by the sinister Abbot Tanapal played by Nicholas Briggs alongside Robbie Stevens in the dual roles of Raspack and Boswyck, the latter of which becomes part of the team of protagonists. The title of this story means that it is of course not a surprise when Briggs gets to play his more well-known role as the voice of the Daleks. Despite having apparently beautiful new cases made of lead and stained glass (as illustrated on what has been one of the most eye-catching covers this year by Simon Holub), the Daleks have a sinister plan at work and have the monastic order very much under their control despite having to resort to primitive weaponry.
Mike Tucker, whose previous writing credits include Big Finish’s first ever Dalek story The Genocide Machine, has provided a clever script which shows the Daleks at their devious best. As acknowledged in the behind-the-scenes interviews, the setting for this story owes a debt of inspiration to Vincent Ward’s original vision for Alien³ of a wooden planet inhabited by monks. Highlights include Constance’s unphased reaction when she meets a Dalek for the first time. Her “keep calm and carry on” attitude of pragmatism in the face of danger makes her a worthy new companion. Based on Constance’s adventures so far she is looking set to become the best Big Finish audio companion since the days of the much-missed Evelyn Smythe.
Overall, this is another extremely enjoyable addition to the Sixth Doctor’s long life of audio adventures which Colin Baker is clearly still enjoying. It also shows that there is still plenty of mileage to be gained on audio for the Doctor’s oldest enemies. With two more adventures for the Sixth Doctor and Mrs Clarke to follow in December, it looks like Christmas is about to come early.