‘Death to the Daleks!’
By Nicholas Briggs
Released October 2001
After generations of attempts, the Daleks have conquered nearly the entire universe. But that doesn’t mean that the few remaining free people will go down without a fight. Once a simple geologist, Susan Mendes has become known as ‘the angel of mercy,’ a voice of support and hope that pushes the slave labor on numerous planets to mine precious metals; in particular a rare mineral called veganite. The purpose of this mineral, like the Daleks’ plans, is a mystery… one that could cost the future of all life if it’s not solved in time.
Chasing his beloved Susan Mendes across the galaxy, Alby Brooks has encountered nothing but trouble. He has lost his legs and his only friend Pellan when he is killed for being a highly developed roboman. He is once again recruited by Tanlee of the Earth Alliance to contyinue his search for Susan Mendes, but to kill her if she has any knowledge of Project Infinity. Upon finding her Alby is also ordered to kill Suze if that is the case.
Nicholas Briggs’ Daleks are so cunning and devious in their dealings, far more impressive than they ever appeared on screen. In particular, their fascination with what they call ‘the human factor’ is of special importance. After recognizing the indomitable spirit of Susan Mendes and her ability to manipulate Kalendorf, it is a simple matter to utilize the will to live and hope for freedom to keep the human slaves in control. It is an intertwined campaign that the Daleks are waging on the universe, and Kalendorf is sure that there is more to it than just conquest. Unfortunately, he’s right.
As Alby searches for Suze, she watches innocents murdered before her eyes for suspected insurrection. The Earth surrenders, Alby crawls into a bottle in defeat and a special broadcast is planned from Yaldos, the fabled planet of the seers who can bring back the dead. Drinking his failure away, Alby is confronted by Tanlee who informs him that Suze is alive and on Yaldos. Fleeing to meet her, Alby eludes capture by the Daleks but is nabbed by Earth security agent Mirana who suspects Alby of suspicious acts.
It’s all a mess that finally ends in a shower of Dalek gunfire as Susan Mendes unexpectedly proclaims a rallying cry of revolt across the universe, ‘Death to the Daleks!’
As I listen to these stories, I am stunned by the high quality of plotting, characters and the performances of the main cast. Reviving much of the same broad strokes from Roj Blake, Gareth Thomas is gives an amazing performance as Kalendorf. Likewise, Mark McDonnell is so full of humor, tragedy and tough nerve as Alby Brook. The real star of the production is of course Sarah Mowat as Susan Mendes, who places herself in such a complicated situation that there is no real positive outcome.
Over the 50 odd years of its legacy, Doctor Who has attempted to tell bigger and better stories with the Daleks, with mixed results at best. Though I’d be curious to see an attempt, one could never adapt Dalek Empire in live action since it is both so expansive and intimate at once. This is what Russell T Davies was trying to pull off so many times on the screen but never managed to succeed. The personal relationships between the characters and their romances never get in the way of the action or drama but are rather key components to its success.
Writer/director/voice actor Nicholas Briggs has stated that the Dalek Empire series comes from his deep devotion to the monsters that began as a child and it shows. Rather than presenting the Daleks as doddering fools running TV programs or creating pig men, these Daleks are soaring through the air on transolar discs, commanding fleets of space craft in an ever-expanding war that hearkens back to the days of the comic strips. It’s a wonderful blend of childlike wish fulfillment and adult sophistication.
Having just finished listening to the sequel Dalek War, I can confirm that Big Finish’s Dalek Empire stories only get better and continue to raise the reputation of the Daleks as the most feared monster in the Doctor Who universe. The entirety of the Dalek catalog is on sale over at Big Finish all weekend, so why not jump in and try a few! At least pick up the first eight stories, you will not regret it.