Advertised as “Dalek Universe: The Dalek Protocol”, this story was quite clearly just a regular FDA brought forward and given a special tag because it ends up getting referenced in the Dalek Universe 10th Doctor strand, so I’m just keeping it as its original name. That being said, is it any good? Well… It’s … okay, I guess? It suffers from several of the negative sticking points that a lot of Nicholas Briggs scripts do, made worse by the man voicing so many characters in the play when his voice is already far too recognisable (apart from the Daleks, obviously!) but it’s not all bad… Let’s have a look!
The Earth mission to Exxilon is nearing completion after many long years. Enough parrinium has been mined to stop the spread of the deadly space plague. But suddenly, the power-draining beacon from the Exxilon city is inexplicably reactivated, stranding the humans.
The Doctor, Leela and K9 are stuck too, right on top of the remains of the city – under attack!
Somewhere nearby, the android agent Mark Seven is enacting his secret orders while the Doctor’s estranged future companion, Anya Kingdom, is hoping for redemption.
And heading inexorably towards them all… the Daleks!
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The best part about the story was the only reason they were able to slap “Dalek Universe” on the cover, and that’s Anya Kingdom (Jane Slavin) and Mark Seven (Joe Sims). Anya is post her travels with the Fourth Doctor, but recognises that the Doctor that’s swanning about in this story has yet to meet her, so she has to do the old “he can’t see or know about me for the sake of the web of time” stuff. We’re talking watching from afar, talking to him with a mask and voice distorter, that sort of thing, but there are some nice scenes towards the end between Anya and Leela, with the latter eventually agreeing not to tell The Doctor about her.
Mark Seven on the other hand is at the centre of the story. His backstory of humanity’s greatest agent is fun and well played up, and the main twist is that Seven went undercover as a Roboman to spy on the Daleks and got found out, his android brain getting tweaked to follow the titular “Dalek Protocol” instead of his own one to protect humanity. As he fights between the two voices in his head he ends up deciding to just wipe out all life instead to make things even, but at the last moment he does manage to get talked down, stop himself from destroying everything, and then put himself to sleep. Top marks for Joe Sims as he managed to sound like an emotionless robot one moment and a real person struggling with differing viewpoints the next.
It even looks like the two characters connecting it to Dalek Universe were added into the cover after it had already been created!
What can you say about a Nicholas Briggs Dalek script that’s a sequel to a popular TV serial? The same as ever. The fact this is the second sequel to “Death to the Daleks” he’s written for this specific combination of Doctor and companion speaks wonders, really. In the recently released Fourth Doctor Lost Stories I complained about Mr. Briggs voicing some characters despite his non-modulated monster voice self being far too recognisable, well this has the same problem x10 as not only voices what I’m sure is one of his favourite characters in Bellal from DTTD but he also puts on an atrocious accent and voices the Earth Captain Bernard. When something is written, directed and stars the same person I’m always suspicious of how heavily it was script edited, and frankly I feel this… wasn’t.
The first half of this four parter is full of really poorly written dialogue and exposition, including Captain Bernard on the phone and basically saying “What can’t we do this? I know long explanation as to what happened in the last few days so the listener can get caught up, but why? Oh that reason I just said? Okay.” and some really clunky “this is what happened the previous two times we visited Exxilon in case you don’t know” dialogue. It has to be framed as The Doctor being challenged to visit a place he’s already visited to prove he can pilot the TARDIS properly and Leela choosing Exxilon despite the fact that she’d already visited the planet herself. The synopsis says it all “But suddenly, the power-draining beacon from the Exxilon city is inexplicably reactivated, stranding the humans.” The plot of so over-done and dull that I was dreading the next two parts, thankfully the second half takes place away from Exxilon and focuses on Anya and Mark Seven, otherwise this would’ve been a rather poor experience, to put it bluntly…
Goes without saying at this point, but the story is a sequel to Third Doctor TV story “Death to the Daleks” and Briggs’ own Fourth Doctor / Leela audio sequel to that story simply titled “The Exxilons”.
Anya first appeared in the Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 8 starting with “The Sinestran Kill” and ending with “The Perfect Prisoners”. Mark Seven first appeared in the Lost Story spin-off “The Destroyers”, and has reappeared in his current form in the Diary of River Song story “Queen of the Mechanoids” alongside Anya. The two of them are key parts of the Dalek Universe 10th Doctor audio series, starting with the double bill of “Buying Time / The Wrong Woman”.
The Dalek Protocol was on its way to becoming a “Fate of Krelos / Return to Telos” –level Briggs disaster but thankfully the second half pulls the story back by doing something interesting with Mark Seven and Anya’s predicament and pulling away from yet-another Death to the Daleks retread. I’m still not going to be in a hurry to relisten to it, if I ever do…