Written by John Dorney
From a Story by Barbara Clegg
Directed by Ken Bentley
- WARNING: A few mild spoilers ahead…
One of the best brainwaves acted on by the Big Finish audio gods was to adapt “missing” Doctor Who stories — scripts that were never produced, for any number of reasons. Over the years, Big Finish hastrolled through the archives of various eras of the program, and managed to adapt several unmade stories, with interesting & unpredictable results.
Luckily, they have hit jackpot with the first attempt at 5th Doctor/Peter Davison-era story…to this Davison fan’s everlasting gratitude.
Barbara Clegg is known for her one and only Doctor Who story: the lyrical, wonderful Enlightenment. But she submitted numerous other ideas to the production office of the time…and with The Elite, one of them finally sees the light, with deft adaptation by John Dorney. The end result is something truly enjoyable.
It remains very true to its time: the music is electronic (and very BBC Radiophonics Workshop — in a pleasing way, to boot), the Doctor, Nyssa & Tegan are all true to form, and the story confidently plays with the youthful rebels & conservative totalitarians that seemed to be de rigueur for the Thatchertie 1980s. That said, it also manages to milk the tried-and-true for all its goodness. The main cast gets plenty to do, including letting Tegan take part in a revolution. Meanwhile, Peter Davison gets a season 20 story where his more assertive season 21 persona is allowed to come out and play. Dorney manages to write action for audio that isn’t boring or hard to follow, and the supporting cast interact well with the regular TARDIS team.
The twist in the tale is one you can see coming…but it’s also easy to be stunned by it at the last moment, as it slips into the background with insidious skill. What is even more stunning are the surprises: (1) the sudden removal of the familiar, mutated enemy — a lone, injured Dalek — in part three, and (2) the final surprise reveal of the TARDIS crew’s location at the climax. The final minutes offer a moody, realistic conclusion also in keeping with the times…but it never threatens to become maudlin.
The Elite is the Dalek story season 20 should have had, yet manages to take advantage of only using one Dalek, as opposed to a rampaging army. As a method of saving money, it would have been a brilliant move had it reached our television screens. As an audio, it manages to deliver the dramatic goods all the same. The imagination of an unused Barbara Clegg idea, combined with an excellent John Dorney script, pays enormous dividends. This two-disc set comes highly recommended.