Monday, July 2, 2012

The Genocide Machine

"Genesis of the Daleks" is almost universally regarded as the best Dalek story ever. In my eyes it's an absolute classic, and Michael Wisher's performance as Davros was simply tremendous. One of the legacies of this story was that every future Dalek story in Doctor Who would feature Davros (though never again portrayed by Wisher). The Daleks would get pushed somewhat to the background in favor of their new "spokesman". The Daleks would also be seen as more and more comical (not that this wasn't already happening in some (or all) of the Dalek stories of the Pertwee era). So, the Daleks needed a bit of an improvement to their image, and Big Finish sought to do that with their first Dalek story "The Genocide Machine".

This Dalek tale takes place on the rain soaked planet of Kar-Charrat. On this planet is a secret library containing all (or at least striving to contain all) of the knowledge of the universe. Of course the old adage is knowledge is power, so obviously the Daleks want it. The library is defended by a Time Lord temporal force field which prevents access and prevents would be intruders from even seeing the library. One wonders why a library that is so dangerous that it has to be kept secret and is inaccessible to all but a very few would need to be created in the first place. Thankfully, that gripe doesn't get in the way of my enjoyment of this story. The planet has a native sentient life form which actually lives in the water (the constant rainfall). These "phantoms" of Kar-Charrat are mere legends, and the librarians dismiss them as myth... or do they?

It's with this backdrop the Doctor and Ace are reunited with the Daleks. The best thing about this story is there is no sign of Davros and the Daleks get some much needed legitimacy. They have a carefully wrought plan that they wait for centuries to carry out, and the plan would have actually worked, were it not for the Doctor's intervention, and that of the native "phantoms". The Dalek voices are handled by Nick Briggs and Alastair Lock, and are spot on. In fact, Nick Briggs carries on doing the voices today in both Big Finish and the TV series. The Daleks have the appropriate menace (this is helped greatly by the musical soundtrack). They have a plan, they carry it out, and it almost all works without a hitch. The only Dalek that comes off badly is the Emperor Dalek who keeps blustering at the Dalek Supreme to meet his schedule, and ignores all of the risks to the success of the project that he is being warned about. There is a nice menacing atmosphere that permeates the story.

There is also some nice light comic relief to keep things from being too dour. Chief Librarian Elgin (played by Bruce Montague) and Cataloguer Prink make for a hilarious double act. Elgin babbles on endlessly and complains about Prink never shutting up, when poor Prink never gets to utter a single word of dialog until the very end of the story! Dalek Duplicate Ace is also a lot of fun, and it sounds like Sophie Aldred had a ball playing this evil version of herself. The audio effects on the "phantom" dialog is suitably creepy and mysterious. McCoy is in mostly good form here, although his rant at Elgin late in the play shows his overacting at its worst.

Most importantly, this story forces the fan to take the Daleks a little more seriously again. This story is loosely linked with the next two Dalek stories (one per Big Finish Doctor) and all help to set up the (very good) Dalek Empire audio series (which does not include the Doctor). I think this is my least favorite of these first three Dalek stories, but all of them are good (and I reserve the right to change my mind when I revisit them in the near future). There are also some ideas in this story that would show up in the new TV series (life forms living in water, a library with all the books in the unverse, Daleks that aren't a total joke - to name three), though I have no idea if it was a direct inspiration. Most importantly, Big Finish starts the 7th Doctor's audio era off with two stories in a row that I like. Could they possibly do three in a row?

Rating: Good

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