Ever wondered what Chibnall-era Doctor Who would sound like if turned into a Big Finish audio drama featuring the Fourth Doctor? Genetics of the Daleks does just that with lurking Daleks using humans as puppets and the haunting knowledge that the Doctor is far more than he thinks he is.
The musical score even feels like it takes some inspiration from the latest television series in setting the scene, which begins with spaceship pilot Finlay being woken from cryogenic sleep during a long journey on Starship Future. Also found in frozen storage is the casing of Dalek. It has no gun stick, it’s frozen, and there’s no creature inside. So surely it’s safe… except where’s the Dalek creature itself?
It’s not just the empty Dalek where everything is not as it seems: we follow the pilot’s post-sleep catch-up that gradually turns into an investigation as he finds deceit and deception almost everywhere he looks.
A dark but hopeful tone is set for the first 18 minutes, as the world the story exists in is built up while the starship is stripped in the background to provide a metal casing for something in the shadows, and then finally the Doctor is unleashed onto the scene. Teeth and curls. From the very off.
The Doctor presents himself as someone who is there to help, which instantly marks him out as a stowaway not to be trusted and the perfect person to blame for all of the ship’s suspicious goings-on. And what starts off with the Doctor almost being a tonal opposite to his surroundings slowly moves, by the end of the story, to a point where they have merged, a bit like in fellow Time Lord Victorious audio, Mutually Assured Destruction.
For example, early on he is full of quips and bluffs, such as asking to be locked up somewhere more secure once he is framed for wrongdoings, and that makes what’s actually going on around him all the more sinister.
Once he learns of a possible Dalek presence, the Doctor drops the cheerfulness and romps into the plot with little time wasted. Yes, the Doctor getting locked up early on is a staple of his television run, but it’s used well here without slowing down proceedings as the tension is still building.
The Dalek in hiding is a gurgling creature full of hate and trying to build itself a new casing (just like a Doctor Who New Year’s special) and it can’t wait for a showdown with the Doctor. They’ve got previous… from Mutually Assured Destruction, in fact.
It’s heavyweight meets heavyweight when they finally confront each other, and while the Dalek is delighting in its exposition, it all links into the wider Victorious narrative and reveals a brilliantly hideous twist – also very reminiscent of Doctor Who’s current television output – that means that the whole cast is all guns blazing for the remainder of the runtime.
By the end, you know you’ve just been treated to a Dalek epic, albeit a sometimes claustrophobic one in deep space, that utilises the mutant race excellently and horribly to be a real individual threat – something so many Dalek stories forget to do.
The story also functions as a prequel to the Victorious Escape Room, meaning if the audio version wasn’t grisly enough, you may have already thrilled or terrified yourself even further between lockdown states.
Genetics of the Daleks is available now from Big Finish.