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Reviewed: Big Finish’s Doctor Who Lost Stories – Daleks! Genesis of Terror

Genesis of the Daleks is one of my absolute favourite Doctor Who stories… if not, then at least the best Classic era serial (something I feel many fans would agree with me on). I remember watching the DVD a few days after my tenth birthday back in 2006, and being overwhelmingly impressed by how dark and dramatically thrilling it turned out. Strong storytelling in six parts!

And now, Big Finish has adapted the serial’s inception, Daleks! Genesis of Terror, for the Lost Stories range, by going back to its original roots and source materials from the BBC archives.

Like in the TV serial, the Time Lords send the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) on a mission to Skaro, with Sarah Jane Smith (Sadie Miller) and Harry Sullivan (Christopher Naylor), to prevent the creation of the Daleks. But Genesis of Terror takes a slightly different turn with the first scene taking place in a serene garden outside time, followed by teenage soldiers battling on Skaro’s trenches; all part of the everlasting war between the Kaleds and Thals. In terms of recasting, we have a younger version of Nyder (voiced by director Samuel Clemens), Peter Bankolé as the Time Lord, and Terry Molloy as Davros (in place of the late Michael Wisher). Despite their appearances being relatively brief, I thought they fitted in quite nicely with the production (more on that later).

This audio adaptation is distinctive for two things. Part 1 has 45 minutes of full-cast acting with Nicholas Briggs reading the stage directions from Terry Nation’s first draft script; complete with typos and handwritten notes, with Simon Guerrier providing additional dialogue. The remainder of the serial, however, features the cast taking turns to narrate the original storyline; each part lasting two to four minutes. It’s fairly straightforward to picture various aspects of the story, with the late Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter in mind, whilst comparing the audio to what happens onscreen, but not enough to satisfy a hardcore listener like myself.

Unlike Mind of the Hodiac, which fully dramatised Russell T Davies’ very first Doctor Who script (for Part 1) and outline (for Part 2, adapted by Scott Handcock), blending in a full script and prose storylines is a rather unusual process for Big Finish. I can understand why they took such an approach for Genesis of Terror, but it definitely isn’t the same as sticking with one particular format that works best for bringing these early concepts to life on audio. It’s a shame, also, that we didn’t get to hear Briggs lending his Dalek voice at all, with more of Molloy’s portrayal of Davros, since the villains are pivotal to the titular origin story. On a positive note, I was pleasantly surprised by Sadie and Christopher reading the storylines in character, but I would’ve preferred it if Tom had also received the opportunity to do some narration (the abridged Genesis of the Daleks LP release comes to mind), rather than having the other cast members read them in third-person.

In hindsight, Parts 2 to 6 could’ve benefitted from having dialogue in between the narrations, as a way to expand each episode and allow room for other characters to appear; such as Sevrin, Ronson, or the male version of Bettan (as originally intended). Something along the lines of the Shada 1992 VHS reconstruction, as the basis? I think the iconic moment with the Doctor hesitating to commit genocide would’ve made a satisfying cliffhanger for Part 5, by incorporating some of the dialogue recorded for Dust Devil – the opening episode of the Unbound boxset Doctor of War 1: Genesis. Well, the original outline and scripts confirm that, otherwise.

Speaking of production documents, I asked Big Finish on Twitter if the Part 1 draft script would be made available as a bonus PDF download, but Simon Guerrier confirmed that “rights issues” made this impossible. Disappointing news, of course, but at least we can still hear the stage directions being read out. On the other hand, you can find the original Daleks – Genesis of Terror storylines in the Season 12 Blu-ray Collection PDF Archive, to read alongside Parts 2 to 6. The Scripts: Tom Baker 1974/5 also includes a detailed summary the storylines, plus annotations of the camera scripts, which I highly recommend. Not sure why the Blu-ray set didn’t include the PDF of Terry Nation’s first draft script, but it definitely would’ve made a nostalgic souvenir for Doctor Who fans wishing to read his original ideas.

Genesis of Terror, overall, is an experimental release with mixed results that didn’t live up to both my expectations and Return of the Cybermen (which I also reviewed); nor will it ever live up to Genesis of the Daleks. Nevertheless, I’m highly confident that John Lucarotti’s The Ark (later rewritten by Robert Holmes, as The Ark in Space) would be more enjoyable amongst listeners.

And it’s also worth checking out Samira Ahmed’s 80-minute interview with Philip Hinchcliffe, where he discusses his role as producer on Season 12; something which I consider to be better suited for Big Finish’s In Conversation range. On a side note, had Genesis of Terror been part of a Lost Stories boxset with The Ark, rather than being released individually, I think that would’ve improved the marketing and boosted the sales.

The Lost Stories: Daleks! Genesis of Terror is available now from Big Finish.

Andrew Hsieh

Aspiring screenwriter with Asperger's syndrome, and lifelong Whovian since (shortly after) Christopher Eccleston's reign, Andrew has written and co-edited short story anthologies for Divergent Wordsmiths. Plus, he lives near Bannerman Road.

Reviewed: Big Finish’s Doctor Who Lost Stories – Daleks! Genesis of Terror

by Andrew Hsieh time to read: 4 min
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