The Genocide Machine

Posted in Audio by - February 20, 2016
The Genocide Machine

Released April 2000

‘The Genocide Machine’ marks the Daleks’ first appearance in a Big Finish story. Written by Mike Tucker of Doctor Who novels fame, this tale firmly falls into traditional fare category, but his writing of the Daleks themselves is fantastic and proves that the mortal foes of the Doctor have plenty of life left in them for the audio medium.

The plot is fairly straightforward in that the Daleks are seeking to invade the library of Kar-Charrat in order to gain access to The Wetworks, the greatest repository of knowledge in existence, and further establish themselves as the greatest force in the universe, a plan complicated by the presence of another alien being and ultimately thwarted by the Doctor. What works so well regarding the Daleks here is that they are not tied to the presence of Davros as was the case for several consecutive televised stories in the 70s and 80s. Here they are portrayed as the cunning and ruthless creatures they were originally intended to be, and the lengths they go to to gain access to the library and further their plan are astounding, actually achieving success- if for only a short time- through the use of a cloned Ace and the Doctor’s unique brain structure. This leads to the most interesting aspect of this audio, as the knowledge downloaded leads to a Dalek with morals. While this revelation ends up being underutilized considering the implications it could have had, it’s still fascinating to hear a Dalek refuse to blindly take orders and kill when its own life is not threatened.

The other shining aspect of ‘The Genocide Machine’ is the reveal and treatment of the Kar-Charrat native race. Doctor Who has utilised so many concepts and ideas in its long run and multiple formats that it’s always refreshing to see something novel, and intelligent water certainly is that. From the start, characters are hearing voices in the rain and it quickly becomes apparent that there is another alien race involved. The Kar-Charratans end up being integral to the story’s proceedings, and the revelation that the librarians have been exploiting their race to create the data storage resource, in the process effectively threatening their existence and creating the titular genocide machine, is a momentous one. Unfortunately, this is again a concept that ends up being underplayed a bit as it is never made clear if the librarians ever fully understood that the water was sentient.

Therein lies the biggest problem with ‘The Genocide Machine;’ the story fails to offer full characterisations, whether due to missed opportunities or just not allowing time. Again, the lead librarian Elgin and his obsession with knowledge could have offered so much more of an emotional punch if his actions and their repercussions were dealt with directly. Likewise, explorer Bev Tarrant is thrust into the role of unlikely hero, but she never does much except deliver expository dialogue among her several clichés. Then there’s Cataloguer Prink, an assistant of sorts who remains silent through much of the tale, who doesn’t get much to do at all before offering one glorious moment of emotion when snapping about the events happening around him at the end.

Unfortunately, the characterisation of the leads isn’t all that much better. The performances of McCoy and Aldred are great as is to be expected, but Tucker doesn’t seem to adequately capitalise on either’s full potential. The Seventh Doctor is neither the dark and manipulative version he came to be nor the comic and easygoing version he started out as, instead seeming to be somewhere in the middle with no particularly outstanding traits or moments as he casually blunders into a disastrous situation and tries to sort everything out as best he can. Ace, likewise, reverts back to the emotional teenager phase rather than showing the more mature development she achieved and portrayed so well in other stories. There are no egregiously bad scenes or lines, but there’s also nothing to make them stand out regardless of where they are in their personal timelines.

‘The Genocide Machine,’ then, is a story that works solely because of how strongly the Daleks are written with an interesting core environment and background. Unfortunately, though, the lack of proper characterisation, some missed opportunities for further depth, and the amount of expository dialogue keep this from reaching the greater levels that it could have achieved with some minor tinkering.

  • Release Date: 4/2000
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