|This was my first Big Finish audio, and it cannot be said that I was
particularly impressed with it. Please don't misunderstand me, it wasn't
dreadful - it was just terribly traditional. Let us examine the basic
plot, Daleks on a jungle planet with the intention of steeling technology
to aid their galactic conquest. There's even someone called Tarrant. If
it sounds at all familiar, that's because it is. It's a tried and tested
Dalek story. Some may argue that this is a good thing, bringing the Daleks
back to their roots where they were at their most powerful and most threatening.
However, it's just not particularly interesting. We've been down the Terry
Nation path so many times before and we all know what to expect. The audio
adventures and the books are intended to expand Doctor Who beyond what
we saw in the television series, however this is something the audio fails
The Genocide Machine of the title refers to the Wetworks Facility within the library on the planet Kar-Charrat. The Wetworks is apparently a repository for 'all the knowledge of the Universe' stored in liquid form. Needless to say that this knowledge is what 'those nasty little pepper pots' (as Librarian Elgin describes the Daleks) want to get their grubby sink plungers on. And they do, if only for a short time via an evil clone of Ace and the Doctor's synapses. The knowledge, which is downloaded into a Dalek test subject, leads to perhaps the most interesting portion of the audio - a Dalek with morals. It refuses to blindly follow orders from higher-ranking Daleks and will not kill unless it is forced to in order to save others or its own life is being threatened. This was the most original idea in the audio and I feel that it was underplayed. Imagine how much more interesting a civil war between the new highly intelligent moral Daleks and the Daleks of old would be. For the first time Daleks would have to make ethical considerations when warring against each other, which certainly has the potential to be far more interesting than the Imperial and Renegade Dalek civil war stories that have been flogged to death.
There are of course a number of subplots and minor characters running through the audio which do make it more interesting. There is Bev Tarrant and her not so merry band of men and robots that are out to steel the other mysterious artefact on Kar-Charrat, a Ziggurat, for a private buyer but unfortunately end up meeting something rather nasty in the jungle. There are the mysterious voices in the rain, which may be the ghosts of ancient Kar-Charrat. And of course there are the two members of the Library staff we actually hear (the rest are apparently up in the leisure levels), the bumbling and eccentric Librarian Elgin and the painfully shy Cataloguer Prink.
Prink is one of the problems with the audio, as his character doesn't utter a word until the last episode. I suspect that his shyness (caused by Elgin constantly answering questions directed towards him) is intended to come across as being funny, however it doesn't work. I was never sure if Prink actually existed or was just Elgin's imaginary friend. The character of Prink is one which is quite obviously better suited to the medium of television.
I would have to single out this audio for the quality of Sylvester McCoy's acting. His performance is masterful, especially in episode four where he learns how the Wetworks and Elgin relate to the genocide of the title. Hell hath no fury like a Timelord scorned. Perhaps the most angry we will ever see the Doctor. Fantastic. Sophie Aldred once again reprises her role of Ace, playing the role as, err... Sophie Aldred. She never did much in the way of acting in the television series and nothing much has changed since then. Bruce Montage breathes a great deal of needed eccentricity and humour into the bumbling Elgin, whilst Nick Briggs takes on the role of a number of Daleks.
To conclude, this is a story that most fans will enjoy - although I can see it causing a stir with the sad continuity fan boys over the fact that Skaro is in the story even though the Doctor destroyed it in Remembrance... I think it's good to see that Big Finish Productions aren't afraid to throw away continuity in order to get their stories to work. Stories are more important than continuity, which has a nasty habit of holding back and clogging up creativity. But beware this story doesn't cover any new ground, there's very little here that you haven't seen before. I am sure that it will do well for Big Finish, just by the inclusion of Daleks, but it would be nice to think there will be greater expansion in the later Dalek Empire audios.