Doctor Who: ‘Daleks! Genesis Of Terror’

❉ Well, they can’t all be winners, and this ‘Genesis’ is no revelation.

‘This is not a fresh new perspective on what’s widely considered one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time, that casts it in a new light… It’s just a watered-down and drawn-out version of Genesis of the Daleks episode one with any differences being superficial at best..

Hoo boy. This is probably the most difficult review I’ve ever had to write.

Before we begin though, I’d like to ask you a simple question. What is a Lost Story? It’s always been one of Big Finish’s more esoteric ranges, each story they adapt is at varying levels of completion, meaning each release is approached differently. Some stories only existed as detailed outlines, and have entirely new scripts written for them. Others are fully scripted, and require only a bit of adapting to work in the audio format. A few fall somewhere in between.

But what is a Lost Story conceptually? Is it a factual record that should stick as close to the source material as possible, or is it a way to breath new life into existing ideas and make them work in a way that perhaps the original material didn’t? Generally speaking every Lost Story is neither one thing nor the other, instead falling somewhere on a spectrum with both approaches at either end. But what happens when the Lost Story you want to adapt already has a version that sticks really closely to the source material? You can’t go too far in the “breath new life” direction, otherwise what’s the point of it being a Lost Story? As a result, you end up with Daleks! Genesis of Terror

Make no mistake, Genesis of Terror is a word-for-word reading of Terry Nation’s draft script of 1975’s Genesis of the Daleks episode one. That is indeed what it is, full marks there. And yet, on almost every level, Genesis of Terror simply doesn’t work. As a historical record it falls flat, not only because all but one of the original cast of Genesis aren’t in it, but also because all the big differences (the handful that there are) between Genesis of Terror and TV Genesis are visual. I could list said changes now, but if I did I’d be removing quite possibly the only solid reason why to buy this release.

These are fundamental problems with this release purely conceptually, not things that anyone could reasonably do anything about. But imagine my surprise when this attempt at a historical record, that adapts a script word-for-word to be as true to its source material as possible… references the Time War two minutes in. You couldn’t make it up if you tried. Something like this isn’t new or unusual for the Lost Stories range (Ace’s planned leaving story ends with her not leaving, I’m fairly certain one of Colin Baker’s ones references Big Finish companion Evelvyn Smythe) but in a release that sacrifices entertainment value for the sake of historical accuracy like Genesis of Terror an addition like this, the only one of its kind, right at the beginning, stands out like a sore thumb.

Yes, you read that correctly. In my opinion, Genesis of Terror has very little entertainment value. This shouldn’t be a surprise for a release that takes about 18 minutes of material (five minutes from the TV story isn’t here – obviously added because the script was too short) and stretches it out to 45, but I feel it is very important to note.

Because, at its core, Genesis of Terror is Genesis of the Daleks. This is not a fresh new perspective on what’s widely considered one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time, that casts it in a new light… It’s just a watered-down and drawn out version of Genesis of the Daleks episode one with any differences being superficial at best.

The biggest difference is the run time. As mentioned before, this is approximately 18 minutes’ worth of script extended to 45. This is because Genesis of Terror is so similar to its TV counterpart that changing the dialogue so it works on audio isn’t an option, and so we have Nicholas Briggs reading all of Terry Nation’s script directions. He does a good job (as do all the actors incidentally), but because television is a visual medium it means there is an awful lot of descriptions. Terry Nation may have liked his rooms white and featureless, but he always had a very keen eye for how his material could be shot.

The descriptions are vivid and (in my opinion) the highlight of the release, however the downside is it feels like that they occur between practically every line of dialogue. It makes every scene drag on for an eternity, and impossible to get invested in. This isn’t an issue specific to Genesis of Terror (The Destroyers was another Lost Story that had the same problem), but it feels like yet another example of why this release was fundamentally flawed at a conceptual level.

Christopher Naylor, Tom Baker, Sadie Miller © Big Finish.

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that episodes two to six are represented here by three-minute readings of Nation’s storyline submission by various members of the cast. These are a baffling inclusion for a few reasons, the biggest one being that for some reason Sadie Miller and Christopher Naylor are reading their two in-character as Sarah and Harry. While including these readings is nice idea in theory to complete the narrative, these synopses really don’t add anything except an extra 18 minutes to the runtime. Don’t get your hopes up, there’s nothing in there that’s any different to TV Genesis except that one of the characters changed gender.

In theory I have no problems with audio adaptations of existing stories, taking material from early drafts in a similar vein to the 21st Century novelisations like The Pirate Planet. Such a range has potential in my opinion. I know people who significantly prefer Return of the Cybermen to Revenge. Heck, a Lost Story adaptation of The Invaders, Nation’s draft of The Dalek Invasion of Earth that’s vastly superior to the TV version (I’ve read it and can confirm – as I said, these things get around) would be amazing. The Invaders has early scripts for every episode, as does The Executioners (Nation’s early draft of The Chase), so… why choose Genesis of Terror, a story with but one draft script, to adapt? Ultimately I think it would’ve been a better idea simply to put the PDF of the script out there, or do a feature about it in DWM. I can’t help feeling that if this is intended as a release of historic significance then some sort of archival bonus material wouldn’t have gone amiss. 

Well, this is the unpleasant part of this review. Let me be clear, I sincerely believe in my heart of hearts that there was no malice intended by anyone involved in the production of Genesis of Terror; in my experience they are lovely people, and it is very difficult for me to write these words. But I also have to be honest with you, it’s difficult to see Genesis of Terror as anything more than a cash grab, a shameless excuse to slap the iconography of a fan-favourite story on a cover and half-arse the actual content to sell more units. And look, at the end of the day Big Finish is a company, and not a large one, they need to make money to survive. They’ve made no secret of dropping ranges that don’t sell well enough, money will always be a factor in the decisions they make. But surely we deserve better than this?

BBC broadcaster and journalist Samira Ahmed interviews Philip Hinchcliffe.

The cover says “Full Cast Audio Drama”, but this description only applies to just under 30% of Genesis of Terror. More than half this release is an interview with Philip Hinchcliffe (an interview that literally opens with him saying “Why are people so interested in stuff that we chucked in the bin?” – again, you couldn’t make it up if you tried).

Some have argued that this interview is the real reason to buy this release, but if that’s the case why does the cover say Daleks: Genesis of Terror? Why does it say “Full Cast Audio Drama”? Then again the cover also has a picture of Terry Molloy on it, which may lead you to believe he has more than three lines of dialogue in the whole release. He doesn’t even read any of the episode synopses.

If you’re reading this and considering buying Genesis of Terror, my advice is to take a pass on it. If you don’t already own a copy of Genesis of the Daleks, use your money to buy it on DVD instead. It’s cheaper and you’ll get significantly more out of it. Also, the document containing the synopses of episodes 2 – 6 is included on the Season 12 Blu-Ray: Give it a read, you’ll get both a significantly better historic overview of Genesis of the Daleks as well as a generally more satisfying narrative simply by watching the existing story with the information subtitles on.


Written by: Terry Nation
Producer / Additional dialogue by: Simon Guerrier
Senior Producer: David Richardson
Director: Samuel Clemens
Executive Producer: Jason Haigh-Ellery, Nicholas Briggs.

Duration: 120 minutes approx.

❉ ‘Doctor Who – The Lost Stories: Daleks! Genesis Of Terror‘ was released 25 May 2023. It will be exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 30 June 2023, and on general sale after this date.

❉ Stephen Brennan has been writing for fanzines and charity anthologies for some time. A writer by day, a game developer by night, they can be a bit of a grump, but with a mischievous twinkle in their eye that lets you know they aren’t all bad.

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