Doctor Who Lost Stories - Genesis of Terror Big Finish cover art crop

Daleks! Genesis of Terror – Doctor Who The Lost Stories audio review

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Big Finish explore Terry Nation’s original plans for the story which became the classic Genesis of the Daleks

Over the years, audio producers Big Finish have breathed life into numerous lost Doctor Who Stories. Drawing on a variety of sources, such as unmade scripts and proposed storylines which never entered production, they’ve unearthed some gems and even whole story arcs, such as the planned Season 27 for Sylvester McCoy.

With most of the obvious options adapted, the company has begun to take a slightly different approach. 2021’s ‘Return of the Cybermen’ and the forthcoming ‘The Ark’, adapt the scriptwriters’ original drafts – markedly different from the reworked versions (by script editor Robert Holmes) which went before the cameras.

However, this latest Lost Stories release is something different again. The tale which eventually became ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ partially exists in an earlier form; a full draft script for episode one, plus storylines for the rest. To bring it to life, the opener is presented as a dramatised cast-reading. Individual members of the cast then read the storylines for the subsequent five episodes.

Daleks! Genesis of Terror

Episode one is uses a full cast, led by Tom Baker, Sadie Miller (as Sarah Jane) and Christopher Naylor (as Harry), plus Nicholas Briggs reading in Nation’s exciting stage directions. This works very effectively, with Briggs bringing pace and a compelling tone to the proceedings.

The basic shape of the story remains, but some of the changes are striking. Rather than opening on gunfire amid the trenches, it begins in a garden outside time where the Time Lords have interrupted the Doctor’s travel to set him on this mission.

Doctor Who Lost Stories - Genesis of Terror Big Finish cover art

On Skaro itself, it’s night rather than day with the brutal landscape of the trenches rendered in Nation’s descriptions far more vividly than the eventual location filming at Betchworth quarry. The action is amped up too, with teenage soldiers and the Doctor taking up arms in a moment of battle. The whole affair feels much darker in tone, if that were possible, and we encounter more ranks of the Kaled war machine before eventually meeting Davros. Running to approximately 45 minutes, it offers intriguing insights into the original ideas for the tale.

However, we found the handling of the remaining episode storylines odd. There’s a mix of third person, referring to “Dr Who” like Nation’s stage directions in episode one, and the first person when Christopher Naylor and Sadie Miller speak as their characters referring to “the Doctor”. To be honest, we found that lack of consistency distracting. Might it have been better to stick with a single narrator.

When Samira met Phillip

The second element of the release offers something rather special – a long-form interview with producer Philip Hinchcliffe by the broadcaster (and fan) Samira Ahmed. The 80-minute discussion takes Hinchcliffe right back to getting the job and he discusses the comprehensive handover he received from his predecessor Barry Letts.

Hinchcliffe reflects on his approach and his desire to shift the programme away from the frilly shirts and military-backed style to something more freewheeling. Along with a gregarious new leading man, he was conscious that the show’s audience now had an adult component.

The pair also look at early paperwork from the show, using it as a prompt for discussion. There’s real insight into the etiquette and diplomacy of rewriting a script that wasn’t working, and Hinchcliffe remains respectful, not wishing to criticise those no longer with us.

Unsurprisingly, Samira Ahmed is an excellent interviewer with well-chosen and thoughtful questions. We particularly enjoyed hearing Hinchcliffe’s reactions to the criticisms of the self-styled moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse – including that infamous drowning cliffhanger from ‘The Deadly Assassin’.

In Summary

Is this an essential release? Possibly not. ‘Daleks! Genesis of Terror’ is certainly a curio, but we’re not honestly sure it gains so much more than it might have done on the page, despite the usual high production standards of Big Finish. That said, given the status of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ as an all-time classic, if any story warrants this level of deep dive, it is this one.

However, for those interested in his tenure as producer, the Philip Hinchcliffe interview is a proper treat. The 80 minutes simply flew past, and we would have loved to have heard even more.

3 1/2 stars

Doctor Who – The Lost Stories: Daleks! Genesis of Terror is available on Collector’s Edition CD (+download) or download only from Big Finish.