Big Finish Folly, Part 145 – The Genocide Machine, by Mike Tucker
The library on Kar-Charrat is one of the wonders of the Universe. It is also hidden from all but a few select species. The Doctor and Ace discover that the librarians have found a new way of storing data – a wetworks facility – but the machine has attracted unwanted attention, and the Doctor soon finds himself pitted against his oldest and deadliest enemies – the Daleks!
Billed as the first part of the Dalek Empire arc of stories, The Genocide machine was also the first time Big Finish had been able to officially use the Daleks in the Main Range. So there’s a fair amount to live up to. For me, the Dalek Empire linkage is perhaps a bit spurious – and I’ve never quite got the need to link four separate stories in to the actual Dalek Empire series when they don’t seem to have too many continuity links to begin with. I may be wrong, it’s happened before.
The key question is, obviously – is it any good?
It tries hard, I’ll give it that. There are definite echoes of the tone of the TV show, which is unsurprising given the age of the story and its position in the Main Range. There’s even a Special Weapons Dalek, which shows how much influence TV still had on Big Finish’s thinking at that point. Here’s the first appearance of long-standing Big Finish character Bev Tarrant too, a strong Ace-ish character who doesn’t get enough to do across the course of the story.
Given that we’re up against the tinpot fascists again, the mechanised Trumps of SF, the McGuffin driving the story has to be pretty special to overcome their hysterical grating. A library comprehensive enough to tip the balance in favour of the Daleks would almost do that on its own, but Tucker hides a neat genocidal twist behind the information, one that winds the Doctor up into full demonic fury mode. Highlighted by the comic antics of the voluble Cataloguer Prink, the librarians are sympathetic enough for that twist to really hurt.
The Wetworks is also the one thing that lets the script down a bit: it becomes a device that allows the Doctor to avoid certain death at the hands of the Daleks, and it handily defeats the tinpots too. The Daleks are, as usual, rather ineffectual at doing anything other than exterminating side characters. But again, this is right back at the start of the Main Range, with Big Finish still finding their feet in the grand scheme of things, and the play itself is still rather fun to listen to, if not completely convincing. A good effort.