Doctor Who
The Dalek Conquests

Presenter: Nicholas Briggs
BBC Audio
RRP: 13.99
ISBN 1 846 07080 5
Available 01 May 2006

The Daleks have a long and terrible history of aggression and are among the most feared of all sci-fi baddies. Ruthless, cunning and utterly evil, they will stop at nothing to destroy all other forms of life. The Dalek Conquests finds out where they come from, why they are bent on universal domination, and what part they played in
the Last Great Time War...

This double CD might be described as "The Daleks' Greatest Hits", as Nicholas Briggs (the voice of the pitiless pepper-pots in the 2005 television series of Doctor Who and countless Big Finish audio productions) presents clips from their many television exploits.

With the exception of the episode Dalek, which is dealt with first (presumably in order to engage fans of the new series), the stories are tackled in broadcast order. Little attempt is made to establish a definitive, chronological history of the Daleks. Instead, writer/presenter/sound designer/producer Briggs acknowledges the fact that it is difficult to keep track of a time-travelling species and that sometimes the documentary evidence is contradictory. For example, their first story, The Daleks, might take place in the distant future (according to the First Doctor in The Dalek Invasion of Earth) or at a far earlier point in their history (according to the Third Doctor in Planet of the Daleks). (Personally, I favour the latter interpretation, since the Third Doctor knows far more about the Daleks and the universe in general than the First Doctor does in The Dalek Invasion, and he is backed up by the Thals.)

Briggs does offer up some interesting theories and connections, though. For instance, he suggests that the apparently contradictory origins of the Daleks/Dals/Kaleds and the Thals told in The Daleks and Genesis of the Daleks could be attributed to biased historical records. The hypothesis of the Doctor's genocidal mission for the Time Lords in Genesis and the Daleks' counter-strikes in Resurrection of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks being precursors to the devastating Time War has already been laid down by Russell T Davies in the Doctor Who Annual 2006, but Briggs adds to the mix the Daleks' assassination squad in The Chase and the Time Lords' intervention during Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks. He also comments on recurring Dalek strategies such as their use of germ warfare.

However, he overlooks other connections, such as the Daleks' deployment of duplicates in both The Chase and Resurrection, and their use of human beings for reproductive purposes in Revelation of the Daleks and The Parting of the Ways. The Master's trial on Skaro at the beginning of the TV movie isn't mentioned at all (was this in connection with his failure to provoke an interstellar war in Frontier in Space?) but I suppose there's a limit to what can be covered in the two-and-a-half-hour running time.

Briggs sticks strictly to the Daleks' televised adventures and does not attempt to tie in any of their Big Finish appearances. However, the CD does make use of the theme music from Big Finish's Dalek Empire series. Briggs also voices a number of new linking scenes featuring the Daleks and their Emperor (these would have been even better if the voices had varied according to the vocalisations used in the stories in question, as they have changed considerably over the years). Meanwhile, the new incidental music effectively bridges the TV clips by subtly blending the various musical themes.

Some clips are less effective than others. I cringed at the Daleks' embarrassing chant from The Chase and the Doctor's call for them to "Spack off!" in Destiny of the Daleks. However, many of the excerpts still succeed in sending a thrill down the spine, particularly those from Dalek, Revelation of the Daleks and The Parting of the Ways. The only real snag is that any newbies will have the plots of these stories spoiled for them.

This is an enjoyable CD, worth invading your local music shop or book store for. If it sells well, presumably we can expect a similarly themed The Cyber Conquests next year.

Richard McGinlay

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