"EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!"
Even those who don't watch Doctor Who know that that cry can only belong to the Daleks. Whenever you hear that word, you know instantly the full extent of what it means. Utterly insidious and unforgiving, immensely formidable and powerful, ruthless in their desire for conquest and genocide and of course, unmatched in their cunning and terror.
And most of the time...instant, unstoppable death.
But the Daleks are so much than mere one-dimensional, clichéd creatures obsessed with domination and destruction. They've always had such a rich, deep history, full of revelations and development that have made them immensely fascinating as well as terrifying.
So why are the Daleks the way they are? Just how did they come to be? And just what is it that makes them unquestionably the greatest enemies of the Doctor? Well most of the answers are chronicled here in The Dalek Conquests, a 2-disc audio documentary presented by the one-and-only Nicholas Briggs (the voice of the Daleks in modern-day Who).
The Dalek Conquests covers pretty much all of their history from their very first appearance in 1963's "The Daleks" up until the end of the first series of the new Doctor Who, 2005's "The Parting of the Ways". The audio documentary was released in 2006 while the second series was still in full swing, which means there's no coverage of things like "Army of Ghosts/Doomsday", "Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks", and of course, "The Stolen Earth/Journey's End".
Still, The Dalek Conquests makes for absolutely thrilling and captivating listening. Because of the clips that have been used for the compilation and Nicholas Briggs. Briggs has put together a great show. He's chosen the very best bits of the Daleks' history and presents it all with a superbly engrossing narrative. For someone who hadn't known the full details of the Daleks' background, I was absolutely hooked, as doubtless will many other new fans.
Starting off with the beginning, The Dalek Conquests chooses not to go straight into the Doctor's very first encounter with the Daleks, but instead starts by covering what happened in the 2005 episode "Dalek". This is a sensible choice as that episode was a perfect introduction into what the Dalek character was and what it was capable of. It's a brilliant choice for a starter, and makes the listener hungering all the more for the main course, which doesn't disappoint.
Learning of the Doctor's first battle with his arch-enemies is very enlightening, as it takes us into the Daleks' homeworld of Skaro and their initial foes, the Thals. Then it covers things like how they developed time-travel, how Earth and the human race became unfortunate to cross them, their deadliest schemes and showcases of destructibility and unparallel cunning and intellect, the Time Lords interfering in their affairs, the malevolence of their creator Davros; the exact seeds that were sewn which would lead to the infamous Time War are chronicled here.
Listening to the constant cries of "EXTERMINATE!" would be enough to frighten anyone, but hearing the true extent of the Daleks history made me realise just how and why they can be so scary and fascinating. Particularly in the extracts of "Dalek", "The Parting of the Ways", "The Chase", "The Power of the Daleks", "Day of the Daleks", "The Daleks' Master Plan", and of course, the classic 1975 serial "Genesis of the Daleks". Like the Daleks themselves, the subsequent chronicling of Davros is equally startling as it is enlightening and is definitely one of the highlights.
Although The Dalek Conquests is a high-quality release, there are flaws that take points away. The implied `story' of Briggs going to the abandoned Utah base to uncover the secrets of the Daleks is rather loose and isn't really followed through. That's probably a good thing as it doesn't really hurt the presentation of the documentary, but it does make one wonder what the point of it was in the first place.
Plus, the quality of the clips being used do vary noticeably. It's understandable given the archive material being used but it may be off-putting to some listeners. And even though this is a well-compiled chronicling of the Daleks, there's very little covered about the Time War. We know that it was inevitable and we know what seeds were planted which would lead to it, but exactly HOW it kicked off is something I really would've liked to have known. I was also disappointed that nothing was really mentioned of the Cult of Skaro and Davros himself during this chapter and the precise roles that they played. I can understand why given that Russell T. Davies wanted to keep that stuff a secret for later episodes of the TV series but they really did deserve a mention here at least.
Despite not being perfect, Doctor Who: The Dalek Conquests nonetheless remains essential purchasing. Fans of the old and new series will absolutely love it. It covers and honours one of the most infamous set of science fiction baddies in chilling, startling and almost-hypnotic fashion. Discover for yourselves the truth behind them...at the risk of utter extermination.