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VINE VOICEon 18 January 2009

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.
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on 13 June 2006
Being a huge Dalek fan, I was extremely happy when I heard that the voice of the Daleks, Nick Briggs himself, was doing "The Dalek Conquests". Briggs is a major fan of the pepperpots from Skaro, being their current voice on TV and audio, and having written and produced the superb "Dalek Empire" series of audio dramas for Big Finish Productions.

"The Dalek Conquests" takes the form of an audio documentary, examining the known history of the Daleks. Working on the conceit that the Doctor is real and that his TV adventures are a form of historical record, the CD uses clips from the soundtrack of the various TV adventures, linked by Briggs' earnest narration, to tell the story of the events leading up to the Great Time War. The quality of the clips varies, but they've all obviously been cleaned up as much as possible, and are well chosen to illustrate the ruthless and implacable nature of the Doctor's greatest enemies.

While great fun, the documentary is very conservative, due mainly to limitations imposed by the BBC charter. No mention is made of the "Dalek Empire" stories, or of the BBC novels, all of which have featured major steps towards the Skaro/Gallifrey war. Curiously, Russell T. Davies, producer of the current TV incarnation of the Doctor, has himself made reference to these stories in products like the 2006 Doctor Who Annual.

Because of these limitations, "The Dalek Conquests" finds itself restricted to retreading old material. We learn nothing new about the Daleks. Unlike David Banks' attempt to create a cohesive history of the Cybermen, there's no real conjecture or detective work here. Fans looking to find out how Skaro survived the end of "Remembrance of the Daleks" for instance, will be disappointed.

Briggs does, however, manage to sneak in some references to the Dalek Empire stories, in the form of some of the music (also written by Briggs) from that series, a welcome nod to his fans.

In summary, this is a great introduction to Dalek history for new followers of the Doctor's adventures, and an amusing novelty for older fans of the Doctor's adventures.
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on 12 September 2007
Instead of following the chronology of the Daleks we follow the the Doctors encounters with the Daleks. So, instead of starting with "Genesis of the Daleks" at the height of the Kaled/Thal war we start with the first Dalek story "The Mutants", which is set hundreds of years after the end of that war. This continues throughout. I think this is a pity and a lost opportunity but obviously easier to produce.

Criticisms aside, it is nice to have all the Dalek stories covered, including lost episodes like "The Chase", The Dalek Masterplan", etc.
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Presented as a history of the daleks put together and presented by an unnamed reporter, this uses clips from their tv appearances to tell a history of the monsters, how they came to be, and what makes them so wicked. An obvious labour of love for those involved it also uses some original material to help put things together.

Commendably not trying to tie it all up into a totally coherent history [although there are nice hints at how everything leads to the time war...] it's interesting to hear some of these clips again, and to hear how dalek voices not done by roy skelton and nicholas briggs don't sound quite right, and how much better the music from parting of the ways sounds when properly mixed.

But there's nothing here that long term fans won't have heard before, so it didn't really catch my interest all that much. Fans of the new series who aren't familiar with the old might enjoy it, though. And I wouldn't mind to hear one about the cybermen
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on 18 September 2007
If "Thal Spy" can come up with a viable Dalek chronology, I'd be very impressed. The TV series has naver made any serious effort to connect the Dalek timeline logically - and most of the "classic" stories blatantly contradict what's gone before.

In a way it doesn't matter since everytime the Doctor beats these tinpot baddies he's effectively interfering and changing their history!
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