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The Big Finish Vault: The Genocide Machine & Red Dawn

Continuing our look into the back catalogue of Big Finish releases, we’ve got another couple of firsts. The Genocide Machine, which I’ve just found out was the proposed release for a not to be made Big Finish collection from Eaglemoss, saw the first appearance of the Daleks since 1988’s Remembrance of the Daleks, once again facing off against the Seventh Doctor and Ace and Red Dawn not only saw the return of the Ice Warriors, exploring their culture and warrior’s code but also began a small number of entries for the Fifth Doctor and Peri canon.

The Genocide Machine

Written By: Mike Tucker

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Mike Tucker made quite the name for himself writing a number of Seventh Doctor novels for BBC Books, his books mainly focused on the further adventures of the Seventh Doctor and Ace. Perhaps it was right that someone who had put so much work in the Seventh Doctor and Ace, that he should do one of the first releases for that pairing. The Genocide Machine feels like it should have been a BBC novel, with characters who feel like they could have had a lot more room to be explored in the larger page count and even the world they find themselves in could have done with a little more exploration.

The Genocide Machine
The Genocide Machine

However, for the first proper Dalek outing and being able to hear their voices once again this audio must have been a thrill. The Doctor takes Ace to a secret library, (remember those?), that holds every single book, good or bad, ever written in its halls. It’s the sort of place that puts the Library of Alexandria to shame. It doesn’t take the Doctor long though to say that this amount of knowledge can be exceedingly dangerous, especially if it falls into the wrong hands. Then the Daleks turn up. While there are much better Dalek outings to come, in the very near future after this one was initially released in fact, though this story does have some rather fun ideas, from the large library setting to the ambiguous titular, genocide machine.

The Genocide Machine also features a change in the Seventh Doctor. For once, he isn’t Time’s Champion, a chess player. He gets a great speech about justice and this is something else that Big Finish has continued to develop over the last twenty years.

Sophie Aldred is also great as Ace. She gets a special place in the story, which was nice to see in Ace and she works well with the guest character of Bev, a character who will later appear in a story, Dust Breeding in a few releases time.

For fans of the Daleks and those who have grown to be tired of them over the years, The Genocide Machine highlights why they are great and why they aren’t so great. They are a really powerful and resourceful force of evil here, really helping us to see why the Doctor hates them so much. But they also do fall into the trap here of using them as a way of explaining the plot. Why have the Daleks explained to us that they are invading the planet, seeking the Doctor and how much they intend to seize the library when we can hear it? I’m glad that Big Finish got better at doing these things later on, but it does get a little annoying here.

The Genocide Machine is a good first outing for the Daleks on audio, proving that they can be just as terrifying when you can only hear them as they are when they are on television. While better Daleks were to come, this story is satisfied to give us a number of interesting ideas and strong performances, as well as nice direction from Nick Briggs. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Red Dawn

Written By: Justin Richards

For years, we were led to believe that The Caves of Androzani followed on from the end of Planet of Fire. Red Dawn told us that this isn’t necessarily true, that the Fifth Doctor and Peri shared a few adventures in-between those two adventures.

Red Dawn from Justin Richards sees the Fifth Doctor and Peri gatecrash one of the early human landings on Mars. The small group of humans, one of whom is played by Davison’s real-life daughter, Georgia Moffet, are too busy dealing with corporate machinations to notice that the Doctor and Peri are there. But that also means that unfortunately, they’re too busy arguing to notice that they’ve also landed in the middle of the Ice Warriors home.

Red Dawn
Red Dawn

Despite some of the science being a little shaky, Red Dawn is actually a surprisingly enjoyable affair. It’s a first contact story, along the lines of something Star Trek would have done rather than Doctor Who but the tropes of Who step up to the mark nicely. Richards gives us some amazing imagination visuals, in particular the surface of Mars and some of the wonders the planet holds thanks to the dialogue from the Ice Warriors.

Richards also shines with his work on the Ice Warriors, making them warriors but noble ones, exploring their culture much more than perhaps we’ve ever seen on TV. While the warriors get some nice development and moments, showing they are much more than just an invading force, the human crew the Doctor and Peri find much more threat from are much more clichéd as each character seems to represent some of the nastier aspects of the human psyche. But it seems to work if you look at the human crew through the eyes of the Ice Warriors, who aren’t the real villains here.

I really like the pairing of Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant and I really like it when Doctor Who introduces a new companion just before the Doctor regenerates. It offers a completely different era for the companion, while Peri is most known for her time with the Sixth Doctor, she also works brilliantly, and possibly better with the Fifth Doctor in my opinion, so these extra adventures before The Caves of Androzani are a real treat and both Davison and Bryant feel very comfortable in their roles together despite only having been in two onscreen adventures together at the time of this audio’s release.

Some long term fans have often criticised Red Dawn because of its slower nature and the fact that it’s slightly predictable. But I enjoyed it much more a second time around and it works wonders for the Ice Warriors in much the same way the Pertwee Peladon-double bill did for them. It just feels like a safe classic-era outing, with much better writing for Peri. While Red Dawn might not be one of the early classics for Big Finish, by no means is it a bad story, just a safe and comfortable way of spending an hour and a half. And that’s not a bad thing to be.

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