Review by Michael Goleniewski
‘Genetics of the Daleks’ is perhaps the biggest surprise story in the whole of the Time Lord Victorious arc as it features the earliest Doctor involved in the entire saga so far and yet somehow happens to be one of the last stories timeline-wise in regards to how the Daleks themselves pertain to the big event. Its trailer makes it feel like ‘Alien’ with a lone pepper-pot instead of a xenomorph akin to how the recent final Eighth Doctor TLV audio was basically ‘Die Hard’ with a whole army of ‘pepper-pots’ at it’s disposal and the Doctor in the John McClane role. And similar to said audio, ‘Genetics’ delivers pretty much that exact premise albeit with a few twists along the way.
The basic narrative is more or less exactly what you might expect given the synopsis and idea at hand and Jonathan Morris’s script is far from the most original story in the world. Crew members wake up from years of sleep on a colonisation ship, encounter trouble in the form of an alien brought onboard, Doctor gets involved, rinse and repeat. The pacing takes a lot of time to set things up to the point where it’s twenty minutes before the Doctor even shows up and there’s even a small subplot going on involving a mutiny involving some other very suspicious characters onboard. It’s all very predictable but still very well-executed and fans of sci-fi, in general, are going to really enjoy this one in indulging in the exceptional atmosphere and all of the little details and plot points of the genre.
But is it in fact a great Doctor Who story? In some ways yes and in other ways no. At times, it feels a bit too unusually blanket to really stand out as a memorable Whoniverse story in that you could easily substitute the Doctor and the Dalek for other characters and you’d never really notice the difference. It’s hard to say where that fault comes from whether it be Morris’s writing or in its connections to other bits of Who media especially the live UK escape room ‘A Dalek Awakens’ that most fans aren’t really going to get a chance to experience. But either way, it’s a very generic story that focuses more on the side characters rather than on the main leads themselves and it has a hard time standing out in that regard.
With that being said though, what we are given in terms of good Who content we do get is very strong and there really isn’t a weak link in the cast performance-wise. Tom Baker is once again wonderful as the Doctor in both his offbeat and alien sense of humour and his stronger impulses once he realises exactly what’s going on. Nicholas Briggs is great as the lone Dalek backed into a corner and fighting for survival while also working to revitalise the entire species after the destructive impact of the whole Time Lord Victorious saga. The fact that it’s out of its casing for a good chunk of the adventure makes it all the nastier as well as tying it in nicely to another recent Dalek adventure and some of the foreshadowing lines of dialogue it’s been given against the Doctor with make it very clear just what kind of damage future incarnations are set to do. Each of the side cast are well-developed from Clive Mantle’s gruff medical officer to Andrew Spooner’s corrupted scientist Professor Brooke and each character has a unique quality to them that makes them all fairly interesting. They all work well together even if the plot doesn’t do anything too new with them before the big climax. However, the overall ending is a very nice touch that leaves the storyline on an ominous note setting up both the continued survival of the Daleks into the future as well as said escape room mentioned previously that it’s meant to serve as the tie-in for.
‘Genetics of the Daleks’ is an interesting prequel/finale to the Time Lord Victorious event with a fascinating conception and purpose to it that serves to highlight just how versatile the Doctor Who universe can be as it continues to expand outwards in new and interesting forms. But at the same time, it’s also an extremely generic (albeit well-crafted) Dalek story with a script that’s based almost entirely on a well-known piece of sci-fi media with little to nothing truly surprising about it outside of some very minor details and elements. If all you are really hoping for is a story featuring Tom Baker against a lone Dalek, then this audio will more than satisfy and it will most likely rank among your favourites of the year. But for others, while there’s more than enough great moments here to recommend it for a general purchase even if you aren’t keeping up with the big developments of the Time Lord Victorious event, it may be just a little bit too basic and forgettable with some of its plot points and drama to really stand out as an outright classic. Don’t let that fact dissuade you though; ‘Genetics’ really is one of the better stories to come out of the saga by far and a nice ending to the Fourth Doctor’ in 2020 before he returns for more adventures with Leela in 2021.
— 8 / 10