Gneesis of the Daleks
Target novelisation
Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1976
ISBN 0 426 11260 1
First Edition Cover Chris Achilleos

Back cover blurb: The place: Skaro Time: The Birth of the Daleks After a thousand years of futile war against the Thals, DAVROS has perfected the physical form that will carry his race into eternity - the dreaded DALEK. Without feeling, conscience or pity, the Dalek is programmed to EXTERMINATE. At the command of the Time Lords, DOCTOR WHO travels back through time in an effort to totally destroy this terrible menace of the future. But even the Doctor cannot always win...


Even darker than on television by Tim Roll-Pickering 17/1/04

Onscreen Genesis of the Daleks was accorded a six part slot, despite this resulting in the story being padded (the most obvious example being the scenes in the caves) and stretched out. Similarly the Target novelisation has been accorded extra length, being 140 pages long but Terrance Dicks puts in an extra strong effort to make this a memorable read. The television story has an extremely grim setting, though at times the brightness of the studio and videotape can unintentionally lighten the mood, but in the printed from Dicks takes the opportunity to maintain a strong dark feeling to the book, even making some scenes seem even more unpleasant than onscreen (just read the description of a character being gunned down by a Dalek for starters).

The book also takes the opportunity to tighten things up, a number of loose points. On screen General Ravon's willingness to help the Doctor and Harry find Sarah comes across as surprising given their conflicting encounter earlier on but here Dicks inserts little character descriptions about Ravon's surprise at the change from prisoners to honoured guests and Harry's reluctance at dealing with someone who was recently their enemy. Equally there is a real sense of how Davros suddenly realises (forget the retcon of his having been prepared for this that is given in Destiny of the Daleks, which was some three years off when this book was originally published) he has spawned a monster that is out of control when the Daleks cease to obey him and he is forced to try to destroy them. It is little moments like this that serve to enhance the story whilst avoiding the resort to lengthy internal exposes of characters or lengthy back story. In the hands of a fan author in later years this novelisation would probably be much longer and contain a lengthy attempt to reconcile the story with what was revealed of the Daleks' origins in their first story, but that would almost certainly have detracted from a fast paced book which focuses on retelling the grim events that led to the emergance of the Daleks.

One of the most notable plot holes in the televised story concerns the Doctor's great agonizing over whether or not to blow up the incubator room as though this will wipe out the Daleks for all eternity, yet only a short while later he finds no problem with letting a Dalek inadvertently carry this out and the Doctor announces that this will merely set them back a mere thousand years. Little attempt is made to rescue this in the book, with the tone making the Doctor's achievements seem, if anything, less effective. There is also no attempt to make the conflict seem truly global, with the Kaleds and the Thals both appearing to occupy little more than a small city each, raising the question of what, if anything, is happening on the rest of the planet.

Despite these minor points, Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks is a very strong read. There is a real sense of terror and fear in many moments, with pain really showing through even at the simple level of the Doctor's interrogation, punctuated by rifle butts. The brutal, grimm nature of the story is never shied away from without any need to resort to graphic depictions of pain and the story is all the strong for it. Whilst not the most perfect novelisation of all (though it reportedly is the best selling of all the Target originated books), it is a good effort from Terrance Dicks. 8/10

A Review by Tim Bragg 7/8/07

This has been my first reading of a Doctor Who book, and I'm afraid I'm disappointed.

It is quite true that, as other reviewers note, this is a dark and fast-paced read. And as I have come to expect from the Doctor Who television shows, there is a conceptual goldmine here: plenty of good technical and ethical conundrums for the author to play with, to set the reader's mind buzzing in tried and true science fiction fashion. Unfortunately, the untapped potential of this story does not alter the fact that the novelization is really only a vague collection of dramatic cliches, tiresomely related. The Doctor, Harry and Sarah become involved in a seemingly endless series of capture-escape-recapture, complete with people getting konked on the head, good guys swiping bad guy uniforms to sneak around in, prisoners bluffing their way past guards, crawling through ventilation shafts, and so forth. I know this was written in the seventies, but a lot of these story devices were old hat in the seventies - in the thirties and forties, even. And the pulpiness of the action which plays so well on a television show just can't transcend this flat, prosaic treatment.

A pity, because the idea of the novel is very pleasing. Occasionally when Dicks isn't putting the characters through their tired "action" paces, the book is interesting and fun; several moments are scary and thought-provoking. I'm well aware that the shows carried on in this fashion, but honestly - isn't that the element of Doctor Who viewers liked least? Who watched Doctor Who for the fight scenes? Who ever watched doubting that, having been put into a cell, the Doctor would escape it within minutes? Yet these are the kinds of scenes this novel rehearses again and again, while cramming the most interesting material into a very few pages.

I have faith that things will get better than this.


The Unholy Origins of the Daleks! by Andrew Feryok 5/5/08

"Suppose somebody who knew the future told you a certain child would grow up to be an evil dictator - could you then destroy that child?"
"We're talking about the Daleks. The most evil creatures ever created. Complete your mission and destroy them. You must!"
"...But if I wipe out a whole intelligent life form, I'll be no better than the Daleks myself... I could destroy the Daleks, here and now. But do I have the right?"
- The Doctor and Sarah arguing about destroying the Daleks, page 124, Chapter 10
I've never understood the backlash that seems to have occurred towards this story in the reviews on the various websites I have visited. I think the backlash has come from overexposure. Fans have watched and enjoyed this story so much that they have come to take its aspects almost for granted. But re-reading the Terrance Dicks' adaptation of Terry Nation's classic story has put me back in touch with one of my very favorite stories of the Tom Baker years.

What makes this story so great? To start with, there are dozens upon dozens of classic scenes, such the Doctor asking Davros a hypothetical question about using a virus that could wipe out all life and asking him if he would use it. There is the sequence in the quote above when the Doctor and Sarah argue over the Doctor's right to prevent the Daleks from being created. And, of course, there is one of the greatest comeuppances of any villain in which Davros, creator of the Daleks, realizes at the end of the story that he cannot control his creations after selling virtually everyone and everything in order to make them possible, and then being reduced to pleading for pity before pitiless monsters.

Ah yes, Davros. Dicks captures this monster really well in the story. He really can't be described as a villain, and it has nothing to do with his deformed appearance. He truly is a totally insane monster who is willing to sell out his own mother to achieve his goals. I mean, he not only mercilessly massacres the entire Thal civilization; he also instigates the total annihilation of his own people when they decide that they do not want to go along with his experiments. And even when left with his supporters, he ends up killing his own supporters en masse in order to narrow them down to the most totally loyal members. It is only when the Daleks go too far and destroy the few totally loyal people he has left that he suddenly realizes his error. This is a villain without morals or feelings. He is the perfect mirror image and template for the Daleks that he would create. In many ways, the Daleks themselves mirror Davros' own despicable acts by destroying their own creator.

It is also clear that Davros has no intention of allowing his Daleks to independently rule the universe. It is abundantly clear from the famous sequence between the Doctor and Davros over the hypothetical virus that Davros wants to become an immortal god with powers of life and death over every living creature in the universe. He sees the Daleks as the perfect obedient life form that will allow him to achieve this immortality, and he is truly shocked in the end when he discovers how little control he has over his monsters. It sounds not too far off from the character of John Hammond in Jurassic Park as well, who was also convinced that he could control his monsters and achieve immortality (in a slightly more benign way).

Terrance Dicks' prose style is fantastic in this book. He goes well above his usual standard to really bring out the terrifying atmosphere of the war-torn planet. It has a gritty, nightmarish quality to it that is particularly disturbing in the opening passages of the book. Dicks continues to milk this atmosphere by enhancing the constant traveling back and forth between the bunker and the Thal city. On the TV screen, it looked pretty instantaneous, but in the book, they constantly have to battle dangers and navigate trenches, mud and mortars as they make their way back and forth. From the moment the Doctor and friends arrive, Skaro proves itself to be a hostile and doom-laden place. And people thought The Caves of Androzani was the only one that could do this well!

The regulars are written perfectly. Dicks captures the Doctor very well both in description and attitude. Although the Doctor cracks the occasional joke, he is actually quite desperate in this story. Cut off from the TARDIS, with too many hopeless goals to achieve, plus having to protect his companions. The fact that he manages to achieve even a few of these is quite admirable, given his circumstances. Sarah and Harry also come across well. Sarah's leading of the rebellion in the rocket silo is much more exciting and Harry adds a bit of comedy relief here and there to lighten the grim proceedings. This is a TARDIS team that works extremely well together and will always be one of my favorites.

Nyder and Sevrin are also two well-written characters. Nyder has been praised to the roof in many other reviews, so I won't waste too much time adding to that praise. Suffice to say, he is still the sniveling, backstabbing, bootlicking sidekick to Davros and is the only person on Skaro Davros trusts completely. Sevrin comes across much stronger in this story, marking the first ray of hope and help that the time travelers receive on a thoroughly hostile world. Sevrin is used to show that, despite what we see on the surface, not everything about Skaro is evil and it is made very clear that he is in love with Sarah, while some her actions imply that she may even return some of that affection.

The only real additions I noticed, besides the increased description, was that the attack on the Thal city is much grander. After believing that Harry and Sarah perished in the Kaled city when it was destroyed, the Doctor wanders sadly through the celebrations in the city streets which are much grander and far bigger than the television budget could allow (on TV it is just a bunch of corridors). When the Daleks attack, it is utter pandemonium and the descriptions tell of a scene far more horrific than the BBC could ever realize. Finally, the sequence where the Doctor goes back to blow up the incubation room is not seen directly. Instead the Doctor tells Sarah and Harry what he does after he escapes in the nick of time. This is actually a good thing since it is really an unnecessary scene that would have only padded out the ending unnecessarily.

Overall, this was a fantastic story and it is not hard to see why the book has been adapted in so many editions, and published by so many different publishers and countries. It is definitely one of Terrance Dicks' finest adaptations covering one of Doctor Who's greatest stories. A definite 10/10!