DALEKS DESTROY: The Secret Invasion & Other Stories Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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DALEKS DESTROY: The Secret Invasion & Other Stories Review

Matthew Kresal joins the ADF.

It's nigh impossible to imagine Doctor Who without the Daleks. But, funnily enough, not the other way around as the Doctor-less Dalek annuals of the 1960s and 1970s proved. Featuring stories and vignettes penned by Dalek creator Terry Nation, the annuals thrilled those first generations of fans. Perhaps offering up nostalgia alongside an opportunity for younger fans to experience them (this reviewer included in the latter category), BBC Studios has been giving them a new life as audiobooks. Daleks Destroy: The Secret Invasion & Other Stories is the latest such entry and a fun one at that.

The bulk of 154 minutes running time comes from four short stories, each read by a different narrator. Nicholas Briggs, who has been performing the Daleks on audio and TV for some two decades, reads the 1978 story The Castaway with its tale of a stranded human taking on a trio of Daleks on a jungle planet. Terry Molloy (who has played in-universe Dalek creator Davros) reads the 1979 story The Solution with agents of the Anti-Dalek Force (ADF) trying to aid a planet laid siege by the Daleks, only for its military leader to turn to a drastic solution. The actor and impressionist Jon Culshaw reads the titular tale, featuring Daleks in 1970s London facing off against four young cousins and the military (with a cameo from Prime Minister Harold Wilson!). Finally, Steven Pacey, Del Tarrant of Nation’s later series Blake's 7, reads the 1978 story The Seeds of Destruction featuring a journalist's search for a missing scientist leading up to an isolated Pacific island and a group of Daleks.

In between the stories are vignettes culled from the various 1970s annuals. These range from a vocabulary of Dalek terms (including a very different definition of "rel" than fans might be expecting) to what we might now term "alternative facts" broadcast by Dalek propaganda and ADF reports on various operations. The pieces are short, often no more than a couple of minutes long, but engaging and even amusing given later developments by later Dalek writers.

For those familiar with Classic Who's Dalek stories and Nation's writing in general, there are also plenty of familiar tropes at play. The ADF echoes the Space Security Service of The Daleks Master Plan, for example, while The Seeds of Destruction feels like a cross between a particular episode of The Keys of Marinus with HG Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau. Nation's habit of reusing names is on display as well, with at least a couple of different Tarrant's running around (and that isn't counting having Pacey as a reader). The stories, originally aimed at younger readers, might feel slight at times, yet they have their moments, such as the ending of The Solution and the faux-UNIT era feel of The Secret Invasion. The strength of the readings, from Briggs channeling Roy Skelton's 1970s TV Dalek voices for a touch of added authenticity to Culshaw’s vocal tour de force in The Secret Invasion, and the enhanced audiobook format of using music and sound effects likewise gives the tales a new life as well.

Whether you read the annuals in the 1970s or came to Classic Doctor Who decades later, there's something that'll appeal about this collection. For some, it might be a dose of nostalgia from the early days of the series. For others, it might be a chance to experience these stories (if not Nation's tropes) for the first time. Or even to hear familiar voices recreating stories lost in time. Whatever the case, if you like Daleks or Classic Who, you'll be in for a treat.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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