It was the first serial in the Dalek Empire arc, which continued in the Sixth Doctor audio The Apocalypse Element and the Fifth Doctor audio The Mutant Phase before concluding in the Eighth Doctor audio The Time of the Daleks.
Behind the scenes, this story was notable, not just as the first Big Finish production to feature the Daleks, but as Nicholas Briggs' first time voicing them in an official Doctor Who production. He previously voiced the Daleks for the Audio Visuals in the 1980s. Briggs later went on to voice the Daleks throughout the BBC Wales series of Doctor Who, as Russell T Davies was a Big Finish subscriber and discovered him that way.
Another first behind the scenes was the first use of Pro Tools to edit a Big Finish story, namely by Nick Briggs, who provided the post-production and music/sound design for The Genocide Machine. The small 8-track device he previously used to edit Big Finish broke down mid-production, and he was forced to upgrade.
The library on Kar-Charrat is one of the wonders of the Universe. It is also hidden from all but a few select species. The Doctor and Ace discover that the librarians have found a new way of storing data — a wetworks facility — but the machine has attracted unwanted attention, and the Doctor soon finds himself pitted against his oldest and deadliest enemies — the Daleks!
While doing some sorting in the TARDIS library, Ace finds some books from the library at Kar-Charrat, which is widely regarded as one of the wonders of the universe, and is said to hold all the knowledge of every civilised world. It’s a fanciful claim, but the Doctor takes it seriously enough; and he determines to return the books and own up to having unintentionally removed them—it’s not a lending library, after all. Meanwhile, on Kar-Charrat an expedition of four individuals led by Bev Tarrant is exploring a ziggurat of more than a thousand years in age, hidden in the rain forest and the perpetual rain. The expedition—actually a mission of theft, aiming to steal the entire ziggurat—is cut down by a mysterious assailant. As Bev, the only survivor, crawls away, odd voices note that her now-dead partner Rappell no longer needs his body—but someone else does.
The Doctor and Ace arrive, but the library appears to be in ruins. The Doctor explains that this is Time Lord technology at work; he was here with others at the time of construction. The Time Lords created not only a defensive grid, but also a time barrier that projects an impenetrable illusion of the way the library will look more than three thousand years in the future. Only one who is time-sensitive—like the Time Lords—or specially identified in the system can pass through it. He brings Ace through, and introduces her to the head librarian, Elgin, and his assistant Cataloguer, Prink. The return of the books prompts a momentary scandal; but Elgin relents, and shows them around.
The library has a new achievement. It now contains a “wetworks”, a huge array of water tanks that use the fluids as a complex form of memory storage. In this way, they have vastly increased their information capacity. The information can be retrieved via direct download to the brain. Elgin mentions that no one has access to the library—it is for storing information, not sharing it. This frustrates Ace, and she leaves to return to the TARDIS. Elgin tells the Doctor that the non-sharing policy has prompted a response from numerous races—including a semi-robotic race called the Daleks.
Outside the time barrier, Ace meets the wounded Bev; as she is taking her to the library to be cured, the duo are captured by the Daleks.
Unknown to Bev, Ace is copied into a human-form Dalek operative. As Ace has been given a security tag for the library, the duplicate is able to return and infiltrate the library. At the same time, an alarmed Doctor begins to interrogate Elgin, and discovers that the Daleks did attack once, but failed to penetrate the defences. Worried about Ace, the Doctor takes Elgin out to find her, deeming the situation unsafe in case the Daleks are still around. He finds her—or rather, the duplicate—and Tarrant, and has them taken to the library’s medical bay. He then has Elgin take him to the nearby ziggurat, which has piqued his curiosity.
Near the ziggurat, they find the remains of Tarrant’s crew, with some oddities about their corpses. Elgin tells him some unsettling stories about supposed phantoms in the jungle, dating from earliest colonisation. They then find that the ziggurat has been opened from the inside. Putting things together, the Doctor realises it’s not an ancient artefact, but rather, a Dalek hibernation unit—and its inhabitants have now awoken! He finds a cloning chamber in the corner, and realises that the Ace he sent to the medical bay is a Dalek operative.
Meanwhile, “Ace” has lowered the defence grid, and the Supreme Dalek orders its ship in orbit to send in attack troops.
The Dalek's plan, it seems, is to seize control of the wetworks facility and its store of data. They kill everyone in the library except a few key individuals; they save Tarrant for use in luring out the Doctor if necessary, and send the real Ace to join her at the library. They require the Doctor for his Time Lord brain; without him, their download of the data in the wetworks will take far longer, delaying their invasion—in fact, a test run without the Doctor sends the test Dalek into madness.
The Doctor and Elgin try to return to the TARDIS, but are intercepted and captured by the Dalek Supreme. They are returned to the library; the Daleks explain that they plan to create a Dalek that can contain the data store, creating a mobile repository of information that can be used to conquer first the galaxy, then the universe. For this, they require a Time Lord brain. The ziggurat—and others like it around the region of space—was a trap set to spring at first detection of a time capsule of any type.
The Doctor is plugged into the system, and the experiment succeeds—the second test Dalek acquires the data. However, the strain appears to kill the Doctor. The Dalek Supreme returns to his ship to destroy the library.
Ace and Tarrant are intercepted by the body of Tarrant’s partner, Rappell, which is now animated by something. The entity says that it is a native of Kar-Charrat; its species is water-based, not just living in the water, but composed of water, which is what allows it to inhabit the body. It and its kind are fighting for survival, as the wetworks represents imprisonment and death to them. Meanwhile, they have saved the Doctor, by temporarily uploading his mind into the wetworks. They explain everything to him, and return him to his body, on condition that he keeps his promise to save them.
Meanwhile, Daleks are dying mysteriously. The test Dalek, due to its newfound knowledge, deduces the truth about the natives, who are the source of the Kar-Charrat phantom stories. It realises that the natives can infiltrate Dalek casings and drown the mutants inside. It insists the natives are non-hostile except in self-defence; but the Supreme Dalek can’t accept this, and orders their extermination. The Dalek Supreme reports to the Dalek Emperor on Skaro, and is ordered to continue the plan, including the destruction of the planet.
Back in his body, the Doctor castigates Elgin for the genocide that the wetworks poses to the natives. He then gathers Elgin, Prink, Ace, and Tarrant and takes them to the TARDIS, planning to destroy the wetworks and free the natives. Along the way, the duplicate Ace arrives and captures Elgin, prompting Prink to attack her. She kills Prink, but is killed in turn by the natives.
Inside the library, Ace bluffs her way past the Daleks by pretending to be the duplicate. The Dalek Supreme orders the destruction of the library, but is attacked by the test Dalek, who now sees no purpose in the destruction. During the conflict, Ace plants Nitro-9 explosives on the wetworks, and the Doctor sets up a final download which will remove the data load from the natives in the system. As the explosives detonate—and the Doctor and Ace escape in the TARDIS—the natives drown the remaining Daleks; after a final report to the Emperor, the Dalek Supreme self-destructs.
The library is now the ruin it always appeared to be. Elgin, repentant of his mistake, chooses to stay and await the next visit from the Time Lords, hoping to recover some of the lost knowledge from the ruins. Tarrant returns to her own ship. The Doctor and Ace depart the planet in the TARDIS; but they know that the Daleks have only been set back, not deterred.
- The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy
- Ace - Sophie Aldred
- Bev Tarrant - Louise Faulkner
- Chief Librarian Elgin - Bruce Montague
- Cataloguer Prink - Nicholas Briggs
- Rappell/Phantom voices - Daniel Gabriele
- The Daleks - Alistair Lock and Nicholas Briggs
- The Daleks were kept in cryogenic hibernation in what was thought to have been a ziggurat on the planet.
- According to Bev Tarrant, the Daleks' ziggurat is at least 1,270 years old.
- A Special Weapons Dalek, the Dalek Supreme and the Dalek Emperor are all present or are in contact during the course of events.
- The Daleks count in rels.
- The Doctor's consciousness/mind is used as a buffer to control data transfer from the wetworks facility to the Dalek test subject.
- The Doctor blows up the wetworks facility, freeing the captive natives.
- The Kar-Charrat Library is hidden behind a temporal barrier.
- This is Big Finish's first Dalek audio drama, marked as "Dalek Empire Part One", voiced for the first time by Nicholas Briggs, who continues the role to the present day in Big Finish audios and in the revived television series. Alistair Lock also provides Dalek voices in the story.
- This audio was featured in Doctor Who Magazine issue 290 with an accompanying illustration by Lee Sullivan.
- This audio drama was recorded on 13 and 14 November 1999.
- The first two editions of aHistory dates this story to 4256, as this was the date given by the Big Finish website; however, the third edition redates it to circa 5256, since in The Judas Gift (set in 2607) Bev Tarrant says she's from "three thousand years in the future".
- Ace recognises the Daleks. (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks)
- The Doctor hopes Ace ignored his rules of not transporting Nitro-9. (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks)
- This is the first appearance of art thief Bev Tarrant. She would later feature in AUDIO: Dust Breeding and the Big Finish Bernice Summerfield series, eventually (and somewhat ironically) running and protecting the Braxiatel Collection, one of the largest collections of art in the universe.
- The Dalek mission to the Kar-Charrat library would have important ramifications following the Dalek invasion of Mutter's Spiral. (AUDIO: Invasion of the Daleks, Project Infinity)
- A Dalek Supreme of the same design as the one seen in TV: Planet of the Daleks makes an appearance. It is subordinate to the Dalek Emperor.
- Bev mentions Coralee. The Doctor and Ace visited Coralee in PROSE: Storm Harvest. Flinkstab murdered a dancing girl on Coralee in AUDIO: Square One.
- The Doctor picked up Benny's diaries from the Kar-Charrat Library, and sent them to her on the Collection. (PROSE: A la Recherche du Temps Perdu)
- Official The Genocide Machine page at bigfinish.com
- DisContinuity for The Genocide Machine at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide