The Dalek Audio Annual follows on the heels of the two Doctor Who audio annuals, and follows the same format – picking stories and features from the crop of available annuals, and presenting them in a coherent form to give a sense of what it was like to open up those annuals. While in the case of Doctor Who there were almost two decades worth of material to choose from, in the case of the Dalek Annuals, there were only seven books from which to pick content, and importantly, they came in two waves – three during the height of Dalekmania in the Sixties, which were rather more random in what they contained, and four in the Seventies, which stuck rather tighter to a single expanded universe of the Daleks outside their role in Doctor Who.
This collection is taken from just two annuals – the 1976 and the 1977, and what you get for your money is a rather glorious collection of Terry Nation and Nationisms. There’s a leading character called Tarrant (Nation seemed to have a fixation with that name), there’s a shameless prequel of the Doctor Who story The Chase, involving two young time-travellers with a time-machine-making uncle, who chase the Daleks through time. If you think that’s not quite enough to call it a prequel to The Chase, it’s worth noting that it includes a scene in which the Daleks arrive on the Marie Celeste, drive the sailors off, and are then pushed overboard themselves by the two plucky time travellers. There’s a version of the end of Planet of the Daleks in another story here, where a bomb intended to blow up some humans is smuggled onto the Dalek ship, blowing them up instead. And there’s arguably another take on Planet, where a 10,000 strong Dalek army is left in suspended animation in case of Dalek defeats as they expand their territory across the cosmos. The planet in the annual is never named, rather adding to the hopelessness of humanity, which is forced to live just knowing they’re out there, and they’re coming, but also of course avoiding any conflict with the actual rights to Planet of the Daleks and simultaneously bedding in the notion that this is fairly standard Dalek procedure – deep freezing enormous armies of troops, to be revived and sent into battle at some later stage.
The Dalek Audio Annual is, needless to say, a paragon of recycling which speaks hugely to Nation’s tendency to squeeze every penny out of an idea. The thing about which of course is that he did have some absolutely cracking ideas, and he usually did just enough to spread them through a story in a way that at least left you satisfied. That’s a mindset that absolutely carries through to these later, Seventies annuals. Far more than just a cash-in on the success of the Dalek Doctor Who stories, you bought a Dalek annual to find out more about the life and times of the Daleks from other, non-Time Lord perspectives. And that’s absolutely what you get for your money here – in particular, from a human perspective, and how we as a spacefaring species would cope in a cosmos which also contained the Pepperpots of Doom.
There are other annual staples here too, interesting bits of value-adding fluff that nevertheless deepen and broaden the basis of the story content – having delivered an origin story for a character called Mark 7, a humanoid android and lead member of the Anti-Dalek Force (a human crack troop squad, formed in response to the Dalek threat), there’s a kind of cutaway examining his build and characteristics. There’s a guide to the ‘dark side of Skaro’ – an excuse for glorious verbiage about islands of serpents, icecanoes, lands of the lost and so on. It’s utter nonsense, but it’s glorious, creative nonsense that undoubtedly filled pages alongside some creepy drawings, and which even today stands up as a potentially viable guide to the unseen side of Skaro – at least before the ravages of the Kaled-Thal war.
Mostly though, the longer-form content feels like an extended pitch for an evolution of Nation’s earlier Dalek series idea – the establishment of the Anti-Dalek Force, a tight character group who are sent on appallingly dangerous missions in the war against the Daleks, is engaging and believable in the stories included here, and while there’s a good bit of adventuring that could be taken from TV episodes, there’s also some room for haunting beauty, hymns to peace, and warnings about what happens to pacifists when something like the Daleks lands on their world – yes, it’s a re-run of the basic Thal idea, but in Report From An Unknown Planet, there’s an extra sadness gained from the screaming inevitability of a massacre and the fact that we know it’s coming from the moment the peace-loving inhabitants of the planet known as Paradise make their appearance.
While there’s no real suggestion that the ADF idea would have been used as a springboard for a second attempt at a non-Who Dalek series, the fact is that listening to the stories which feature them from these two annuals, you can absolutely imagine it, and see how it would have worked. There’s a typical Nation grimness about the stories, alongside the more staple derring-do and adventuring, but you can certainly imagine these stories alongside the likes of Space:1999, coming from ITC in glorious Dalek technicolour.
Overall then, if you’re old enough to remember the annuals or if you want to dive headlong into Nation-tinged nostalgia, have a go at The Dalek Audio Annual. It’s a solid listen, voiced by Nick ‘Dalek-Man’ Briggs, Louise ‘Always a Helper’ Jameson and Matthew ‘There’s Life After Smashing Into Planets’ Waterhouse. It’ll deepen the world of the Daleks for you in the times when there’s no Oncoming Storm to interfere with their plans, and that’s a thing that can only make your life better. Tony Fyler