The Genocide Machine by Mike Tucker

We all know (at least I’m assuming we all know – certainly I know and if I know something then it is a fair likelihood that most of you will to but if you don’t then you will be the time I finish this sentence) that Mike Tucker wanted to call this play "Wetworks". It is the sort of title that was rejected because it sounds vaguely rude. Like Rona Munro’s "Catflap" it stirs something within the minds of the same fans who snigger at "Cockylickin" and a story being coded "4Q". The name Wetworks was duly rejected and replaced by the more generic "The Genocide Machine".

Dalek stories rarely if ever have good titles. Occasionally we bestow functional titles upon them ("The Daleks" and "The Chase" spring to mind) while others labour under generic names like "Power of the Daleks", "Destiny of the Daleks" and "Resurrection of the Daleks". Other have to make do with frankly baffling names like "Death to the Daleks" and "Remembrance of the Daleks". It isn’t, in short, a rich vein of creativity. You can put almost anything before "of the Daleks" and it sounds like a perfectly reasonable pepper pot run-around. The Genocide Machine at least wasn’t called "The Genocide Machine of the Daleks" as that would’ve been too much even for me to stand.

My mistake, of course, was dopily thinking that the genocide machine in question was so named because it would give the Daleks ultimate power. The instant availability of all knowledge in the known universe would make the Daleks unbeatable. Thus they would be free to conquer, destroy and commit genocide. It wasn’t until today when pondering this article that I finally realised what the hell the title meant. Right machine, wrong reason.

I literally have no idea whether it is possible to store data in water. I know you can store information using magnetic things, lasers, plastic and even (so they tell me) ink and paper but my technological bent goes no further than the vaguest basics. So I’ve no way of knowing if the wet works facility is based on any scientific truth but it doesn’t need to be as this is Doctor Who and if triangles of Perspex can control the computer systems of entire nations and marbles can regulate the traffic flow of Gallifrey then water can hold data. Tucker’s twist on this idea (assuming it is an accepted idea) makes this play special. The intelligences living in the water of Kar-Charrat are a splendid creation and the sound design brings them to life superbly. What a contrast to the loud, harsh barking of the Daleks. The gradual unfolding of the fate of the water beings is far more powerful than the shouts of exterminating coming from Skaro’s finest.

Indeed, just as the genocide of "The Genocide Machine" has nothing to do with the Daleks, so the best features of the play equally do not require them either. They don’t actually spoil the story but it would be every bit as good without them. Elgin would still be the true villain of the piece, and an extremely sympathetic one at that, Nick Briggs would still give his finest performance as Prink, it would still be true that a whisper is more unsettling than a shout and a library with every book in existence would still be a wonderful place to imagine.

The moral of the story is either that humans are no more or less capable of evil than Daleks, or that you shouldn’t go on a killing spree in a library and then try to shove the wisdom of the universe into your head in one go. I’ll need another listen to work out which it is.

CD Facts

Part 1 - Tracks 1-7

Part 2 - Tracks 8-12

Part 3 - Tracks 1-5

Part 4 - Tracks 6-11