Genesis of Evil
TV Century 21
The Dalek Chronicles
|Artists||Richard Jennings, Eric Eden and Ron Turner|
|Originally published in||TV Century 21 1-104|
|Continued in||DWM 249-254 and 276|
A Review by Finn Clark 11/6/04
These stories are legendary. Sixties comic strips aren't generally revered, with TV Comic's scribblings regarded as the bastard stepchild of Who, but TV21's Dalek comic strips have been reprinted to hell and back since their debut in 1965-1966. A thought for today's canon warriors: fandom in 1975 bashed Genesis of the Daleks for contradicting TV21! So is this the War and Peace of Doctor Who, a masterpiece to make Shakespeare weep and Dickens hang up his pen? Nope. It's okay, but it's hardly life-changing or anything. However if you want kick-arse Dalek adventures full of death and destruction, step on down!
Above all, these stories are special for their underlying concept. Roll up, roll up, for adventures of murder, slavery and genocide! The Dalek annuals were ostensibly about the metal meanies, but even they rarely went so far as actually to make them the heroes of their stories. However despite this there's no attempt to soften the Daleks or pretend that they're decent chaps underneath. When one Dalek questions its orders in Shadow of Humanity, the Golden Emperor regards this as a threat to the Dalek race and leaves no stone unturned to exterminate the free-thinker. For 112 pages we discover the joys of infinite evil... and it's fun! A few of the stories are hit-and-miss, but the Daleks themselves never waver in their commitment to being complete and utter bastards.
In my opinion, the Daleks' pinnacle wasn't on TV. I see two main Dalek archetypes, both from sources usually seen as non-canonical: (a) the ultimate enemy and (b) heroes in the cause of evil. For the former check out their seventies annuals o' dread, but the latter is epitomised by these TV21 comic strips. The Golden Emperor is a devious backstabbing mass murderer, but that's why he's cool! Theoretically we're rooting for the humans, but really we want to see Daleks being Daleks. Let's go through the stories...
Genesis of Evil (1-3) shows us the metal Daleks' creation at the hands of Yarvelling, a scientist from an era when the Daleks were blue humanoids from the continent of Dalazar. I see pathos in these people. They're dead after these three pages, but they leave behind their evil children. "The Emperor's machine was completed... then the last of the old Daleks died."
Mind you, Richard Jennings takes a few weeks to get the hang of drawing Daleks. After this story they acquired more correct TV proportions (except in the title panels), so presumably this elongated bollard is what prototype Daleks looked like!
Power Play (4-10) is a mini-classic that immediately establishes the strip's format. Bad guys land on Skaro: Krattorians, "cold hearted slave traders of the skies" who hope to make their fortune by mining sand. Fortunately the Daleks are even nastier! The Golden Emperor undermines the Krattorians because he wants to steal their spaceship and their slaves. Oh, and this story has a classic line... every so often the TV21 comics struck gold with an iconic phrase or image. The Road to Conflict has a wordless panel of two children at play, running towards a Dalek, while here it's dialogue from an innocent girl... "Trust me. I've made new friends. They're called Daleks."
Duel of the Daleks (11-17) is about the indestructible Zeg's power struggle with the Golden Emperor. Here the Emperor is just flat-out cool, unquestionably the hero.
The Amaryll Challenge (18-24) is perhaps the most outrageous example of making your readers cheer for evil. Most of the Daleks' adversaries in TV21 were clearly defined. Good guys escaped. Bad guys died. Natural disasters were overcome. However in this story the Daleks simply commit genocide. Admittedly the Amarylls perpetrate the all-time most spectacular killing of a Dalek (death by sprouting flowers!) but in their own words: "Gentleness would have gained our friendship. Destruction earns our hatred." They're nice people! At the end of the story one heroic Dalek carries out its suicide mission at the centre of the world. Defying incredible odds and the loss of its comrades, this last one survives... "And the Daleks destroy their first planet!!!"
I'm not wild about The Penta Ray Factor (25-32). The plot's a bit fuzzy, with goodies, baddies, everyone deceiving everyone else and a cursory wrap-up.
Plague of Death (33-39) is the first and probably best natural disaster story. "A radioactive cloud hangs somewhere over Skaro, containing the one thing the Daleks fear... rust!" The Black Dalek is the hero this time, not the Golden Emperor. Interestingly these Daleks show themselves fearful, paranoid and willing to kill each other to save themselves.
The Menace of the Monstrons (40-46) is a straightforward alien invasion, except that this time the Daleks are being invaded. Only one Dalek's heroic suicide saves the day and exterminates the enemy!
Eve of the War (47-51) introduces the Mechanoids, in a short but ultra-violent story that's a build-up for future conflict. The scripting rocks, but even better is the introduction of the magnificent Ron Turner. His art was memorable for chunky, clean colours and lots of inventive tech designs: telescopes, spaceships, flying Dalek machines and more. Classic stuff.
The Archives of Phryne (52-58) is the only Dalek story drawn by Eric Eden and involves the Daleks attacking an innocent archive planet. It's okay, but Eden's art is less eye-catching than Richard Jennings or Ron Turner.
Rogue Planet (59-62) brings back Ron Turner permanently and is another natural disaster story. It's a throwaway, really, but it looks great and it's important set-up for Impasse. Interestingly the Daleks have now gone from being planetbound (their first three stories) to being able to scan the 84th galaxy! This natural disaster is a rogue planetoid that can smash planets and blast unharmed through suns. Naturally the Daleks divert it towards the Mechanoids.
Impasse (63-69) is one of those stories in which everything comes together. Ron Turner is at the top of his game with the artwork, while Agent 2K rules. He's a robot agent sent to Skaro on a secret mission! An action-packed story follows in which Agent 2K must avoid extermination and outwit both the Daleks and the Mechanoids. However there's an amusing moment when a Zerovian comments that they couldn't send an agent to Skaro because "if he is captured, his blue skin alone will tell them where he comes from". Blue skin was practically the norm in TV21's Dalekverse, with the Krattorians, Monstrons, Zerovians and even the original humanoid Daleks.
The Terrorkon Harvest (70-75) has nifty Dalek underwater craft courtesy of Ron Turner, but as a story it's kinda boring. It's another natural disaster tale, this time with a misplaced rocket and a two-headed Godzilla from the Lake of Mutations.
I love Legacy of Yesteryear (76-85), simply because it brings back the blue-skinned humanoid Daleks and pits 'em against their metal descendants. I find something poignant in these people. I thought so in Genesis of Evil and I think so here too. However there's plenty more to draw your attention, including a Dalek survey of Skaro. ("While in the desert, the Daleks discover a race of sand-creatures... and destroy them.") Thanks to these sixties Dalek spin-offs, Skaro is still the richest, best-realised alien planet in all of Doctor Who. There's also more Dalek tech. They have funky flying machines, far more elaborate than the standard grav-disc, and bigger ships: hoverbouts.
What's more, the humanoid Daleks know about Earth "nine galaxies away". Interesting. These TV21 strips are laying the groundwork for The Dalek Invasion of Earth!
Shadow of Humanity (86-89) is only four pages long, but it's my favourite of these stories. It's another purely Skaro-based story of Dalek against Dalek, with the greatest concept ever and perfect realisation by Ron Turner. "Why do we obey?" Feelings resurface in a rogue Dalek's brain, making it question its orders. However even deranged flower-loving Daleks are still ultra-violent bastards! This one admires beauty and will kill you to preserve it!
Interestingly we even see the drawbacks of unthinking Dalek obedience as the hippy Dalek starts a revolution on Skaro just by issuing its own orders. Naturally the Golden Emperor hunts him down like a mad dog and exterminates him. Ron Turner's Daleks are getting increasingly stylised...
From that high point, the strip kinda fades with a whimper. The (90-95) save the universe with weedkiller. Then The Road to Conflict (96-104) has some humans falling into Dalek hands, including two children, and finishes with the Daleks learning about Earth and setting off for conquest. The strip had run in TV21 for 104 pages and exactly two years. There the Dalek Chronicles ended... until 1997.
Return of the Elders (DWM 249-254) was a continuation of TV21's Dalek Chronicles, started on spec by Ron Turner and sent unsolicited to DWM by his agent, John Lawrence. His Daleks have become wildly stylised (to put it kindly) and the story's a bit of a mish-mash, but it's actually better than we thought at the time. Any story suffers if you only read one page a month. En bloc, it's a perfectly good continuation of the TV21 stories and no worse than The Emissaries of Jevo or The Road to Conflict. Its biggest problem is that it crams in enough story elements for a fifteen-parter!
The Dalek Chronicles were to continue with Deadline to Doomsday, but sadly Ron Turner died in the middle of it. The two pages he completed can be seen unlettered in DWM 276 and they look fantastic. If I ever get to write DWM comic strips, one of my thousands of ambitions is to finish this story.
If you want to read the Dalek Chronicles, they've been reprinted everywhere. Marvel ran up to Impasse in DWM 33-68, then years later did the whole saga in DWM 180-193 and Classic Comics 1-19 before finally collecting it all in a 1994 special. I strongly recommend the latter. Power Play appeared in two Polystyle specials (1974 and 1977) and the middle of the saga is spread across various seventies hardbacks (The Amazing World of Doctor Who and the 1977 & 1978 Dalek annuals). As a result, some stories are better-known than others. The world and his wife knows about Agent 2K, but everything from The Terrorkon Harvest onwards is less familiar.
It's consistent with all that sixties Dalek lore... the Ocean of Ooze, the Radiation Range, the Oquolloquox (a six-yearly gale), etc. They've even got the vocabulary, as in 1964's The Dalek Book. "Veps" are a unit of measuring sunlight and "insli" is like a greeting, literally: "it is ready". "Rels" have yet another meaning, being a unit of velocity in Plague of Death and Emissaries of Jevo. If you want to measure time, do it in "megs". One meg is approximately a second, by the way.
I've criticised this strip at times, but it's an awesome achievement. An ongoing one-page comic strip must be the hardest form of storytelling in the world, but David Whitaker (yup, him) makes it look effortless. (If you don't believe me, compare and contrast with The Cybermen in DWM 215-238 by Alan Barnes and Adrian Salmon.) These strips look fantastic, with fully painted colour by top-drawer artists. Not all of the stories are exciting, but at their best they're truly iconic and as cool as all hell. Even forty years later, the Dalek Chronicles have a unique status among Doctor Who comic strips. An essential part of every fan's education.