Today, the Kaled race has ended, consumed in a fire of war. But from it’s ashes shall rise a new race. The supreme creature. The ultimate conqueror of the universe. The Dalek!
The Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry are intercepted on their way back to the Nerva Beacon by the Time Lords, they are given a mission of the utmost importance: prevent the creation of the Daleks.
When it comes to this story, I think it’s hard to say anything novel or new. Genesis of the Daleks is a masterpiece, although it doesn’t entirely work with the Dalek stories that come before it. The main cast are all on their A-Games here again, and aided by fantastic members of the guest cast like Michael Wisher and Peter Miles as Davros and Nyder together, making the creators of the Daleks almost as frightening as the evil pepperpots themselves. This story has been highlighted by Russell T Davies as the start of the Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords, with the Doctor’s mission to destroy the Daleks at their creation being a key point in the story. This is undisputedly Nation’s best script with his creations, and also helps to reinforce the general direction script editor Robert Holmes and producer Philip Hinchcliffe were looking to take the show. Let us not forget that the central premise of the story revolves around our protagonist seeking to commit genocide, and the tone and direction of this story add to a tone of gathering doom and dread.
When Hinchcliffe and Holmes took over the series from Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks respectively, they wanted to change the tone to a more gothic one, with inspiration taken from villains and monsters from classic literature. However, in their first series, they were mostly left with scripts that had been commissioned by their predecessors, and Genesis of the Daleks was one of these stories. This is a story that feels incredibly bleak, with the Thals and the Kaleds locked into a seemingly never-ending war, where the technology they are using to fight seems to be regressing rather than progressing. Additionally, the Doctor’s mission from his own people is to prevent the creation of the Daleks is darker than anything he has done before, whether or not under some duress or not. The story really breezes along through it’s six-part running time, and shows some great liberties, such as not showing the Daleks until the closing minutes of the first episode, which greatly help. I suppose that, with the return of the famous villains revealed in the serial’s title and the best part of three hours to play with, you don’t have to rush the first appearance of the prototype Dalek. David Maloney’s direction deserves commendation for making the whole story have this impending sense of trouble lurking around each corner and the pace of the story. This is obvious from the opening scene of the story, as Maloney makes this battlefield meeting quite striking and iconic. It seems to me that this is the first time since the start of the Hinchcliffe and Holmes era that it is blinding obvious that those running the show have changed.
The central cast all feel as though they are comfortable in their roles, which really helps cement this as a classic. Tom Baker has had enough time to bed in as the Doctor, even if the audience didn’t buy him after his speech about humanity in The Ark in Space, and together with Ian Marter and Elisabeth Sladen, this TARDIS team feels like a really cohesive unit. Baker’s Doctor so far has seemed relatively carefree when facing off threats as recent as the Sontarans, so it is nice to see him almost out of his depth here. The moment when the Time Lord informs him of his mission, Baker’s entire body language changes. I like the fact that in the opening scene in which the TARDIS team arrive in the minefield, we get to see Harry’s bravery and military experience put to good use when the Doctor steps on a landmine. They are all on their A games here, which is fantastic in a story that, had he gone through with intentionally completing the mission, would leave us with a morally compromised Doctor. In the end, despite doing the groundwork, he only sets the Daleks back a bit rather than completely destroying him, but Baker’s performance does have you believing that the Doctor’s hatred for the Daleks is so great that he would carry out this genocide.
Davros, if you had created a virus in your laboratory. Something infectious and contagious that killed on contact. A virus that would destroy all other forms of life…would you allow its use?
It is an interesting conjecture.
Would you do it?
The only living thing…the microscopic organism…reigning supreme…A fascinating idea.
But would you do it?
Yes. Yes. To hold in my hand, a capsule that contained such power. To know that life and death on such a scale was my choice. To know that the tiny pressure on my thumb, enough to break the glass, would end everything. Yes, I would do it. That power would set me up amongst the gods. And through the Daleks I shall have that power!
The Fourth Doctor and Davros
The guest cast here are also superb, with both Michael Wisher and Peter Miles deserving special credit for their performances as Davros and Nyder respectively. Wisher’s Davros is so superbly manipulative and creepy, and it feels as though he is constantly ahead of our protagonists and the Kaled Elite at every turn, almost forcing the Doctor into carrying out the Time Lord’s plan. Baker and Wisher really spark off each other superbly, especially in moments like the scene quoted above, and Davros himself is eminently quotable in this story. The introduction of Davros can make it feel as though the Daleks are being reduced to bit-part players, however, in this story, they are practically equals. In later stories, Davros would return with them, and it almost diminishes from the Daleks in some way, and the revived series seems to deal with this a lot better than the original from Destiny of the Daleks onwards – although Terry Molloy is a superb Davros as well. Peter Miles is so brilliantly slimy and sinister that he doesn’t necessarily have to be the focal point of a scene – as the viewer your eye is automatically drawn to him to see what he will do next. He is utterly incorruptible, Davros’s man through and through, which is ultimately his undoing, and Miles is superb in this role. Of the other cast, I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention how strange it seems seeing Guy Siner playing an actual Nazi-like character here, being so used to seeing him in the sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo, but after the initial shock, I put this behind me and Siner puts in a good performance as Ravon.
Despite Genesis of the Daleks being an undisputed masterpiece, there are some minor flaws with it. The story, by and large, does seem to suffer from incredibly poor cliffhangers, especially the famous one where Sarah falls from the scaffolding, only to land on an unseen bit of gantry in the opening scene of the following episode is poor, and the only one that really resonates is the initial reveal of the prototype Dalek at the end of episode one. There are also potentially too many members of the Kaled scientific elite than the story knows what to do with, so it is difficult to keep track of characters, especially in the middle parts. As I’ve previously stated, these issues do not detract from the story, but they do need to be mentioned as potential issues with the story.
Verdict: A true masterpiece, which sets the tone for the Hinchcliffe era. The birth of the Daleks is seen, and seeds are sown for future meetings of the Doctor and his infamous foe. Wisher is superb as Davros as well. 10/10
Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan), Michael Wisher (Davros), Peter Miles (Nyder), Dennis Chinnery (Gharman), Guy Siner (Ravon), John Franklyn-Robbins (Time Lord), Richard Reeves (Kaled Leader), John Scott Martin, Cy Town and Keith Ashley (Dalek Operators), Stephen Yardley (Sevrin), James Garbutt (Ronson), Drew Wood (Tane), Jeremy Chandler (Gerrill), Pat Gorman (Thal Soldier), Tom Georgeson (Kavell), Ivor Roberts (Mogran), Michael Lynch (Thal Politician), Max Faulkner (Thal Guard), Roy Skelton (Dalek voices), Harriet Philpin (Bettan), Peter Mantel (Kaled Guard), Andrew Johns (Kravos), John Gleeson (Thal Soldier)
Writer: Terry Nation
Director: David Maloney
Behind the Scenes
- Genesis of the Daleks marks the only time in the ‘Classic’ series that two consecutive serials did not feature the TARDIS at all.
- It is also one of only two Dalek stories in Tom Baker’s era, a marked reduction from his predecessors. They would reappear in Destiny of the Daleks in 1979, then only once in each following Doctor’s respective eras. Davros, introduced here as the creator of the Daleks, would go on to appear in each of these stories.
- The Doctor’s actions in this story are attributed to sowing the seeds of the Time War by Russell T Davies.
- Director David Maloney rewrote the opening scene. Both Terry Nation and Mary Whitehouse felt that this revised scene was too violent for young children.
- This is the last non-series finale to have six parts. This was due to criticisms of excessively long serials, resulting in the staff instituting a policy that all non-finale series would be a maximum of four parts.
There are so many to count, but I will mention again the opening sequence when the Doctor arrives in the battlefield.
If someone who knew the future, pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives…could you then kill that child?
We’re talking about the Daleks. The most evil creatures ever invented. You must destroy them. You must complete your mission for the Time Lords!
Do I have the right? Simply touch one wire against the other and that’s it. The Daleks cease to exist. Hundreds of millions of people, thousands of generations can live without fear…in peace, and never know the word ‘Dalek’.
Then why wait? If it was a disease or some sort of bacteria you were destroying, you wouldn’t hesitate.
But if I kill. Wipe out a whole intelligent life form, then I become like them. I’d be no better than the Daleks.
The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith
Excuse me, can you help me? I’m a spy!
The Fourth Doctor