Dragonfire

cliffhanger

Do you feel like arguing with a can of deodorant that registers nine on the Richter scale?

Ace

Synopsis

As trouble brews on the space trading colony of Iceworld, the Doctor and Mel encounter their sometimes-ally Sabalom Glitz – and a new friend who goes by “Ace”.
Review

Dragonfire wraps up a rather indifferent debut series for Sylvester McCoy, which at times feels like it is stumbling towards the finishing line. There are some interesting ideas here but there’s no time to flesh any of them out, and as a result everything feels quite flimsy. Despite this, there are signs of promise to come in the following series coming up to the show’s cancellation in 1989, especially with the debut of Ace, played by Sophie Aldred, and hints at the sort of character that the Seventh Doctor will become. This story also features a good, if underdeveloped villain in the shape of Edward Peel’s Kane, and sadly does show the lack of budget available to the programme at this time.

ace glitz doc mel

I’ll start by talking about the two companions, one incoming and one outgoing in this story. Firstly, the outgoing incumbent, Mel Bush, as played by Bonnie Langford. Langford certainly is possibly one of the least popular Doctor Who companions, which isn’t entirely her fault, as her character feels like a regression to some of the 1960s companions, with her response to everything being to scream. I don’t blame her for wanting to leave, although it feels as though it almost takes the entire production team by surprise in the way that her departure is completely shoehorned in. It seems completely out of character for Mel to go off with Glitz, and this is certainly up there with Leela’s exit in The Invasion of Time for the most rushed way of getting rid of a companion. Don’t even get me started on Liz Shaw’s off-screen departure between Inferno and Terror of the Autons though, which is probably the only problem I have with the Letts era, however, equally, it would have been a tragedy not to have had Katy Manning in the show. With that out of the way, it is nice to see Mel get to interact with another companion and it is perhaps notable that she probably spends more time with Ace than the Doctor does. Sophie Aldred’s Ace seems much more rounded, if not entirely believable as a teenager, character than companions that came before her. Her propensity for yelling out her own name and phrases like “Mega!” make me think that no-one in the Doctor Who production office had ever spoken to a real teenager in their life.

The story here can be seen to be a bit of a throwback to the 1960s as well as being a comedy in places, however, there are some elements which are genuinely quite disturbing. Belusz’s admission that she is having doubts about signing up with Kane to Kracauer is almost looking at the naivety of youth and the idea of consent, with the Doctor stating explicitly that her debt to Kane won’t be easy to be repaid. There is also a pretty explicit criticism of capitalism, with the shops on Iceworld acting as a front and Kane confident in the belief that every soul has its price, his coin acting as a bit of an obvious but effective way of getting this message across. Kane is sufficiently menacing and sinister and despite his icy demeanour, there is clear emotion bubbling away under the surface. Edward Peel deserves a great deal of credit for doing the most with a limited character.

The story does act as a pastiche of science fiction, with elements paying homage to films like Alien and Star Wars. There are moments of black humour in there too, like Stellar drinking her milkshake in the café where everyone has been murdered and playing with her teddy bear in Kane’s dungeon. There are also hints here of more of the scheming Doctor we would see later on in McCoy’s run when he tells Mel that the signal coming from Iceworld has been going on for a little while – as if it’s been on his list of intergalactic wrongs that he will one day get round to putting right. This put me in mind of the setup for Mummy on the Orient Express, one of my all-time favourite episodes, so that’s no bad thing really!

Well? Do you fancy a quick trip round the twelve galaxies and then back to Perivale in time for tea?

Ace!

But there are three rules. One, I’m in charge.

Whatever you say, Professor.

Two. I’m not the Professor, I’m the Doctor.

Whatever you want.

And the third. Well, I’ll think up the third by the time we get back to Perivale.

Seventh Doctor and Ace

Sadly, I feel that the story has lost something from the transition from page to screen and it feels as though there is some disconnect. A much-lambasted demonstration of this is the famous cliffhanger at the end of part one, which finds the Doctor hanging by his umbrella on an actual cliff face. This is not clear in the transmitted episode, but the passage leading to the cliff was supposed to be a dead end, meaning that the Doctor would have to climb down. This seems to almost be symptomatic of the problems of the production in general. There are great juxtapositions, for instance, as the design of the dungeon looks fantastic and evokes The Tomb of the Cybermen and is all the more impressive considering the constraints of the budget, but then the caves look cheap, in no small part due to the sets being overlit. The story also never really gives us a good enough reason for Glitz to be in this story other than to give an exit for Mel, and I’m not sure what he adds to this story otherwise.

doctor and ace

Verdict: Dragonfire brings Sylvester McCoy’s first series as the Doctor to a close, and though it hints at the direction the show was going to venture into in the next two, it really hits stumbling blocks. 6/10
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Tony Selby (Sabalom Glitz), Edward Peel (Kane), Patricia Quinn (Belazs), Tony Osoba (Kracauer), Shirin Taylor (Customer), Ian Mackenzie (Anderson), Stephanie Fayerman (McLuhan), Stuart Organ (Bazin), Sean Blowers (Zed), Nigel Miles-Thomas (Pudovkin), Leslie Meadows (The Creature), Lynn Gardner (Announcer), Miranda Borman (Stellar), Daphne Oxenford (Archivist), Chris MacDonnell (Arnheim)
Writer: Ian Briggs
Director: Chris Clough
Parts: 3
Behind the Scenes

  • The story sees the return of Sabalom Glitz, the departure of Mel and the debut of Ace. This was Sophie Aldred’s first role on television.
  • Sylvester McCoy requested that the farewell scene with Mel was changed to incorporate dialogue from one of his audition scenes, which Ian Briggs and Andrew Cartmel inserted into the script.

Best Moment

Kane’s face melting moment is fantastic and very similar to the Indiana Jones effects.
Best Quote

I’m going now.

That’s right, yes, you’re going. Been gone for ages. Already gone, still here, just arrived, haven’t even met you yet. It all depends on who you are and how you look at it. Strange business, time.

Goodbye, Doctor.

I’m sorry, Mel. Think about me when you’re living your life one day after another, all in a neat pattern. Think about the homeless traveller and his old police box, with his days like crazy paving.

Mel Bush and the Seventh Doctor

girl and dragon

The Mark of the Rani

The Master and the Rani.jpg

He wears yellow trousers and a vulgarly coloured coat, but tread carefully – he’s treacherous!

The Master

Synopsis

In the 19th Century, the population is turning violent and unpredictable ahead of a meeting of the brains of the Industrial Revolution, and the Doctor has to get to the bottom of what’s causing it.

Review

The tone of The Mark of the Rani feels different from what’s come before it, which is probably the biggest plus point in its favour.  The inherent bleakness that seems to have saturated the show since the Saward era of script editing began disperses for this two-part story, which does lapse unfortunately into pantomime at times.  The story features a new Time Lord adversary in the shape of the Rani, but seems so keen to establish her as a serious villain that it comes at the expense of the Master.  This story also features a rather more standard portrayal of the Doctor, with the Sixth Doctor being generally more amiable.

One thing the story does massively benefit from is the location shooting, carried out at the Blist Open Air Museum in Ironbridge, which really helps evoke a sense of atmosphere and helps the story along.  Sadly, the direction doesn’t feel very cohesive and is very pantomime-y at times, which doesn’t help when the story feels particularly simple and threadbare at times.  Sequences like the scene with the Doctor wheeling towards the pit attached to the stretcher feel extremely ridiculous at times, the blame for which can be pointed at Pip and Jane Baker and Sarah Hellings in equal measure.  I would like to praise the design of the Rani’s TARDIS interior which looks absolutely beautiful, however, on the flip side, the land mines that turn people into trees are utterly ridiculous and the resulting trees look utterly ridiculous.  Where the use of a wonderful location helps to make the production look glossy, elements like these trees and Peri’s dress (combined, of course, with the Doctor’s garish costume) make it look cheap and are easy fodder for the programme’s detractors.

The Doctor Mark of the Rani

The best part of this story are any scenes where the Doctor, the Rani and the Master are together.  As much as it may stretch credulity to find three renegade Gallifreyans in the same place and time, it is quite fun to see the Doctor interact with his own people.  In fact, when this trio are separated, the story does feel as though it slows immeasurably to feel like a bit of a slog. Kate O’Mara is clearly having an absolute ball, and the scene where she has captured the Doctor in the bathhouse is a particular delight as Colin Baker and O’Mara really spark off each other well.  The Rani is an interesting villain making her debut here and I largely feel that she would have benefitted from not having the Master present too, as the pair are really quite different as characters.  The story does seem to complete Anthony Ainley’s Master’s transformation into a moustache twirling parody of the character.  The fact that he thinks that he can destroy the Doctor’s TARDIS by throwing it down the pit really highlights this – the Master is supposed to be an intellectual equal to the Doctor, but this harebrained scheme really damages the character. Through I largely like his incarnation, especially from his first appearance in the late Tom Baker era and through the Davison era, however, his presence feels stapled on here and some of the dialogue he is given here is just plain ridiculous.  I feel that he was probably inserted to allow the story to show how evil the Rani is, but really it does do more harm than good to both characters.

He’d get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line!

The Rani

The story does have a lightness of tone which is much needed in this era, and I did broadly enjoy the bits that didn’t seem to lapse into pantomime.   The story is also relatively straight forward and continuity lite, despite the reappearance of the Master.  There are elements of it that I do find generally quite entertaining, but as stated above, when the three Time Lords are off-screen, it can feel a bit flat and slow.  This was my first time watching the story, and I felt as though the first part was coming towards a cliffhanger on several occasions before it eventually arrived, and when it did arrive, I felt disappointed by it.  The resolution is particularly frustrating too, with George Stephenson appearing as if from nowhere to rescue the Doctor.  There are no real interesting guest characters, and it is perhaps fitting that Luke turns into a tree considering a largely wooden performance.  The death of the Rani’s assistants is also particularly overacted – and again demonstrates issues with the direction and tone.  It certainly feels as though the story almost hypes up the entrance of Stephenson and also mentions other industrialists whom we never see.  This is a story that potentially promises a lot, however, when it comes to delivery, all we have is a rather light-hearted romp through history, which is fun in places but lacks any real feeling of stakes.

Verdict: The introduction of the Rani is positive, however, some lacklustre direction and writing really lets this story down. It is quite fun in places, and drags in others. 5/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Anthony Ainley (The Master), Kate O’Mara (The Rani), Terence Alexander (Lord Ravensworth), Gawn Grainger (George Stephenson), Gary Cady (Luke Ward), Peter Childs (Jack Ward), Richard Steele (Guard), William Ilkley (Tim Bass), Hus Levent (Edwin Green), Kevin White (Sam Rudge), Martyn Whitby (Drayman), Sarah James (Young Woman), Cordelia Ditton (Older Woman)

Writers: Pip and Jane Baker

Director: Sarah Hellings

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • The Rani makes her first appearance.  She was originally intended as an ongoing nemesis, however, she would only appear on television one more time.
  • With the appearance of historical figures George Stephenson and Lord Ravensworth, this story features historical figures for the first time since The Gunfighters.

Best Moment

The moments that really spark are the moments between the Doctor, the Master and the Rani, with the three renegade Time Lords sparking off each other.

Best Quote

I will venture just one question, Doctor.  What precisely do you do in there?

Argue, mainly.

Lord Ravensworth and Sixth Doctor

The Visitation

android visitation

I have appeared before some of the most hostile audiences in the world.  Today I met Death in a cellar.  But I have never been so afraid until I met the man with the scythe.

Richard Mace

Synopsis

Failing to take Tegan to Heathrow Airport, the TARDIS lands in the 17th Century.  After exploring, the Doctor and his companions find a space capsule has crash-landed, and three Terileptil prison escapees intended to wipe out the population of the Earth by releasing rats infected with an enhanced form of the great plague.

Review

The Visitation is a notable episode in Doctor Who history for being the debut of Eric Saward, who would play a major role in shaping the tone of the show as the script editor.  This doesn’t feel as dark, violent and grungy as some later Saward stories would become, however, and it largely comes across as an enjoyable if rather a straight-forward romp for the Fifth Doctor and his companions.

Visitation Adric and Tegan

The story feels really atmospheric, largely because of the large amount of location filming and the amount of research that Saward did into making it feel authentic to the period.  The story is notable for being the first since Horror of Fang Rock to solely be set on Earth, and while it’s a pseudo-historical tale, it feels true to the period.  There are hints of the violence that would come to be synonymous with Saward’s time as script editor, with the Doctor being involved in hand to hand combat and the killing of the family at the beginning of part one.  It is far from a perfect story, and feels quite straight forward in places, and only features one really developed guest character in the shape of Richard Mace.  Peter Moffatt’s direction is, as usual, pretty standard and fairly non-descript, but he is well known for having happy casts and crew and this may have helped some of the performances here.  One of the biggest problems with the story are the scenes with Nyssa making the sonic booster on the TARDIS, which seem to just be there to fill space without really adequate explanation of why Nyssa is doing this.

How do you feel now?

Groggy, sore and bad tempered.

Almost your old self.

Fifth Doctor and Tegan Jovanka

I do quite like the Terileptils, especially their design and the use of animatronics to give them more expressive faces.  This is all the more impressive considering the limited budget that they would likely have had to work on in this story, which is essentially a period drama, thereby requiring lots of costumes and hair work.  The remaining Terileptils plan to commit genocide by modifying the plague to make it all the more potent is quite a good idea, and the fact that Terileptils are fond of beautiful items is an interesting element to add to villains that could be quite one dimensional.  The android still to this day looks pretty decent, except for the cricket gloves, but these can be overlooked in the grand scheme of things.

visitation death

With regards to the central cast, Peter Davison is pretty solid here as the Doctor, and I particularly enjoy his frustration and resignation when he is told that he is going to be executed is superb.  He also gets to spend some time away from his bickering companions, which seems to be just in time for the character, as I think he is ready to just leave Tegan at the next destination he comes to.  This being said, there are signs of a promising relationship between this incarnation of the Doctor and Nyssa, with them exploring the house, showing the same kind of inquisitiveness.  Sadly, Tegan is pretty insufferable, being written as being determined to get back to Heathrow rather than actually appreciating the situation that she is in, whilst Adric yet again gives up the fact that the Doctor is a time traveller yet again!  Fortunately, the saving grace of the story is the performance of Michael Robbins as a failed actor turned highwayman Richard Mace.  Robbins has fantastic chemistry with Davison and steals every scene that he is in, which is perhaps fortunate.  Every other guest character in the story has no development, and is under the control of the Terileptils for the majority of the story, which feels like a bit of a waste, all things considered.

Verdict:  A good story which does suffer sometimes with pacing and being a bit too straight forward.  6/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Michael Robbins (Richard Mace), Peter Van Dissel (Android), John Savident (The Squire), Anthony Calf (Charles), John Baker (Ralph), Valerie Fyfer (Elizabeth), Richard Hampton (Villager), James Charlton (Miller), Michael Melia (Terileptil), Neil West (Poacher), Eric Dodson (Headman)

Writer: Eric Saward

Director: Peter Moffatt

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This story marks the last appearance of the sonic screwdriver until the TV Movie.  John Nathan-Turner wished to get rid of it as it allowed the Doctor to escape difficult situations too easily.  Eric Saward originally intended for the Doctor to replace it at the end of the story.
  • First contribution to Doctor Who by Eric Saward, coming prior to his promotion to script editor.
  • This serial had very high ratings – it is one of the few serial stories to improve ratings episode on episode.  The final episode is one of only five episodes produced in the JNT era to achieve viewing figures of more than 10 million.  It was also one of only four times in this era that an episode broke into the top forty most-viewed programmes of the week.

Best Moment

I quite like the ending of Part Four, showing the Doctor’s actions in stopping the Terileptil plot causing the Fire of London.

Best Quote

Where is this Doctor from?

He’s never told us.  He likes to be mysterious, although he talks a lot about…er, Guildford.  I think that’s where he comes from.

You’re being a very stupid woman.

That isn’t a very original observation.

Terileptil and Tegan Jovanka

Listen

Clara Doctor

Question: why do we talk out loud when we know we’re alone? Conjecture: because we know we’re not. Evolution perfects survival skills. There are perfect hunters. There is perfect defense. Question: why is there no such thing as perfect hiding? Answer: how would you know? Logically, if evolution were to perfect a creature whose primary skill were to hide from view, how could you know it existed? It could be with us every second and we would never know. How would you detect it? Even sense it? Except in those moments when for no clear reason, you choose to speak aloud. What would such a creature want? What would it do? {yelling into the empty TARDIS} Well? What would you do!?

The Twelfth Doctor

Synopsis

Are we ever really alone?  The Doctor finds himself delving into questions of the past and future to find the answer to this question.

Review

Listen does something remarkably different with Doctor Who giving us an episode with no real definitive conclusions.  The story instead explores the Doctor’s psychology and background, with us seeing a sequence towards the end of the episode with Clara and the youngest First Doctor appearance we see on screen.  I really love Listen, and what it tells us about the Doctor.

Doctor cubed.jpg

Steven Moffat’s script is really superb, full of humour, scary moments and real character development for this new Doctor.  The premise of the story is another one of Moffat’s terrors that lurk in the banal things, like the statues and the dust in sunbeams, but the difference here is that we don’t get definitive answers about whether the creature even exists.  In fact, the existence of the creature is really irrelevant.  Moffat takes precedent from episodes that have come before, most notably MidnightThe Eleventh HourHide and Utopia but develops them beautifully into something that delves into the Doctor’s backstory, and there are perfectly rational explanations for all of the events that we see.  My particular favourite is the Doctor taking the caretaker’s coffee cup, but I like the uncertainty about whether or not there was actually a creature on Rupert’s bed.  Personally for me, that is an alien under the sheet, but I can see it either way.  We also have a rather bold decision to show a slither of the Doctor’s childhood in the closing sequence, but it actually helps to tie the narrative relating to the Doctor’s lonely childhood together, which had been hinted at through the revived series – mostly, it has to be said, in Moffat’s stories.  I still remember the feeling of shock of being Gallifrey with no pomp or ceremony really, which is something I really like about this story.  Finally, Moffat’s story seems to be fundamentally saying that it is alright to be afraid, as even the Doctor is afraid sometimes.  Later on in Capaldi’s run, he says that he left Gallifrey because he was scared, and this story certainly gives this account credence.  Boredom, the previously accepted reason, also works perfectly with the idea that he was afraid, as the two can sometimes feel similar.

Doctor Clara Orson

Mackinnon’s direction is superb and feels really off-kilter at times, putting the audience on the edge of their seats, despite the fact that there is no monster for the TARDIS team to face.  The scenes in the care home feel really creepy and escalate the rising sense of tension.  In a way, this feels quite similar to Day of the Moon, with the Silence running the care home in America.  His direction of the restaurant scenes is also great, especially when the spacesuited Orson Pink appears in the corner of the restaurant that Danny and Clara are eating in.  The scene in Orson’s spaceship are probably the most visually striking of the entire episode, and really help to keep the tension and belief that there is something outside the capsule trying to get in.  His subtle direction of the scene in Rupert Pink’s direction really helps with the general tone of the story, with the only look we get at whatever is on the bed being obscured, and the shots when it is covered by the blanket seeming really creepy.

Performance-wise, we get a great performance by Capaldi.  That opening monologue in the cold open is beautifully performed and well shot by Douglas Mackinnon.  He handles the humour deftly as well, and he does certainly convey a sense of alienness that makes Matt Smith look normal.  He seems to really get what Moffat wants to do with this incarnation of the Doctor, and although he may seem mean and uncaring, he still retains that Doctor-ish twinkle.  This incarnation of the Doctor seems unwilling to let things lie and is much more inquisitive about the mysteries of the universe.  There is a real feeling in this story that this version of the Doctor wants to know everything, and Capaldi encapsulates this perfectly.The scenes between Danny and Clara in the restaurant are utterly believable and I found them to be quite reminiscent of Coupling, which Steven Moffat also wrote.  The argument scenes are really well played by both Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson, and the fight actually feels believable.  I think we’ve all been in situations where we have put our foot in our moves and as the audience, we cringe as Clara mentions the name of Rupert Pink.  We have a small but perfectly formed cast here, which is quite nice and they all do play their part to bring Moffat’s script to life.

Listen. This is just a dream. But very clever people can hear dreams. So please just listen. I know you’re afraid, but being afraid is all right. Because didn’t anybody ever tell you? Fear is a superpower. Fear can make you faster, and cleverer, and stronger. And one day, you’re gonna come back to this barn, and on that day, you’re going to be very afraid indeed. But that’s okay. Because if you’re very wise and very strong, fear doesn’t have to make you cruel or cowardly. Fear can make you kind. … It doesn’t matter if there’s nothing under the bed, or in the dark, so long as you know it’s okay to be afraid of it. So listen. If you listen to nothing else, listen to this: you’re always going to be afraid, even if you learn to hide it. Fear is like… a companion. A constant companion, always there. But that’s okay. Because fear can bring us together. Fear can bring you home. I’m gonna leave you something just so you’ll always remember. Fear makes companions of us all.

Clara Oswald

Verdict: Listen is a great exploration of a new Doctor’s personality, and of the Doctor in general.  It retains a sense of eeriness and creepiness, despite the lack of a real threat and the small cast are perfect. 10/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink/Orson Pink), Remi Gooding (Rupert Pink), Robert Goodman (Reg), Kiran Shah (Figure)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Douglas Mackinnon

Orson Pink

Behind the Scenes

  • Listen marks the first non-archival appearance of the First Doctor since The Five Doctors, and the first time we see the Doctor as a child.
  • Steven Moffat wrote a short story in 2007 called Corner of the Eye, which featured monsters called Floofs, who had the super-ability to hide.

Best Moment

When the Doctor is revealed to have stolen Reg’s coffee.

Best Quote

Where is he?

Doctor?

I can’t find him.  Can you find him?

Find who?

Wally.

Wally?

He’s nowhere in this book.

It’s not a Where’s Wally one.

Well, how would you know?  Maybe you just haven’t found him yet.

He’s not in every book.

Really?  Well that’s a few years of my life I’ll be needing back.

The Twelfth Doctor, Clara Oswald and Rupert Pink

 

Genesis of the Daleks

The Doctor Davros Genesis

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!

Davros

Synopsis

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.

Review

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.

Sarah Harry Doctor Genesis

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.

nyder and davros

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.

Nyder and 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

Parts: 6

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.

Best Moment

There are so many to count, but I will mention again the opening sequence when the Doctor arrives in the battlefield.

Best Quote

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

Honourable mention

Excuse me, can you help me?  I’m a spy!

The Fourth Doctor

excuse me