Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "Genesis Of The Daleks"

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by David Maloney

The Doctor (to High Council): “Now undoubtedly, Davros has one of the finest scientific minds in existence. But he has a fanatical desire to perpetuate himself and his machines. He works without conscience, without soul, without pity and his machines are equally devoid of this quality.”

Now in the 26 seasons of the original series, there are many stories that are both legendary and important to the show and this one that is both. For the past 11 years The Doctor has had to face off the Daleks when he wasn’t battling other nasties but now in the series’ twelfth season, it was high time we got an answer as to where those intolerant creatures came from.

Getting transported to Skaro by a random Time Lord, The Doctor is given a challenge he’s only too willing to accept – he can either prevent the rise of the Daleks or rehabilitate them. Given that the Daleks are incapable of responding to any form of reason; it was fair to assume that wiping them out would be the best option.

Of course The Doctor also happened to land on Skaro in the middle of an ongoing war between the Kaleds and the Thals and with Sarah Jane, Harry and only a Time Ring as insurance, this was always going to be a hard challenge. Hell even in the first few minutes The Doctor had the fear of a landmine blowing him to kingdom come.

Usually with a lot of serials, especially the big ones you have to go through a good phase where The Doctor gets separated from his companions. Going into a bunker, The Doctor and Harry get captured by Kaled soldiers but Sarah Jane is left behind, which isn’t really that great for her either.

Instead she winds up being captured first by a set of Mutos and then by the Thals. The treatment she receives on the latter end is particularly unpleasant as she’s forced to risk her life loading a rocket with distronic explosion which also meant being affected with distronic toxaemia as well.

Luckily Sarah comes to her senses and decides that she’s got a better chance trying to escape than waiting to die under Thal supervision. Unfortunately both she and the Muto Sevren’s attempts to escape aren’t all that successful and there’s a sinister moment where a Thal tries to make an example of Sarah by dangling her.

I’m not too scared of heights but watching that scene is definitely enough to give anyone vertigo. As serials go this one is pretty good for Sarah Jane, even if she spends half of it away from The Doctor and Harry. However even when she does reunite with them, her life is still in danger.

Then there’s The Doctor and Harry themselves. Tom Baker and Ian Marter make for a good double act and the lads spend most of their time trying to figure out what’s going with the Kaled and Thals’ ongoing way. The interesting thing about this serial is that we see viciousness on both fronts.

We’ve already seen the Thals savage treatment of Sarah Jane, Sevren and other prisoners but with the Kaleds, you do have Ravon who only appears in two parts. In part one he’s a surly so and so that is quickly irritated by The Doctor’s insolence but in the third part, he’s siding with The Doctor. Even then he’s still a bit of a moron to be honest.

Of course imprisonment is bad on all fronts but here both The Doctor and Harry make a few attempts to escape. Their first attempt doesn’t succeed and soon enough, The Doctor finds his Time Ring taken away from but at least not all of the people in the bunker are evil personified. The Doctor soon learns that they are both people he can trust and those he seriously can’t.

With the people he can trust, there’s Ronson a scientist who feels that the work they have been doing with the Mark 3 Travel Machine has become corrupted. This Machine to us is a Dalek and in this episode we get to see it as embryos up to the very moment where it kills independently and ruthlessly.

Ronson’s initially sceptical of The Doctor’s inside knowledge of the destruction that the Daleks are capable of but soon enough he realises that The Doctor is right and tries to give him as much information as possible. He even helps both The Doctor and Harry escape successfully as well prior to them rescuing Sarah Jane.

The other person worthy of trust is Gharman. He falls into the military side of things but like Ronson, he originally believed that the Daleks were supposed to be a source of good and has become disgusted with the way that Davros has corrupted his own creations.

His attempts of rebelling at against Davros has him imprisoned but even when free both Davros and the Daleks manage to stop him from trying to change history with the attitudes of the homicidal creatures. Both Gharman and Ronson ended up dying at the hands of the very creatures they were trying to stop in this episode.

Now that we’ve discussed the good guys in this place, there’s also the very bad apples in both Davros and Nyder. The former is the very man we can hold responsible for the Daleks and the latter is his very devoted right hand man. In fact, they are both as ruthlessly evil as the other.

While Davros might be happy to slaughter millions of lives in order to allow his creatures to advance, Nyder is only perfectly happy to serve. There is never a moment in the six episodes where Nyder argues with Davros about morality. He makes no protests when Davros admits that he wants the Daleks to be devoid of any emotions.

The only time that Nyder comes to arguing with Davros is on strategy. There are times when Nyder thinks that Davros is surrendering, both to the High Council and to the resistance group that Gharman forms. On the latter occasion, it’s revealed that Davros just wanted to weed out the traitors from the devotees and have the Daleks kill anyone who challenged him.

As actors go, Michael Wisher is an excellent choice for the role of Davros. Given that we haven’t had The Master in about two seasons, The Doctor seriously needed a mirror threat. In some ways, the path Davros has taken is one that without positive influences in his life, The Doctor could’ve taken as well.

Even after he tortures Sarah Jane and Harry to get information from The Doctor on every defeat the Daleks have encountered, Davros is impressed by the Time Lord. Intellectually, Davros is the closest to an equal that The Doctor has had since The Master and he’s even more ruthless to boot.

In one of the most memorable and captivating scenes ever written on this show, The Doctor poses a very simple question. If you had a virus and you knew it could kill on contact, would you use it? Most of us would say no to that question but with Davros, he swings the opposite way.

It’s not just the fact that he would use this little virus that’s chilling but it’s his response that really struck a nerve. The pure and utter glee that he exhibited when responding to that question is absolutely shocking. I know this is his first serial but damn, that scene absolutely floored. This guy really is that evil to the core.

As scientists go, Davros’ evilness really hits the roof. To get back at the council for trying to delay his work, he gives the Thals a formula that could penetrate the dome protecting the Kaleds. However he also sends a few of his Daleks over to wipe out the Thals so to be fair, Davros really is cool with wiping out everyone.

The Doctor makes a few attempts to get Davros to stop what he’s doing but neither reasoning nor threatening to turn off his life support does that much good. The fact that Davros is a mutated person, with a third eye and a Dalek base is perfect for the man who created the killing race.

Another sensational moment in this entire serial is when The Doctor has the opportunity himself to kill the Daleks. He’s all primed and ready to do it but backs out when he thinks that killing them would make them as bad as they are. Here I actually sided with Sarah Jane. I don’t condone genocide but Sarah alluding to the Daleks as a deadly virus would’ve convinced me in wiping them out.

However The Doctor faltered and in the end he was unable what either Davros or the Daleks would do to him if they had half the chance. However raising this moral dilemma was a good aspect. This serial did feel like both options were being covered quite convincingly.

Besides Davros got to learn a very harsh lesson anyway. He might have been successful in killing a few oppressors and obtaining some information to advance his creations but none of that compared to the fact that as an inventor, he really should’ve came up with a Plan B.

If you’re going to create a genocidal race then the least you can do is ensure that this race is totally loyal to you. Davros made the mistake in giving them independent thought. By doing that, the Daleks had no qualms in killing the very scientists that could’ve helped as well as Nyder who the closest thing that Davros had to a friend.

As for Davros he also got his just desserts by being slaughtered by a few Daleks himself. However with a villain as effective as this, there’s no way that Davros could actually be dead. After all it doesn’t matter how many Daleks we’ve seen killed, we’re never really rid of them. Davros should be the same.

The Doctor might have failed in his mission but at least him, Sarah Jane and Harry get to leave the war torn Skaro behind them. Given that this is their fourth adventure as a team, it’s easily their best one yet.

Also in “Genesis Of The Daleks”

I have to admit that the darkness really set in early with the soldiers dying at the start of the serial.

General Ravon: “I enjoy interrogation.”
The Doctor: “Yes you look the type.”

This is David Tennant’s favourite serial from the old series. It’s also known now that he’ll be sharing scenes with Davros himself in the Season Four finale of the new series.

Nyder: “And Davros is never wrong about anything.”
The Doctor: “Then he must be exceptional: even I'm occasionally wrong about some things.”

Harry (re Kaleds): “That should keep them tied up for weeks.”
The Doctor: “Yes. I learned more from them than they did from me.”

This serial’s allusions to Nazism weren’t particularly subtle. Davros was a glorified Hitler in the making and The Doctor even alluded to Hitler when he couldn’t kill the Daleks.

Nyder: “What action shall I take against Ronson?”
Davros: “For the moment none. I shall deal with him in my own way.”

Nyder (re Thals): “You think they believed you?”
Davros: “It is unimportant. They are hungry for victory. No matter what they think my motives are, they will use this information and when they do. When they do.”

The Doctor at one point used a Dalek gun to destroy the recordings that Davros and Nyder took. Why didn’t he use the gun to open the door as well when him, Sarah Jane and Harry were locked in?

Harry: “You’re not scared are you?”
Sarah Jane: “Course not.”
Harry: “I am.”

The Doctor: “Davros if I tell you what you want to know I betray millions of people in the future. I can’t do that.”
Davros: “But you can. You will tell me. You will tell me.”

Some of Davros’ earlier experiments involved animals and even a clam like creature. The joke about Harry always putting his foot in it was a nice touch. Harry’s bumbling raises a smile.

The Doctor: “Davros, if you had created a virus in your laboratory. Something contagious and infectious that killed on contact. A virus that would destroy all other forms of life... would you allow its use?”
Davros: “It is an interesting conjecture.”
The Doctor: “Would you do it?”
Davros: “The only living thing... the microscopic organism... reigning supreme... A fascinating idea.”

The Doctor: “But would you do it?”
Davros: “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 above the gods. And through the Daleks I shall have that power!”

Michael Wisher who played Davros had an interesting technique involving a paper bag to help him get into the role as well as he did.

Nyder: “You know what you’re saying?”
Davros: “I know precisely what I’m saying. Now I will command and you will obey. You will obey.”

Davros (to Nyder, re Gharman’s group): “Achievement comes through absolute power and power through strength. They have lost.”

The Doctor mentioned the events of “The Dalek Invasion Of Earth” during his interrogation with Davros. Makes you wonder if Davros should get his own earth based story.

The Doctor: “I just touch these two strands together and the Daleks are finished. Have I that right?”
Sarah Jane: “To destroy the Daleks? You can’t doubt it.”

Nyder: “Davros has lost. I’m getting away as fast as I can.”
The Doctor: “Oh now that doesn’t ring true.”

This is one of the very few serials where we don’t actually see the TARDIS. We don’t even see The Doctor, Sarah Jane or Harry get into at the end.

Davros: “Those were scientists. They could’ve helped you. For God’s sake, have pity.”
Davros: “Daleks do not understand pity. Exterminate.”

Dalek: “We are entombed, but we live on. This is only the beginning… When the time is right we will emerge and take our rightful place as the supreme power of the Universe.”

This was released in June 2006 but also packaged with every other Davros story in November 2007 as a box set. There’s a brilliant commentary from Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Peter Miles and David Maloney but the behind the scenes extras are unmissable.

I think without a doubt this might be my favourite serial. “Genesis Of The Daleks” was brilliant in finally giving us an origin story on the dangerous pepper pots as aside from the Daleks, Cybermen and The Master, Davros is The Doctor’s biggest threat on the series so it’s no wonder that a new generation will get to meet him soon. This serial shows why he’s made such an impact.

Rating: 10 out of 10.


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