Monday 19 December 2011

392 Genesis of the Daleks Part One

EPISODE: Genesis of the Daleks Part One
TRANSMITTED: 08 March 1975
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: David Maloney
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Genesis of the Daleks

On a battlefield gas masked soldiers are mown down in a hail of bullets. The Doctor steps out of mist who meets with a Time Lord who has intercepted his transmat beam. They have a mission for the Doctor: he is to go to Skaro towards the end of the Thal Kaled war and attempt to avert the creation of the Daleks, affect their development or learn of some weakness. He is given a time ring to return him to Nerva Beacon and the Tardis and sent to Skaro with Sarah & Harry. After finding bodies on the battlefield, and narrowly escaping a minefield they are caught in a gas attack surviving only by stealing gas masks from bodies. The Doctor & Harry are captured by Kaleds but Sarah is left for dead. The Doctor & Harry are interrogated by General Ravon and attempt to escape but are swiftly recaptured by Security Commander Nyder & his men. A recovered Sarah wanders through wasteland and stumbles across a secret test. A man, confined to a sophisticated wheelchair & life support system is identified by his colleague as Davros, the Kaleds' chief scientist. They activate a machine hidden in shadow which Sarah recognises..... a Dalek. They test it's weapon system by ordering it to "Exterminate" causing it to open fire on a series of targets. Davros is pleased and tells his colleague "now we can begin".

Haven't done that for a while (Spearhead from Space 1 I think): that was written without needing to see the episode again, it's so etched on my memory. For many people this will be THE Doctor Who story it's been repeated so often. And quite rightly so! Familiarity may have bred contempt amongst fans but this is something special. From it's wonderfully atmospheric beginning through it's war zone locations, filmed at Betchworth Quarry in Surrey, it's Nazi like Kaleds - Nyder's even wearing an Iron Cross in this episode - and the final scene where we meet Davros, a man confined to a Dalek base like wheelchair & life support system and see the prototype Dalek unveiled, missing it's sucker arm but armed with a gun and, we presume, using it for the first time this is a fabulous episode. There's some nice title touches in it too, especially the Doctor's turning his pockets out. Significantly this is the first time we see a Dalek gun fire a ray from it's end. Previously we've just had a negative effect over the thing being exterminated.

One actor appears in this episode alone: John Frankly-Robbins plays the Time Lord (later named as Ferrain in the New Adventures novels). He was also in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Macias in Pre-emptive Strike the penultimate episode of the series, The Dean in the TV Adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather and Atticus in the eight episode of I, Claudius: Reign of Terror.

Genesis of the Daleks is, as the name implies, an origin story for the Daleks. We know the bare bones of the story anyway from the first Dalek story: The Thals were engaged in a nuclear war with the ancestors of the Daleks. Here we find that the conflict has been continuing for years and both sides are reduced in strength and technology with genetic mutations appearing which get exiled into the wastelands. There's been two attempts at doing a Dalek origin story before: one in the TV Century 21 Dalek comic strip (credited to Terry Nation, but believed to be written by David Whitaker and another in The Radio Times, but this the first attempt to do so on screen. Nation's first attempt at a Dalek story for this season had been rejected by outgoing script editor Terrance Dicks and producer Barry Letts for being too derivative of his earlier stories and it was they who suggested the Dalek origin as a replacement. What we get out is a much darker story than recent Nation Dalek scripts....

You have to consider the enormity of what the Time Lords have asked the Doctor to do: averting the creation of the Daleks would be a massive shift to the time stream and seams contrary to the Time Lords' insistence that history could not be changed. If you remove the Daleks then the Doctor's personal Time Line would be substantially altered. This isn't a little tweak here and there, this is major surgery. You have to wonder if they *knew* that the Doctor couldn't possibly succeed but had discovered somehow that he'd been there and so sent him on the mission just to fulfil the demands of history.

1 comment:

  1. The scariest bit in the episode for me as a child was when the Doctor steps on the land mine. In fact, it's the human violence in this story that was always far more terrifying than the Daleks (or clams). Another moment that jumps out is the escape attempt on the Thal missile's scaffolding later on in the story.