Sunday, November 6, 2011

Doctor Who S12 Ep78: Genesis Of The Daleks

"Exterminate! Exterminate!" -The Daleks-

"One of the most enduring concepts of science fiction. A timeless evil. " -The Dalek Tapes [Genesis Of The Daleks]-

"Have I The Right?" -Doctor Who-

Doctor Who's Genesis Of The Daleks is easily remembered as one of the strongest entries in Doctor Who history. Some circles certainly champion this entry as one of the greatest. Heck, Doctor Who Magazine's The Mighty 200! clocks it in at #3 as one of the all-time best. I would defer to other installments within Tom Baker's reign as the Fourth Doctor as better-paced, far superior options.

Doctor Who, Season Twelve, Episode 78, Genesis Of The Daleks does highlight one of Doctor Who's most iconic villains in the Daleks, along with perhaps the Cybermen, and their distinguished creator Davros.

You cannot discount the impact the episode had on the Doctor Who mythology or discard the influence of late writer Terry Nation [See Writer footnote]. Nation was influential in creating one of the most feared villains in the Doctor Who universe.

The story takes our dear heroes on a journey back in time. Following the events of Episode 77, The Sontaran Experiment, which linked from the events of Episode 76, The Ark In Space, Doctor Who and company [Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan] attempt to take the transmat beam from the Earth's surface back to space station NERVA. A funny thing happens on the way to the station. The Time Lords intercept the beam and send the trio of heroes to the planet Skaro, home of the Daleks, at a time before the Daleks have evolved. Before returning to the Tardis, Doctor Who is tasked with a mission to alter the course of evolutionary history. The good doctor must go back to the beginning, to the origin of a species, to creation before the Daleks achieved their reign of terror. Will the good Doctor alter history? Time will tell. It's always about time.

PART ONE: A lone Time Lord interrupts the transmat beam and informs the Doctor he has seen the future, a time when Daleks dominate the universe and are the dominant species. The Time Lord has pinpointed the exact time and location to send Doctor Who before the evolution of the Daleks. The Doctor must go back in time to either destroy the Daleks or affect their genetic development. The Doctor is informed that he has been sent to Skaro, the very home of the Daleks. The Time Lord hands the Doctor a Time Ring. It is not to be lost and it is his lifeline to return home to the Tardis upon completing the mission. The Time Lord disappears.

Gun fire and missile strikes surround Harry, Sarah and the Doctor. Civilization is at "the point of collapse." The trio stumbles upon a giant dome. Dead soldiers line the trenches surrounding the dome. A war has been raging between The Thals and The Kaleds [an anagram for Daleks]. Harry and the Doctor are taken inside the dome and referred to by The Kaleds as Mutos of the wasteland. Sarah is left behind and would proceed to have a limited role here.

Deep within the Kaled dome the Doctor and Harry commandeer their position overtaking their captors. The Kaleds are a militaristic and authoritarian regime, like Nazis hell bent on exterminating the Thals.

Sarah, too, is on the run from a clothed creature - the Mutos. The Doctor and Harry are recaptured. They learn of the leader of Kaled scientific research, Davros. The Doctor asks about the Mutos. "Mutos are the scarred relics of ourselves, monsters created by the chemical weapons used in the first century of this war. They were banished into the wastelands... Imperfects are rejected."

Meanwhile, Sarah Jane is pursued by a Mutos. She spots Davros commanding a Dalek to destroy issuing the immortal, classic command line of "Exterminate!" "The weaponry is perfect. Now we can begin."

PART TWO: Sarah is abducted by the Mutos. While, this is pretty classic Tom Baker.

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It's funny, but this is precisely the kind of humor we had come to expect from Tom Baker and it was moments likes this one we thrived upon in our youth. There was a way about Baker. He had the ability to diffuse the fear and worry we had as children with humor. He was fearless and seemingly unflustered as he stared down the most vile and wicked of enemies. He seemingly laughed in the face of death and the most frightening of creatures and that placed us in a comfort zone within hostile territory. This was precisely Baker's gift.

The Time Ring, the Doctor and company's lifeline home, is removed. Elsewhere, the beautiful Sarah Jane is considered a Norm by the Mutos. Norms are the enemies and it is the law they be killed. One Muto, Sevrin, refuses to let her die, because she has beauty. Well, he has good sense. Soldiers fire then spot Sarah and the other Muto.

Back inside the installation, Harry and the Doctor are taken to a science division of the Kaleds. The Doctor goes toe to toe with a scientist of the Elite Scientific Corps on Skaro. Davros enters the room. He arrives to discuss the Mach III Project. A Dalek is presented to the group. The scientist indicates Davros has perfected voice control over the Daleks. The Dalek motions toward the Doctor and Harry. The scientist intervenes and grabs the control on Davros' chair device turning off the Dalek. Davros will punish the scientist for insubordination. The Doctor and Harry are imprisoned.

Meanwhile, Sarah is inside an underground facility. One of the captured Kaleds informs Sarah and the Muto that the Thals have built a rocket. Sarah is employed as a slave to work on the rocket. The story concept certainly reminisces of much later, not necessarily more successful, larger-budgeted tales like Stargate SG-1's Beneath The Surface from Season Four.

Elsewhere, the Doctor discovers the Kaleds have developed a powerful elite thinktank.

The scientist visits the Doctor and is astonished the Doctor is familiar with the Dalek name when only recently it had been determined that the Mach III Travel Machine would be dubbed a Dalek. The Doctor informs him he is from the future and has returned to the past to address the Dalek event. The scientist confides in the Doctor that many are concerned about Davros.

Chemical weapons have been creating mutations and the Dalek is considered the "ultimate creature." My Boy Wonder is less than enthused about the possibilities following the bubblewrap effects utilized in The Ark In Space. In the end, we glimpse a room with green light and a monster growl. No physical creature is displayed. The Boy Wonder exits the room. Now see, as a kid, I never left Doctor Who viewings. How things have changed. How perceptions have changed. How expectations have changed.

Inside the rocket base, Sarah Jane plots her escape with others. They'd rather die than rot away from Distronic Toximia, a lethal substance for the rocket. It certainly sounds awful enough.

Back at the Kaled dome, the scientist is desperate to shut down the bunker and stop the monsters that Davros is creating. The scientist the Doctor a list of people he should contact. They move down some shafts narrowly escaping one of "Davros' pets."

Elsewhere, Sarah escapes toward the surface while others are shot. Sarah falls and the cliffhanger music begins. How the heck did she fall?

PART THREE: Sarah is recaptured. The Doctor and Harry sneak about a cave when Harry's leg is suddenly swallowed up by a cave clam. Yes, honest to God, a cave clam. The Doctor attempts to pry open the clam with a Styrofoam rock. A stalactite wedges the clam's mouth open and Harry breaks free. The adventures of Doctor Who indeed as this has really nothing to do with moving the story forward. Inside the Kaled dome Davros demands the Daleks continue to be modified for superiority.

Could you believe the crazy-eyed Tom Baker? Would you?

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Nyder reports to Davros about the gathering of a splinter faction opposed to Davros' work. He asks Davros if scientist Ronson should be executed, but Davros will handle "in my own way." That's never good.

Meanwhile, the Doctor awaits the Council's decision following his speech. One of the soldiers notes it was an impressive speech and the Doctor admits with some self-satisfaction, "yes it was meant to be." The Doctor is informed the councilors will not halt experimentation in the bunker by Davros until an independent tribunal investigation convenes and concludes. Davros' work will be "suspended" pending the investigation of the prototypes.

Harry suggests they find Sarah. Sarah has been spotted working on the final remaining Thal rocket prepared for launch against the Kaled dome. The soldier is a bit of an impassioned zealot spouting out Kaled's impenetrable defense information as designed by Davros with some vigor. He notes a dome "substance" similar to 30 foot thick reinforced concrete. Hmmm, that's pretty thick.

Davros deceptively welcomes the inquiry into his experiments following his notification. The tribunal will arrive in twelve hours. Davros complies knowing it will merely uncover his loyalty to the Kaled people. This is Davros actual, heartfelt response.

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Ah yes, twenty unstable "genetically conditioned creatures." This kind of eerie science fiction speak was enough to keep me glued to the telly. The sinister Davros was a frighteningly diabolical thing and we were in a trance by his every motivation. "We and the Daleks will go on."

The Doctor and Harry stumble upon the backdoor dealing, double agent that is Davros working with Thal agents to bring down Kaled. Davros knows the Kaled people will destroy the Thals anyway. Davros is the master manipulator scoffing at the notion of a rocket even scratching his dome. So Davros gives the Thals the formula necessary for conventional firepower to weaken the dome. The Thals simply can't understand why Davros would "exterminate" his own people. These are good questions. These are important questions. One can only hope the Thals are not entirely gullible. Davros insists he wants only peace and wishes to rebuild when the war is over. Davros is an evil snake. He is playing on Thal fears and their bloodlust. The Doctor and Harry overhear the clandestine nature of the entire plan.

The Doctor and Harry must warn the Kaled leaders, but first they save Sarah. The Doctor plans to sabotage the rocket while Harry saves Sarah. Down the secret tunnels goes Harry and Sarah.

In the final moments the Doctor is electrified and the cliffhanger arrives in positively ridiculous fashion. To be brutally honest, Genesis Of The Daleks in its first three installments simply doesn't hold up and is actually quite laughable in parts. Not even the slightest glimpse of Sarah is enough to save Part Three and Elisabeth Sladen is hardly in this portion at all.

PART FOUR: The Doctor is captured by the Thals. The Kaled know they were betrayed, but by who as Davros looks on. Davros will witness the total extermination of a people - his people. The rocket is launched by the Thals. Davros plans retaliation and activates the Daleks. Ronson is dubbed traitor and EXTERMINATED! You have to scream it like Davros to get the full effect. "Exterminate! Exterminate!" Davros forsees the rise of the "ultimate conqueror of the universe- the Dalek!"

The Thals prepare their celebration and issue an edict that all prisoners be released. A somber Doctor, believing his friends wiped out, hopes to complete his mission.

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Elsewhere, Davros issues orders to continue modifying his Daleks. They will operate without conscience, without a compass for right or wrong and without pity. Davros plans a race of creatures without feeling or compassion. Davros sends the Daleks into Thal, a place drunk with victory. The EXTERMINATION begins. Any survivors must escape to the Wastelands.

Davros' "glorious project" is under way. Kaled burns. The Thals die. Tom Baker's Doctor was the best at slinking about. He was always slinking around. He was a very good slinker. The Doctor escapes urging Thal survivors to merge forces with the Mutos in the Wastelands to rebel against Davros. Destroying Davros is the only hope of stopping the Daleks. The Doctor rejoins Harry and Sarah in the Wastelands. Development of the Daleks continues in the bunker by the Kaled. One of the Kaled soldiers, Gharman, speaks with a scientist urging that Davros must be stopped, but the scientist is fearful given Ronson's fate. Gharman knows the scientific core must work together to halt Davros' "monstrous, ... evil and amoral" plans. Davros' right-hand man, Nyder, overhears the plan of mutiny.

The Doctor urges Sevrin, of the Mutos, to join forces with Bettan, the Thal woman, to organize a resistance force against the Daleks.

Nyder approaches Gharman expressing concern over Davros' growing megalomania. Will it be a doublecross?

The Doctor, Harry and Sarah seek out the ventilation duct to gain entrance back into the bunker [again!], but run into some of those hilarious killer clams. Sarah exclaims, "I'll never eat oysters again." That's a classic just like Elisabeth Sladen. This is a funny exchange between Baker and Sladen. I hope you can hear it.

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If the Doctor was a great slinker, Sarah was a terrific tunnel crawler. She crawled tunnels with the best of them. Note The Ark In Space. She was cute as a button that Elisabeth Sladen.

In the lower levels Gharman meets with Nyder. They agree the Daleks must have their consciences restored. They must have a moral compass. Davros must comply with the essence of what makes us human. Sadly, Nyder has lured Gharman into a trap. Like Davros, Nyder has betrayed his own people. Gharman is knocked unconscious.

Harry, Sarah and The Doctor are greeted by Nyder and Davros at the end of the air shaft. "You were right Sarah about their being something nasty waiting for us" retorts the Doctor. They are captured [again!] and interrogated. Davros inquires why the Doctor has come to Skaros in perhaps one of the best scripted moments of the series to date.

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This was the epitome of Doctor Who to me as a child. It was a moment like this one that lured me in as a child and frightened me half out of my mind. I was forever addicted to Doctor Who as a result of scenes like this. Davros understands the Doctor has a conscience and believes he will ultimately obtain the answer to the Daleks' future.

Elsewhere, the Thals and Mutos prepare their attack on the bunker.

Sarah and Harry are hooked up to torture devices so Davros may extract answers from the Doctor. If the Doctor lies, his friends will "suffer." Davros wants "every Dalek defeat" so that he may modify them and alter their future making them stronger. The Doctor cannot tell him without betraying the future. Davros implores in typical freak out style, "You will tell me. YOU WILL TELL ME!"

This is undeniably the best of the four parts to this point, but the build to get here is long-winded at best. To this point, Genesis Of The Daleks suffers under the weight of its own length. Still, things begin turning around with Part Four. The creative team really does a nice job of creating a sense of place within this particular part. If The Ark In Space was a true highlight of set design in creating a sense of place, Genesis Of The Daleks offers a dark vibe for Skaros and fleshes out greater existential questions and our right to interfere or cast judgment on existence.

Davros continues manipulating the Doctor's good conscience - something omitted from the Daleks' existence.

PART FIVE: The Doctor hands over vital information to Davros to free his friends. Davros and the Doctor communicate as men of science. Davros revels, "You have changed the future of the universe Doctor." The Doctor recoils in disgust, "I have betrayed the future." The Doctor attempts to somehow convince Davros the creatures he has created are "totally evil." Davros spins the nurture argument. The Daleks are "conditioned simply to survive." Davros is eager to see the Daleks become "the supreme rulers of the universe" as the "dominant species." Wars will end and peace will come.

The Doctor asks a telling question of Davros. It recalls the kind of evil and madness that prompted Alfred to suggest in the The Dark Knight that "some men just want to watch the world burn." Davros is mad like The Joker and wants the universe at his feet. It is in this moment, if ever there was a moment, when the Doctor becomes certain of Davros' intentions to be the designs of a literally mad scientist. Life in the palm of his hand is but a mere play thing.

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The Doctor is able to get close enough to grab Davros' partially para-plegic hand and disengage his life support for but a moment. The Doctor demands that Davros order the destruction of the Daleks or he will turn off his life support forever. Davros orders all Daleks in the incubation facility to be destroyed.

Davros executes the order. Nyder suspects something is wrong and knocks the Doctor unconscious. Davros rescinds the order to destroy the Daleks. The scene is a bit of poppycock. How would the Doctor ever be allowed that close to Davros' life support. It's not logical or likely.

Nyder informs Davros that the Scientific core and members of the military are actively speaking against him. Anti-Davros sentiment is on the rise. Nyder offers to quash the rebellion. Davros supresses the thinking of the military mind speaking as man of science. Excuse me, make that MAD man of science. Instead of military might, Davros will implement technological and scientific strength to level his enemy.

The Dalek units are recalled back to the bunker. Meanwhile, the Doctor is returned to detention where Harry, Sarah and Gharman have escaped.

The Doctor, Sarah and Harry work to get the tape recording back or the Daleks will become invincible.

Gharman is informed the revolution is fully backing them and they are winning. Elsewhere, Nyder has nine "crack men" on stand by, but Davros shows little interest in fighting back. Davros wants Nyder to surrender. "YOU WILL DO AS I ORDER!" Only Davros can yell and make militant sound creepy too. Davros wants the adversary to think one thing, while he has another thing planned entirely.

While The Doctor, Harry and Sarah plan to detonate the incubation room with explosives.

Davros meets with Gharman and the others who represent the Elite Scientific Core and much of the military. Gharman explains that his group made efforts to create a Dalek, a life supporting travel machine for the "creature we know our race will ultimately evolve into." That's weird stuff. Why would you evolve into that thing? Gharman submits that Davros has perverted the process creating a creature that is a "ruthless power for evil." Gharman requires Davros' work on the Daleks cease and the Daleks be destroyed. As a result of these terms the scientists would work with Davros once again. What!? Seriously? Shouldn't you reconsider the third condition? Have you seen this guy? He's a nut. Time to cut your losses Gharman or you'll all end up dead.

Davros considers his options. The Doctor lays down wire to destroy the incubation facility where the fleshy bits of Dalek reside. Our imaginations run wild about the little critters without actually seeing them.

Davros agrees to the terms with one condition: He has the chance to speak with the group for a vote. Who is in charge here? Davros, clearly the losing party, still appears to be giving the orders and furthermore, everyone and their brother look rather frightened of Davros. Davros is a freak. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Davros tells Nyder "We have won." Davros will have "absolute power."

Weird little sound effects accompany the Doctor's period inside the green-lit incubation room. The explosives are rigged as the Doctor looks around at the creatures. Sadly, in one of the dodgiest visual effects moments, ranking up alongside The Ark In Space, the Doctor exits the room choked by one of the screeching little varments and it appears to be nothing more than a discolored plastic grocery wrapper about his neck. Oh, pity the poor Doctor Who production values. The sound of the music concludes what might have been a truly riveting end had they attempted something more inventive for the creature rather than the retainer for the day's shopping goods. Those silly little sound effects aren't much better.

PART SIX: The final segment. This is perhaps the best of the bunch for obvious reasons. The storyline comes to a head with questions of moral authority and ethics at the fore. Here's Tom Baker hamming up the everso famous question and Doctor Who moment, "Have I the right?"

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"Do I have the right?" I should think so Doctor. It's a wonderful conundrum and one in which Doctor Who squarely hits it between the eyes, but one that certainly deserves an answer knowing the fate that so many innocents would one day die at the hands of evil. When the Doctor suggests the idea of snuffing out pure evil, one immediately considers the likes of Adolph Hitler. If you knew Hiter would one day become synonymous with the hand of death, would you strike him down as a child in his infancy? Charles Manson? Clearly, without knowing for certain, could you do it? It would be against the moral fiber of most. We're reminded of Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone and those same questions posed to him by his doctor, a German immigrant. Would Johnny stop evil were he to glimpse the future as embodfied by candidate Stilman? The choice seems clear, even easy, but is it ever?

Gharman enters ending the Doctor's need to make that fateful decision. He's grateful for it too. It clearly weighed heavy on his heart. The Doctor pulls the very wires that would have destroyed the Daleks forever. They will live on.

Davros meets with the Scientific core and insists he has introduced "aggression," as a facet necessary for all races to survive. Davros believes in the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest. One race must survive and dominate. Cooperation is inherently impossible between the races once again highlighting are own greater cultural questions between the human races of our own planet as great science fiction does.

Davros offers anyone who wishes to destroy the Daleks pointing to a red TOTAL DESTRUCT button. Too funny. That is so very Thunderbirds. I suppose labelling it is good. At least no one will push it accidentally. Davros aks who will be the one to destroy the Daleks and yet, despite all of the carnage, all look cowardly to one another. In many ways, Davros asks the same question the Doctor asked, but for entirely different motivations. "You are men without courage," declares Davros and not without reason.

Sarah Jane locates the Time Ring.

Davros gives them all two minutes to decide as the Daleks make their way to the party.

The Mutos/ rebels are sneaking up the rear of the Daleks to mount a last minute reprisal. The Daleks enter.

Nyder exits the room and the Doctor, Harry and Sarah follow. They demand the tape. Unfortunately the Doctor has dropped his Time Ring.

Nyder hands the Doctor the tape. The Doctor destroys it with the ray gun arm of a Dalek. How poetic. "How very apt," smiles the good Doctor. The trio is locked inside the room. The Doctor plans on utilizing the Time Ring and leaving, but realizes he has lost it. An attempt to open the door with the Sonic Screwdriver proves futile.

Elsewhere, Davros is spouting his delusions of power and grandeur and yeling at the top of his deformed lungs. Gharman yells back "You are insane Davros!" And you're just realizing this - now. The Daleks enter. "EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!" Everyone dies as the Daleks open fire.

The Doctor is freed by the rebels and recovers the Time Ring. Here come the Daleks. The Doctor returns to the incubator room to blow up the little chickens. It's safe to say he's decided he does have the right. Nothing like a little death and violence to change the liberal or open mind.

Sarah and Harry plead with Bettan, leader of the rebel insurgency to hold off the explosives a little longer for the Doctor as he escapes.

Meanwhile, Davros notes the automatic production line has started creating Daleks. Davros gave no such orders, but it's clear the Daleks are becoming self-aware and less the mindless drones. Davros orders the Daleks to halt the line and OBEY him. Davros orders Nyder to move on the Daleks but Nyder is fried. It seems Davros' creation is no longer loyal to its creator.

With the Doctor safe, the rebels blow the compound.

Deep inside the bunker Davros attempts to wrestle control and command the Daleks but he is a victim of his own devices. The Daleks simply admit no creature is superior to them and thus kill Davros. "We are a superior beings!" Davros is killed moments before hitting TOTAL DESTRUCT. The Daleks declare their genesis. "This is only the beginning. We will prepare. We will grow stronger. When the time is right we will emerge and take our rightful place as the supreme power of the universe!!!" Okay. Take it down a notch.

Ultimately, not sure what was actually achieved since the Daleks remained very much alive. Sarah suggests they have failed, but the Doctor makes one of those wonderful philosophical reflections. "I know that although the Daleks will create havoc and destruction for millions of years. I know also that out of their evil must come something good." That is hands down one of the greatest lines in Doctor Who history.

Writer Terry Nations has received a great many kudos for his writing here and has been lauded for it for decades, but, in retrospect, I do believe Genesis Of The Daleks is entirely too long. There are many unnecessary components like the mine sequence in Part One, the cave clam in Part Three or the seemingly endless escapes and recaptures including Nyder running away like a girl in Part Five. This could have worked better with a tighter, proper four part installment a la Pyramids Of Mars or many of the Fourth Doctor entries. The six-part exceptions include: Genesis Of The Daleks, The Seeds Of Doom, The Talons Of Weng Chiang, The Invasion Of Time, The Armageddon Factor and Shada. Genesis Of The Daleks certainly has its major moments, but it's hard to argue in favor of its status as one of the top tier Doctor entries. Granted, it pushed the boundaries of the show as dark, atmospheric, pensive, creative, science fiction. Expectations were much higher as a result of the sum of those parts. On the whole, as entertainment, it just seems to creep along paced a little too slowly like Davros in that chair with some distracting shennanigans and poor effects. Certainly these things are sometimes a sign of their times. It has not aged well, but in its day Genesis Of The Daleks was indeed better-paced and even pushed the bounds of accepted television viewing. All in all, it was a bit of a slogfest especially with Elisabeth Sladen relegated to a small supporting part. As a child, this was pure dead riveting stuff mind you and I do remember it vividly for specific sequences. Clearly, I was hypnotized by the eerie Dalek figurehead that was Davros. He scared the living hell out of me on a weekday afternoon. Unfortunately, those days are gone for this one. But as Doctor Who mythology goes, Genesis Of The Daleks is a wealth of information that takes us back, as the title suggests, to the beginning, however grim and dreary an experience it is. There were certainly some strong ideas and dilemmas and most of all it gave us the wicked, the sinister and the horrific Davros, one of the most truly frightening of Doctor Who villains. Actor Michael Wisher, who brought the creature to life, steals the show underneath mounds of latex. Genesis Of The Daleks may not be the most fun to watch today, but in the 1970s it was something. It was an important entry in the legacy of the franchise and science fiction.

Blog Extras. Writer Footnote: Terry Nation [1930-1997]. Welsh born. Writer notorious for his creation of the mutated, mutant humanoids known as The Daleks from the planet Skaros on Doctor Who . The creatures reside in a metallic-casing with arm weaponry and plunger-like appendage notably declaring "Exterminate!" He penned the second episode in the long-running Doctor Who series, The Daleks [1963].

Nation spoke with Starlog Magazine #259 [1999] before his passing about the creation of the Dalek and credited designer Raymond Cusick for his instrumental work on the iconic figure. "The people at BBC hated it. They really hated it." He added, "My only thought about the design at the time was that it have no legs. I made a very big point of this. The single eye was also my idea. It was a brilliant design, made from nothing–Cusick did it on sixpence. He was very, very influential, and I'm grateful to him forever for it." The radiation-ravaged Skaros would be front and center in Genesis Of The Daleks. "The Daleks should be seen in very short takes. They can be exceedingly boring if one's not very careful how one uses them. I thought that they were strong enough to carry the series. They weren't. One should only use them as a threat, as a menace. They should sweep in, do their mayhem, and sweep out. It wasn't until years later that I realized how boring a conversation with a Dalek was. This is why Davros came into being-to take some of the weight off those long, Dalek-type conversations." Nation discussed the apparent contradiction to Dalek lore within Doctor Who. The Daleks were originally perceived as products of radioactive mutation rather than genetic manipulation by Davros in Genesis Of The Daleks. Nation chalked it up to the perceptions of history. "All of history is seen from a different viewpoint." It's true. The perspective on historical origins could easily be blurred between the existence of both nuclear conflict and intentional genetic mutation simultaneously.

Nation shared his opinion of other scriptwriters taking his creations for their use outside of his own scripted words. "The truth of the matter is, I don't believe that anybody would care about them as deeply or understand them as I do. These are my children, and I understood them pretty clearly and knew what they were capable of and what they weren't. I also knew how to write those stories." Nation made one final lasting thought. "One of the things I'm proud of is that I got my shows on the air. Many very good people didn't."

Nation also created Survivors and Blake's 7. He also scripted for The Saint and The Avengers.

Dalek Episodes: The Daleks [1963]/ The Dalek Invasion Of Earth [1964]/ The Chase [1965]/ Mission To The Unknown [1965]/ The Dalek's Master Plan [1965]/ The Power Of The Daleks [1966]/ The Evil Of The Daleks [1967]/ Day Of The Daleks [1972]/ Frontier In Space [1973]/ Planet Of The Daleks [1973]/ Death To The Daleks [1974]/ Genesis Of The Daleks [1975]/ Destiny Of The Daleks [1979]/ The Five Doctors [1983]/ Resurrection Of The Daleks [1984]/ Revelation Of The Daleks [1985]/ Remembrance Of The Daleks [1988]/ Dalek [2005]/ Army Of Ghosts/ Doomsday [2006]/ Daleks In Manhattan [2007]/ Evolution Of The Daleks [2007]/ The Stolen Earth/ Journey's End [2008]/ Victory Of The Daleks [2010].

Harry: "Where are we going?" The Doctor: "Uh, forward."

DVD Extras: The Dalek Tapes: Behold a 50 minute documentary on the creation, evolution and behind-the-scenes making of the Daleks. Terry Nation is featured in archival footage. Many artists recall Nation as a "liberal" post-war writer. Afterall, this was the science fiction answer from the English perspective following attacks by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Many contributing to the documentary describe the Daleks as "borderline paranoid schizophrenic" and laden with a "massive inferiority complex" masked by a "massive superiority complex." Brilliant. Tin cans prone to "hysterical" reactions representing "death." I like it. Ray Cusick designed one of the best versions of the Daleks. Of course, the interviewees spend some time about another aspect of what makes the Dalek so unnerving–that disturbing voice!

Michael Wisher's Davros, the "complete maniac," is covered in great detail regarding the nuance of his role. The character, as we discovered, is "consumed with his own ego." Wisher's performance is certainly one of the real highlights in Genesis Of The Daleks lending his insanity a sense of the "reasonable," as reasonable as the insanity of the idea of purity of race can be. It's an impressive turn for a make-up and wheelchair bound character. Producer Philip Hinchcliffe points to the "grotesqueness" of his performance. Wisher delivers a mad man proclaiming "absolute power" with the best of the nuts. It's noted that the Daleks take a backseat in the episode to Davros and that they are far more submissive taking orders and "fetching," but that role stands to reason in this time warp back to their very creation. This is the genesis of the Daleks after all. They will learn. The documentaries even feature interview footage with director David Maloney.

Terry Nation's final script would be Destiny Of The Daleks, a Tom Baker story, resurrecting Davros. Some even argue that the return of Davros here undoes the poetry and the fitting finale of Davros' death at the hands of his creation. As one writer said, "that's how it should be." The existence of Davros as a "fuehrer" figure impacts all that had come before to a degree. Many argue Destiny Of The Daleks is not the finest moment in the Daleks' legacy, but it would inform future installments going forward. Oddly, the "shortcomings" of Nation's final script do not reflect well on the quality of the script he delivered for Genesis Of The Daleks.

Actor Terry Molloy reflects on his portrait of Davros in the latter installment and the late Wisher.

Genesis Of A Classic. Outgoing script editor Terrance Dicks felt the story was a bit too "grim and dour." He would have infused a bit more humor. I would agree with his assessment that it was "unremittingly dark" and "unremittingly bleak." Tom Baker decalres tributes to all of film and television's past ideas is no longer considered plagiarism, but is referred to rather as "homage." Honestly, when they made Tom Baker they broke the mold.

Director David Maloney discusses the Fascist motif as plot device by Terry Nations and the strength of his morality play with clear ruminations on good and evil. A variety of interviews by actors from this particular installment [oh how they have aged, but don't we all] and others reflect upon the influence of World War II and the Nazis and its affect and impact on the British mindset in the 1970s. The sci-fi yarn sent chills as a cautionary tale. Without morality, could another regime rise up falling in line behind another wicked, charismatic influence like Davros? Could the possibility of genocide happen all over?

There is a segment highlighting the classic moral dilemma in the entry. "Have I the right?" As Philip Hinchcliffe points out, there is a wonderful meeting of the minds. There's an intellectual debate between "hero" and "anti-hero." There is a philosophical war, a collision between the sane and the insane. As Hinchcliffe points out, although the Doctor is a Timelord, "his humanity comes through." This is the moral dilemma.

There's some discussion of the once controversial English figure, Mary Whitehouse. Dicks recalls that he used to say, "If there's one thing she hated more than sex, it was Doctor Who." There's an interesting juxtaposition between Barry Letts and his alignment with Terrance Dicks on the standards they kept in creating Doctor Who and those standards which Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes were willing to push. Interviews suggest a friendly disagreement of sorts, but Letts and the others were keenly aware it was a reflection of the changing times. Behold the fear factor of Doctor Who through the words of Tom Baker. There was no shortage of scares when we were kids.

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And of course his sexual allure to older women.

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And the first wife.

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Chinnery as a younger man. Interviews discuss the artistic sensibilities of Duncan Brown. I'm an unabashed fan of color in science fiction and without a doubt there are some stellar moments made all the more impressive by Brown's lighting.

On Davros, Tom Baker called Wisher's two-note performance "a great achievement." A great deal of time is spent on the creation of the villain that is Davros with loads of varied perspectives including archive footage with Michael Wisher. The insider look ends with a significant look at the Daleks.

"It is almost a perfect jigsaw puzzle," recalls Peter Miles [Nyder] referring to this genesis of a classic.

And the final word from the late but forever lovely Elisabeth Sladen.

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3 comments:

John Kenneth Muir said...

Hi SFF:

It is funny how the memory works, isn't it?

Not that long ago, I screened one of my all time favorite classic Whos, Planet of Evil, and it came up a little short for me as a 40 year old; a little less developed, a little less fine than I had imagined or remembered.

I was deeply bummed by this discovery, and didn't review it for my own blog.

I watched Ark in Space and it, contrarily, did hold up rather nicely, so I reviewed that one instead! Pure cowardice on my part!

But seriously, I always appreciate it when some brave writer/critic steps up and makes an assessment that goes against conventional or received wisdom, or states that the Emperor Wears No Clothes. Such blasphemy! Such heresy! Such absolute...honesty! :)

And in a very respectful and gentle way, that's your tack here: a careful notation of the qualities that keep the serial from really succeeding. Your points are entirely fair and well taken, in my opinion. The longer serials do suffer from narrative diffidence, I think.

I haven't watched "Genesis" in a bit (I think since I wrote my book....?), but given my recent experience with "Planet," your conclusions don't entirely surprise me, and furthermore, make a lot of sense.

Some of these Who programs have simply not aged well at all. One thing that diminishes Who (and which doesn't diminish a contemporary such as Space:1999) is the less-than-steller photography and production values.

With so many visual deficits, it's easier to concentrate on the weaknesses and diffidence of the storytelling in each episode, I submit.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your observations and assessment of this particular serial, and feel that you gave it a fair shake.

Great job!

best,
John

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thank you John.

Boy, even your thoughtful commentary accurately dissects and represents my approach on this one.

I must tell you, and anyone else who happens upon reading this bear of an entry, Genesis Of The Daleks was a true labor to write about. It did not come easy- at all.

I started and stopped on this one several times over the course of months. It was a truly laborious affair.

I began walking about the house yesterday calling it the "blog entry from hell." My kids would laugh. It was so hard to finish.

So let me tell you that your reflections are well received by me and I appreciate it.

If the entry was disjointed in any way, it is entirely my fault. It was truly a difficult experience to enjoy. As you said, I tried to be respectful of the material, and when it was all said and done I began to wonder if I had wavered or contradicted myself.

Afterall, these six parters are long and I look forward to the string of four parters ahead.

But, you put it so right, my adult mind had such difficulty with the production values and the pacing. It rolled along like a Dalek.

I have Planet Of Evil and I can't wait to see it to reflect upon it and see if I have a different or similar experience. Genesis Of The Daleks was indeed a harsh wake-up call to the realities of 70s Doctor Who.

And like you, I "was deeply bummed" as well.

I can only hope some of the upcoming viewings are better. I'll appreciate the shorter nature of the storylines as this was an enormous hill to climb.

Stargate Atlantis is like the visual equivalent of pop rocks in comparison and I love that for a whole host of reasons.

Anyway, I really want to read your book too and plan to someday.

Thanks for your sound assessment as always and for being open to understanding my difficulties getting through this one.

Here's hoping the Tardis takes me to a different place mentally for the next one.

I really appreciate your encouraging comment. Thank you.
sff

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Oh and if there was something I wish I reflected on a bit more about for the entry [if that's even possible] would have been the physical performance and the sheer emotion captured through Baker in his face during the fateful decision he must make in this morality play.

He painstakingly ponders the very real question about life and whether or not we have the right to play judge and jury regardless of its positive or negative implications.

In many ways, his refusal to insert himself ironically leaves the future intact- not bad for a time travelling time lord.

Anyway, the moral issues in play are the best thing about Genesis Of The Daleks and certainly continue to resonate today.