Of all the Whos down in Whoville, Judge Eric Profancik is the Whovian-ist.
"Today, the Kaled race is ended, consumed in a fire of war. But from its ashes will rise a new race: the supreme creature, the ultimate conqueror of the universe, the Dalek!'"
Synonymous with Doctor Who are the Daleks. Inextricably tied together from almost day one, the Daleks permeate every nook and cranny of the Who universe. Every Doctor has fought them, defeated them, and fans love them. What would Doctor Who be without these monotone pepperpots? Would the good Doctor still be traveling in his TARDIS today were it not for these creations? It's highly possible that Doctor Who might not have gone the distance were it not for these Skaran mutants.
But we do have the Daleks, and they are so much a part of the show that even now, some forty years later, that they warrant the season ender to the rebirth of the franchise with the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston (Gone in 60 Seconds).
Yet that popularity has a price. Fans craved the Daleks and the show sated those desires. Almost every year there was a new Dalek encounter, and with so many encounters, the quality of those stories quickly deteriorated.
Then Davros showed up and everything changed.
Facts of the Case
As the Doctor (Tom Baker), Sarah Jane (Elizabeth Sladen), and Harry (Ian Marter) are using the transmat beam to go from Earth to Nerva, the Time Lords intercept the beam and divert them to Skaro. There on the home planet of the Daleks, the Doctor is given a daunting proposition. The Time Lords foresee a time where the Daleks have destroyed all life in the universe. Knowing this, the Time Lords ask the Doctor to change that future by altering the evolution of the Daleks. Either he can avert their creation, modify their genetic makeup to be less aggressive, or find some inherent weakness that can be used later. The Doctor balks at the intrusion but agrees to the request.
On Skaro, the trio becomes involved in the ongoing war between the Kaleds and the Thals. Soon we meet Davros, the hideously deformed creator of the Daleks. Originally created simply as a transport system for mutated Kaleds, Davros has turned the mechanism and its operators into something more, something without conscious, something evil.
Will the Doctor make such a drastic change to the timeline and destroy the Daleks?
William Hartnell: 6
What are those numbers? Those are the number of Dalek stories for each of the first three Doctors. With the glut from Hartnell, the writers eased back nicely for Troughton; but they did show an uptick for Pertwee (even though he was the Doctor for four true seasons unlike Hartnell, who was there for just a spot over three). These numbers show that in the first eleven seasons of Doctor Who, the Daleks made twelve appearances. No matter how exciting, enticing, and exhilarating a character(s) is, anything gets old when done over and over again. The Daleks are certainly no exception. In fact, many Whovians simply ignore a few of these stories, as their quality is quite dismal.
Though Pertwee faced the Daleks for the last time in the middle of Season Eleven in "Death of the Daleks," the Daleks didn't die. That's why just one season later we have the opposite of that story. We go from death to life! "Genesis of the Daleks" tells us of the creation of these evil creatures, and in doing so, re-energized not only a stale enemy, but also gave new life to the series.
Without question, "Genesis of the Daleks" is one of the finest stories from the classic era of Doctor Who. (In a poll by Doctor Who Magazine, it was ranked third behind "The Caves of Androzani" (which everyone agrees is an odd winner) and "The Talons of Weng-Chiang." And why is that? How could the thirteenth story with the Daleks in as many seasons rank as one of the best stories ever created? That's easier asked than answered. However, if you have seen the episode, it speaks for itself.
Until I received this screener, I had not seen "Genesis." Not through any specific fault of my own of course, but my time with the Doctor didn't start until Tom Baker's "Horror at Fang Rock" (Season Fifteen) and my local PBS stations just never got back around to "Genesis." I had read about the story and knew that I wanted to see it. At that point, it wasn't so much the story that called to me but the Doctor's enormous decision. But let's take a few steps back before we get to that.
While the Doctor's ponderings in part six brings glorious resolution to the story, we can't ignore the previous five parts. It turns out that the entire story is a tight and gripping adventure. Normally when you have a story going beyond the "normal" four parts, you'll find some padding and unnecessary filler. In "Genesis," there is no filler. From beginning to end, there's action and necessary exposition. So many details come bubbling forth, so much history is detailed, and so many characters play pivotal roles that you never have a dull moment. (Of course it wouldn't be Who without at least one silly moment, which in this case would be Harry versus the killer polystyrene clam!)
The man who created the Daleks, writer Terry Nation, crafted the genius of "Genesis." In this tale we are introduced to something bigger, bolder, and more important than we have seen in Doctor Who for some time. We can feel the gravitas of the situation, and we truly chew on our fingernails wondering how it will all work out. Will Davros be successful? Will the Thals' missile destroy the Kaled dome? Will Sarah Jane die from radiation poisoning? Will Harry have anything to do? Tautly constructed and engrossing for nearly two and a half hours, "Genesis of the Daleks" is the epitome of Doctor Who.
Now we can speak of the creation of Davros, inspired creation as the mastermind behind the Daleks. We meet the deranged scientist with delusions of godhood and sociopathic tendencies. He's insane, driven mad in a quest for power and domination. He is the heart of the heartless automatons he has crafted, and we can see from where all of the Daleks' awful tendencies originated. Davros is an inspired creation, for now the Doctor has a specific foil. Like with the Master, the Doctor can work against one person. Previously, he had to attack this leaderless horde of beings. Now there can be the intellectual debate that is the thrust of Doctor Who. "Genesis" gives us one hell of an intellectual debate, as the Doctor tries to reason with Davros. Yet we soon learn that Davros is beyond redemption, willing to kill every living thing in the universe. What more could you want from the bad guy?
Yet the core of "Genesis" comes down to what the Doctor will do about the Daleks. Which path will he follow? It all boils down to whether the Doctor has the right to commit genocide, a wholly barbaric act even though those he would eradicate cause the wholesale slaughter of billions over time. The Doctor's agony in deciding whether to let them live or die is one of the strongest moments in classic Who. And in this moment, Tom Baker shines luminously as the Doctor. It's only his fourth story, but his passion at this critical juncture cements his place for the next seven seasons, just as the Daleks originally did back in 1963 for the entirety of the series. It's a breathtaking moment, and you, like Sarah Jane, are pleading for the Doctor to put those two wires together. But his debate sways you and makes you realize that though it may seem the right choice, it most certainly is not.
I have not seen every story of Doctor Who (and I refer to the ones spared from the archive purge), but I do consider myself a Whovian. Because I have not seen every story, this gives me the wonderful opportunity to see some outstanding tales from the past. I had such an opportunity with this disc and in watching "Genesis," only one word came to mind: Brilliant! The story, the acting, and the drama all combine to form not only an outstanding Doctor Who story but simply a thrilling story no matter the setting.
Does one of the greatest stories receive an equally great treatment on DVD? Not quite. It doesn't warrant "great," but it's a very good treatment to an under-funded cult British science fiction show from 1975. The Restoration Team worked their wonders, pouring all of their blood, sweat, tears, and love into giving us the best possible result. The full frame transfer does look it age, failing to give us that clarity we're spoiled with today's television. The picture is a touch on the soft side, yielding acceptable details; colors are accurate but subdued; and blacks are not as crisp as today's standards. Regardless, for its age, it does look good and we cannot expect anything more. The Team cleaned up the dirt, the scratches, and all the other nuisances and gave us a transfer sans any significant defects. It's a print that looks old but good. That summation equates to the audio track, which has clear dialogue and no distortion in the two channels. There's no zip or pizzazz, but more importantly, we can hear every word clearly.
This is a two-disc set, and we have a great load of extras to not only tell us about this story but the entirety of the Dalek arc.
• Audio Commentary by Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Peter Miles (Nyder), and story director David Maloney: Sladen and Maloney dominate this commentary, with Tom disappearing for a while and Peter stepping in. I didn't hear everything I wanted to, but there is constant discussion about the story, behind-the-scenes goodies, and the usual playful nitpicking of the story, acting, sets, and so forth.
• Text Commentary: Not overly repetitive of the audio commentary, you will find a bounty of information on the story—though there's still stuff in there we don't know about on this side of the pond.
• "Genesis of a Classic" (61 minutes): An exhaustive and wildly interesting feature on the creation of this beloved story. Filled with interviews of all the major actors, you'll walk away with a ton of information.
• "The Dalek Tapes" (53 minutes): A clever title crafted from the recording Davros made of the Doctor's future knowledge, here we learn about the history and evolution of the Daleks and Davros. This piece would have helped me when I wrote my "Revelation of the Daleks" review. It walks you through almost every Dalek story in detail.
That represents the bulk of the bonus material. Also included is a continuity compilation (6 minutes), a segment from the British TV show Blue Peter (6 minutes), and a photo gallery (8 minutes). If you pop the DVD into your computer, you'll find two PDF files: Doctor Who Annual 1976 and the "Radio Times" Billings.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The greatest evil in the universe are these weird little domed robot-things that only run smoothly on flat ground, can't go up or down stairs, and have no peripheral vision? Just how pathetic is this universe?
There is no question, no debate, no waffling. "Genesis of the Daleks" is a superb story. The creation of Davros and the resulting dialogue between him and the Doctor is fantastic. The tension is thick, the drama intense, and the stakes never greater. Because of its iconic place in Who history, this DVD is a high recommendation for purchase. You have no regrets and no sorrow.
"Genesis of the Daleks" is hereby found not guilty of meddling in time.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
• Audio Commentary by Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Peter Miles, and David Maloney
Review content copyright © 2006 Eric Profancik; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.