Tom Baker’s first season as the Doctor in Doctor Whohas been released as a Blu-ray box set. Season 12 comprises 5 stories made up of 20 episodes. Rather than trying to review the whole thing all at once, I’m dividing things up over a number of reviews. In this review, I’m looking at the fourth story, “Genesis of the Daleks”.
At the end of their last adventure (“The Sontaran Experiment”), the Doctor, Sarah and Harry were attempting to transmat from Earth to the Nerva space station. But their signal has been intercepted by the Time Lords and their destination rerouted to Skaro, home of the Daleks. Here, the Doctor is given a mission by his people – avert the creation of the Daleks, or affect their development so they’re not quite so nasty. And so the Doctor and his companions find themselves in the middle of war between the Thals and the Kaleds; with the Kaled scientist Davros conducting genetic experiments to mutate his people into the Daleks.
This story has deservedly achieved its status as a classic. It is well plotted, tightly scripted and exciting despite being six episodes long, giving us an array of unforgettable characters and some of the best moments in Doctor Who history.
“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 even know the word “Dalek”.”
This little speech from the Doctor is Tom Baker at his very best. Mesmerising and heart-felt. But there are other moments as well, most notably the Doctor’s conversation with Davros about whether or not he would release a virus that would wipe out all other life.
“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.”
From its brutal opening shots, this story is unrelentingly dark and grim. It’s Nazi parallels work frightening well. Characters on both side of the war (Thals and Kaleds) are equally obsessed with winning and people on both sides are shown to revel in cruelty. It is a damning indictment of war. The set design and costumes and lighting all work to enhance this. The only low point for this story is the scene with giant mutant clams, which are a bit silly looking.
I remember watching this story years ago and being upset that it contradicted the original origins of the Daleks. But really, Dalek history has become so contradictory over the years that I’ve gotten over this and am now just happy to enjoy the story in and of itself.
Strong performances all round in this story, from the regular cast as well as the guests. Michael Wisher gives an amazing performance under all that makeup and prosthetics as Davros, and Peter Miles is nothing short of brilliant as his offsider, Nyder.
Lots of great extras on the disc, mostly previously released on DVD. Out of everything, the highlight for me was Tom Baker getting a phone call from his ex-wife during the Making-of doco. It’s probably worth noting that I didn’t watch the 90-minute TV-movie edit of the story as I don’t see the point in shortening something that is pretty much perfect at its original length.
You can also read my previous reviews in this series…
- Doctor Who, The Collection: Season 12, Part 1: Overview
- Doctor Who, The Collection: Season 12, Part 2: Robot
- Doctor Who, The Collection: Season 12, Part 3: The Ark in Space
- Doctor Who, The Collection: Season 12, Part 4: The Sontaran Experiment
Doctor Who, The Collection: Season 12 is released on Blu-ray in Australia by Roadshow Entertainment.
Catch ya later, George
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