12.4 – “Genesis Of The Daleks”
If you’re watching this one after the decades of mythology built upon its foundation, this is the one where SHIT GETS REAL, GUYZ! THE FIRST SHOT OF THE TIME WAR IS FIRED! But whenever you’re watching it, this is The Secret Origin of The Daleks, with The Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry plonked in the middle of the last days of the Thal/Kaled war, sent on a mission to end the Daleks before they’re even started.
Christ, imagine having to not only find something new to write about “Genesis Of The Daleks” that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before, but to do so in the looming shadow of “The Magician’s Apprentice” – a season opener that certain corners of the internet (i.e. the nerdy ones that you’re just as guilty of reading as I am) are fairly convinced is going to be a direct sequel. The whole context could’ve change by the time this is published!
So let’s skip quickly through the obvious flaws: 6 episodes is too long for any story, the giant clam is terrible, Terry Nation can’t help but slip into adventure serial mode even with a script editor clearly kicking him up the arse for once, there’s been a millennia of war and yet – despite being aware of it – no-one has thought to use the secret tunnel that leads STRAIGHT INTO THE THAL CITY, Thal city security is frankly terrible, it’s kind of hard if you’re of a certain age to take Guy Siner as a Nazi seriously (no matter how good an actor he is), I have friends who make a fairly convincing argument that yes, you do have the right, actually…and yet, and yet…
It’s a fucking stone cold classic, isn’t it? I mean, come on. It’s BRILLIANT. Despite being peppered with a couple of plot holes so big you could pilot a planet through ‘em. I mean, in one respect it’s like Doctor Who in microcosm. There are odd ropey bits, but those ropey bits don’t stop the whole being basically AMAZING, do they? NO THEY DO NOT. “Genesis Of The Daleks” features – in the shape of Davros – an instantly classic, utterly superb villain. Michael Wisher totally nails his performance, switching from icy megalomania to histrionic frustration, often within a single line of dialogue. It’s dirty, grimy, gritty and dark, yet doesn’t make me pull the sort of faces I normally pull at those adjectives. This is a millennia-long war that – on a 70s BBC budget – manages to feel like a millennia-long war, with all the grotty violence that suggests. The script is highly quotable and features a bunch of ideas and set-ups that define the series. The world-building is the best we’ve seen in aaaaages, there are moral dilemmas and Stuff To Think About, and – oh yes – visual references to The Seventh Seal?
Bring. That. Shit. On.
Sometimes there is no new angle, and sometimes you don’t need one. Sometimes it’s enough to just sit there going “Wheeeeeee!!”, pausing only to idly wonder how the hell Terry Nation, coming off the back of “Planet Of The Daleks” and “Death To The Daleks”, managed to write something this enjoyable. And then you thank the deity of your choice for whoever let Robert Holmes loose on Doctor Who and watch the rest of the story with a great big idiot grin on your face. And all is good with the world.
Do I really need to say any more? 8/10.
Written and edited by Steve Horry