This week we’re taking a break from reviewing movies for a review of another Doctor Who storyline. This one is one heck of a classic storyline, featuring one of everyone’s favorite Doctors – Tom Baker. Now, does this storyline hold up over time, or is it as flimsy as the walls of one of their sets. Oh, the story? Genesis of the Daleks.
The Doctor and his companions are diverted from their Trans-mat (teleporter) trip back to the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions In Space – their Time Machine to you who are new to the Who), by the Time Lords, who instead send them to the planet of Skaro in the distant past. Their reason – the Time Lords have come to realize that the Daleks are far more powerful than they realized, powerful enough to destroy even them. Thus, they have broken their rule of non-interference and are tasking The Doctor (and his companions, Ian and Sarah Jane), with the task of finding a weakness in the Daleks in this early stage of their existance, or, if possible, to elimiate them.
The story has aged very well. Even now it’s still a very haunting story, particularly in the way it’s shot – the lighting covers up a multitude of sins in the set design and the props, and also covers up the inherent weaknesses in the Daleks at this point (the Dalek models cannot be depicted going up stairs, and while they’ll never outright say that Daleks can’t go up stairs, we’ll never see them overcome that limitation until Remberance of the Daleks, a 7th Doctor story. Nonetheless, the Daleks as depected here are very frightening, intimdating figures. While they’re not as devious as in previous Dalek stories (or the Big Finish audio plays), here they are quite literally an unstoppable force. It really sets up that a Dalek cannot be defeated, only be delayed in achieving their goal. Michael Wisher also does an excellent job as the Dalek’s insane creator, Davros.
This storyline was aired on the BBC the spring of 1975. To put this in perspective – Star Wars was still in production. As you can imagine, the special effects are rather poor. Part of this is because the technology isn’t there, and part of this – the largest part of this – is that they have little no budget. The weakness in the walls of the sets are extremely clear, and the supposedly metal walls look more like they were covered in tin-foil – except they had to use something else because they couldn’t afford the tin-foil. Oh, and the location shooting on the surface of Skaro is at their favorite gravel pit. In other words, the special effects are at their usual Doctor Who level. Now, for some people this isn’t a problem, but there are others who cannot suspend their disbelief for poor special effects, so consider yourself warned.
Davros’ assistant/trusted lieutentant, Nyder. He’s competant, and somewhat saner than Davros. However, he’s apparently either not sane enough to recognize that his boss is stark raving mad. Either that, or he’s too dumb to recognize that his boss’ plan is going to bite him in the ass really fucking hard. In which case, if he can’t read the writing on the wall about Davros’ plan, how can he read the writing on the wall against the various plots against Davros by the people who are working against Davros, and how come Nyder doesn’t have the pattern recognition to realize that things could not turn out well against Davros, even if Davros didn’t lose control of the Dalek’s first.
This is, in my opinion, my favorite Doctor Who Dalek story, with the others being (in my top 5), in order, Resurrection of the Daleks, Remeberance of the Daleks, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. I’d suspect “The Dalek Master Plan” might supplant one of those stories, but, unfortunately, most of the story has been lost, so the story may never see the light of day on DVD.