Genesis of the Daleks
A Review by
Writer Terry Nation
Director David Maloney
Music Dudley Simpson
Starring Tom Baker as the 4th Doctor
Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith
Ian Master as Harry Sullivan
Michael Wisher as Davros
Roy Skelton as the voice of the Dalek
First broadcast 8th March - 12th April 1975
“The Dalek race was genetically engineered, every single emotion was removed.
Except hate… by a genius… a man who was king of his own little world…”
- The 9th Doctor, “Dalek”
Though this quote is not from this 6 part story aired back in 1975, but from the first series of it’s new incarnation 30 years later in 2005, I felt it was a fitting one and perfect to start this review.
All good intentions can go by the way side at the best of times, but most certainly when you are in the presence of the Doctor. The Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry are supposed to be visiting the Brecon Beacons, but the Time Lords put payed to that and send them to place and time, just before the creation of the Daleks. Skaro. The purpose of this detour? To stop the crippled genius, Davros, from ever creating them.
So our would be protagonists find themselves in a quarry, no I mean, on a ravaged and war torn Skaro. It is inhabited by two humanoid races, the Thals and the Kaleds (mess about with this and you get Daleks, much like Doctor Who and Torchwood) and they are at war with one another. But there are also the Mutos who are referred to by Nyder (Peter Miles) as “the scared relics of ourselves.” The Mutos was the genetically mutated versions of the Kaleds, remanents of centuries of war.
This is also a war seemingly fought with what is little more than pea shooters and grenades. When Harry sees these two peoples at war he describes it as “… a war of attrition, only backwards,” These two peoples have been fighting for centuries, to such an extent that when they started they had some of the most advanced and hideous weapons. The fighting had gone on for so many centuries that by the time we meet them along with the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry, they are reduced to fighting with very primitive weapons. And the end result is that Skaro is now a destroyed and desolate world desperate for an end to the madness that has gripped them for so long. In many ways this is a message to all leaders of the modern world. We carry on the way we are and this could be us in a few thousand years. War torn and desolate. A mere shadow of what we once were and that is very much the case here. It is hard to imagine what these people were once like.
All that is now left of these waring peoples is two massive domes, that keeps safe the survivors and a desolated lands between them. And what is very clear is that the end is nigh. Neither of these two peoples can continue as things are and total annihilation is a very strong possibility.
The whole story is full of tension and fear. Even though you know the outcome of this whole mess, you fear for what will happen. Especially when you hear familiar words from General Ravon (a Kaled) when he says “Our battle cry will be total extermination of the Thals!” one of the things that lept out to me, when watching the Kaleds, was how much they are like the Natzi’s with their black clothes, severe regimental behaviour and the clicking of heels, making them all the more frightening. Much like their mutated descendants, the Daleks they are cold and callous and without fear or care for others. I should note that the very unpleasant and nasty General Ravon is played by Guy Siner , a role very different to the sweet and very camp role of Lieutenant Hubert Gruber of “Allo’ Allo’” fame.
Michael Wisher, the very first Davros actor, is cold and terrifying in the role, so much expression in a mask that moves little. This is the Davros that actors Elisabeth Sladen and John Barrowman spoke of that ‘scared the life out of them’! It also must be said that after watching Michael Wisher, I cannot help but note how wonderful Julian Bleach was, some 30 odd years later, in the role in the season 4/30s Episodes “The Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End”. It was almost like watching Michael Wisher again only with better prosthetics. Julian was able to put a little more facial expression into his performance than Michael. But it doesn’t change that fact that his physical performance was as brilliant as Michael’s.
Ultimately it is Davros, who wants to create the perfect race, with his terrible experiments on his own people, turning the Kaleds into Daleks. There are those, including the Doctor, who try to stop him but fail or, choose not to. The Doctor fell into the latter. He literally has the chance in his hands and then asks the question “Have I the right?” I must quote the 4th actor to play the Doctor, Tom Baker, here when he says in his autobiography *”Great discussions ensued during rehearsal when we examined the section of the script that dealt with the possible abortion of the Daleks. It really was a scream. I am trying to remember if it was David Maloney (Director) who put in the line, “Have I the right?” as I played with the Dalek umbilical cord. Of course, I didn’t interfere with destiny and that must have been a great relief to Terry Nation who was really quite fond of his Daleks.” And so say all of us nearly 40 years on. Who doesn’t enjoy a good old Dalek episode or two?
Of course it would be easy to harp on about all the problems of the episodes, such as how brilliant the Mutos looked from a distance, resembling that of a lepers in their rags and blistered features. But when we were up close, though the rags were the same, they looked perfectly normal save for rather dirty faces and hair. Or even the poor sets and models. But the story and performances, as well as the writing, are rather good, making this story gritty and at times unnerving to watch. As I said earlier, it is almost a message to the world that if we don’t sort ourselves out and stop with these wars, we could be in a similar boat.
*And before we leave this little reviews here’s a fun extract from Tom Baker’s autobiography about a little known fact about Michael Wisher, and his performance as Davros.
“Michael Wisher, who can seriously be described as the creator of the character of Davros, used to work with a kilt on and a paper bag over his head to maintain his feel for the part**. He took his work so seriously that he would not remove the bag even at coffee break. To see coffee and biscuits being pushed under a paper bag, followed by a cigarette, while the bag continued to express the most passionate views on how Davros felt about things was just bliss. He did allow us to make a hole in the top of his bag so that the smoke could escape.”
**(A footnote from Tom’s autobiography) Davros, for those who don’t remember, wore a ugly mask (which Michael couldn’t see through) and had no legs.
* Extracts from Tom Bakers autobiography “Who On Earth Is Tom Baker?” which can be found here at Amazon.co.uk http://tinyurl.com/TomBakerAutobiography
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