Transported back in time to the planet Skaro Doctor Who
and his companions have to try and stop Davros from ever creating
in 1974, Jon Pertwee's friendly 'Mother Hen' Doctor Who was
battling puppet dinosaurs and silly giant spiders with the
aid of a flying Whomobile, a Colonel Blimp-style Brigadier,
and a selection of frilly shirts. Fast forward just one year
to 1975, and the entire Doctor Who landscape had changed.
A fresh, risk-taking production team had dished up a new,
broody and intense Doctor, caught up in the atrocities of
war, battling a crippled genius in a morally dubious bid to
avert the evolution of an entire species.
of the Daleks is relentlessly grim, yet was an invigorating
breath of fresh air for the series. Under a different production
team, Terry Nation's original formulaic script could well
have ended up as a simple retread of his earlier works. By
this time Nation seemed to be able to get away with rewriting
the same script over and over again, with nobody at production
level batting an eyelid. But the new team of Philip Hinchcliffe
and Robert Holmes injected a much-needed dose of originality
into a tired format and the result was a classic example of
Doctor Who at its very, very best.
In truth, much of the success of this story can be attributed
to new script editor Holmes. Whilst the bare bones of Nation's
original script are there for all to see, it's the liberal
sprinkling of Holmes's magic that elevates this story up into
the league of classics. It's dark, it's cynical, it's pacey,
it's shockingly realistic and it's like no other Dalek story
you'll ever see. Although, in fairness, it's debatable whether
this is a Dalek story at all. Yes, its inherent concern is
the origins of the species but the Daleks themselves appear
only fleetingly, and the story is all the better for it. There
are no prolonged scenes of metal pepperpots going up and down
in lifts and barking repetitive commands of destruction, the
real story here is the intellectual battle of wills between
the Doctor and Davros, who is played to perfection by Michael
Wisher. This is long before the character would devolve into
the cackling pantomime villain of the '80s. Wisher's original
Davros is played with such subtlety and quietly sinister conviction,
and his interplay with the Doctor is compelling.
of the Daleks stands out as one of the darkest but one
of the very best Doctor Who stories ever produced.
From the opening slow-motion scenes of soldiers being gunned
down to the brutally appropriate climax, Genesis never
fails to deliver in a delicious mix of fast-paced action,
intriguing dilemmas and sheer horror.
this story is an undisputed classic, it is of course the wealth
of special features that are really going to excite the Who
fan, and as usual, we are in for a treat. Commentary is supplied
by Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, director David Maloney and
Peter 'Nyder' Miles. It's always a pleasure to hear Tom commentate
on his Doctor Who stories, but this commentary is incredibly
special as his admiration of these episodes shines through.
He begins the commentary in his usual flippant style but as
the story progresses, he has to be prompted to speak as he
becomes genuinely wrapped up in the unfolding saga.
are also two brand new documentaries - Genesis of a Classic
which painstakingly chronicles the development of the
story with enlightening new interviews, and The Dalek Tapes
which delves into the on and off-screen history of the
Daleks with stunning rare footage and photographs. It's particularly
interesting to hear previous script editor Terrance Dicks
have a bit of a pop at the new production team for going too
far with the violence and horror in this story, and suggesting
that he would have gone for more lightness and humour had
he still been behind the wheel. Whilst Dicks has contributed
countless wonderful moments to the world of Doctor Who,
you can't help feeling relieved that he had gone by this stage,
as it's easy to imagine how Genesis could have turned
out without a fresh, innovative, forward-thinking team behind
the many other treats, there's a lengthy 1970s Blue Peter
item looking at a collection of home-made Doctor Who
models (including a very impressive Alpha Centauri made out
of, yes, a toilet roll) and a chance to view the 1976 Doctor
Who Annual as a PDF file on your computer. The latter
is especially welcome, and I hope to see more of this sort
of thing in future DVD releases, perhaps giving us all a chance
to experience the rare early Annuals and Dalek Books
from the '60s.
In conclusion, this 2-disc set features one of the very best
Doctor Who stories ever made, accompanied with a feast
of very special features. A superb package.