It’s been a busy old week over here at Kasterborous towers what with the new series, somewhat whimpering into existence, new publications hitting the shelves, both mine and Christianâ€™s football teams competing for silverware and of course a certain copy of Genesis of The Daleks that popped onto my doormat a good two days earlier than expected (thanks play.com) and which reminded me what a fine watch it is.
Ironically, while Iâ€™ve spent a lot of the week after New Earth‘s debut arguing over the 45 minute format and how the story never seems to take a step back and breathe, those in favour of the new format have been arguing about the amount of padding that went into the classic series – some even mentioning Genesis as one of those stories.
But the fact remains that Genesis remains THE No1 story as voted by us fans for exactly that reason. I can understand a lot of todayâ€™s generation, brought up on a diet of “Buffy”, “Stargate” and “Lost” viewing a classic like Genesis with trepidation. But the fact remains thatâ€™s the way TV was in those days, people had longer attention spans and thankfully those who wrote Doctor Who decided they wanted the public to care about the characters in the story, which is why you get a lovely six-parter.
For those who have been hiding in a Kaled bunker for most of your lives Genesis tells â€“ in thrilling manner – the tale of the creation of the Daleks. The Doctor is sent on a mission by the Time Lords to delay the Daleks at a very early stage of their development, or to destroy them totally. The Time Lords foresee a time when the Daleks will be rampant, which in continuity terms fits in very well with the New Series season one finale Parting of The Ways and the whole time-war scenario. For fear of spoiling the story for all those newbies I wont divulge too much of the story but I will say that the production for a show from the mid seventies is top notch.
From the off the tone is set, we are introduced to Skaro, a war torn planet mirroring images of World War One with gas-masked soldiers fighting it out through trenches and wasteland covered in mist, to the dour, dimly lit underground bunkers commanded by races completely on the edge, low on resources and liable to snap at any minute. It’s here we are introduced to the Kaleds, the race that will eventually become the Daleks, portrayed as black-shirted fascists who view all non-Kaleds as inferior – a trait that forms the basis of the Daleks we know today.
Notably in Genesis special praise must go to the late Michael Wisher whose portrayal of Davros is simply sublime. He plays him with a psychotic simmering calm and breaks into fabulous inane rants and gives the viewer a real basis and believability that this crippled genius of a man could create such hateful beings. His trade offs with the Fourth Doctor are some of the best scenes in the whole story, a war of words played out – sanity against insanity, itâ€™s a shame that Wisher was unable to portray Davros again. The later Davros stories featured a watered-down character but he works best here as the catalyst to the whole cycle of events. In my mind a supporting villain has ever been better.
Could Genesis of The Daleks have been made in todayâ€™s TV climate? Well a definite “No” is the answer; for six parts we get atmosphere, we get an introduction to both races, we see the turmoil of war and the conditions of living. We get to see the cast-offs of their society inhumanly left to fend for themselves through no fault of their own and we get to see both good and evil played out between the staff of Davros’ bunker as they agonise between loyalty and the unethical nature of what their race might become. Of course there is some padding, The Doctorâ€™s inability to keep a hold of the time ring is particular noteworthy, but this DVD is a must for any Doctor Who fan, young and old, classic or new series partial.
The DVD is really jam packed with extras, once again my gratitude goes out to the Beeb, 2entertain and the Restoration Team for a fantastic package. The extras kick off with a good solid documentary on Genesis, with comment from Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, Tom Baker, Lis Sladen and Peter Miles (Nyder) and some footage of Michael Wisher being interviewed many moons ago. They talk about the story, production and their fond memories of making it. Tom Baker is particularly witty and a joy to watch and the whole thing is extremely well done. Look out for Roy ‘Zippy’ Skelton teaching you how to speak Dalek!
Thereâ€™s a short snippet on Blue Peter from the seventies about a young lad who made a load of extremely good models for the time of Doctor Who including Daleks and some hilarious footage of a Blue Peter appeal to find a pair of missing Daleks complete with a Kevin Keegan esq Peter Purves doing the investigating. Iâ€™m surprised the local police could keep a straight face talking about stolen Daleks.
A 55 minute feature on Dalek continuity within the series follows, with comment and analysis on the history with in the classic series, as well as a nice Photo section with some shots I admit I havenâ€™t seen before myself.
For those of particular artistic taste such as myself thereâ€™s a chance to cringe at the Doctor Who annual provided in PDF format. You donâ€™t realise how bad the annuals were until you see this! With those really naff facts in about space, most of the annual is not Doctor Who at all! Thereâ€™s some nice Radio Times snippets including a nice illustrated piece by the excellent Frank Bellamy and finally thereâ€™s the commentary by Tom Baker and Liz Sladen with Peter Miles and Director David Maloney. Shoot the reviewer – I havenâ€™t listened to this yet, saving it as I am for a rainy day but I did listen to the first ten minutes of it and I donâ€™t think it will disappoint!
All in all a must have DVD, a real relief I donâ€™t have to rely on my VHS againâ€¦