Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Serial 78: Genesis of the Daleks

Doctor: Tom Baker (4th Doctor)
Companions: Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan

Written by: Terry Nation
Directed by: David Maloney

Background and Significance: When Jon Pertwee abdicated his role as The Doctor after five seasons, he did it having the longest run as the character by at least two years. (Honestly, I find it incredibly cool that he was on the show for about the average length of a fairly successful TV show.) He left the show as a serviceable Doctor, his era coming with some new innovations (color, more action, more and cooler special effects) and a long, healthy run some very good Doctor Who stories and some new innovations (not the least of which was the introduction of The Master).

And then he got replaced.

Not only that, but the run of his replacement, Tom Baker, would be nothing short of positively legendary. Playing The Doctor for seven years (two years longer than Pertwee, and more than Hartnell and Troughton combined), he is an incredibly iconic Doctor, from costume to mannerisms, and the show was never more popular in its original run. Tom Baker's Doctor is widely considered to be the best and most widely known (although David Tennant fans might disagree) of all time, and with seven years under his belt, it's very easy to see why.

With the Fourth Doctor, the show became nothing short of a phenomenon and incredibly exciting as this goofy looking chap with a giant scarf and a silly mish-mash of clothes took center stage and showed the world what Doctor Who was really capable of.

But enough of that, what about this episode?

This episode, "The Genesis of the Daleks," is one of only two times The Fourth Doctor went up against his greatest foe. Shocking as that might sound, especially given the rampant popularity of The Doctor before and since, it's a mark of Baker's era that he wasn't *crutched* by Daleks and they weren't a foe for The Doctor to fall back on.

"Genesis of the Daleks," however, is perhaps most notable because it is the introduction of the incredibly iconic creator of The Daleks.


And really, that's the entire reason I wanted so desperately to see this episode. I loved him in the most recent series when The Tenth Doctor and his multitude of Companions ran up against him in "Stolen Earth/Journey's End," and the appearance of Davros and the backstory that comes with him is the thing that really grabbed me and sucked me into wanting to watch "The Old Stuff", which means it's really his fault that I'm doing this blog in the first place.

So I owe it to the Daleks' creator to talk about his introduction.

Oh. And it's about the creation of the Daleks. Who doesn't love that?

Let's get to it!

Commentary!: We start in a vast wasteland, with men in gas masks shooting at each other and acting all sneaky war like. It's an ominous beginning, but perhaps about twenty seconds too long.

Here, we meet The Doctor, who finds himself disoriented and alone in this barren wasteland place. He encounters a no-necked hunchback Time Lord, who provides him with a ton of exposition about The Time Lords foreseeing a point in time when the Daleks will exterminate all other life in the universe, which The Time Lords can't stand for. So, instead of sending a bunch of trained Time Lord commandos (that's a god damned episode right there) to get the job done, they pull The Doctor and his companions out of the end of their previous adventure and give The Doctor a mission with three possible objectives: avert the creation of the Daleks, make them less aggressive and evil, and/or find an inherent weakness in the Daleks that the Time Lords can exploit later. The Doctor accepts and is given a Time Ring, which will take The Doctor and his companions back to the TARDIS once the mission is complete. The Doctor then asks where they are.

The Time Lord reveals that they are on Skaro.

No-Neck disappears and doesn't show up ever again (I vote trans-mat accident), leaving The Doctor to meet up with his companions, Harry and Sarah Jane, after which they traverse the vast, barren landscape, heading off towards.... wherever....

It reminds me a lot of Omega's anti-matter universe... I'm just saying...

Eventually, they reach a domed city, surrounded be several dead gas-masked individuals, posted as sentry statues to scare off invaders. Without warning, though, there's an attack and gas (also, a very obviously placed smoke machine) and some chaps with gas masks invade, pulling The Doctor and Harry into the bunker, but leaving Sarah Jane outside and unconscious.

The Doctor and Harry meet with General [name] and there's a go-around of slight jokes and humour before they are ordered taken down into the bunker, where the scientists work. This general guy proudly proclaims the supremacy of the "Kaled race"... which the Doctor notices is an anagram for something...

This is how the Kaled people say "How"

Now, before I go too far, it's probably best to note that Terry Nation wrote this episode, which is fitting, given what it deals with and such. But it's also good to note that his original vision of the Daleks was based a lot on the Nazi Party, what with the xenophobia and the hatred of other cultures...

But this episode takes that metaphor a step further (as we shall see with the appearance of Davros in a little bit). The Kaleds have a very Nazi feel to them, from the salutes, to the uniforms, to Security Commander Nyder.... It all has a VERY Reichstag feel to it, so maybe keep that in mind while we continue.

So The Doctor and Harry best the general and manage to escape... Sorta. They are apprehended very quickly by the aforementioned Security Commander Nyder, who calls them Mutos (which is so derogatory sounding it's amazing. Try calling someone a Muto tomorrow. You'll get slapped... possibly with a lawsuit...) and makes reference to the best Kaled scientist of them all: one called Davros.

Meanwhile, Sarah Jane, lost and separated from The Doctor and Harry, runs through this vast, barren landscape, chased by these weird cloaked people when she eventually comes upon this small, seemingly abandoned testing ground. It is here that she sees this.

Which is just... chilling. He's all creepy too, but also chilling. He croaks out a command to something that Sarah Jane recognizes as the first Dalek.

You can always tell the Companions with history that involves Daleks cuz they always look like that.

Davros orders the Dalek to fire (which also has some better special effects because they can apparently afford Dalek lasers now), which is an immediate success, and Davros is most pleased.

And that's how the first episode ends: with them showing us the first official test of the Dalek and the appearance of Davros, their creator. It's nuts, chilling, and badass and I love it. Seriously. It just rocks.

So then we're into the second episode.

Sarah Jane meets a bunch of Skaro homeless, who are mutated and scarred (I'd call them "Mutos", but that's so not PC, I'm sure...), but before too long all of them are kidnapped by the Thals and forced to work on loading the Thals' missile, which is the big Thal Hail Mary play against the Kaleds. She loads the missile with radioactive material. How do we know?

There's a nice safety meter on the wall.

But we'll come back to her in a bit...

Nyder orders the Doctor and Harry screened. Once he leaves, The Doctor asks for a cup of tea (but apparently that's too hard for the Kaleds). Once "screened" the Kaleds discover and confiscate The Doctor's Time Ring, stranding The Doctor and his companions until they can get the Time Ring back.

But now, it is time for Davros's first public demonstration of his new Dalek creation.

The Doctor and Harry are detained, but are visited by Ronson, who voices concerns over Davros's creation. They talk at length about needing to get the issue taken care of, and Ronson lets the Doctor and Harry go, helping them get out of the bunker and to the military where they can plead the case to shut Davros down.

Armed with a plan to shut down the Daleks (yes, it's really that easy), The Doctor and Harry brave the underground caverns in an attempt to get to the Kaled surface so they can stop Davros's nefarious creations.

While this is happening, Sarah rallies the Thal-captive Mutos and Kaleds into an escape by breaking out of their cells and climbing the scaffolding around the Thal missile so they can escape through the top of the Thal dome.

It's a really good plan. Unfortunately, the Thals get wind and, as the Mutos, Kaleds and Sarah Jane climb the scaffolding, open fire, killing the Mutos and scaring Sarah Jane enough so that this happens.

She falls.

That's how episode two ends.

And no. I'm not joking.

I for one was like WHAT?! You're kidding me! How is she getting out of this one? For a minute, I was like "Damn! Maybe this is how Sarah Jane dies!" But she doesn't.

Wanna know how?

She falls onto a random outcropping of platform

Well done, Terry Nation. Crazy cliffhanger, and a cheap out. This is why I love you.

So she tries to escape and gets all the way to the top, but apparently she's afraid of heights or something (making this a REALLY bad plan, Sarah Jane. If you're afraid of heights, it probably doesn't get better because you have to run away from some fair-haired folk who will one day walk around like male versions of Xena Warrior Princess (or maybe Hercules. They are so similar) with leather pants and giant turtle coats. So this is a lesson to everyone: when you make a desperate escape plan, don't hinge it on a fear that you have, because when she gets to the top she panics and isn't able to escape and is re-captured by some douchey Thals who threaten to drop her (What is this? 2nd Grade?). So she's back in Thal custody and she still has to load the missile full of radiation things.

Again, if you have Triskaidekaphobia, don't make plans that involve the number thirteen. It just won't end up well. Learn from Sarah Jane.

While this is going on, Harry and The Doctor traverse the evil cavern of Davros' discarded experiments (or as we call it in my house: the kitchen) where there are weird lizard creatures behind metal bars (see, that thing would be in my crock pot already, which is what the Kaleds should do! They are low on supplies!) and a giant god damn clam that tries to eat Harry's leg!

Oh No-ez!

But Harry gets out of it and his leg is fine (because the clam had no teeth and was apparently just sucking on Harry's pacifier of a leg? I don't know! NOT IMPORTANT!) and The Doctor and Harry get the hell out of "Davros' kitchen" and escape to the Kaled dome, where they make an appeal to the military.

The department heads all meet and, after a delightful ice-breaker session (Kaleds having to do ice-breakers is really funny in my head) The Doctor makes an impassioned speech that is 95% off camera (it's always so much better that way), and the military, not wanting to shut down Davros outright (lest they lose their advantages against the Thals), decide to suspend all experimentation until they can make a full investigation into Davros and his plans. They also give information to The Doctor and Harry about Sarah Jane, saying their spies in the Thal dome know she's in there and is afraid of heights. The Kaleds give the Doctor a back entrance into the Thal dome (which, really? Come on, Kaleds. That's an in to end this bloody conflict) and the two hurry on their way.

Davros finds out that Ronson set The Doctor and Harry free and that the military wants to shut him down, so he goes along with their requests. A bit too easily, I might add. Hmmm... He tells Security Commander Nyder that he wants to go for a journey.

I just hope it's Dalek-chair accessible.

The Doctor and Harry traverse the wasteland and wind up in the Thal dome, seeing a The Thals meeting with Davros and Nyder. Davros explains that all he wants is peace and gives away his formula to the molecular shielding that protects the Kaled dome.

Nyder is always proud to be standing next to Davros

That is some dark, nefarious *#$& right there. Davros sells out his own people so he can continue with his experiments. Seriously. Dark. He only asks that he can help rebuild the society.

The Thals, lusty (great word) for victory against their enemies and an end to the thousand years of conflict, accept and make plans to eliminate the Kaleds in a matter of hours. Davros and Nyder return to the Kaled city, leaving The Doctor to tell Harry that they have to get back after them and warn the Kaleds.

But Sarah Jane first.

The Doctor and Harry knock out two Thal guards (in a seriously genius moment by Tom Baker, involving him walking up to them and going "Hello! I'm a spy!" and knocking them out) and then pull a Star Wars: New Hope on the clothing, disguising themselves as Storm Troopers so they can get to Sarah Jane.

The Doctor gives a lot of energy, telling the Mutos that they're free, but they do nothing except shuffle out all "Okay... if we have to..." like... And The Doctor and his companions decide to split up, Sarah Jane and Harry heading back to the Kaled dome to warn about the missile (and they go with a Muto who has a TOTAL crush on Sarah Jane. Also, I ship them) while the Doctor stays behind to try to shut down the rocket.

But he's captured by Thals....

And he wakes up just as the Thals are launching their counter-Kaled shield attack. Having sent his Companions back to the Kaled dome, he panics and tries to stop the launch, which sounds terribly complicated except that it isn't.

The Thals always have an exit strategy.

It's also good to point out that that is the first of two insanely silly buttons in this story.

So The Doctor fails to stop the missile and the Kaled dome is obliterated. The Thals are victorious and the Kaleds are vanquished. The Thals order all prisoners released and the celebration to begin. They break out the casks of Thal wine (the good ones, probably from before the war. Mmmmmm thousand year old Skaro wine...) and start a good old fashioned Thal party, including Thal limbo (it's like real limbo, but you have to do it in a Thal Turtle Coat) and Thal Bingo (same).

Completely disheartened by the fact that Harry and Sarah Jane died off screen without even appearing in this episode (or any of the other ones. No really, they're dead), he puts his real clothes back on (he doesn't want to be a Thal guard anymore) and prepares to leave.

Meanwhile, safe beneath the Kaled dome in the underground bunker, Davros declares himself ruler over the remaining Kaleds (who are, essentially, the scientists) and work on his Dalek projects to be given full priority. Not only that, but he orders his first batch of Daleks to attack the Thal city in retribution (meaning he lied to both races! Genius!)

Oh, and he kills Ronson, framing him for betrayal of the Kaled race (when all he did was let The Doctor and Harry out of their cell) but more on that at the very end.

As the Doctor leaves, he encounters a Thal girl, Bettan, just as the Daleks attack the city. The two manage to get out of there and into the trenches, where the Doctor says, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Stay here for an episode and a half and don't do anything and then come in at the end and blow up the Kaled bunker."

Which she does. Literally. She appears in episode five, but doesn't do a damn thing until about halfway through episode six.

While this is going on, Davros, now completely unconstrained by the military, orders a final implementation to his evil creation: genetic manipulation to remove the Daleks' moral center. This attracts the attention of one called Gharman, who speaks out to a scientist. Unfortunately, he is overheard by Nyder, who pretends to be on his side so that he can weed out the dissenters.

Gharman reveals all the information to Nyder (who's very silly and very prissy here) and Davros (who happens to be stalking in the room like some creeper... I think that's why Davros keeps Nyder around: because Davros likes to watch... GUHHHHHH bad thoughts bad thoughts!!!), who lock Gharman away in solitary confinement.

The Doctor returns to Davros' Kitchen where he meets Sarah Jane and Harry (okay fine, they didn't die. You got me) and Sarah's Muto-with-a-crush. The Doctor (seeing a bad plan and not wanting Sarah Jane to make out accidentally with someone who wasn't a "Normie") sends the Muto out to Bettan so that he can help her mount an anti-Dalek resistance.

On their way back into the Kaled bunker, they encounter the clams again. It is epic. There is jumping over some stationary styrofoam clams.

Sarah Jane: Afraid of Heights and Clams, but not Hurdling

The three break back into the bunker, but are almost instantly captured by Davros. The Doctor is put in a lie detector chair, where Davros demands The Doctor tell him the reasons for every Dalek defeat. If the Doctor refuses, Sarah Jane and Harry, in torture chairs, will be subjected to what Davros calls, quote, "All the torments and agonies ever known."

Meaning that his torture chairs can even simulate a broken heart and the bitterness of losing a game of Scrabble to your child. Sarah Jane will soon know what that Muto feels for her (that's the broken heart, not the game of Scrabble... although who knows? Maybe they played Scrabble while they were in Thal custody. It could happen).

Given no choice (and really, I can't blame him. Sarah Jane having a broken heart over and over again? Oh it's unbearable...) The Doctor spills all his secrets about his Dalek encounters over the years, and Davros records the whole thing. Once the session is "over" he allows the companions to go, but leaves the Doctor behind, sparking this conversation, which I find just... so inherently evil, but at the same time as COMPLETELY de-humanizing Davros, we do get the real motivations of his evil, megalomaniacal mind.

Sarah Jane and Harry are celled up with Gharman, who explains everything that's been going on. The Doctor joins them, but all four of them are soon broken out by a Kaled Scientist #2. Gharman calls for revolution and power play, and with the majority against Davros, Gharman's buddies overpower Davros'. With no other alternatives, Davros calls for a standing down of his forces.

Meanwhile, The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry find some explosives while looking for the Time Ring and the recording of Dalek defeats and the Doctor opts to blow up the Dalek incubation chamber, as he can no longer make the Daleks less aggressive or alter their genetic programming.

Gharman confronts Davros and coups against him, but Davros argues that, democratically (and Davros hates democracy, so that should tip everyone off), everyone should vote on who should rule. Gharman reluctantly agrees (because he can't argue with Davros's logic of "If you know you're going to win, you have nothing to fear by voting) and preparations are made.

The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry reach the incubation chamber, where the Dalek mutants scream and squeal and sound REALLY gross. It's like... unsettling and kinda freaky (also interesting to point out: at some point Sarah Jane had time to change into camo pants... and a new shirt and jacket... weird). The Doctor goes in to set the explosives but as he leaves the chamber--

Gross happens!

But he flings it off, so that's okay. Then he prepares to set off the explosives and destroy the Daleks once and for all.

Unfortunately, (and I love this bit) he finds himself in a bit of a dilemma: committing genocide and destroying all the Daleks. If he does this, if he sparks the two wires and sets off the detonators and prevent the deaths of millions of people but at the cost of an entire species, he becomes no better than them.

And that is why I love Doctor Who. Great debate.

Fortunately for him, Gharman shows up and tells him that the battle is over. That the Daleks will be shut down because Davros has agreed to a vote that Gharman is OBVIOUSLY going to win. The Doctor, burden lifted, removes the wires and follows to the meeting.

Gharman, The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry enter and the debate begins, Davros giving his speech, discussing Kaled nationalism and progress and progression into the future and aggression and all that blabbity blab.

He also points out that the Dalek creation production lines are already underway and they cannot be stopped... Except by this button, which would bring down the entire bunker except for the room they are standing in.

Man. Can you imagine slipping and hitting that button? They should put a glass case over it or something. My word.

While all this is going on, The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry all look for the Time Ring so that they can get out of there. But then Harry points out, "The Time Ring isn't here!" And then everyone quietly panics because how can it not be here.

And then Sarah Jane finds it thirty seconds later.

Great storytelling, that.

Davros calls for the vote, singling out each person one by one and asking if they're going to betray him. Seriously. This guy is just stalling for time. Doesn't anyone see that?

During this, Nyder leaves the debate. The Doctor finds this peculiar and he and his companions follow him and subdue him, and force him to go to Davros' office (where Davros goes to fill out paperwork and perhaps play office miniature golf on a small strip of astro-turf with a cup at the end).

(See? She completely changed her outfit!)

What he doesn't realize is that during the struggle with Nyder, the Time Ring flew off his wrist and landed in a nondescript corridor.

While all this is happening, the Daleks, having finished wiping out the Thals, head back into the Kaled bunker on Davros' orders. Bettan (REMEMBER HER?) and her small band of rebel Thals and Mutos (That still sounds so racist!) follow them inside and start placing explosives and stuff.

Once in Davros' office (I love that he has an office. Never getting over that), Nyder gives them the recording (which they destroy), but manages to escape the room, sealing them inside. Luckily, they don't need to escape because they have the Time Ring.

No... Wait... They don't...

Faced with no other options, and trapped inside Davros' office, they watch a video screen which shows them the main conference room where Davros IS STILL SINGLING PEOPLE OUT. (Oh my God. Just defeat him!) Finally, Gharman has had enough of this and declares Davros defeated. That's when Davros reveals his secret plan:

Daleks in the wings.

They come in and exterminate everyone (hang tight, you'll see it in a minute).

Also: cutouts!

They've had some practice, though. So they hide them real good.

And The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry can only watch in horror as their last chance to stop the Daleks goes up in laser blasts that negative-out the screen.

Sarah Jane's Muto friend shows up, unlocking the office door and looking for a little alone time with Sarah Jane (not really, but it's funnier this way), but there's no time for that. The Doctor has to find the Time Ring. So they leave--

And find it quite quickly they do. The Doctor sends Sarah Jane and Harry out to the surface and Bettan's squad with Sarah Jane's Muto friend while The Doctor himself heads back to the incubation chamber to blow up the Daleks.

The Hat means he's ready to go.

Unfortunately, before he can pick up the wires he left on the ground, a Dalek shows up (as they have now overrun the bunker) and gets in his way. Fortunately for him, it does not see the wires, and running over it with its magnetic underside creates a full circuit, meaning this unknowing Dalek blows up the incubation chamber.

Which I find awesome.

Davros, now completely unopposed, begins ordering the Daleks around, but before he can issue more than one or two, sees that the Dalek production lines have begun. He makes a big deal of it, saying "I gave no such order!" One of his creations steps forward and says "I gave the order!"

Davros gives it a slap on the wrist and tells Nyder to shut down the line. When he tries, however, a Dalek exterminates him. Davros panics, telling the Daleks to obey him because he is their creator and master.

That's a damn shame, though. Because he programmed the Daleks to not acknowledge any other thing as superior to them. Meaning that his status as their creator and master means absolutely jack nothing. As Davros is not a Dalek, they close in on him all ominous-like.

That is some great writing.

Upstairs at the entrance, Bettan is trigger happy with her explosives. Sarah Jane begs her to just wait until the Doctor gets out. Bettan doesn't and orders the doors closed, but just as she's doing that, The Doctor turns up, Daleks hot on his heels.

He's running so fast, in fact, that he loses his hat.

And seriously, it happens so fast I can't screencap it, so it's a fifteen secondish youtube clip below. But watch this, man. He's running so fast that his hat just FLIES off and Tom Baker has NO clue it's coming and he doesn't catch it and in the context of the scene, he has NO time to go back and grab for it.

So then Bettan blows up the passages, sealing the bunker in and out for a thousand yards (or something. You see what she's saying). Then, everyone crowds around a ridiculously conveniently placed screen, where they watch the Daleks exterminate Davros and the Daleks declare themselves all powerful and in control of their destiny.

They have been created.

And it's kinda chilling...

The Doctor then talks about having not stopped the Daleks but says he was able to stall their development for a thousand years (or something. This part kinda doesn't make sense because eventually the Daleks create time travel and then it doesn't matter how much they were stalled out because they can just time travel the time away later... or something)

But it is cool to see the Daleks' creation.

The Thals and the Mutos leave, leaving The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry alone to grab onto the Time Ring and portkey back to the TARDIS.

And yeah, that's right. You heard me. Portkey. Through space.

There's only one other thing I wanted to mention about this episode. Every time someone gets exterminated by a Dalek, it's amazing. It's so completely insanely over the top and without any sort of dignity at all. I wanted to show them all, so I decided to put together a little compilation of all the Deaths-by-Dalek in this episode. This might become a recurring feature? I don't know. All I know is some of these deaths are INCREDIBLE (my favorite is Gharman) and, ironically, the only one to get a Dalek death with any sort of dignity is Nyder.

So without any further ado, some Deaths by Dalek!

What about The Doctor?: Tom Baker comes with baggage. He's easily the most prolific Doctor and he's incredibly popular, so I was crazy looking forward to him...

But his take on the Doctor is not what I was expecting. Like. At all. He's a completely different Doctor than anything I've seen to this point, wildly eccentric but incredibly subtle. There's a lot of nuance and beneath-the-surface to his performance that he puts in there and, really, he makes me think. If nothing else, I'm left at the end of this serial (and I've seen it several times now, as one has to for a blog like this) loving his interpretation of the character more and more each time and more than anything else, I just want to see his stories more and more and more...

And I've been looking to the future, and there's a LOT of Tom Baker coming up (as there needs to be for the sake of balance and so I don't get slammed with just a mess of him as we run out of stories... Seriously... July, people. I'm just saying...) and all I can think about is how excited I am because his Doctor is just so.... good, but in a completely different way from David Tennant or Matt Smith or Patrick Troughton or even Peter Davison (coming up next week). Tom Baker's Doctor is WAY beneath the surface, and I love that about him because it's a ridiculously unique take on the Doctor and I'm left wanting more.

And that can only be a good thing.

Next time!: Peter Davison! Three Annoying Companions! Androids in the 17th Century! And real, proper lasers! The Visitation! Coming next Tuesday!

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