Doctor Who #398: Genesis of the Daleks Part 5

"To know that the tiny pressure of my thumb, enough to break the glass, would end everything. Yes. I would do it. That power would set me up above the gods."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Apr.5 1975.

IN THIS ONE... Davros makes the Doctor reveal all Dalek mistakes throughout history, makes a speech about wiping all life in the universe, and quietly surrenders to the rebels. Meanwhile, the Doctor prepares to blow up the Dalek nursery.

REVIEW: The cornerstones of the two last episodes is a pair of speeches, one by Davros in Part 5, the other by the Doctor in Part 6. The Doctor's is justly famous, and we'll get to it tomorrow. It struck me, watching Part 5 just now, that Davros' speech is a mirror of the Doctor's. DOES any man have the right to commit genocide? The Doctor will ask because it might save even more lives. Davros asks because he's able to do it. Davros wants his Daleks to survive, and according to his logic, the only way to make sure is if they destroy or subjugate every living thing in the universe. He certainly isn't phased by the Doctor's analogy. If he had a mindless virus that could destroy everything and become the dominant life, he would use it. It is madness, but Davros is already a creator of life, akin to godhood, an idea carried to term in Journey's End when he builds a reality bomb.  The Doctor does put the lie to the idea that Davros would be content to die if his creations lived on in that viral example, by threatening his life. That Davros has a button on his chair that shuts off his life functions is a stupid idea, but it's used cleverly. Davros folds and regretfully orders his Daleks destroyed. Only Nyder's intervention prevents it from happening. So outside the realm of abstraction, when push comes to shove, Davros places himself above his creations.

Michael Wisher as Davros is nothing short of fantastic. An eyeless rubber mask, a wheelchair and a single gnarled hand, and still he manages to express a deceptively complex character. Because he has the voice of the Daleks, we often remember Davros as a major rant artist, but those rants are really counterbalanced by moments of quiet. His excitement at the Doctor's thought experiment, rising in pitch as he lets his nihilistic imagination take flight. His scene with Nyder, letting this veritable rat (watch how he bolts when the rebels attack) talk while he thinks and plans, a single finger tapping his console (hard not to think of the sound of drums these days). How he treats Gharman's rebels like children, accepting their terms not with bitterness, but with pity for their lack of vision. It's really too bad they handed the character over to other actors in later appearances.

That leaves the Doctor with lots to do - destroy the Daleks, get the Time Ring back, and retrieve the tapes of him spilling the beans on every Dalek defeat in history (first one we hear has a big mistake in it, so maybe he's trying to at least mess up the details). His visit to the Dalek nursery is a bit disappointing, I admit, as the creatures show no movement, certainly nothing compared to the disgusting noises they make. The scene is redeemed by the savagery of the mutant that tries to choke him, I suppose. With Davros and various rebellious elements getting a lot of screen time, the companions are a little lost. Harry has a surprise appearance dressed in a guard's uniform, but mostly, they're following one goodie or another, not overcoming their own challenges.

THEORIES: So who DID send the Doctor to change History? The Time Lord we meet, called Ferain in the novel Lungbarrow, certainly isn't dressed like any Time Lord we've seen, nor will see. He is, however, a figure not unlike the Time Lord who showed up in Terror of the Autons to warn the Doctor of the Master's arrival. Appearing out of nowhere and gone the next instant, traveling without a TARDIS (and in this case, giving the Doctor the means to, an equivalent of what we know today as a vortex manipulator, the Time Ring). It is largely accepted today that this character is a member of Gallifrey's CIA (or Celestial Intervention Agency), a shadow group that secretly intervenes in space-time affairs while Gallifrey itself remains non-interventionist. Robert Holmes introduces the concept in The Deadly Assassin to explain who was sending the Doctor on all those missions. In retrospect, even the second Doctor's tribunal was probably held by the CIA. They apparently used him on missions (The Two Doctors) before exiling him to Earth where they further manipulated him, and quite possibly, sent him there in the first place to lure/stop the Master. Since the CIA doesn't play by the rules, it seems an intriguing notion that their time lines aren't synchronized with the Doctor's. After all, Ferain says the Time Lords foresee a time when the Daleks will be masters of the universe. How exactly? By use of a visionary like the one seen in The End of Time? Or indeed, because Ferain actually comes from Gallifrey's future - the Time War. Voiding the existence of their greatest enemy before the war can start seems like a paradox the CIA might well get into.

REWATCHABILITY: High - A stand-out performance by Michael Wisher as Davros that gives extra meaning to the Doctor's dilemma in the finale.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Wisher's Davros was a delight to watch. No one else managed his perfect balance of genius and insanity.

Siskoid said...

It didn't help that all future masks in the classic series were of lesser quality to this one.


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