Doctor Who #396: Genesis of the Daleks Part 3

"Why is it always me who puts a foot in it?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.22 1975.

IN THIS ONE... Harry puts his foot in a giant clam. Davros flips on his own people. Sarah's escape attempt fails, but the boys come for her anyway.

REVIEW: After two high-quality episodes, Genesis finally hits a snag. The best cliffhangers often have the worst cop-outs, and in this case, a platform appears, where there didn't seem to be one before, to catch Sarah. But what really cheapens the exciting escape sequence is that she and Sevrin the Muto are caught just as they get to the top, rendering the entire thing meaningless. To be fair, it allows the Doctor to later hear about it and know where she's being held, but it still cheapens it. So a rough start, but the hard knocks keep coming. The cave of mutations the Doctor and Harry are forced to navigate gives us one of the worst monster attacks of the 70s. Harry just up and puts his foot in a giant orange clam - he'd have had to do it on purpose for it to work. The Doctor then proceeds to unconvincingly hit the clam with a variety of polystyrene rocks. Urgh. And in the category of things that just happen, I also have to mention the cliffhanger in which a guard pushes a button and electrifies part of the rocket rafters, zapping the Doctor. Why didn't they use that to stop the escape attempt?

The episode also has geography problems. I like that the script allows for skips in time so that, for example, we hear the Kaled scientists talk about the Doctor reaching their civilian leaders, and then showing them already in conference. However, it's not clear how he got to them from the cave of mutations. It felt like an escape to the  wastelands, and then they're back in the bunker. Similarly, when Davros decides to betray his people because they want to suspend his experiments, he appears in the Thal dome for a secret meeting. How did he get there? Did he trundle down the wastes in his wheelchair? Did Nyder pack him in a truck? Or are there secret passages (such as the one the Doctor takes) the Kaleds could have exploited all along? Why are each side's leaders so accessible? It's a wonder none of them have been assassinated yet (or maybe they have and all these guys are new to their posts, who knows?).

Not to say there aren't any saving graces. The acting is strong, from the Doctor smiling at danger to Sarah Jane overcoming her fears to Davros pacifying his leaders with feigned cooperation before coolly turning on them. They're all very watchable. The action is simple, but properly exciting. It looks like this Doctor is more of a tavern brawler than a martial artist, but it works. Maloney brings some flair to the direction as well, for example pushing on the Thal dome model on the tactical map before cutting to events taking place on the Thal side. Everyone's doing his or her best; it's the script that's lacking.

THEORIES: One of the debates that pops up when Doctor Who does a time interference story is whether History is solid or fluid. The fact the Time Lords, experts in this field, have tasked the Doctor with changing History suggests it is fluid, and indeed, by the end of this story, we'll be better able to evaluate if History did change. And if it does change, how does that affect the Doctor's personal time line? Does he still meet the same Daleks in previous stories? Or when he first encountered them, had he already interfered with their origins? I ask because he's already interfered with Dalek history by this point. His intervention has made the Kaled leadership put a hold on the Dalek experiments/manufacture. Davros' response is to decant 20 Daleks before they're ready, Daleks Nyder calls "unstable". So it's possible that their ultimate form, while still killing machines, might have been truly logical beings (which they often claim to be), instead of psychopaths who often can't hold it in. Claustrophobic, xenophobic, isolated creatures who scream, panic and sometimes commit suicide at the drop of a hat. But that's the Daleks as we've known them, so... Were we watching the new time line all along? Was the Doctor interacting with beings whose progress he'd already interfered with?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The previous chapters' momentum carries us through the padding, silly monsters and plot holes.



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