Review – Genesis of the Daleks
Genesis of the Daleks aired 8 March to 12 April 1975.
Tom Baker’s Doctor is sent by the Time Lords to prevent the Daleks from ever becoming a threat. Arriving thousands of years in the Dalek’s past at their very beginning; The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry find themselves on Skaro amidst a nuclear war. The Thals and the Kaleds have been at war for generations; the conflict has escalated to a nuclear war, where the whole world is in ruin save for the bunker cities that house the last of both the Thals and the Kaleds. Davros, a brilliant scientist for the Kaleds, has been working on an experiment to mutate the Kaleds until they become immune to radiation. His creations are no longer humanoid, so he makes machines to keep them alive, arms and amours them to survive in the hostile world. His new life forms are the Daleks. The Doctor defeats Davros and Daleks; he’s left holding a weapon that could kill the Daleks before they go to the stars. Before they kill trillions. All he needs to do is touch two wires together, and the Daleks die on Skaro. But he can’t do it. Genocide isn’t acceptable; he can’t kill the Daleks in cold blood.
At the very beginning of Tom Baker’s 6 season run, Genesis of the Daleks is only his 4th story. Watching through Doctor Who chronologically the audience has barely got a grasp on what kind of Doctor Tom Baker is going to be, and yet this is one of the best Tom Baker episodes ever made. Don’t get me wrong, the whole Tom Baker era is fantastic, but this episode is one of the cherries on top.
Genesis is the 14th Dalek appearance in Doctor Who. Still, it adds more to the lore of the Daleks than any other episode, including the original (called Dalek, which was the 2nd ever episode of Doctor Who). Many Dalek episodes have the Daleks as just a generic fascist opponent for the Doctor, a reused ‘Monster of the week.’ But Genesis digs down into the conflict that lies beneath.
The Kaleds and the Thals are not so different from one another, nor from any humans. But after the Thousand Year War, they are willing to give any sacrifice to end the war, except negotiate peace. Their ultra-puritanical ultra-nationalistic beliefs are condensed even further in the Daleks, creatures that are unable to stand any creature that isn’t one of them.
While exploring the rise of fascism in society, the story delivers another punch. If you could, would you kill baby Hitler? When the Doctor has the option of killing them all before they can grow into the murderous conquerors they are destined to become, he cannot bring himself to do it in cold blood. Even knowing the future, and all those that will be hurt, tortured, and die; to murder them would be a greater crime, because to murder them is to become them.
Knee deep in themes already, the story finishes with the Dalek sealed inside their bunker, knowing that they will eventually emerge; but there is time for one last cathartic blow. The Daleks begin to act on their own authority. Davros ordering them to follow his orders has just enough time to realise that their hatred for all others includes a hatred for him, but before he can act the Daleks do what Daleks do best: Exterminate.
Science fiction at its best, is exploring not only strange worlds but also strange ideas. By delving into a fictional format, a writer can run a war game scenario to explore what happens when dangerous ideas are fed the power they need. Sometimes exploring the darkest themes can be a cautionary tale, and sometimes a beacon of hope. The Daleks might be out there, but so is the Doctor.