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20 February 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 416: Genesis of the Daleks, Episode Six 

Dear diary,

The scene in this episode, where the Doctor holds the two wires in his hands, knowing that he only needs to touch them together in order to destroy the Daleks forever is perhaps one of the most famous moments in Doctor Who history. I’d always assumed it was the very climax to the story - it’s what I thought we were building towards certainly - so imagine my surprise when it actually came along just seconds after the end of the cliffhanger reprise!

There’s no denying that it is a great scene, but I found that its impact was then somewhat lessened by the fact that the story goes on for so long afterwards, feeling artificially drawn-out, before the wires get touched together anyway when a Dalek happens to trundle over them by accident. For me, it takes away from the beauty of that scene, and I think that Genesis as a whole (no matter how much I’ve enjoyed it) would have been better served as a four-part story, cutting out a lot of the padding. Remove things like the giant clams, the Doctor getting strangled by a Dalek mutant, and all the business today where they’re ready to go but - oh no! - they’ve lost the Time Ring again, and you’d have a tighter story. I know it was released as an LP in the late 1970s, as an edited version of the story, and I’m almost tempted to give that a listen when the right time comes along, to see if I like the story even more in a condensed format.

All of this is sounding very negative, but really I have enjoyed today’s episode once again. I made a note early on about how, after effectively building up their numbers throughout the tale, it waspainfully obvious that they only had three Dalek props this time... and then you get that stunning reveal that there’s actually loads of them. I wondered for a while if this was simply some odd direction from Maloney, but I think it’s actually all about making that impact when the screen is suddenly full of them. It’s the first time in a long, long while that they’ve actually seemed scary.

The downfall of Davros is actually very well done, too. In keeping with the rest of the story, it’s very down-beat and harsh, from the moment we see Nyder unceremoniously exterminated onwards. I don’t know what I thought would happen to Nyder. If Davros was to be exterminated, then there was no way his henchman could be allowed to live, after all, but I’d never really considered it. He’s been such a genuinely nasty presence right through the story, and I love that his death is handled so unceremoniously. There’s no fanfare, no build up, and no mourning, he’s simply alive one minute acting as Davros’ lap-dog, and dead the next. It’s so sudden, and it really works.

And then you’ve got the extermination of Davros himself. That we only focus in on his hand when he dies, and not his face, is an absolute masterstroke. It creates a lasting image of his death, while at the same time making him just another casualty of the Daleks. As I mused yesterday, I really do think that this would be a good place to leave his story, but I’ll wait and see how I feel about that by the time that Destiny rolls around.

I said when this story started that I was usually skeptical about those stories that people consider to be absolute classics. Genesis of the Daleks has proven that sometimes, just sometimes, fan wisdom claims a story is great simply because it is. I’m genuinely surprised by just how much I’ve enjoyed this one, but I’m completely thrilled that I have. The next couple of seasons are practically littered with stories that fandom rates very highly, and if they can all be as worthy of their reputations as this one has been, then I’m in for a real treat.

 

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