When Sue glances at the DVD’s episode selection screen, her heart sinks.
Sue: Oh no! Six episodes? This is not good.
And then, mid-way through the title sequence, she’s buffeted by two conflicting emotions. Firstly, there’s joy:
Sue: Genesis of the Daleks! Yes!
Followed swiftly by horror:
Sue: Terry ****ing Nation!
This could take some time so I pause the DVD.
Me: We watched this story together almost 19 years ago to the day. It was during my first (and entirely unsuccessful) attempt at converting you to Doctor Who. It was back in the early days of our relationship. Do you remember anything about it?
Sue: Only that I thought it was good. Or maybe I just said it was good so you wouldn’t finish with me.
Me: It’ll be interesting to see how much of this you actually remember.
Sue: I was probably too busy looking at you to take much notice, so don’t get your hopes up, love. And given that I’ve already seen this story, does that mean we can skip it? I’ll give it an eight.
Genesis of the Daleks not only begins with a massacre, it begins with a massacre in slow motion.
Sue: I can see why you decided to show me this one. This is definitely not for kids.
Me: That was the reaction I was hoping for. I wanted you to believe that Doctor Who was gritty, complicated and action-packed.
Sue: In other words, you lied to me.
The Doctor is briefed by a man dressed in black.
Sue: Is it the Master?
I decide to ignore her.
Sue: His collar is a bit limp. He looks like a court jester.
The Doctor’s mission is simple: stop the Daleks at the moment of their creation. Sue tells me to pause the DVD.
Sue: Are they allowed to do this? And if they are, why don’t they do this sort of thing all the time? When does he stop the Cybermen from being born? Or the Ice Warriors? I mean, where do you stop?
Me: That’s a good question. The Time Lords are clearly using the Doctor so it will give them deniability if they **** it up. So, in short, no, they shouldn’t be doing this. Some fans believe that this is the first shot fired in the Time War.
Sue: About bloody time. I was beginning to wonder when we’d get around to that.
The Doctor is reunited with Harry and Sarah, and together they set out across the wasteland, avoiding missile barrages as they go.
Sue: This is very good. The direction is excellent. Best use of a quarry in Doctor Who so far.
Our heroes end up in a minefield.
Sue: Just detonate the mines with your sonic screwdriver. You’re always doing it. Or maybe he’s worried about being hit in the face by a flying rock. That would make sense, actually.
The Doctor steps on a mine and Harry has to rescue him.
Sue: I like Harry now. He just risked his life to save the Doctor, and that means he’s okay in my book.
Night falls on the trenches.
Sue: It’s a shame we had to switch over to video, but at least they’re trying to make it look as seamless as possible. The smoke and atmospheric lighting help. Someone must have sat down and really thought about this. It looks great.
The Doctor and his companions are caught up in a vicious fire-fight between the Thals and the Kaleds.
Sue: This is very adult. It feels like we’re watching a documentary about Serbian war crimes.
The Doctor and Harry are taken inside the Kaled bunker and Sarah is left for dead outside. Sue is vexed that both the Doctor and Harry don’t make a fuss about this, even if they are dazed and confused. And then Sue settles into what will become one of her regular silences as Tom Baker dominates the proceedings. In fact, the only thing I managed to get out of her for ages was “Ooh, Thals!”, which made me smile.
Sue: Finally, some atmospheric indoor lighting for a change. It just goes to show what you can do if you put your mind to it. The direction is very nice, too. There’s plenty of movement and some interesting angles, so it never feels stagey.
Me: Do you remember anything about it so far?
Sue: Not a thing, although these Nazis do ring a bell. I remember it being very depressing. I actually believe that the bad guys will hurt Harry and the Doctor in this scene. They’re scary because they seem so real.
When Davros is mentioned, the Doctor asks who he might be.
Sue: Surely the Doctor would know who Davros is if he comes from the future? That would be like travelling back in time to stop the Nazis from invading Poland without knowing who Hitler was. It doesn’t make sense.
Sarah gets her first look at the mad scientist, but she’s more shocked by the Dalek that emerges from the shadows.
Sue: Of course, Sarah’s met the Daleks before. You’d have thought the Doctor would have warned her that she might bump into them. That was a bit of an oversight.
Sue: What happened to the recap? There’s no recap, Neil.
Me: We saw it two minutes ago! Besides, they aren’t pissing around this week. There’s too much to do.
Sarah is rescued by a mutant named Sevrin.
Sue: I bet the mutants are nice. Mutants are always nice.
Me: Do you recognise the actor who’s playing this particular mutant?
Sue: Recognise him? It’s so dark, I can hardly see him!
Davros demonstrates his new Mark 3 travel machine to some Kaled scientists.
Sue: I can’t believe they’ve actually made the Daleks scary again. I never thought I’d see the day.
When a prototype Dalek is armed, it immediately identifies the Doctor as an outsider. But just as the Dalek is about to exterminate its first victim, a scientist named Ronson intercedes, which causes Davros to go ballistic.
Sue: You wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Davros. I bet the kids were terrified of him.
Me: I know I was. Actually, I still am.
Sarah is captured by the Thals and imprisoned with a Kaled officer whose face definitely rings a bell.
Sue: He looks like Rodney Bewes from The Likely Lads.
Me: Rodney Bewes in Doctor Who. That would be… interesting.
As Sarah is led to the Thal’s rocket, Sue begins throwing out compliments like confetti at a wedding.
Sue: The set design is great. You can see where all the money has gone this year. This story has it all: massive sets, loads of extras, location work, Daleks. It’s got the lot.
She’s also impressed with the plot.
Sue: Both sides are as bad as each other, and that’s quite unusual for Doctor Who. I’m used to seeing the Thals as the helpless good guys. This is bleak. Some of the performances are very intense, too.
Sarah decides that slowly being poisoned to death isn’t really for her, so she plans a daring escape.
Sue: Sarah Jane is great in this story – she’s actually taking charge of the men. Yes, I can definitely see why you chose this story to show me. If you’d chosen ‘The Zarbi Planet’ you would have been out on your ear.
Sarah and Sevrin climb the rocket’s scaffolding.
Sue: She’s doing really well in those heels.
Sarah falls to her death and the episode ends on a freeze frame.
Sue: Brilliant cliffhanger. Let’s watch the next one.
Me: We can’t. Two episodes a night, remember?
Sue: Spoilsport. How many episodes did we watch 19 years ago?
Me: All of them.
I should point out that it wasn’t the 1993 BBC2 repeat of this story we saw. It was my copy of the official VHS tape. Back when it was called The Genesis of the Daleks.
Sue: Six episodes in one night? Bloody hell, I must have been keen on you. I’ll tell you what, let’s do it again. Let’s watch all of them tonight.
Me: No ****ing way.
Sue: Oh, come on! We could pretend that we’re young and in love.
Me: You have got to be kidding me.
Sue: You’ve got no stamina any more, that’s your problem. What does this say about our relationship, I wonder? I just offered to watch six episodes of Doctor Who with you, and you turned me down flat. Never say I don’t offer, Neil.
Me: You know someone who worked on Genesis of the Daleks, don’t you, Sue?
Sue: That’s right, I do. Rosemary Crowson. I noticed her name in the credits. I knew she’d done some Tom Baker Doctor Whos.
Me: She was the PA for two stories, and she was also the Production Manager for three episodes of Blake’s 7.
I looked that up in advance. I’m not Toby Hadoke, you know.
Me: How did you know her?
Sue: She taught production management at a media training school in the mid-1990s.
Me: Did she ever talk about Doctor Who?
Sue: She did, actually. In fact I might have some gossip for you.
Me: Go on.
Sue: Well, apparently, and I don’t know if this is common knowledge or not, but Tom Baker didn’t suffer fools gladly. He could be funny and charming, but you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him, because if you did, he’d bite your head off.
Me: Is that it?
Sue: Oh, and he used to change his lines all the time. It would drive Rosie mad. I hope she’s okay. If you Google yourself one day and you’re reading this Rosie, please get in touch.
The story resumes with Sarah falling from the gantry again, although this time she miraculously lands on a platform below.
Sue: That was a stroke of luck.
Sarah’s bravery is tested even further when she’s forced to ‘jump’ from the gantry to the rocket cone.
Sue: She’s making a mountain out of a molehill. She doesn’t even need to jump, she just needs to step across that tiny gap. The way she’s carrying on, you’d think she’d have to Parkour over there.
Aside from this, Sue is gripped.
Sue: Of all the stories for Rosie to work on, she didn’t half pick a good one.
Me: The other one she worked on isn’t too shabby, either.
Go look it up. Unless you’re Toby Hadoke, of course.
Sue: Just think, Rosie was probably calling the shots in the gallery during this bit.
Me: Yeah, and if this was the 1960s, we might have heard her.
A Thal decides to hang Sarah off the top of the gantry for a laugh.
Me: It’s sadistic, don’t you think?
Sue: Yeah, but I do like Sarah Jane’s jumper.
Harry and the Doctor stumble across some of Davros’ genetic experiments that went awry. I sigh. A lot.
Sue: What’s wrong with it, Neil? I don’t see the problem. What else do you expect a giant clam to look like?
When Tom Georgeson turns up as a Kaled scientist, Sue almost recognises him.
Sue: It’s whatshisname from Our Friends in the North.
Me: No it isn’t.
Sue: Yes, it is. It’s Geordie.
Me: That is not Daniel Craig.
Sue: I’m sure I’ve seen him somewhere before.
Me: You’re probably thinking of Between the Lines (which you used to love), or GBH. He was superb in both of them, as he is in this.
The Doctor warns the Thals not to trust Davros.
Sue: He didn’t blink again. Do you think it’s okay for the leading man to be the scariest thing in the episode?
Me: Scarier than Davros?
Sue: It’s a close run thing. Davros has the opposite problem – corpse eyes. It’s horrible, like flesh rotting over a skull. The make-up is brilliant. Do we ever find out how Davros ended up like this?
Me: Well, there’s a Big Finish audio where…
Sue: Okay, forget I asked.
The episode concludes with the Doctor trying to stop the Thals’ rocket from launching. However, he’s pinned to an electric fence instead.
Me: I was eating egg and chips when that originally went out.
The Doctor fails to stop the Thals, and the Kaleds are wiped off the face of Skaro.
Sue: This isn’t the Doctor’s finest hour, is it? How many people have just been killed, do you think?
Me: Thousands, probably. Maybe tens of thousands.
Sue: No wonder the Doctor is pissed off. The Time Lords will be furious with him.
Davros uses the disaster to rally the Kaled survivors behind him.
Sue: The script is very good.
Me: I know. I don’t believe that Terry Nation could have written this.
Sue: But his name is on the credits, so it must be Terry.
Me: I detect the hand of Robert Homes.
Sue: Maybe Terry pulled his finger out and delivered the goods for a change. It’s not impossible. Maybe I’ve been wrong about Terry all this time. And the foot rubs are very nice, I must say.
As Nyder plots and schemes on Davros’ behalf, Sue finally decides to pass judgement on him.
Sue: He’s very creepy. Why is he doing this? What’s in it for him?
Me: I think he’s in love with Davros.
Sue: I think you’re reading too much into it, Neil.
Me: I love Nyder. I set up a fake Facebook page for him once. And Davros.
Me: I stopped before I got to Ronson. That’s when sanity took over.
Sue: Thank God for that.
Me: Although I did pretend to be Nyder on Twitter for a while. I’d ask people what I should get Ronson for Christmas, and then I’d say, “Thank you, that’s what I wanted to know.”
Sue: I wonder about you sometimes.
The Kaleds conspire to bring Davros back under their control.
Sue: This reminds me of that Tom Cruise film.
Me: Oh, this doesn’t sound good…
Sue: You know, the one where they try to kill Hitler; Valkyrie.
Me: Actually, that’s not a bad call.
Davros ties the Doctor to a chair.
Sue: Nice tracking shot. You don’t see many of those in Doctor Who. This is very nicely directed. It’s almost as good as Douglas Camfield.
When Davros threatens to extract the complete history of the Daleks from the Doctor’s mind, Tom Baker gives him both barrels.
Sue: See! He’s bloody terrifying!
Me: Mary Whitehouse got a bee in her bonnet when she saw this. She called it, “Tea-time brutality for tots”.
Sue: You can see her point. This is ****ing bleak.
The Doctor is forced to recount the Daleks’ past (or should that be future?) defeats. This takes some time.
Sue: Isn’t the Doctor changing history by telling Davros this? The Time Lords aren’t going to very happy with him, are they? They might bugger up his TARDIS again as punishment.
Sue even recognises one of the events he mentions.
Sue: Does this mean the one where the Daleks invade Earth is a few episodes shorter now?
And then Sue clams up (sorry) as the Doctor and Davros go head-to-head again.
Me: You aren’t saying very much. love.
Sue: Just make something up and shut up. I’m trying to watch this.
She will, however, offer the odd compliment. For example, when Kavell attacks a guard with a cosh.
Sue: It was the correct decision to cut away before he actually hit him. It’s much more horrific if you’re left to imagine the violence instead of watching an extra pretending to fall unconscious.
Sue likes the fact that Harry and Sarah have had their own little adventure, but she’s also overjoyed when our heroes finally reunite.
Sue: They make a good team. I even want Harry to stay.
The Doctor has to recover the recording Davros made of his interrogation.
Sue: Why? How is that going to help? Davros could write it down or dictate it to Nyder. You have to kill Davros if you believe that getting hold the tape will be the end of it. Unless Davros’ memory is as bad as mine, of course.
The Doctor heads for the Dalek incubator room with an armful of explosives.
Sue: He won’t do it. I know he won’t do it. He doesn’t have the right. I remember now. He doesn’t press the big red button, just you wait and see. Maybe my memory isn’t so bad, after all.
When the Doctor enters the incubator room, Sue decides to fixate on a very disturbing detail.
Sue: They sound like babies. The Doctor is going to kill little babies!
The Doctor stumbles out of the incubator room, covered in squealing mutants.
Sue: It reminds me of that thing on Londo’s neck in Babylon 5.
Me: It reminds me of not sleeping properly for a week.
The final episode begins with one of Doctor Who’s most iconic moments.
Sue: This is the clip they’ll show on the news when Tom Baker dies.
Me: Thanks for that, love.
Sue: It’s true. It’s very powerful.
However, before the Doctor can make a decision, he’s interrupted by some good news.
Me: Do you think he would have done it?
Sue: Never. There’s no way the Doctor would have committed genocide. He’s the Doctor.
As Davros manipulates the Kaled rebels, Sue points at a large red destructor button.
Sue: Ah! There’s the big red button I was talking about. See, I’m not going mad, after all. It’s all coming back to me now.
And then it’s basically wall-to-wall compliments from this point on.
Sue: I like the female Thal. She would have been a good companion. In fact all the roles have been cast really well, there isn’t a weak performance in the whole thing, if I’m honest.
Davros offers the Kaled elite one last opportunity to join him.
Sue: I love the way the scientists decide to switch sides. I didn’t expect that at all.
The Doctor forces Nyder to take him to Davros’ safe, which is decorated with a large iconic eye.
Sue: Davros is a fan of Big Brother, I see.
The Doctor deduces that Davros couldn’t open the safe from his chair, so Nyder must have done it for him.
Sue: So Nyder is basically Davros’ carer?
The Doctor destroys the incriminating tape and legs it.
Sue: He can’t leave the job half-done! Isn’t he going to check that everything’s going to be okay before he leaves? It’s not as if Davros hasn’t pulled the rug out from under him before.
But they can’t leave. The Doctor has lost the time ring that will return them to the TARDIS. And then Davros unleashes his Daleks and the rebels are murdered, including Gharman, who Sue had a soft spot for.
Sue: I bet Mary Whitehouse choked on a scone during that scene.
So the Doctor decides to commit genocide after all.
Sue: Eh? No! That can’t be right.
He returns to the incubator room to finish what he started.
Sue: Where the hell did his coat mysteriously appear from? Did he go back for it? He hasn’t got his priorities straight, has he?
However, before the Doctor can complete the connection he was agonising over earlier, he’s interrupted by a Dalek.
Sue: I can’t believe he’s actually going to do it…
The Dalek completes the connection for him and the incubator room explodes.
Sue: He didn’t commit the act himself, but the intent was still there. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Basically, what the Doctor’s saying here is that it’s okay to go back in time and kill a small child.
The Thals blow up the entrance to the bunker, which should delay the Daleks for a thousand years.
Sue: Are you sure that’s right? Don’t they mean they’ll be delayed by a thousand yards?
Back in the bunker, the Daleks turn on the Kaleds.
Sue: Who’s going to tidy up once they’ve finished killing everyone?
And then they turn on Davros.
Sue: That’s clever. If only he’d given them a dash of pity.
The episode concludes with the Doctor suggesting that some things might be better with the Daleks.
Sue: Yeah, Doctor Who’s ratings for a start.
Sue: It was on for a 10 out of 10 at one point, but the last episode was a cop-out. That said, there’s so much that’s good: the script, the direction, the performances, the lighting, the production assistant – so I can’t complain. What do you want me to say? It was excellent.
Me: Did you enjoy it more the second time?
Sue: I think I appreciated it more. Like I said, the first time I saw it, I was probably looking at you more than Davros. You are a slight improvement, after all.