Standing alone outside the Tardis, the Twelfth Doctor looks anxiously onto a bleak, barren landscape, fog swirling at his feet. Speculation is rife among fans as to where the Doctor has landed. For many Whovians this first official publicity photo for Series 9 comes across as hauntingly familiar. Has the Doctor returned to Skaro? The setting certainly looks like the one from the opening scenes of “Genesis of the Daleks”, in which the Time Lords have transported the Fourth Doctor to the foggy war-stricken surface of the Daleks’ home planet. This ‘Skaro’ theory rings true, as both Daleks and what appears to be a Dalek city feature in the new Series 9 trailer.
Fans now have an excuse, if any be needed, to rewatch “Genesis of the Daleks” and relive these classic scenes. But what was the genesis of “Genesis”? Producer, Barry Letts, and script editor, Terrance Dicks, had originally commissioned a Dalek story from Terry Nation for Tom Baker’s opening season. The writer presented them with an unoriginal Dalek storyline, similar to those he had been churning out for years. Letts suggested the idea of a genesis story for the Daleks and this fired up Nation’s imagination. The writer then provided a top-notch script introducing the creator of the Daleks, Davros. The plot revolves around the Doctor, Sarah and Harry in their attempt to stop the crazed Kaled scientist from ever creating the Daleks. Nation also explores the chilling themes of Nazism and racial purity.
Letts and Dicks were leaving Doctor Who and a new production team were coming on board. Incoming script editor, Robert Holmes, known for his love of horror, put his hand to the script and gave it an even darker and more gruesome tone. New producer Phillip Hinchcliffe encouraged director David Maloney to make the Daleks scary again. No longer would they be trundling pepperpots but clever camera angles and imaginative lighting effects would revert them to the fearsome foe that they were of old.
Tom Baker plays the Doctor with deadly earnest. None of the comedy or silliness that were to come are present here. Michael Wisher’s Davros is cold and calculating, capable of smooth and irresistible charm but moments of extreme egotistical madness too. Peter Miles convinces utterly in the role of slimy sidekick Nyder whose every word reeks of evil.
“Genesis” has too many dialogue triumphs to recount them all, but who can forget the Doctor’s “If someone who knew the future, pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives… could you then kill that child?” or Davros as he rants “To hold in my hand, a capsule that contained such power. To know that life and death on such a scale was my choice. To know that the tiny pressure on my thumb, enough to break the glass, would end everything. Yes. I would do it. That power would set me up above the gods. And through the Daleks I shall have that power!”
“Genesis of the Daleks” is rightly remembered by fans as a classic story from the hallowed days when the original series was at its peak. Cast and crew all pulled together and raised their game to bring this masterpiece to our screens. In the wait for Series 9 and a potential return to the swirling fog of Skaro, the Daleks’ origin story is well worth a rewatch.