Sunday, 8 September 2013

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks Part One

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of Skaro? Or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide on man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Big Gay Longcat to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

Genesis of the Daleks is the next story after The Sontaran Experiment in season 12 of Doctor Who. Like the preceding stories, it stars Tom Baker as the Doctor, Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith and Ian Marter as Harry Sullivan. And this time the writer is... 

Terry Nation! Woo-hoo! Purr, purr, etc.

It starts when the Doctor appears on a smoky planet where mannys have been fighting and meets a Time Lord who gives some explanation for why the Doctor is here instead of transmatted back to Nerva.
"What's going on? Don't you realise how dangerous it is to intercept a transmat beam?"
"Oh, come, Doctor! Not with our techniques... We Time Lords transcended such simple mechanical devices when the Universe was less than half its present size."

The Time Lords, who "seldom interfere", want the Doctor to interfere in the genesis of the Daleks, and it turns out that the planet they are on is Skaro. If the Daleks haven't been invented yet then it may be that we will not see Daleks at the end of part one, even though this is a story with "Daleks" in the title.

The Time Lord gives the Doctor a teleport bracelet time ring to get him back to the TARDIS when his mission is over. I hope he doesn't lose it!

Sarah and Harry turn up and they see a dead manny with lots of things from different technology levels, which creates a minor mystery as to why he has them. The manny can't tell them because he is dead.

The Doctor stands on a landmine and there is a tense moment as Harry helps him escape it before it explodes. This gives Harry a chance to prove he is brave, but it is more than just padding since we, the viewers, get to see they are being watched by a mysterious figure and they are too busy escaping to notice.

They do see a domed city and head towards it. They end up in a trench, in the First World War style, and get gassed by unseen baddys who run in and wrestle with another group of baddys before getting shot. The Doctor and Harry are captured but Sarah is left outside - the baddys don't notice her even in her bright yellow coat.

The Doctor and Harry are taken to see Lt Gruber who is an obvious baddy and Nazi from 'Allo 'Allo! So that means that they have moved from the First World War to the Second. Gruber says
"Our battle cry will be... Total extermination of the Thals!"

Even though they are in danger and this is a dramatic scene, there is still a moment of humour as the Doctor turns out lots and lots of things from his pockets. But this is more than just a gag as it is also the setup for a plot point later on.

The Doctor disarms Gruber of his Luger and so they turn the tables by capturing their captors.

Enter Nyder. The Doctor and Harry try to bluff their way past him but he is clever and tries to shoot them so they run away. This scene sets up Nyder as an antagonist very well.

The Doctor and Harry make it out of the base in an exciting - but obviously padding - chase scene before they are recaptured. They are taken to Nyder for questioning and he asks about the objects from the Doctor's pockets.
"This is yours?"
"What is its function?"
"It's an etheric beam locator. It's also handy for detecting ion-charged emissions."
 "It is not of Thal manufacture."
"Naturally not. My friend and I are not from your planet."
"Humans... Well, I am, anyway."
"I have heard Davros say there is no intelligent life on other planets. So either he is wrong or you are lying."
"We're not lying."
"And Davros is never wrong. About anything."
"Then he must be exceptional. Even I am occasionally wrong about some things... Who is this Davros?"
"Our greatest scientist. He is in charge of all research at the Bunker."

This dialogue between Nyder and the Doctor (with one interjection from Harry to remind us he is still here) cleverly introduces Davros even before we see him for the first time. It is snappy and it delivers the required exposition both to the Doctor and to us. It also provides the subtle statement that Nyder thinks Davros is never wrong, but we know he is.

There is further dialogue in this scene that emphasises how much like Nazis these Kaleds are, including Nyder saying
"We must keep the Kaled race pure."
And the scene ends with Nyder and Gruber both giving Nazi-like salutes.

Sarah has been having sleeps. She wakes up and looks for the Doctor and Harry, wandering around for a bit and being followed by some mannys, one of whom is probably the mysterious figure from earlier. Sarah finds a wall with a hole in it and, looking through the hole, she sees Davros.

Davros has the bottom half of a Dalek and he sounds like a Dalek when he speaks. If he is the Maker-of-Daleks then it is clear that he has made them in his own image. He has a Dalek with him and he orders it to "exterminate" some cardboard Thals, which it does.

"Perfect. The weaponry is perfect. Now we can begin."

Crash zoom to Dalek: cliffhanger!

A lot happens in this first episode, it feels like it is always moving from one scene to another. With the Time Lord getting exposition out of the way so the Doctor can get quickly into the story, it is then constantly rising action all the way to the appearance of the Dalek at the end.

Amazingly, with everything this episode tries to fit in its 25 minutes, it still has time for two-or-three scenes of padding that could have been skipped or shortened without the story losing anything. These scenes are still good fun though, and not at all boring.

I trust that, with Terry Nation as the writer, the rest of this six-part story will be just as good as part one, if not even better. After all, as the song goes...

Terry Nation, Terry Nation,
Terry Nation, that's what you need
If you want to be the best
And if you want to beat the rest
Oo-oo Terry Nation's what you need;
If you want to be a record breaker, oooooh.

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