?enesis of the Daleks?is the most-repeated DOCTOR WHO TV serial in terrestrial TV history ?oh, look, there is it again! ?and its reputation as the most popular classic series serial of all time (it says so on the sticker on the front of the DVD) is hard to ignore. Its inevitable DVD release has been well-timed, surfing as it does on the still-swelling tide of renewed Dalek fever and coinciding with the recent reappearance of Elisabeth Sladen in the new TV series. But familiarity breeds contempt and while newbies may find this old-fashioned six-part tale from 1975 a gripping backstory to their new worst enemies, those of us who?e seen it far more times than is healthy will probably just watch it the once and slip it onto their DVD shelves ?positioned between ?he Green Death?and ?rk in Space? of course.
Familiarity aside, ?enesis of the Daleks?is rattlingly good stuff. Dalek creator Terry Nation takes us right back to the origins of his metallic cash-cows as the Time lords send a reluctant Doctor to the planet Skaro just as looney tunes crippled scientist Davros (an outstanding performance by the late Michael Wisher) is perfecting his ?ark 2 Travel machines? deadly, pitiless mechanical housings for his mutating Kaled people, the ultimate weapon in their war of attrition with the Thal race.
It? a bold and gritty adventure, the first real signs of a change in tone from the somewhat light and frothy later Jon Pertwee years as incoming producer Philip Hinchcliffe refashioned the series into something altogether more adult. Thus we see grim World War One style trench warfare, poison gas, ruthless extermination and earnest debates about genocide and moral choices. There? barely a gag or a quip in sight and the whole story is suffused with a bleak hopelessness which is likely to come as quite a shock to those more accustomed to the bright primaries and slick humour of the 21st century incarnation of the series.
Tom Baker, just four stories into his long tenure in the title role, is superb here and the performances in general are pretty much exemplary. Made at a time when the BBC was particularly cash-strapped there are some more than decent production values and while the Dalek props themselves could have done with a bit of time spent to make them look newer and more unfinished, their few appearances give them a power they?e not really enjoyed in their increasingly comic-strip 1970s TV romps. Ultimately, another must-purchase for any and all fans of DOCTOR WHO.
THE DISCS: A sprawling two disc presentation sees the story itself, beautifully presented, on dic one with an intermittently-interesting commentary by Baker, Sladen and one or two other luminaries. Disc two is bulging with tasty extras. ?enesis of a Classic?is a sixty-plus minute ?aking of?talking heads feature spoiled only by six rather irritating ?earn to speak Dalek?segments where voice artist Roy Skelton embarrasses himself and the viewers by repeating Dalek dialogue from the serial in his own untreated voice. And the point of the exercise is? There? also a long documentary on the history of the Daleks themselves, a Blue Peter extract, photo galleries and other bits and bobs worth investigating. A classy presentation.