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Genesis of the Daleks

Production Code: 4E

First Transmitted

1 - 08/03/1975 17:30

2 - 15/03/1975 17:30

3 - 22/03/1975 17:30

4 - 29/03/1975 17:30

5 - 05/04/1975 17:30

6 - 12/04/1975 17:30


The Time Lords intercept the transmat beam taking the Doctor, Sarah and Harry back to Nerva and deposit them instead on the planet Skaro at an early point in its history. There a Time Lord gives the Doctor both a mission to prevent or alter the Daleks' development so that they become less of a threat to the universe and a time ring that will enable him and his companions to return to the TARDIS once this is done.

Skaro is currently in the grip of a long war of attrition between its two humanoid powers, the Kaleds and the Thals. The Kaleds' chief scientist, Davros, has been experimenting to discover the final form into which his race will mutate - the weapons used in the war have already produced genetically scarred 'mutos', who have been consigned to the wastelands - and has devised a protective casing in which they can continue to survive. This is instantly recognised by the Doctor and Sarah as a Dalek.

Escaping from the bunker where Davros and his Elite, led by the sadistic Nyder, are based, the Doctor and Harry persuade the Kaled leaders to put the Dalek experiments on hold. Davros retaliates by conspiring with the Thals to destroy the Kaled city with a rocket. He then activates the Daleks and orders them to wipe out the Thals.

Some members of the Elite revolt, protesting at the genetic alterations that Davros has made to the Daleks, and they too are exterminated. The Daleks then seize control, killing the remainder of the Elite and ultimately Davros himself. Thal survivors detonate explosives at the entrance to the bunker, sealing the Daleks inside.

Having earlier passed up an opportunity to destroy the Dalek mutants at birth, the Doctor estimates that his intervention will have delayed their development by about a thousand years.

Episode Endings

Sarah stumbles across a half-ruined building in the wastelands. Through a hole in the wall she sees two humanoids, one of them in a mobile chair, and a Dalek. On the electronic-voiced command of the chair-bound figure, Davros, the Dalek destroys a number of targets with its gun. Davros contentedly concludes that the weaponry is perfect: 'Now we can begin.'

Sarah organises her fellow prisoners in the Thal rocket silo to stage a breakout. They start to clamber up the gantry, intending to make their way out onto the surface of the dome above. Thal soldiers shoot up at them but they keep climbing. Sarah gets into difficulties and the muto Sevrin urges her on. Suddenly she loses her grip and falls...

Sarah and Harry head for the Kaled dome to warn of the impending attack while the Doctor remains behind in the Thal base to try to sabotage the rocket. A Thal guard activates a defence system and the Doctor convulses in pain as an electrified fence sends waves of current through him.

The Doctor is captured by Davros, who threatens to torture Sarah and Harry unless he reveals details of future Dalek defeats so that these can be averted. The Doctor hesitates and Davros's demands grow ever louder.

The Doctor decides to blow up the Dalek incubator room and enters to place explosive charges. Sarah and Harry, waiting outside, start to become anxious as the minutes pass. Suddenly the door opens and the Doctor staggers out, struggling with an embryonic Dalek mutant that has wrapped itself in a stranglehold around his throat.

Their task completed, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry take hold of the time ring. They spin away through space and time on their way to rendezvous with the TARDIS.


Dr Strangelove

Things to Come

Nation's The Avengers episodes 'Invasion of the Earthmen' and 'Legacy of Death' (Baron von Orlack = Davros)

William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

The Satan Bug

The visual appearance of the Time Lord derives from Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal

Dialogue Triumphs

Sevrin : "Why must we always destroy beauty? Why kill another creature because it is not in our image?"

Davros : "Today, the Kaled race is ended, consumed in a fire of war. But, from its ashes will rise a new race. The supreme creature. The ultimate conqueror of the universe. The Dalek!"

The Doctor : "Davros, if you had created a virus in your laboratory. Something contagious and infectious that killed on contact. A virus that would destroy all other forms of life... would you allow its use?"

Davros : "It is an interesting conjecture."

The Doctor : "Would you do it?"

Davros : "The only living thing...the microscopic organism... reigning supreme... A fascinating idea."

The Doctor : "But would you do it?"

Davros : "Yes. Yes. 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!"

The Doctor : "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?"

Sarah Jane Smith : "We're talking about the Daleks. The most evil creatures ever invented. You must destroy them. You must complete your mission for the Time Lords!"

The Doctor : "Do I have the right? Simply touch one wire against the other and that's it. The Daleks cease to exist. Hundreds of millions of people, thousands of generations can live without fear... in peace, and never even know the word "Dalek"."

Sarah Jane Smith : "Then why wait? If it was a disease or some sort of bacteria you were destroying, you wouldn't hesitate."

The Doctor : "But if I kill. Wipe out a whole intelligent life form, then I become like them. I'd be no better than the Daleks."

The Doctor : "I know that although the Daleks will create havoc and destruction for millions of years. I know also, that out of their evil, must come something good."


A Time Lord intercepts the TARDIS crew en route to Nerva. It would normally be very dangerous to intercept a transmat beam, but the Time Lords long ago superseded such techniques. [The reference to this occurring when the Universe 'was less than half its present size' are unlikely to be accurate or else the Time Lords have existed for around 10,000 million years: cf 'The Trial of a Time Lord'.]

The Time Lords [via a Matrix projection] envisage a time when the Daleks will be the supreme power in the Universe and call on the Doctor. [There is some unconvincing waffle about 'seldom interfering', but this seems to be another CIA gig, the Doctor being told to pay the price for his freedom.

They want the Doctor to destroy the Daleks at the time of their origin [despite the fact that genocide is forbidden under Article Seven: see 'The Trial of a Time Lord'], or find some inherent weakness that can be used, or affect their development so they evolve into less aggressive creatures.

[The Time Lords must know what they are doing: if the Doctor succeeds, the disruption to the history of the Universe will be enormous See Carnival of Monsters.] In the end the Doctor is unable to do any of these (in the case of total destruction he is unwilling ).

The Doctor's pocket contains a magnifying glass, the sonic screwdriver, his yo-yo, a pair of handcuffs, various lumps of brightly coloured rock, an item which he describes as 'an etheric beam locator, it's also useful for detecting ion charged emissions', and the time ring given to him by the Time Lords.

Skaro has been ravaged by a 1000 year war between the Kaleds and the Thals. There is a third ethnic group, the Mutos, mutants produced by the chemical weapons used during the first century of the war. Davros believes that the genetic mutation in the Kaleds is irreversible, and is experimenting with living cells to produce the prototype Daleks.

His early experiments involved animals, the resulting monsters being banished, along with the Mutos, into the wastelands. Davros is clearly old, stating that many times in the last 50 years the Government have tried to interfere with his work (it is never explained what, presumably horrific, accident brought about his infirmity).

The Doctor is forced into revealing the circumstances of every Dalek defeat he is aware of. He mentions the events of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, saying the attempt to mine the planet's core failed because of 'the magnetic properties of the Earth'.

Interestingly, he misdates the crisis to 'the year 2000'. He also talks of a Dalek invasion of Mars failing due to 'a virus that attacked the insulation cables of their electrical system'. [It seems likely that these are real events, as he is keen to destroy the tape when free. However, he lies tactically about the Dalek invasion of Earth so as not to reveal details of his own involvement.]


The First History of the Daleks


The Second History of the Daleks




The freeze-frame cliffhanger at the end of Part Two represents the series' first use of this technique.

Guy Siner and Hilary Minster, here seen playing playing Kaled and Thal soldiers respectively, later appeared in the BBC sitcom 'Allo, 'Allo.

Some of the Thal guns were previously used by the Drahvins in the season three story Galaxy 4.

Part of an Ice Warrior costume is seen in one shot, representing one of the mutant creatures produced by Davros in his experiments.


Sarah has a premonition of Revenge of the Cybermen (she mentions the beacon, but Nerva was not a beacon in that story).

How can you have a 1000 year war between two cities within spitting distance of each other?

Similarly, if the Kaleds can get into the Thal dome so easily (right up to the door of the Thal cabinet room), then why the war of attrition?

At the end of episode two, Sarah falls outside the gantry: in episode three's resolution, she falls onto a platform inside it. (A massive cop out.)

In episode three, between the Doctor looking up at the rocket and the soldier crawling to the switch, there is a single frame of the Doctor's back, the result of sloppy editing.

The Doctor seems magically to recover his coat between episodes one and six.

Will it really take the Daleks 1000 years to get through a blocked tunnel?

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Tom Baker

Harry Sullivan - Ian Marter

Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

Bettan - Harriet Philpin

Dalek Operator - John Scott Martin

Dalek Operator - Cy Town

Dalek Operator - Keith Ashley

Dalek Voice - Roy Skelton

Davros - Michael Wisher

Gerrill - Jeremy Chandler

Gharman - Dennis Chinnery

Kaled Guard - Peter Mantle

Kaled Leader - Richard Reeves

Kavell - Tom Georgeson

Kravos - Andrew Johns

Mogran - Ivor Roberts

Nyder - Peter Miles

Ravon - Guy Siner

Ronson - James Garbutt

Sevrin - Stephen Yardley

Tane - Drew Wood

Thal Guard - Max Faulkner

Thal Politician - Michael Lynch

Thal Soldier - Pat Gorman

Thal Soldier - Hilary Minster

Thal Soldier - John Gleeson

Time Lord - John Franklyn-Robbins


Director - David Maloney

Assistant Floor Manager - Karilyn Collier

Costumes - Barbara Kidd

Davros Mask - John Friedlander

Designer - David Spode

Film Cameraman - Elmer Cossey

Film Editor - Larry Toft

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Sylvia James

Producer - Philip Hinchcliffe

Production Assistant - Rosemary Crowson

Production Unit Manager - George Gallacio

Script Editor - Robert Holmes

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Duncan Brown

Studio Sound - Tony Millier

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Peter Day

Writer - Terry Nation

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'We are entombed, but we live on. This is only the beginning... When the time is right we will emerge and take our rightful place as the supreme power of the Universe!' In the manner of Marvel and DC comics, a revisionist reworking of the origins of the Daleks is carried out with considerable style. Genesis of the Daleks includes, in Davros, possibly the ultimate Doctor Who villain.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Terry Nation's last two Dalek stories, Planet of the Daleks and Death to the Daleks, had been somewhat clichéd and unoriginal, and it had seemed that the Doctor's greatest adversaries were destined for an ignoble end playing out ever more hackneyed and repetitive material. Genesis of the Daleks changed all that. Indeed, as Nathan Roberts commented in Star Begotten Volume 3 Number 1/2, dated winter/spring 1989: 'The problem with reviewing a story like Genesis of the Daleks is that it is easy to run out of superlatives... Like a lot of Hinchcliffe's and Holmes' work, it is dramatic, gritty and uncompromising, pushing the show to its creative boundaries in almost every sphere of production.'

Not only are Terry Nation's scripts well-written and full of new ideas, while still remaining true to the Daleks' roots by effectively equating them with the Nazis of the Second World War (perhaps the most obvious example of this after season two's The Dalek Invasion of Earth), but the story's production values are also extremely high. Director David Maloney is able to make an otherwise standard Doctor Who quarry really look like a mist-shrouded alien planet, and his slow motion opening sequence of a group of soldiers being massacred in a hail of bullets sets the scene for an unusually grim and horrific six-parter. This is a story about survival at any cost, and neither its writer nor those responsible for bringing it to the screen shirks from conveying the harrowing implications.

The story really kicks into gear with the introduction of Davros. It has by this point become virtually standard procedure in Doctor Who for a dominant central character to be brought in to act as the leader of a race of popular monsters, who are then reduced to the status of mere 'heavies' standing around in the background, handling the violent action and - if they are lucky - uttering the occasional line of dialogue. The Cybermen have been made subservient to their Controller (The Tomb of the Cybermen), their Planner (The Wheel in Space) and their Director (The Invasion), and similarly the Ice Warriors have been given their commanding officers in the form of Slaar (The Seeds of Death), Izlyr (The Curse of Peladon) and Azaxyr (The Monster of Peladon). Now it is the turn of the Daleks to play second fiddle; and although the conclusion to Part Six encouragingly suggests that they are going to buck the trend by killing their creator and reasserting their own dominance, later stories will prove this not to be the case.

Davros is, however, a masterful creation. Almost every line that he is given to speak is quotable and Michael Wisher, who could have been born to play the part, turns in a truly electrifying performance that overshadows all other aspects of the story. This near-perfect combination of scripting and acting brings Davros to life as an utterly compelling character, whose deranged genius is portrayed with such conviction that the audience holds its collective breath whenever he is on the screen. 'Michael Wisher's [performance] as Davros must rate as one of the most powerful ever... in Doctor Who,' enthused Richard Walter in Baker's Best in 1981. 'Undoubtedly the superb make-up helped, but having an actor who had previously been a Dalek "voice" was a great idea. At times Davros could have been a Dalek, the tone of his voice changing dramatically depending on his mood and often demonstrating just how ruthless he was.' Roberts was similarly impressed. 'The real stars of the story... are undoubtedly Peter Miles as Nyder and Michael Wisher as Davros, and both give remarkable performances; the latter especially considering that the only way for him to project the character was through his voice - the normal range of facial and bodily expression (with the exception of a slightly moving right arm) were unavailable to him. This alone makes Wisher's performance all the more breathtaking.' This is not the story of the creation of the Daleks, as its title might suggest. It is first and foremost Davros's story, and it is for him that it is chiefly remembered.

The story's faults are few and far between. There is a rather daft scene in which Harry clumsily puts his foot into the mouth of a giant clam that promptly tries to eat him, and many of the scientist characters serve no other purpose than to act as Dalek-fodder. In addition, although the cliffhanger ending to the first episode is great, being perfect in its timing and sense of anticipation of things to come, some of the others are a bit duff. Sarah falling from a gantry (only to land safely on a previously unseen beam at the start of the following episode) and the Doctor somehow becoming attached to an electrified fence are not exactly the stuff of nightmares.

These few minor failings are quickly forgotten, however, amongst all the wonderful things that this story has to offer. Scenes such as the one in which the Doctor debates with Davros the morality of the creation of the Daleks, likening them to a deadly virus with the potential to wipe out all life in the universe, and the one in which he agonises over whether or not he has the right to commit genocide by blowing up the Daleks' incubation chamber and destroying them at birth, are amongst the most dramatic and intelligent that the series ever produced. The BBC's Audience Research Report on the story's concluding instalment suggests that many contemporary viewers realised that it was something a bit special: 'A little more complex than some Doctor Who adventures, perhaps, and with underlying questions of conscience, the serial had been "different" it was occasionally felt and, although dismissed in some quarters as far-fetched, long drawn-out, confused and/or predictable, had provided acceptable escapist entertainment for the majority.'

Genesis of the Daleks is a gem of a story, with little padding as six-parters go and fine performances from all the cast. 'So Frankenstein is once more destroyed by his monster,' wrote Keith Miller in DWFC Mag Number 24, dated May/June 1975. 'The Doctor, Sarah and Harry say a very rushed goodbye to the Thals, grab hold of the time ring and whiz into outer space. The ending left me very puzzled. The Thals wandered away as if the Daleks had been destroyed. The Doctor and co faded away. What about the Daleks? It would only take them a matter of minutes to get through the blocked-up corridor.'

It seemed that the Daleks were destined to cross the Doctor's path again. More immediately, though, the very next story promised the long-awaited return of another of the series' most famous monster races...

< The Sontaran ExperimentFourth DoctorRevenge of the Cybermen >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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