Retro-View #8: The Blossoming of a Fan

Genesis of the Daleks (Story #78, 1975)
Viewed 07 Dec 2012, 26 Feb 2013

Doctor/Companion: Four, Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan
Stars: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter
Preceding Story: The Sontaran Experiment (Four, Sarah Jane, Harry)
Succeeding Story: Revenge of the Cybermen (Four, Sarah Jane, Harry)

    Life kind of got in the way of our little experiment. In December, G's family suffered the loss of two loved ones while my family was juggling schedules around not only the holidays but my dad's medical treatments. January involved both of us regaining equilibrium, and by the time G was ready to get together again, I was on my way to Gally.

    Once we finally managed to mesh our schedules again, two and a half months had passed between our viewing of the first half (Episodes One through Three) and the second half of the story. Thanks to the wonders of the TARDIS Data Core (formerly TARDIS Index File), I was able to recap those vaguely remembered episodes in detail for G so we were both up to speed on where we'd left our intrepid heroes before jumping back into the tale.

    And what a place into which to jump! We're getting into the big time here. To hear many fans tell it, this early part of T. Baker's tenure is the start of the Golden Age of Who, and Genesis in particular is often cited as a stone cold classic. While G and I both enjoyed it ("It's a good story. A very good story," she proclaimed at the end), I don't think it's quite to my Top Ten (pre-Hiatus) list. Regardless, there's plenty to enjoy.

    Though she's seen him in Robot, G is still a little taken aback by Four's appearance. "Look at that hairdo! Man, he's got hair!" As the story opens, she flinches at the depiction of war: "Ooh! You're right; there is a lot of violence in this thing." What catches her attention most in that first two and a half episodes, though, is what happens after Sarah Jane is knocked out and left for dead in the trenches. "Why didn't the Doctor and what's-his-name [she's not quite latched onto Harry yet] even say, 'where's Sarah?' They didn't even give it a thought!"

    She's also suitably impressed with Davros. She notes he's "a little bit testy" when his experiment gets (conveniently for our heroes) interruped, and later declares with due sarcasm that "Davros is really a peach of a guy." And though she further notes with a certain amount of exasperation that "he never says 'please,'" she admits that the designers did a hell of a job on Davros's costume. By today's standards, it's certainly a bit too heavy in the rubber department (part of "the trouble with latex," as my fellow Gally attendees might well note), but one can't deny it's got a high creep factor when taken at face value. Ick.

    My other favorite notes from the first viewing session include G's reactions to the TARDIS crew. We already know she loves SJS (and declared it had been a "good choice of outfit, considering what she's doing in this one"), but it was fun to hear her share the Doctor's views after the giant clam incident ("Harry is a doof") and generally laugh at the Doctor's antics (e.g., his "Excuse me. Can you help me? I'm a spy.")

    Many weeks later, she's still not inured to the violence. "How come everyone we like gets dead?" she complains, as Ronson is exterminated. But she's otherwise savvy to the upcoming plot points. Although she doesn't say it aloud, she says, "I knew it!" when Nyder tricks Gharman into betraying his co-conspirators, and as Davros's opponents crow "We're winning!" she just says, "Mmm... Something's wrong." It's fairly heavily telegraphed, but she also predicts an episode early that the Daleks will be set on Davros's enemies once they're gathered in one place.

    I admit to being intrigued that G made no comment during the whole "Have I that right?" speech at the beginning of Part Six. It wasn't till later, when our heroes have been convinced that there wasn't a need for that extreme action because Davros was capitulating that she exclaimed, "He's not going to do that! ... This gives me a headache." I don't know if it's the break we had and all that happened in our lives, or if she's just developing a bit more of a critical eye for Who, but it's kind of fun to watch how her experience seems to be developing and growing.

    Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of glee at certain silly aspects (like her assertion that Davros didn't go to the lower levels because the base "isn't handicap accessible!"), unique stylistic observations ("The really bad ones - the really, really bad ones - always wear glasses"), and I-wondered-when-you'd-notice-that moments (like how Davros "even had his voice duplicated in the Daleks").

    But while I've often caught myself ruminating on a more esoteric facet of the show (the incidental music here is actually quite good; it actually makes me a bit anxious about advancing Daleks, which may be a first), I'm not yet accustomed to hearing G do that. So when at the end she starts to ask about a niggling plot point, and stops herself with, "There's no use questioning it; it just is," I can't help but think she's finally come fully into her fandom. Here's hoping she always maintains that wonderful balance of critique and acceptance.

    Verdict: Thumbs up

    Looking ahead: The Robots of Death



    If this story had been written for Nu-Who I wonder what reaction the rewriting of the history of the Dals and the Thals into the Kaleds and the Thals would have generated? I suspect this was Robert Holmes not letting continuity get in the way of a good storyline

    I am a fan of GOTD but a drawn out war between two civilisations, seemingly barely miles apart, lacks some credibility. However, it is a taut, tense, action thriller so this is not perceived to be a problem, in fact I reckon even the Myrka could have gotten away with an appearance in this.

    Also on the downside it meant that subsequently all classic who Dalek stories had to include you-know-who in some form.

    I don't mean to sound so negative but maybe a real DW fan can love the programme while acknowledging its faults

    By Wholahoop (not verified)
    mrfranklin's picture

    Anyone who loves all of it unconditionally isn't being truthful with themselves. Even in a story you love, you can always find something that doesn't work for you. And you have some perfectly valid points about the flaws of GOTD. :)

    As for rewriting in-universe history, it happen(s/ed) all the time. For the most part, it doesn't bother me, though there are certain occasions it irks me. Mostly, I take it as an opportunity to create my own personal head-canon, which is what I think most fans do in anyway.

    By mrfranklin
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