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The Passion of the Davros,
This review is from: Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks [DVD]  (DVD)
What can one say about Genesis of the Daleks that hasn't already been said? As the sticker on the box so proudly proclaims, this is the "number one Dr Who story ever!" It is a classic and I'm not about to state otherwise. Genesis is one of those rare occasions in which all the various strands of the production come together near-perfectly to produce a stone-cold classic. Right from the opening of The Doctor and his brief conversation with the unnamed Timelord on an arid, wind-swept Skaro, the tone is immediately set, this is to be a grim and gritty adventure of epic proportions. And gratifyingly the subsequent episodes really live up to that opening. The decision to go for the full-on World War I/II imagery is a wise one, I'm not about to delve into the obvious Nazi allegory and other parallels presented here, but they definitely work in the stories favour and the battle-ravaged Skaro is one of the most memorable (if unremarkable) planets presented in this era. An aspect of Who that is seldom given the opportunity to shine, the lighting is also particularly impressive and really adds to the atmosphere of the overall production.
Tom Baker is on top form in one of his earliest and best performances, ably assisted by the lovely Liz Sladen and the always excellent Ian Marter. All the guest cast are strong, especially Peter Miles who contributes a unsettling and memorable performance as Davros' right-hand man Nyder, but naturally the show is completely stolen from under their feet by the magnificent Michael Wisher who rises to the challenge of portraying the tyrannical creator of the Daleks - Davros with a chilling and iconic performance that can only be described as spectacular. Wisher holds the screen with incredible intensity as he masterfully brings one of who's greatest creations to life, as a performance it's one of the best ever presented in the series history and Davros ends up as one of the most well-realised characters, visually and otherwise, with every subtle nuance of Wisher's portrayal up on the screen. He is the driving force behind this story's greatness, without him this might have been a considerably less successful venture, but he is the perfect match for Tom's wide-eyed brilliance and the two play off each other beautifully in some particularly well-written verbal sparring. Both their moral arguments are compelling and as a viewer one cannot help being sucked into the tightly constructed narrative. Admittedly the story does have it's faults, it can drag a little and may have worked better as a four-parter, the Daleks themselves barely feature and there are some big plot-holes and inconsistencies. But that's about it, even the giant clams, which seem to be some viewers only bugbear with this episode, are fantastic, it's nice that we are allowed to see some of the other remnants of Davros' twisted experimentation. For me they're the icing on a particularly well-made cake, and I'm pleased to say that even after repeated viewings Genesis stands up as a superb piece of work. Uncompromising, complex, exciting, vivid and visceral entertainment of the highest order, Genesis of the Daleks is just about as outstanding as it's sizeable reputation would suggest.
This story is also accompanied by some quite excellent extras, which largely consists of two lengthy documentary features. Narrated by the other great Davros, Terry Molloy, The Dalek Tapes focuses on Dalek history and trawls through each television story they appeared in with some interesting detail, as well as featuring some stunning colour footage of Mission to the Unknown in one of the clips, for the most-part it is beautifully presented and totally engaging, but sadly looses focus towards the end and tends to completely gloss over the eighties Dalek serials. This apparent acceptance of perceived fan wisdom (that the eighties era stories were generally weaker etc..) is quite unacceptable and proves a real disappointment as the rest of the featurette is so strong. That said this is still one the best produced features yet and probably the highlight of the disc. The second doc here is a standard making-of which fulfils the requirements of that parameter admirably. Although there are some aspects of the production which do not receive the attention they deserve and a little too long is spent focusing on the admittedly excellent lighting, this is still a satisfying doc, that although not in the same league as other's we have been presented with recently, is still of a high standard. The other item of interest is an excerpt from popular children's programme Blue Peter, which showcases some incredible homemade models by a young Doctor Who fan, this is much more interesting than one might expect and the level of craftsmanship and detail that has gone into the models on display is hugely impressive, a surprisingly memorable little feature. Lastly alongside the usual Radio Times billings, photo gallery, production notes and 1976 annual in PDF format, is an excellent commentary from cast members Tom Baker, Elizabeth Sladen, Peter Miles and the late, great director of this serial David Maloney. All are charming and amiable speakers with many interesting thoughts on the story, but of course again the presence of Tom Baker ensures that this commentary is a cut above the rest and he is his usual amusing, eccentric self. Oh and another shout out to the Restoration Team who have once again done a superb job on the restoration of these episodes. So, another superior and fascinating set of features here, with a few minor flaws (for a story of this calibre one might expect just a few more little extras).
As an overall set this is of course a must-have for fans of the show and the perfect place to start for newcomers. Another first-rate addition to the ever-growing Doctor Who DVD library.