Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

Time to turn our hindsight on another beloved Doctor Who story. Join Deb, Katrina, Liz, and Tansy as they discuss “Genesis of the Daleks”, how it holds up, and what watching it in 2020 felt like.

Have you rewatched this story recently? If so, what did you think, and how did that compare with how you felt about it in the first place? Drop us a tweet or let us know in the comments!


Happy things:

Every Single Doctor Who Story (Correctly) Ranked From Best to Worst (by Liz)
Extra-special thanks to this week’s editor, Steven Schapansky of Castria!
Support Verity! on Patreon

Download or listen now (runtime 1:15:11) 

Comments on: "Episode 239 – Sega Genesis of the Daleks" (8)

  1. Thanks for another great podcast!

    I have watched this one countless times over the years and I still love it. It’s probably impossible for me to be objective about it because season 12 was really when I fell in love with the programme, back in 1975.

    Trying to be a wee bit objective, I think a modern viewer’s reaction will likely depend on the ‘flavour’ of Doctor Who that they enjoy most. If they like light, bright, frothy and jolly Doctor Who, this is unlikely to be up their street. If, like me, they prefer dark, grim, threatening Doctor Who, it’s hard to think of a story that ticks those boxes as fully and satisfyingly as this one.

    Tom Baker was definitely at his best in his first two seasons, and his more restrained performance really sells the seriousness of the material. It’s hard to overestimate the effect the whole thing had on a 5 year old, but seeing how deadly seriously the Doctor was taking things made it all the more powerful for me. When he got too silly and stopped taking things seriously in later seasons, the stories lost a lot of their threat, and their power. Not that the stories were ever allowed to be this grim again, once Mary Whitehouse and her league of killjoys had their way.

    I suppose it’s certainly valid to say there’s not much ‘fun’ to be had watching Genesis, particularly in today’s political climate. On the other hand, the story’s continuing relevance can hardly be called a flaw. Stick an orange wig on Davros and give him a Twitter account, and shiver with terror in the knowledge that history is doomed to repeat unless we learn from it…

    • David Thiel said:

      “…seeing how deadly seriously the Doctor was taking things made it all the more powerful for me.”

      That’s how I feel about “Pyramids of Mars.” The story doesn’t make a lot of sense, and the lengthy sequence of traps in Part Four is underwhelming, but Tom sells his fear of Sutekh and it makes all the difference.

      • Indeed. On the page, I think you could say that most Doctor Who stories have always been inherently silly, but the programme is at its best (for me) when it’s all played very straight, and that is certainly the case in my favourite Tom Baker stories. Yes, there was plenty of humour, but it was there to compliment the drama and horror, not undermine it.

  2. David Thiel said:

    Haven’t watched “Genesis” in years, so I’m not sure how I would feel about its parallels to current events. I remember when it was a given that Nazis were bad.

    If “Genesis” gave us nothing else, it would remain be a pivotal story because it introduced Davros, the villainous heart of Doctor Who. The Master is basically “what if the Doctor, but evil?” Davros is more nuanced. He has specific, consistent goals that emerge organically from his backstory. He may not have been introduced until Season 12, but (retroactively) his influence on both the Doctor and the series itself are felt all the way back to the beginning.

    I get what you’re saying about the Doctor’s privilege in initially choosing not to stop the Daleks at the moment of their creation, but I would disagree that this is another case of his swanning off and not facing the repercussions of his actions. Who has faced more repercussions from the continued existence of the Daleks than the Doctor?

    • Icon_UK said:

      “Who has faced more repercussions from the continued existence of the Daleks than the Doctor?”

      The dead the countless Dalek hordes have left in their wake over the following millenia? The fact the Doctor felt bad about it is sort of minor in comparison.

      I do like the theory that in one sense the Doctor DID make things worse for the Daleks, in that leaving Davros alive (instead of dying as he would have done had the Doctor not been present) probably led to more internal conflict and dead Daleks (Imperial vs Renegade etc) than anything short of actually wiping them out.

      • David Thiel said:

        Potato, po-TA-to.

        Hey, most of those people only died ONCE. Depending upon how one counts Tennant regenerating into himself, two or three of the Doctor’s “deaths” are at least partially attributable to the Daleks!

        Kidding above, but my actual point is that because he doesn’t strangle them in their crib, he has to fight them again and again and again and again, perhaps for eternity. Then there was the whole “killing your own people” thing. (Yes, it was undone, but as repercussions go, it was a doozy at the time.)

  3. My mother tells me that when I was a baby in England, I was always getting into mischief. Nothing could hold my attention (thereby keeping me out of trouble) for long… except Doctor Who. Apparently Jon Pertwee was my first Doctor, but I have no memory of that. She would plop me down in front of the TV to watch Doctor Who while she got things done around the house. When we moved to the United States, my parents thought that they would never be bothered by Doctor Who again. But then it began to show up on public television.

    I can still vividly remember the very first episode that I saw: “Genesis of the Daleks,” episode 5. It was back in the day before remote control TVs were affordable, so I was manually switching stations. I stumbled across the opening credit sequence and thought, “Wow… what is THIS?” The next thing I saw were two very kind people being tortured to squeeze information out of an odd man with curly hair. I decided that I would watch it until it got boring and then switch to something else. I stood there with my hand on the switch, spellbound, until finally the Doctor stumbled out of a mysterious green room with a seaweed monster wrapped around his throat (and yes, Liz, it was terrifying). Finally letting go of the channel control, I ran to the TV guide to see when the next episode would be on. I’ve been a die-hard fan ever since.

    In your review of this story though, I was confused by the repeated statements that the Doctor had “found another way.” I couldn’t disagree more. The Doctor failed in his mission, utterly. The mission was, as you may recall (per the Doctor Who Reference Guide): “They want the Doctor to avert their creation or affect their genetic development so that they become less aggressive creatures or if he cannot, to find one inherent weakness.” He achieved none of this. All he did was set the snooze button on their march toward armageddon. Deb nailed it. The Doctor made a mess, and the Universe would be paying the price for millennia.

    You spoke about how blindly the Doctor just accepts this reprehensible mission. And I wonder if you’ve noticed that the Timelords never seem to rely on him again, at least not for missions that involve Daleks. I can’t help but wonder if they saw him questioning whether or not he “has the right,” and thought to themselves, “Well, THIS guy isn’t the blind, unquestioning minion that we wanted. Oh. And look. He’s made a complete mess of this mission. Okay, file him as ‘unreliable.’”

    You also spoke of the “threads of influence to New Who.” However, I wonder if you noticed that this was the very first shot fired in the Time War, and it was the Timelords themselves who started it, using the Doctor as their proxy. The bitter irony is that the Timelords are the antagonists of the Time War. And ultimately, there is a direct line of continuity and consequence stretching from this story all the way to “Day of the Doctor.”

    This story had a profound influence on me. I had often watched my Dad’s war movies on TV and knew that the nazis were “the bad guys,” but it was just that. They were “the bad guys.” This story was the first time that I ever saw WHY. True fascists are not redeemable. They cannot be reasoned with or bargained with. We exist. And that is why they hate us. Usually when you hear that, it is hyperbole or propaganda. “They hate us for our freedom” and other such rubbish. But with fascists, it is fact, and there are death camps in Europe to prove it. And so, Deb I absolutely disagree with you. This IS the right time for this story, perhaps now more than ever, because America has forgotten.

    This wasn’t the very first Doctor Who story that I ever saw, but I am very grateful that this is the first Doctor Who story that I can remember seeing. And it remains one of my absolute favourites.

  4. I was 9-and-three-quarters, and had just figured out that the only TV show worth using my tape recorder to record and *keep forever* was Doctor Who, when this story first aired. It became my instant favourite and has stayed in my top 3 ever since. I once declared it should be shown at my funeral, after locking everybody in! =:o}

    So I think I too will find it hard to be objective.
    Lovely music, lovely performances from all the cast, big *serious* ideas that weren’t being addressed in other shows that featured nazi-analogues… And at this point Dick Mills had really hit his stride, providing soundscapes that were unique but always exactly fitting, and fabulously evocative. Gentle background hums and cold wintry outdoor atmospheres, or blaring alarms and ominously pulsing torture machines, every sound just *fits*, perfectly, and tells your ears what your subconscious needs to know about where you are and what’s going on.

    Top TARDIS Dream-Team, and bonus points for Harriet Philpin as Bettan, not to mention the rest of the stellar cast.

    Rating: 11.5 / 10

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