Genesis of the Daleks
Genesis of the Daleks was the fourth story of Season 12 of Doctor Who. It introduced Davros, creator of the Daleks, and showed the story of their origins. Davros would later serve a prominent role in every following Dalek serial up until Remembrance of the Daleks in 1988. Genesis of the Daleks is also notable for being the only time in the classic television series where the TARDIS does not appear whatsoever for two consecutive serials. Also notable is the fact that this is one of the only two Dalek serials in all seven years of Tom Baker’s run on the show, the other being 1979’s Destiny of the Daleks.
In a 1998 poll conducted by Doctor Who Magazine, Genesis of the Daleks was praised by fans as their favorite Doctor Who story of all time.
On a foggy battlefield, men with painted gas masks and armed with archaic rifles advance out of a trench and are brutally cut down by machine gun fire. The enemy squad marches over their bodies.
The Fourth Doctor walks through the cold mist, wondering why he’s not on Nerva. Suddenly, another Time Lord appears in front of him. The Doctor realizes that they intercepted the trans-mat beam he and his companions were riding to Nerva. The Doctor is angry that the Time Lords are still interfering in his life, however the Time Lord explains that for the freedom they allow him they will occasionally ask for something in return. The Doctor refuses until he is told his mission involves the Daleks. The Time Lord tells the Doctor that they have foreseen that the Daleks will eventually exterminate all other life in the universe unless they’re stopped. They want the Doctor to travel back to the time of their beginning to avert their creation, make them less aggressive, or find some inherent weakness in their makeup. The Doctor agrees, and asks for the coordinates for Skaro, the Dalek home world. The Time Lord tells the Doctor that he is already there, and vanishes after giving him a Time Ring that will return him to the TARDIS when his mission is complete.
Harry Sullivan and Sarah Jane Smith find the Doctor. As they explore the battlefield, they come across bodies equipped with a curious mix of ancient and modern equipment. The Doctor theorizes that the war has been going on for a long time, perhaps a thousand years, with technology regressing as resources get more scarce.
In the distance, they see yet another sight — a protective dome large enough to cover an entire city. The trio cross the lines into another trench, where the bodies of the fallen have been propped up to make the place appear more heavily guarded. Suddenly, gas shells drop as a squad of soldiers attacks. Another door bursts open and black-uniformed soldiers emerge, counterattacking with sub-machine guns. Having dealt with the enemy, they drag Harry and the Doctor into their bunker, leaving an unconscious Sarah behind among the dead.
The soldiers, all very young men, take the Doctor and Harry to see General Ravon, who is in his early twenties. These are the Kaleds, who are fighting a war with the Thals for dominance of Skaro. Soon, Ravon boasts, they will exterminate the Thals from the face of Skaro. The Doctor notices that “Kaled” is an anagram of something familiar.
The Doctor and Harry manage to disarm Ravon, forcing him at gunpoint to take them back to the surface. However, they encounter Security Commander Nyder, who becomes suspicious and orders his men to open fire. Releasing Ravon, Harry and the Doctor run for and reach the surface, but are soon captured by the Kaleds once more. Ravon thinks the two are Mutos, the descendants of those mutated by chemical weapons in the first century of the war and cast out into the wastelands to maintain Kaled racial purity. The Doctor tells Nyder they are aliens, but Nyder is skeptical, since the Kaleds’ greatest scientist, Davros, has said there is no life on other planets. Nyder takes custody of the Doctor and Harry for interrogation.
Sarah has regained consciousness and, unable to enter the bunker, walks into the wastelands, where she is being followed by Mutos. She stumbles across a crumbling structure, and peeps through to see a old and crippled man — Davros — his lower body enclosed in what appears to be a sophisticated mobile chair that resembles the bottom half of a Dalek. The wizened, hairless figure has a withered left arm, and his eyes are both closed over, with a third, electronic eye on his forehead blinking as he speaks. His assistant, Gharman, sets up several man-shaped targets, and Davros flicks a switch on his chair. To Sarah’s horror, a Dalek is revealed in a dim glow of light. Davros gives it some simple commands in a grating, half-synthesized voice… “Exterminate!” The Dalek fires its deadly laser weapon, obliterating the targets. Davros is pleased. “Now we can begin…”
After Gharman and Davros lead the Dalek away, Sarah is taken prisoner by the Mutos. In the Kaled bunker, Nyder orders that the Doctor and Harry be scanned. The scan detects the Time Ring, which is confiscated despite the Doctor’s protests. It is placed with their other belongings as they are taken to Senior Researcher Ronson for questioning.
Two Mutos argue over Sarah’s unconscious body. Gerrill notes that she is a “Norm”, and Norms are to be killed by Muto law. Sevrin, however, questions why the Mutos should always destroy beauty. The fight is interrupted by a squad of Thal soldiers, who shoot Gerill, but take Sevrin and Sarah to the Thal Dome as slave laborers.
Ronson, a member of the Scientific Division, examines the results of the scan, and is startled to discover that the Doctor and Harry are indeed aliens. Before he can question them further, an alarm rings; Davros is arriving, bringing with him his “Mark III travel machine”, which the Doctor identifies to Ronson as a Dalek. When Davros releases the primitive Dalek to independent control, it swivels around and pauses at the Doctor and Harry, detecting their non-Kaled physiology. It cries out that they are aliens and must be exterminated, but Ronson switches the Dalek off before it can fire.
Davros is furious that Ronson interceded when his creation showed a natural instinct to destroy. Ronson pleads with Davros that the prisoners might hold valuable information, and Davros relents. They will be used when the demonstration resumes, at first light, but Ronson may question them until then. The two are taken to the cells.
In the Thal Dome, Sarah discovers that the Thals have placed all their remaining resources into a rocket that they hope will bring them victory in one decisive strike. The slaves are being used to pack the rocket’s nose cone with distronic explosives. To reduce the weight, no shielding is provided, which means the slaves will get distronic toxemia and die after a few hours’ exposure.
The Doctor has learned that the bunker they are in is a few miles away from the Kaled dome. Years ago, the Kaled government decided to form a scientific elite for research, but over time the elite became more and more influential. Ronson tells them that Davros has just announced that the Mark III travel machine will now be known as a Dalek, and Ronson asks how the Doctor knew this in advance.
When the Doctor reveals that he is a time traveler, Ronson confides in him that he and a few others believe the direction of Davros’ research has turned immoral and evil. The elite discovered that their race was already mutating. Davros believed that this mutation could not be reversed, and began experiments to determine the Kaleds’ final mutated form, developing these “ultimate creatures” which he will put in travel machines. Ronson believes that if the government were told about the experiments they would shut Davros down, but he is unable to get out of the bunker. The Doctor offers to contact the right men if Ronson helps them escape.
The first load over, Sarah and the other slaves return to their cell, exhausted. She tells them they must act before they are too weak from distronic exposure to do anything. She proposes they try to escape through the dome’s exit at the top of the rocket. Overpowering their guard, the slaves rush out to the silo and start climbing, as Thal troops fire up at them. But Sarah gets into difficulties and Sevrin urges her on. Suddenly she loses her grip and falls, screaming…
Several are shot, falling to their deaths. Sarah and Sevrin make it to the nose cone of the rocket but are caught before they can escape. Meanwhile, Ronson has helped Harry and the Doctor escape, and they make their way to the Kaled dome. Back in the bunker, Davros orders further improvements to the Dalek shell’s systems.
Another scientist, Kavell, tells Ronson that the Doctor and Harry have made contact with the Kaled leadership in the dome. There, the Doctor briefs the Kaled Councillors, including one named Mogran, on future events and how the name of the Daleks will terrorize the universe for generations to come.
Nyder tells Davros that his spies have reported that a secret meeting between Mogran and some Councillors that oppose their work occurred in the dome with the two prisoners present. Davros tells Nyder to find out how they escaped and the details of the meeting; he will deal with Ronson in his own way. Mogran and his Councillors have decided that an independent inquiry will look into Davros’s experiments, and until then, all work at the bunker will cease. If the Doctor’s allegations are borne out, the project will be shut down. When they leave to tell Davros their decision, Ravon tells Harry and the Doctor that Kaled agents in the Thal dome have reported that a girl led an attempted breakout. The Kaleds know about the rocket but are unconcerned because Davros has reinforced their dome. Ravon agrees to show the Doctor and Harry how to get to the Thal dome.
Davros seems to take Mogran’s announcement of the inquiry well, but after they leave, he orders twenty mutants to be placed within the Dalek shells. Nyder protests that they are still unstable, but Davros replies that he will place them under a degree of computer control. He and Nyder are going on a journey…
Harry and the Doctor reach the Thal dome, and while making their way through the corridors manage to spy on a meeting between some Thals and Davros, with Nyder by his side. The Kaled chief scientist tells the Thals that he is only interested in peace. He adds that the Kaled dome is currently impenetrable, but gives them a chemical formula that will weaken the dome enough for the rocket to work. All he asks is that he be allowed to help in the reconstruction of Skaro when the war is over.
Harry and the Doctor continue their search for Sarah. They overpower two guards and steal their radiation suits. Entering the silo, they take care of the guard there and free the slaves. Harry, Sarah and Sevrin leave for the Kaled dome to warn them and advise an immediate offensive while the Doctor attempts to sabotage the rocket. However, before he can do so, the guard in the silo revives and activates an electric grid, sending an electric surge through the Doctor’s body, shocking him into unconsciousness.
The Doctor awakens in the control room of the Thal dome, where a screen shows the Thal chemical bombardment of the Kaled dome. The Thal leader gives the order to start the rocket countdown. In the bunker, the Kaled scientists watch the bombardment with disbelief; who could have given the Thals the right formula?
The Thal rocket fires, and blows up the Kaled dome. The Doctor ruefully observes that he sent Harry and Sarah in there. In the bunker, Davros vows “revenge” beginning with the “Thal spy” Ronson. With an order of “Exterminate!” from Davros, Ronson is shot down by the Daleks. Davros declares the death of the Kaled race and the rise of the Daleks as the supreme being and ultimate conqueror of the universe.
The Thal leader is jubilant that the war has ended, and orders all prisoners to be freed, including the Doctor. The Doctor, however, is melancholy. A Thal woman, Bettan, asks him if he had friends in the dome and the Doctor replies yes. However, he intends to continue to try to stop the development of Davros’s Daleks. Bettan says that Davros is a hero, despite the Doctor telling her that he only betrayed his people because they were about to stop his experiments.
In the bunker, Davros tells Gharman to implement new variations to the Dalek mutants’ genetic structure. Gharman notices that this will produce mental defects, making them devoid of conscience, morality or pity. Davros calls them “improvements” and orders Gharman to carry out his orders without question, but Gharman is obviously disturbed by this development.
Under Davros’s orders, Daleks enter the Thal dome and begin exterminating people. Bettan runs into the Doctor, and the two flee the dome. The Doctor tells her that she has to form what Thal survivors there are into a fighting force and destroy the Kaled bunker.
As the Doctor makes his way back to the bunker to retrieve the Time Ring, he is attacked by Mutos. However, he is saved by Harry, Sevrin and Sarah, who did not manage to reach the dome before it was destroyed. Before they return to the bunker, the Doctor asks Sevrin to join Bettan and help her organize the survivors.
In the bunker, Gharman quietly tries to convince Kavell that they have to stop the Daleks. However, they are overheard by Nyder. The Security Commander approaches Gharman and convinces him that he believes Davros has become a megalomaniac and has to be stopped. He arranges to meet Gharman in the detention rooms on the lower level where Davros never goes. There, Gharman gives Nyder the names of those who oppose Davros, which is all that he really wanted. Davros appears, and Nyder knocks Gharman unconscious. At that moment, Sarah, Harry and the Doctor emerge from the ventilation shaft right in front of the two, and are captured.
Davros interrogates the Doctor, who tells him why he is here. Davros asks him if the Daleks always win in the future, and the Doctor tells him that they have occasionally been defeated. Davros demands to know what mistakes the Daleks make, intending to correct them, but the Doctor refuses. Davros hooks Sarah and Harry up to his machines, and tells the Doctor that if he lies or does not answer his questions, his friends will suffer.
As Davros increases the power of the torture devices, the Doctor reluctantly answers Davros’s questions. Over the course of the next few hours, he gives a litany of the Daleks’ defeats and why they were defeated. The first session over, Sarah and Harry are taken to the detention area. Davros wants to speak to the Doctor, scientist to scientist.
The Doctor pleads with Davros to stop the development of the Daleks. The machines are not the problem — the evil creatures inside them are. Davros says that they are merely conditioned to survive, and to do so, they must become the dominant species. When all other life is suppressed, there will be universal peace.
The Doctor asks Davros a hypothetical question: if he had invented a virus that would destroy all other forms of life on contact, would he use it? Davros considers the question and observes that the power to make that choice would elevate him above the gods, and yes, he would do it. Convinced now that Davros is mad, the Doctor seizes his arm and threatens to turn off his life support chair unless he orders the Dalek mutants destroyed. However, Nyder enters and knocks the Doctor out before Davros can give the final order.
Nyder takes the Doctor back to the cells, but in the meantime, Kavell has managed to knock out a guard and free Sarah, Harry and Gharman. Harry, dressed as a guard, tries to stop Nyder, but he gets away. Gharman and Kavell go to organize the others against Davros, but the Doctor warns them to be careful: Davros knows what they are planning. The time travellers now have two things to retrieve: the Time Ring and the tape recording with knowledge of the future.
The Daleks in the Thal dome eliminate the last of the Thals still inside and are ordered back to the bunker. Sevrin tells Bettan that there are no more survivors except those who managed to escape the city. In the bunker, fighting breaks out between Gharman’s and Davros’s supporters, with Gharman’s side gaining the upper hand. To Nyder’s surprise, Davros orders him to surrender. Gharman and the rebels meet Davros and deliver their ultimatum: to destroy the Daleks and cease work on the project. Davros agrees, but he wants a meeting of both the military and scientific elite in an hour and a vote to be taken on the issue.
Searching through the lockers, the Doctor finds a chunk of plastic explosive and detonators. There is one option left to him to stop the Daleks: genocide. He enters the incubator room to set up the explosives, intending to destroy the Daleks forever. As Sarah and Harry wait, the Doctor staggers out, with several embryonic Dalek mutants wrapped around his throat, strangling him.
With Harry and Sarah’s help, the Doctor manages to free himself and throw the mutants back into the room. All he has to do is touch two wires together and the Daleks are destroyed. However, the Doctor hesitates; does he have the right to commit genocide? He tells Sarah that many future worlds became allies because of their fear of the Daleks. If he wipes the Daleks out, he becomes no better than they are.
Gharman approaches and tells them that Davros has agreed to the ultimatum, and the Doctor is grateful for not having to make the final decision. He disconnects the wires, and they go to the meeting. There, as Davros makes his case, the trio secretly pocket the Doctor’s belongings that were confiscated earlier, including the Time Ring. Gharman proposes an alternative: to let the Daleks continue, not as Davros’s genetically ruthless creatures, but with human strengths, weaknesses and emotions.
Meanwhile, the Daleks re-enter the bunker. Bettan’s rebels follow them in unseen, and set up explosive charges to collapse the bunker and entomb the Daleks forever. She cannot afford to delay, and Sevrin goes deeper into the bunker to try to warn the Doctor and the others.
As the vote takes place, Nyder casually walks off. Suspicious, the TARDIS crew follow him, and head him off in the hallway. They grapple with him, and the Doctor unknowingly drops the Time Ring in the corridor because of the struggle. The Doctor forces Nyder to bring them to where the tape recording is kept, After Nyder tries to play innocent, the Doctor singles him out as the only one who can open the safe in Davros’s office because Davros cannot do so with his handicaps and needs an assistant, and Nyder begrudgingly fetches the recording. The Doctor destroys the recording with a Dalek gun, but while the group’s attention is turned away from him, Nyder gets away again, locking them in the room. The Doctor attempts to use the Time Ring to escape, but then finds out he has dropped it. With the Time Ring gone, they can only watch on the monitor as Gharman and his rebels continue their confrontation with Davros.
Davros offers to destroy the Daleks through a large red destruct button in the room, but only after all those present vote on it. He blackmails Kravos into siding with him over the fact he saved the Kaled’s life by mending his heart with an instrument that would keep it beating, but Kravos’s true loyalties still lie with the other scientists. Once those who are against Davros and the Daleks have identified themselves, Davros orders the Daleks to exterminate them. Gharman and the scientists are murdered en masse, and at the sight of this massacre, Kravos tries to intervene and is killed as well.
Sevrin opens the door where the Doctor and companions were trapped, and warns them about the Thal explosives. Mere moments after he leaves Davros’s office, the Doctor finds the Time Ring in the hallway outside, and sends his friends with it to the main entrance, while he returns to the incubator room to finish what he started, urging them to escape against their wishes to stick by his side. The Doctor is unable to connect the wires there due to a Dalek arriving and firing at him, but when the Dalek glides forward, its metal body forms a circuit with the wires and the incubator room explodes, taking the Dalek with it.
Davros suddenly notices that the Dalek automated assembly line has started, although he gave no such order. One of the Daleks says it gave the order, and refuses when Davros tells it to shut the line down. Davros orders Nyder to stop the line, but midway in his flighty dash to the controls, the Daleks exterminate him, and Nyder’s body slumps to the floor. The Daleks state production will continue.
The Doctor runs towards the main entrance, a squad of Daleks in pursuit, just as Bettan is about to give the order to detonate the charges. He makes it through the doors as they go off, sealing the bunker. Inside, the Daleks tell Davros that their programming does not allow them to acknowledge any creature as their superior. Davros argues they cannot survive without him and his guidance, but the Daleks reason they can maintain themselves under their own power and have the ability to think of new ways to survive without any outside help. Deeming anything inferior as their enemy, they prepare to destroy him and his Kaled supporters. The crippled scientist pleads with the Daleks to spare the scientists because they can help them and begs them to have pity, but that word is not in the Daleks’ vocabulary. The Daleks immediately kill off the Kaled scientists, leaving Davros the last of his kind.
Davros then screams and tells the Daleks that they must and will obey him. The Daleks tell him they obey no one. Davros decides to destroy the Daleks by activating the red button, struggling to reach it from his chariot, but the Daleks see what he is doing, and they exterminate him. The lead Dalek proclaims that, despite their entombment, this is only the beginning. The Daleks will prepare and grow stronger and, when the time is right, they will emerge and become the supreme power in the universe.
The Doctor acknowledges that even with the incubator room gone, he has only managed to hold back the Daleks’ progress by a thousand years or so. As the Thal resistance exits the bunker, the travelers say their good-byes to Bettan, Sevrin and the others, and prepare to use the Time Ring. Sarah asks the Doctor why he does not seem disappointed that he failed; as they are whisked away through time and space, the Doctor tells Sarah that although the Daleks will create havoc and destruction for millions of years, he knows that out of their evil must come something good…