Genesis of the Daleks: Part 1
First Broadcast March 8th, 1975 @ 5.30pm (10.7m viewers)
This story is an absolute classic. Some say the best example of Doctor Who ever made. After their debut in only the second Doctor Who story, the Daleks quickly captured the imagination of viewers with their unique design and terrifying quest to destroy all life that is not like they are. On the suggestion of producer Barry Letts, writer Terry Nation wrote a script which divulged the events behind the creation of the Daleks, that admittedly did contain some inconsistencies with their previously established history. This story would also introduce a new character central to the birth of the Daleks, the crazed scientist Davros who makes his first televised appearance at the conclusion of this episode. The character would prove almost as popular as his creations and in the remainder of the programme’s original television run occasionally overshadowed the Daleks. However, much of the brilliance of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ is attributable to Davros and the spectacular way he was brought to life on screen. The effect was so positive that it would later inspire head writer Steven Moffat to compose a gushing love song in the form of ‘The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar’ (2015) heavily influenced by the Doctor/Davros dynamic first seen during this story.
Behind the scenes the character was brought to life by actor Michael Wisher who had previously appeared in a number of Doctor Who stories, ‘The Ambassadors of Death’, ‘Terror of the Autons’ and ‘Carnival of Monsters’ and had also provided Dalek voices for the final three Dalek stories of the Jon Pertwee era. For this role, however, Wisher was to be encased behind a rubber mask created by sculptor John Friedlander and so in rehearsals donned a paper shopping bag to replicate the impending sensory deprivation. Visual effects designer Peter Day completed the look of Davros, creating a travel machine which mirrored the skirt section of a Dalek and housed the withered scientist.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler warning)
At the conclusion of the episode, Sarah is the first of the TARDIS crew to catch sight of Davros and the scene highlights one of the strengths of the production of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, the beautifully intelligent direction from David Maloney. The low lighting levels create a dark and gloomy scene full of atmosphere and doesn’t reveal Davros clearly, adding to the mystery of the character. It is also the first time we really see a Dalek under the control of an individual and exterminating on command. As a result, this new character is not only intriguing but also chillingly scary and grotesque.
When Davros returned to the screen for 2008’s ‘The Stolen Earth’ actor Julian Bleach and the design department returned to Michael Wisher’s original version of the character, not to discount the contributions to the role made by David Gooderson and Terry Molloy. However, so memorable was Wisher’s original portrayal that it is often pointed to as the ultimate version and a significant influence on the eternal popularity of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’.
The Doctor – Tom Baker
Sarah Jane Smith – Elisabeth Sladen
Harry Sullivan – Ian Marter
Charman – Dennis Chinnery
Time Lord – John Franklyn-Robbins
Nyder – Peter Miles
Ravon – Guy Siner
Davros – Michael Wisher
Kaled Leader – Richard Reeves
Dalek Operator – John Scott Martin
Director David Maloney
Producer Philip Hinchcliffe
Writer Terry Nation
Also first aired On This Day…
- The Space Pirates: Episode 1
- Earthshock: Part 1
- Enlightenment: Part 3
- The Caves of Androzani: Part 1