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With Dalek-mania in full swing in Britain and around the world, it became clear that the tin-pot killers needed to start treading new ground if they were going to avoid wearing out their welcome. Enter Dalek creator Terry Nation, who, after discussions with the 'Who writing team, started penning an origin tale which focused on the Doctor's most deadly and recurring enemies. From ink was born 'Genesis of the Daleks,' the most popular Doctor Who story in the entire series' run, and for excellent reason. 'Genesis' introduces several new elements into Doctor Who lore which would go on to became vital plot elements for the entire series, right up to this day.
Following the events of 'Ark in Space' and 'The Sontaran Experiment,' the Doctor is summoned to the Dalek homeworld of Skaro by the Time Lord elite. Fearing galactic Dalek supremacy, the Time Lords give the Doctor a covert mission which involves either destroying, or manipulating the Daleks before they are even conceived, thereby lessening their threat. With Harry and Sarah Jane in tow, the Doctor sets out on a pre-Dalek Skaro to begin his mission. However, things are far from simple. A war has been waging for centuries between the Thal and Kaled races which has decimated Skaro and left it a burnt out radioactive wasteland. The Doctor soon becomes imprisoned by the Kaled faction who boast of imminent victory by way of a deadly new weapon. That weapon is a prototype Dalek, the first of its kind. Mass production begins by order of Davros, a severely crippled megalomaniac scientist who seeks to turn the Daleks into a supreme force which will conquer Skaro, and spread out to eventually conquer the Universe. The Doctor soon realizes that his mission may be more difficult to accomplish than first thought.
'Genesis' is a testament to the writer/director team of Terry Nation and David Maloney, who expertly craft a story that draws the viewer in. The most wonderful facet of 'Genesis' is that the story relies very little on actual Daleks to tell it. Indeed, the story focuses much more on the plight of the Thal/Kaled war, the insanity and evil that such a war can breed, and the blurring of personal ethics and morals in the face of desperate odds. Would you commit to the genocide of an entire race for the sake of peace? It's a cleverly written story for the 70s, an era which tended to focus less on the moral ambiguity of anti-heroism and more on the black/white of good vs. evil. The outcome of 'Genesis' is a hollow one indeed. The Doctor manages only a small victory against his foes, but the price for staying true to his ethics and principles will have absolutely unfathomable consequences for himself, the Time Lords, and the galaxy in future episodes. 'Genesis' is most certainly the biggest turning point in the series, maturing the Doctor into a being whose actions and continued interference will affect those he cares about most. It also explicitly details that this is the first volley in the Time War, a phenomenon which serves as the backbone for the entire 2005 Doctor Who series.
There isn't much in the way of special effects for 'Genesis.' Like most Who stories of the time period, the budget was always low. There are some interesting sets, but the use of 70s era Earth computers, weapons and props does tend to yank the viewer abruptly from belief that this is an alien world and culture. And let's not even get started on Davros' killer clamshell! I just can't go on. No, 'Genesis' survives and thrives by means of its intricate and thoughtful storyline, which spans quite beautifully through the 6 episodes which comprise the full bulk of the story. Character development is bountiful here, focusing on multiple subplots between Davros, the Doctor, his companions, politicians, scientists, soldiers, and wasteland mutants. When the Daleks do finally get their fair share of screen time, it is in the most minimal way possible, serving primarily as killing machines with orders. Only in the last few moments of the story do we get to see the Daleks truly come alive and assert their well-known role as a ruthlessly intelligent and violent race of killers. And really, that's what an origin tale is all about; the rise to infamy.