Sunday, August 7, 2011

TV Series Review: Doctor Who (Genesis of the Daleks)

In case people were wondering, no I got sidetracked and haven't done my write-up about the author event yet, honestly I'm just not sure how interesting it would be to most people. Of course, I'm not sure how many people are interested in seeing me explore even more Classic Doctor Who but I suspect that it's at least a few more people. This time around I tried out one of the Fourth Doctor's adventures (with Sarah Jane and Harry as companions, Sarah Jane should be familiar to fans of the new series since she's appeared in a few episodes, got a spin-off show and her actress, Elizabeth Sladen, died this past spring), one that dealt with the origins of the Dalek's themselves. Russel T. Davis has said that this is where the Time War that would eventually wipe out the Time Lords started (ie, the meddling in the Dalek's creation) and even without knowing that it's a rather depressing episode, clearly the Dalek's are still around in the current series so it's everyone knows how this is all going to end.

Doctor Who- The Genesis of the Daleks

Summary: The Doctor and company have been pulled from the Tardis mid-flight to undertake a secret mission from the Time Lords, go back in time to Sakro and either manipulate the newly created Dalek's so they become a more peaceful race or destroy one of the universes' greatest menaces at their birth.

The Good: Despite the serial's foregone conclusion this story has a pretty tight plot, good pacing and suspense, exactly what it needs to hold people's attention for six, half-hour episodes. Once again the companions prove that they're perfectly capable of getting in and out of trouble all by themselves (although Sarah Jane isn't quite as capable as she was in NuWho) and it's interesting to see that the Doctor doesn't worry quite as much when his companions go missing, compared to NuWho anyway, and simply seems confident that they'll do alright. Tom Baker plays an interesting Doctor where it's always easy to remember that he is an alien, not human, which is something other actors sometimes seem to forget. There's just something about the way he acts that makes him seem different, it's no wonder that for so many people Tom Baker is "their Doctor."

The Bad: If you hadn't already guessed that Daleks were supposed to be alien Nazis then this serial really beats you over the head with the idea. Barely any of the characters other than the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry are remotely likable which gets a little frustrating, the war on Sakro that starts everything also seems to have Black and Black Mortality, really it's a wonder that the Time Lords didn't tell the Doctor to blow up everything from the start. Sometimes it seems like the characters are too trusting of Davros or not doing enough to prevent his plans but honestly, wouldn't the viewers have felt the same way the characters did if they didn't already know how the Daleks acted?

The Audio: The opening theme seems to have changed a little bit again and other than that there isn't a lot of memorable music from the serial. One interesting bit however, and I don't know if this was on purpose or not (I suspect it probably was), was seeing how similar the Daleks' voices were to Davros' own voice, as if he tried to make the Daleks in his image. It's not obvious every time he speaks but when he gets angry and starts yelling or drawing out his words like the Daleks do his voice becomes more and more synthesized which I thought was a rather clever little detail.

The Visuals: When the show doesn't have to rely on crazy special effects it's a lot easier to take the story seriously and thankfully this serial doesn't need a lot of special effects. By this point any Doctor Who fan is going to be used to the design of the Daleks, although Davros looks a little different from his later appearances, and combine that with rather generic looking sets (wastelands, small rooms that could have any number of purposes, a sanitary looking lab) and there's nothing to distract the viewer or to draw them out of the viewing experience.

I enjoyed this serial quite a bit as well and I really like having stories were there is more than one companion in the Tardis, for some reason it just seems that having three or more people means that the characters get to develop and act more as they bounce off of each other and it's a pleasent change from NuWho where the majority of the time it's one girl and the Doctor in the Tardis (and yes this means that I love having Amy and Rory together in the Tardis and Jack or River Song appearing for a few episodes always seemed to make things more interesting as well).

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