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Recap / Doctor Who S12 E4 "Genesis of the Daleks"

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"I know that although the Daleks will create havoc and destruction for millions of years, I know also, that out of their evil, must come something good."
The Doctor (pondering his navel)

The one where Harry gets his leg stuck in a fibreglass clam, a Dalek leaves the fourth wall in tatters, and we're introduced to a certain chariot-riding megalomaniac who begins a glorious tradition of megalomaniacal ranting.

Or, to put it another way: The one where the fate of the universe hinges on two wires.

Written by Terry Nation. This six-episode serial first aired from March 8 to April 12, 1975.

Having just finished saving future Earth from some Sontaran shenanigans, the Doctor and companions end up being hijacked on their way back to Nerva Beacon and are deposited instead on Skaro, home planet of the Daleks. The planet is at an early stage in its history, with a long war of attrition currently ongoing between its two human-like native races, the Kaleds and the Thals. The ultimate result of this war is that the Kaleds will inevitably mutate due to the high "chemical" levels. They've built themselves travel casings to remain mobile — and as we all know, these will enable them to become the Daleks. The High Council of the Time Lords instruct the Doctor to either prevent this entirely, or divert the Daleks' development into a more peaceful form, or — failing that — destroy them. They give him a "Time Ring" to allow him to return to the TARDIS once this is done.

The Doctor and companions make their way past horrific mutants, victims of the war's "chemical" exchanges, into the Kaled bunker, where truly frightening crippled mad scientist Davros and his henchman Nyder are conducting genetic experiments. They plan to discover the final form of mutation for the Kaled race and develop a new "Travel Casing" for the results, which Sarah and the Doctor instantly recognize as a Dalek. The Doctor and Harry escape from the bunker and persuade the Kaled leaders to put a stop to the experiments, but Davros colludes with the Thals to open the Kaled City's defences and allow it to be destroyed. He then activates his experimental Daleks and uses them to kill the Thals.

The Doctor makes his way back into the bunker and sets explosives on the Dalek breeding tanks, needing only to touch two wires together to prevent the Daleks from ever existing. However, he can't bring himself to commit genocide, and reasons that much good will eventually come out of the undoubted evil of the Daleks, and who is he to play god like this and so on. This fascinating debate is then interrupted by the arrival of a Dalek, forcing the Doctor to drop the wires and leg it. As the Dalek pursues it runs over the wires, blowing up the tank anyway.

Meanwhile, some of Davros's fellow scientists are uneasy about the experiments and demand they be stopped. Davros turns the Daleks on them, but his creations then turn on their creator and Davros himself is exterminated. Thals who survived the massacre destroy the entrance to the bunker, sealing the Daleks inside, while the Doctor and co make an escape thanks to the Time Ring. The Doctor estimates that his interference will have put the development of the Daleks back by a thousand years... but instead it's the catalyst for events that nearly destroy him and the whole of creation. Because after all, when it comes to war, someone has to fire the first shot...

One of very few serials not to involve the TARDIS even by implication: the Doctor and companions arrive by transmat beam, and leave by Time Ring. It also marks a significant turning point in the show's production in that it is the last six-part story to not be a season finale. Previous seasons, especially during the Second and Third Doctor's runs, were littered with serials that went well over the four-episode mark, with two particularly extreme cases in the '60s reaching ten and twelve. Thus, starting with the next season, the Doctor Who staff opted to limit stories to a maximum of four parts with the exception of season finales, which would be six parts until season 17 (which had to let go of the six-part "Shada" midway through production due to a workers' strike)note . The decision to mostly phase out serials above four parts also led to the two-episode structure of the previous story.

Finally, this would be one of only two serials to feature the Daleks during Tom Baker's seven-year tenure on Doctor Who alongside "Destiny of the Daleks" five seasons later, marking a considerable shift in how the series treated its recurring villains (following four Dalek stories and eight Master stories for the Third Doctor, one of which featured both villains simultaneously). The Daleks alone would only appear once for each succeeding Doctor for the remainder of the Classic Series' run, and other recurring villains would see similar reductions in how frequently they appeared, with the show instead shifting focus towards new foes who, more often than not, only showed up once.


  • Absolute Xenophobe: The Daleks, though Davros isn't far behind them in terms of Xenophobia, either!
  • Abusive Precursors: The Daleks inherited their racist beliefs and a ruined Skaro from the Kaleds.
  • Agony Beam: Used/threatened by Davros against the Doctor/Harry and Sarah Jane.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: In the last episode, Davros actually begs the Daleks to spare the remaining Kaled scientists. It doesn't work.
    Davros: These men are scientists, they can help you! Let them live! Have pity!
    Dalek: "Pi-ty?" I have no understand of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Used multiple times, if somewhat deconstructed: it gets you in and out of places, but it's by no means a stealthy way to do so.
  • Always Save the Girl: Davros forces the Doctor to give him information about future Dalek defeats by torturing Sarah Jane and Harry.
  • Ammunition Conservation: Ravon reminds his troops that ammunition is valuable and cannot be wasted. As such, he plans to have the Doctor and Harry hanged instead of taken out and shot.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: The Doctor cites this as one of the reasons why he feels he doesn't have the right to wipe out the Daleks before their campaign of genocide: several races had managed to set aside their hatreds and unite solely because of their fear of the Daleks.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The Doctor, on the verge of destroying the Daleks, pierces his own armour welded together with thoughts such as "Daleks are Evil," "The Ends Justify The Means," "You are better than them anyway," "Even your own people want this to happen," and "You're under orders to destroy them." His dilemma over moral rightness, and the knowledge that the Daleks will produce some good (in the form of forces who would otherwise be antagonistic toward one another joining together in fear of a common foe) lead him to hesitate long enough until another option comes about.
  • Asshole Victim: It's hard to feel sorry for Nyder when the Daleks kill him carrying out an order of Davros against their will.
  • Badass Boast: The leader of the Daleks at the end of the serial, after killing Davros.
    Dalek: We are entombed, but we live on. This is only the beginning. We will prepare. We will grow stronger. When the time is right, we will emerge and take our rightful place as the supreme power of the UNIVERSE!
  • Bad Future: What prompts the Time Lords to draft the Doctor, having foreseen a time when the Daleks will have killed all other lifeforms in existence.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: When the Doctor can't bring himself to blow up the Dalek incubation chamber, a Dalek sees him. When trying to pursue the Doctor, it drives over the wires, making the bomb explode.
    • Downplayed, as by that stage the Doctor is trying to set off the bombs but is interrupted by the Dalek.
  • BBC Quarry: Justified for Skaro, as the planet is a war-blasted wasteland when the Doctor and his companions arrive.
  • Beast and Beauty: The mutants want to kill Sarah because she's not one of them.
    Sevrin: She's beautiful. No deformities, no imperfections.
    Gerrill: She is a Norm. All Norms are our enemies. Kill her now for what she's done to our kind.
    Sevrin: No, why? Why must we always destroy beauty? Why kill another creature because it is not in our image?
  • Beware the Silly Ones: The Doctor threatens to shut off Davros' life support system to coerce him into destroying the Daleks, and he meant every word of it.
  • Big Bad: Davros is the main obstacle in the Doctor's mission to stop the creation of the Daleks (in large part because he's the creator of the Daleks) and the cause of most of the atrocities in the story.
  • Big Red Button: The button to destroy the Kaled dome is a big plastic red button in a totally different aesthetic style to everything else in the story. And it's revealed in dramatic closeup, no less. Mocked enormously in the DVD commentary (Elisabeth Sladen: "It's very Blackpool").
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Both Davros and the Daleks are portrayed as utterly evil, with the Thals and Kaleds paling in comparison. However, the war between the two races is Grey-and-Grey Morality at best and comes very close to being Evil Versus Evil. The Kaleds are Nazi allegories who desire the destruction of the Thals, while the Thals use disposable slave labour to build weapons and murder the vast majority of the Kaleds to bring about peace, a sentiment that Davros himself echoes later in the story.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Davros declares that releasing a virus that would destroy all life (an analogy the Doctor uses for his creation of the Daleks) would "set me up above the gods".
  • Blatant Lies: Davros claims the Daleks' guns are for self-defense.
  • Bowdlerise: A mid-production example. The decision was made halfway through filming to tone down the Kaleds' status as A Nazi by Any Other Name (i.e. removing all iron crosses and making them stop doing the heel-clicking salute) as it might have had caused issues with moral guardians (who were already targeting the show due to its popularity, mind you).
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: A Dalek shouts into the camera about how its species will conquer the universe.
  • Brick Joke: The Doctor asks his captors for a cup of tea, only to be shut down. Later when Ronson arrives, Harry quips that perhaps this is the tea.
  • Butt-Monkey: Lampshaded by Harry during his encounter with the clam: "Why is it always me that puts a foot in it!?".
  • Bystander Syndrome: No-one dares defend Ronson from Davros and his accusations.
  • Caps Lock, Num Lock, Missiles Lock: Happens twice! First, Davros' chair is equipped with a button that will turn off his life support and kill him in 30 seconds, placed right next to all of his other controls, which could easily be accidentally hit, considering that he barely has any control over his only functioning hand. And also, the rocket which the Thals plan to use to destroy the Kaleds has two buttons right next to one another on its main control. Fire and Destruct.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Doctor is forced by the Time Lords to return to the moment of the Daleks' creation to destroy them before they are created— but when he actually gets the opportunity to do so, he decides not to, on the grounds that 1) genocide is wrong, 2) the wars that they eventually start will unite more races against them than otherwise, and 3) without them, some other race of space Nazis would rise up. All of these decisions come right back to bite him in the arse thirty (real life) years later, when the Daleks' retaliation against the Doctor's failed time erasure led to the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks, which created various obstructive alliances attempting to deal with the massive devastation that the Time War caused (such as the Shadow Proclamation), and forced the Doctor to commit genocide against his own species as well as against the Daleks. It got Cosmic Retconned into him merely sealing Gallifrey away in its own dimension later on.
  • The Chessmaster: Davros, and spectacularly so. Watch closely— for the whole six episodes, he is not so much as momentarily inconvenienced by any of the events of the serial until the very end.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Davros has a particularly developed case, which gives his failure to foresee the Daleks' betrayal of him a nice sense of irony.
  • Clam Trap: In a memeticallyinvoked Narmy moment, Harry Sullivan somehow manages to accidentally step into a giant terrestrial mollusk that Davros created, and get trapped by it. In the fourth episode, the Doctor, Harry and Sarah are confronted by three of them, and must dramatically leap over the utterly still clams to reach safety.
  • Cliffhanger Copout: A notorious example in the Episode Two/Three cliffhanger, where Sarah falls from a great height while climbing the access tower of the Thal rocket... and lands on a platform just below her that definitely should have been visible in the previous episode.
  • Combat Breakdown: The war on Skaro that led to the Daleks' creation is an extremely large scale example, as it went on for so long that both sides began running out of resources to power their more advanced weapons and resorted to using gunpowder-based weapons, bows and arrows, etc.
  • Continuity Nod: When the Doctor turns out his pockets, the contents include the yoyo he used a few stories earlier in "The Ark in Space" and what looks like a lump of the trisilicate ore from the previous season's "The Monster of Peladon".
  • Cosmetically-Advanced Prequel: The Doctor describes the prototype Daleks as 'primitive', but they're still portrayed by the black and gray props introduced in "Day of the Daleks" in 1972, rather than the original 1963 design.
  • Crapsack World: Thal-Kaled War-era Skaro, a contaminated wasteland torn by a brutal Forever War, in which both sides are as bad as each other and the one guy with a plan to end it is a fascist lunatic who intends to commit genocide on both of them and replace them with something even worse... and he succeeds.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The Doctor is captured by Davros' men, and is told to empty his pockets. He begins pulling out a strange assortment of random objects, one at a time, and informs them "this may take some time." Fortunately there is a scene transition at that point and the viewer doesn't have to wait through it all.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Poor Ronson doesn't die instantly from the Dalek's rays like everyone else does.
  • Darker and Edgier: One of the grimmest, bleakest stories the series ever did, focusing on the events leading up to the creation of the Daleks, the show's premier Scary Dogmatic Aliens. The setting is visibly modeled after Nazi Germany, except the Thals and Mutos are shown to be just as bigoted and jingoistic as the Kaleds are (compare this to "The Daleks", where the Thals were based firmly in Beauty Equals Goodness). Davros, the creator of the Daleks, aspires to "set [himself] above the gods," and uses his creations to try and reach that goal. The Doctor is unsuccessful in his mission to prevent the Daleks' creation and can only accomplish the backup goal of merely weakening them, and even then neither he nor his companions know he succeeded on that front, and the Skaro left behind is marked by the genocide of the Kaleds and the rise of an even more ethnonationalist group.
  • Dark Messiah: Davros uses his extensive charisma to gain unquestioned following from his own Kaled people and even many of the enemy Thals and wants to save them by transforming them into a form better evolved to deal with the coming apocalypse and become the dominant life form in the universe at large. Shame that this is achieved by turning them into tentacled blobs in pepperpot-shaped tanks that murder everything out of racial hatred.
  • Death Glare: The look the Doctor gives the Time Lord who stole his TARDIS and dropped him on Skaro should have made the guy regenerate on the spot.
  • Democracy Is Bad: Gharman proposes that the Dalek project be scrapped and the Kaleds continue under a democratically elected leader. Using Gharman's proposal of democracy to his advantage, Davros demands a vote between loyalty to Gharman and his plans, or continuing the Dalek project under himself. In private, he says the following to Nyder: "They talk of democracy, freedom, fairness. Those are the creeds of cowards. The ones who will listen to a thousand viewpoints and try to satisfy them all. Achievement comes through absolute power, and power through strength." Davros gains support in the election by calling on old favours that he did for members of the opposition. And after still losing out in the vote, Davros decides to kill off Gharman and his opposition by inviting the Daleks to join the election.
  • Disney Death: Following the Thals' missile strike against the Kaled City, the Doctor believes that Harry and Sarah Jane (whom he had sent to warn the Kaled leaders) have died in the attack. In fact, they had been waylaid by Mutos and never even reached the Kaled City.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The establishing scenes of Skaro's Forever War have deliberate parallels to the stalemate on the Western Front during World War One, with Gas Mask Mooks getting mown down by machine guns and fighting from trenches.
    • The Thals have blonde hair and are warriors, the Kaleds have brown hair and are scientists. Now consider what the Daleks were inspired by, and their combined legacy is the Daleks...
  • Domed Hometown: The Thal Dome and the Kaled Dome. Both are meant to protect their inhabitants against both hostile bombardment and the chemical and radioactive contamination from the war.
  • The Dragon: Nyder, Davros's nearly emotionless right-hand man.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: The Doctor and Harry dress in Thal uniform in order to rescue Sarah Jane. The Doctor gestures to the guard, who comes over, and the Doctor blocks his exit while Harry goes in for a Groin Attack that leaves him unconscious. Later, Harry dresses in the Kaled Military Elite uniform to rescue the Doctor from Nyder.
  • Easily Forgiven: The Thal leader decides that the first act of peace will be to release all prisoners of war.
  • The End... Or Is It?: This was meant to have happened at the end of the story to show Davros' life support system still on. However, this detail got left out in production.
  • Enemy Mine: When the Doctor has the chance to destroy the Daleks at their creation, one of the reasons he gives against this is that otherwise hostile races would be forced into alliances due to this.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Even Nazi-analog Kaleds find Davros' scheme abhorrent.
    • Davros is quite upset when the Daleks kill Nyder, and when they move to kill his only other loyal supporters too, he is shocked and tries to think up reasons for why the Daleks ought to let the men live.
    • Nyder subverts this when this when told by Davros of his plans to exterminate the Kaleds as well as the Thales; for a moment he seems truly shocked that Davros would really do such a thing, before immediately deciding that he did not care.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Davros truly, honestly believes that the Daleks killing everyone else will be a good thing.
    Davros: When all other lifeforms are suppressed, and the Daleks are the ultimate rulers of the universe, then we will have peace. Wars will end.
  • Evil Cripple: Davros. A truly frightening portrayal, especially the way that he moves his one remaining hand.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The war between the Kaleds and the Thals started out as Black-and-Grey Morality or even Black-and-White Morality, but by the start of the story, it had become very close to being Evil Versus Evil: the Daleks and Thals are both prepared to commit outright genocide against the others (which the Thals actually do, although their genocide is not complete), and the Thals (who up until this story had been presented rather sympathetically) utilise slave labour and do not care in the slightest about the mortality rate of their slaves. Despite that, the Kaleds and Thals are both presented as generally less evil than the Daleks and Davros, and in a clear case of Even Evil Has Standards, plenty of Kaleds are appalled by Davros' genetic manipulation of the Daleks into Omnicidal Maniacs. Indeed, more Kaleds are presented sympathetically in this story than unsympathetically, despite the fact that it doesn't scrimp on the not-very-subtle Nazi allegory and makes it plain that Kaled society at large is monstrous.note  This is actually consistent with the first Dalek story, in which it was revealed by the Thals themselves that they weren't "good guys" during the original war, had changed in the years since, and weren't proud of their history. They wondered if the Daleks, whom they haven't seen in a while, have un-taken their level in Jerkass. (They hadn't, of course.)
  • Eviler than Thou: A very ironic variant. Davros ends up being killed by his creations because they are programmed to believe that no other being is superior to them. Including Davros.
  • Extended Disarming: Briefly parodied when the Doctor is ordered to turn out his pockets. The ensuing massive pile of junk-drawer items doesn't contain a single weapon.
  • Face Death with Despair: When Davros is confronted and about to be executed by his own creations, the titular Daleks, he starts breaking down and shouts about how, as their creator, they should be taking orders from him. The Daleks ignore his angry pleas. As a last act of desperation, Davros tries to use the cut-off switch he installed in his chair to shut down their production line and they promptly exterminate him. It would later turn out that he was put into stasis by his life support mechanism rather than killed, but at that moment it appeared he was going to die.
  • Fantastic Racism: This serial shows that on pre-Dalek Skaro, the Kaleds (the race that became the Daleks) and the Thals hated each other, and both of them hated the mutants (who hate the 'norms' in turn), to the point that the Thals (who were usually shown as pacifist allies of the Doctor) used them as slave labour. Combined with Davros' own violent megalomania, this would, in turn, influence the Absolute Xenophobe nature of the Daleks themselves.
    Nyder: We must keep the Kaled race pure. Imperfects are rejected.
  • Flashback to Catchphrase: The Kaled scientists use the word exterminate a lot in their normal conversation. Then the Daleks show up, and EXTERMINATE was born...
  • Forced to Watch: The Doctor has to tell Davros how every Dalek war was lost or Sarah Jane and Harry will be tortured.
  • Foreshadowing: During the first episode, The Doctor and Harry are dragged into a bunker and meet the fanatical General Ravon, who begins ranting (very loudly) about how the Kaleds will end the war soon. And then there's this part:
    Ravon: We will avenge the deaths of our fallen brothers and sisters, and build a peace that will be a monument to their sacrifice! Our battlecry will be TOTAL EXTERMINATION OF THE THALS!
  • Forever War: The long-running conflict between the Thals and the Kaleds on the planet Skaro. It ran for so long, that technology in the war started to run backwards; one soldier was found with a laser and a musket, wearing a radiation detector and a gas mask. The conflict was only brought to an end when Davros was placed in charge of peace negotiations. Which kinda started a whole bunch of new conflicts.
  • For the Evulz: Davros is posed a philosophical question by the Doctor: "If you had a virus that, when released, would kill everyone in the universe, would you release it?" Davros' answer was that yes, he would release it, for no other reason than because he could.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: The repellent Nyder. Even his voice is a cold and steely monotone, except when he displays some actual feeling. But don't believe him when he does it.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: Part two ends on a freeze-frame shot of Sarah falling from the scaffolding around the Thals' missile.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Both the Kaleds and the Thals use these; justified in that we see poison gas used as a weapon on-screen, WWI-style, with the protagonists nearly succumbing to it before being rescued.
  • Genghis Gambit: This is one of the reasons the Doctor refuses to destroy the Daleks at their very beginning.
    You see, some things could be better with the Daleks. Many future worlds will become allies just because of their fear of the Daleks.
  • Genocide Dilemma:
    • The Doctor posses this question to Davros: If he had a virus in a capsule that would destroy every living entity in the universe, would you release it? Davros, after brief consideration, screams with joy he would do it.
    • The Doctor, on the other hand, found himself with the means and ability to wipe out the Daleks forever. His debate and rationalization of the permissibility of this action, of what it would turn him into if he did the very thing that he condemns the Daleks for doing, eventually leads him to not doing it.
    • Of course, since the Daleks were pretty much programmed to feel nothing but hate and rage for other lifeforms, the Doctor really should have known a false equivalency when he saw it.
  • Genocide from the Inside: Davros helps the Thals to wipe out the other Kaleds when the Doctor persuades the Kaled government to try to end the Dalek project.
  • Genre Blindness: Pretty much no one sees Davros' constant betrayals coming, despite the fact that he is Obviously Evil. Davros himself has a case of this when he expects the Daleks not to turn on him.
  • Goal-Oriented Evolution: Davros worked out what the Kaled race was going to evolve into as a result of the centuries-long ABC war they'd been having with the Thals (apparently it was a green blob that would require a motorised dustbin if it was going to get around).
  • A God Am I: The Doctor asks Davros if he had in his possession a virus that would wipe out all life, would he release it? His response (quoted in full in Shut Up, Kirk! below) is yes, because "That power would set me up above the gods!"
  • Gone Horribly Right: Davros makes his Daleks into Omnicidal Maniac Super Soldiers — pitiless, racist, and arrogant, intent on exterminating everything and everyone that isn't a Dalek. He isn't a Dalek. Oops. He then proceeds to repeat this error in every following appearance.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil:
    • Garman just doesn't get that Davros is an utter monster, and honestly thinks he'll go quietly.
    • Also, the Doctor, who thinks he can talk Davros out of his megalomania with a thought experiment. Yes, Davros really would kill everyone if he could, just for the sheer power of it.
  • Got Volunteered: The Time Lords drag the Doctor away from what he was doing on Earth, send him to Skaro and "ask" him to get rid of the Daleks for him. Don't wanna? Okay, good luck getting off the war-torn planet without your TARDIS, then.
  • Hate Sink: Davros is truly terrifying, but at least he's kind of fun. Not so for Nyder, his repugnant, emotionless right-hand man.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Practically every character that turns out to be a good guy starts off pretty ambiguous.
  • Heroic BSoD: The Doctor (briefly) gets depressed when he thinks Sarah and Harry are killed by the Thal missile. At the very point of being able to destroy the Daleks at the point of their creation, he finds that he's unable to bring himself to do so despite being urged by his companions to go through with it.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Discussed.
    "If someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives... could you then kill that child?"
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When the Daleks turn on Davros and his followers, Davros (in his one and only moment of compassion) begs the Daleks to have pity on the scientists who helped to create them — but they don't, because Davros did not include pity in their data banks. More or less the same exact thing happens every single time he appears — he makes more Daleks to replace the batch the Doctor has killed, and they turn on and either kill or imprison him soon afterwards. You'd think he'd notice the pattern at some point, but no.
  • Hopeless War: The Thal-Kaled War has been going on for years and years, and both sides are technologically regressing with no hope of breaking the stalemate and no appetite for a peaceful solution. (The Davros-centric Big Finish Doctor Who audios make it even worse).
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Gharman starts raising concerns about his plans for the Daleks, out loud and starts formulating a rebellion. Later on, he meets with Nyder, who claims he's disgusted by Davros' perversions of science. Gharman then tells Nyder everything. The minute Nyder's got what he needs, he bludgeons Gharman unconscious and hands him to Davros, who plans to lobotomize Gharman.
  • Human Outside, Alien Inside:
    • This trope is directly mentioned. Ronson scoffs at the Doctor and Harry's claim that they're not from the planet Skaro. Then their test results come back, leaving the scientist stunned that, despite external appearances, their biology matches nothing native to Skaro.
    • Kaleds themselves look like dark-haired, dark-eyed humans on the outside. However, they had fewer ribs than humans in a more widely spaced ribcage, greenish copper-based blood, purple body tissue, thick lungs, and grey cardiac muscle.
  • Humanoid Alien: The Kaleds look like humans with brown or dark hair, while the Thals have blonde hair.
  • Hypocrite: The Kaleds look down on mutants and are big believers in racial purity, and yet their chief scientist Davros was crippled and mutated into something only vaguely human and it did nothing to lower his standing in Kaled society. To be fair, there's nothing genetically impure about Davros- he was crippled by a Thal missile strike on his laboratory while working for the war effort.
  • Idiot Ball: Gharman forms a rebellion that successfully overthrows Davros. Rather than killing, imprisoning or deposing Davros, Gharman allows him to speak to his accusers, which A) gives Davros the chance to turn some of them back to his side, and B) allows the Daleks time to arrive. Three guesses what happens next.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: Spelled out for the viewer in almost those exact words by the Doctor as he tries to rationalize his act of genocide.
  • Improbable Age: Lampshaded with General Ravon, who would owe his rank to both his fanatical dedication to the Kaled cause and the fact that he started as a Child Soldier.
  • Irrevocable Order: The Doctor almost gets Davros to do this. The Doctor has control of Davros' life support system and tells him to give the order to destroy the proto-Daleks or else he'll turn it off.
    Davros: This is Davros. Elite unit seven will go to the incubator room. All survival maintenance systems are to be closed down. The Dalek creatures are to be destroyed.
    Doctor: Tell them the order cannot be countermanded.
    Davros: This order cannot—
    Nyder knocks out the Doctor from behind
    Davros: This is Davros, this is Davros. My last order is cancelled, repeat, cancelled. No action is to be taken.
  • It Is Dehumanising: Thal soldiers refer to all Mutos as "it", even Sarah when they think she is one.
  • It's All About Me: The Kaled government threatens to delay Davros's works? Davros engineers the destruction of the entire Kaled city.
  • Joker Immunity: The real reason the Doctor couldn't bring himself to wipe out the Daleks.
  • Karmic Death: Davros is killed by his newly-created Daleks (extra points for Davros pleading to his creations in the same way that the Doctor was pleading to Davros earlier). At least, this is what appears to happen...
  • Killer Rabbit: During their trip to the Thal city, Harry gets attacked by a savage clam! Apparently it's one of Davros' old experiments.
  • Lack of Empathy: The Daleks, as well as Nyder, Davros' soulless right-hand man.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": The Doctor steps on a partially-buried mine in the rubble of Skaro, and Harry has to wedge rocks under the mine so that he can lift his foot off it without it going off.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: Episode 2 ends with Sarah losing her balance on a high scaffold.
  • MacGuffin: The Time Ring and the tape containing the Daleks' defeats.
  • Mad Scientist: Davros. Duh.
  • Meaningful Name: The Dragon is called Nyder. "Neidr", pronounced the same way, is Welsh for "snake". Although, as many fans have pointed out, it's Gharman who is the one who tries to give the Daleks knowledge of good and evil, not Nyder.
  • Men Are Generic, Women Are Special: Averted. Terry Nation refused the producers' requests to add a female character to the story (since companion Sarah was the only one in his script), so they simply switched the gender of one of his male characters (Bettan) and changed nothing else, leaving the story with an otherwise-generic Thal soldier that happens to be a woman.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The Kaled city is destroyed, killing at least thousands of people. The Doctor is deeply saddened... because he thinks that Harry and Sarah were in the city (naturally they escaped in time). However, it's averted to a degree as the destruction of the city still has emotional impact, mostly from the eerily jubilant reaction of the Thals.
  • Morality Chain: Sarah Jane and Harry are quite ready to commit genocide, but the Doctor persuades them it would be wrong to do it.
  • Morton's Fork: The Doctor does not go through with eradicating the Daleks, and the Daleks see the attempt as a declaration of war, starting the Time War. The Doctor doesn't see the war erupt until his eighth incarnation, and his next incarnation enters the fight personally. However, the Unbound audio range explores the alternative and reveals that if the Doctor did wipe out the Daleks, a contingent would survive and the Time War would begin even sooner, forcing his sixth incarnation to fight instead.
  • Mouth of Sauron: A Time Lord appears to tell the Doctor he has been sent to Skaro to avert the creation of the Daleks.
  • Mutants: Both the mutos, who live in the wastelands, and the results of Davros' animal tests, that live in the caves.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Kaleds wear black military uniforms very close to the standard Nazi uniform, complete with faux-Iron Crosses at the neck and give Roman salutes with heel clicking.
  • Necessary Fail: The Doctor states that although the creation of the Daleks will have horrific consequences for the universe, there is good that will come of it, namely the many species that will join forces out of necessity to defeat them.
  • Never Be Hurt Again: An element in Davros's motivation in creating the Daleks, at least according to his own account of himself, is to provide safety for the Kaleds. Many of the Daleks' features, including the death ray, are introduced as being for protection and self-defence. As the story progresses and Davros's megalomania becomes more apparent, he tells the Doctor that he's convinced that safety can only be achieved by eliminating all threats, laying out the foundation of the Daleks' Absolute Xenophobe worldview.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Kaleds believed there were no such things as aliens, due to Davros having "proven" that in the seven galaxies they know of there was no other life. And then they met the Doctor. Oops.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Nyder is blatantly Skaro's morphic-resonance copy of Heinrich Himmler.
    • Michael Wisher based Davros' voice on Bertrand Russell. Really.
  • Noodle Incident: We never find out why the Kaleds and Thals are engaged in war. It makes the conflict even scarier.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Despite claims in most earlier and later Doctor Who stories, and much of the text on this very page, the word "nuclear" is never mentioned in "Genesis of the Daleks", and problems that are usually associated with radiation are ascribed to mysterious "chemicals".
  • Oh, Crap!: See Land Mine Goes "Click!" above and Villainous Breakdown below.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Davros hasn't quite got this far, but his 'virus' speech shows us that if he had that kind of power, he would use it, just for the sake of having it.
  • Origins Episode: It only took eleven years and four Doctors battling the Daleks before we finally got to see how they were created by Davros, after which point he became a recurring villain in Dalek stories.
  • People of Hair Colour: The two races on Skaro seem to be defined by hair colour — the warrior-race, Thals, are uniformly blond (mostly straight), and the scientific Kaleds have brown hair (mostly curly). This leads to some problems when the Doctor (who has dark curly hair) is identified as a Kaled, but no-one knows what to make of his red-haired companion Sarah.
  • Pet the Dog: Davros of all people gets one when he begs the Daleks to spare the scientists who helped create them. As he created the Daleks as omnicidal maniacs, you can guess what happens next...
  • Post Apocalyptic Gasmask: The lands outside the sheltered cities of the Kaleds and the Thals has become so toxic from their war that their soldiers have to wear gasmasks to survive in the open.
  • Power Equals Rarity: The Kaleds and Thals have been fighting for so long that they're running out of resources to make advanced weaponry and defences, and are being forced to rely on more primitive options.
  • Pseudo-Crisis: Sarah loses her grip on a ledge and screams as she plummets... actually, no, there's a ledge six inches below her, and she continues to climb.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The Thals and Kaleds seem to be portrayed as this. The Thals are using brutal methods in their war against the Kaleds such as enslaving people and forcing them to do work that will kill them but once they think they have won the war they decide to free all their prisoners and some Thals even prove helpful to the Doctor when the Daleks attack them. The Kaled scientists are doing research that will lead to the creation of the Daleks but most of them are shown to be opposed to Davros ultimately.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: We discover where the Daleks got this habit WHEN-EVER DAV-ROS STARTS RAN-TING!
  • Putting on the Reich: Kaled dress, propaganda, medals, and salutes. As if the very nature of what Davros was creating wasn't enough to clue you in. Nyder even has an Iron Cross on his uniform for the first two episodes until the producer decided it was a bit too on the nose.
  • The Quisling: Davros gives instructions to the Thals, the race his people the Kaleds have been fighting against for a thousand years, on how to destroy the Kaleds when they threaten to shut down his Dalek project. Then subverted when he sends the Daleks to wipe out the Thals.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The heads of the Kaled government listen to what the Doctor has to say, and have been trying to circumvent Davros' near-total control for some time. Of course, they've got the same Genre Blindness as everyone else, and trust Davros when he appears to go along with their requests.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Most of the surviving Kaleds try to oust Davros from his position of authority at the end. Davros proposes a vote... but only so that he knows who to shoot.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The line the Doctor uses to distract some Thal guards while breaking in to their city to rescue Sarah Jane
    Doctor: Excuse me, can you help me? I'm a spy.
    (knocked out by him and Harry)
  • Retcon: In previous stories the Kaleds were called the Dals, and the war between them and the Thals lasted just one day (i.e., implied to be a nuclear war). Here the war has been going on for a thousand years. The Big Finish Doctor Who audio play "Purity" would attempt to rectify this by stating that the Kaleds had already wiped out the Dals by the time the Thousand Year War started, with the sole remnants of their existence being some loanwords and the Book of Predictions, which at least partly inspired the Daleks' creation.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Played for Drama when the Doctor asks Davros if he would release a virus that would end all life and Davros gleefully replies that he would.
  • Rogue Agent: A Time Lord points out to the Doctor that they allow him to roam the universe doing his thing in exchange for doing the occasional favour for them, so he should just stop griping and get with the programme.
  • Rummage Fail: Lampshaded when the Doctor is ordered to turn out his pockets. He begins to do so, noting that "This might take some time..."
  • Saved by Canon: The Doctor is sent back in time to destroy the Daleks before they can even be created. However, because of the number of adventures involving the Daleks, this is clearly not possible.
  • Saved by the Platform Below: A notorious Cliffhanger Copout in Episodes 2/3. Sarah Jane falls from a rocket-access tower in the cliffhanger, only to land on a platform that definitely was not there in earlier shots in the sequence.
  • Schizo Tech: Mentioned in Part One. The war with the Thals has been going on so long that instead of using expensive laser weaponry, they're down to conventional gunpowder arms, and if things keep up they're going to finish with bows and arrows.
  • Secret Test of Character: According to the novelization, the hypothetical question the Doctor asked Davros about the live-exterminating virus was a test of exactly what kind of man Davros was. When Davros answered that he would use the hypothetical virus, the Doctor knew that Davros was beyond redemption and could never be reasoned with, which is why he immediately tries to resort to force.
  • Secret Underground Passage: There is a secret underground tunnel between the Kaled and Thal cities that Davros uses to sneak the newly created Daleks into the Thal city. This leads to a bit of Fridge Logicinvoked. If the Kaleds knew there was a tunnel between the two cities, why didn't they use it to smuggle normal troops into the Thal city and end the war years ago?
    • However when trying to get back to the city Sarah and Harry are attacked by Mutants, showing that it is still a dangerous trek to get to the tunnels and that it would be difficult to get an army there.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: A Dalek runs over the separated wires to the detonator, blowing up the incubation room.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Not-quite-subverted. The Time Lords send the Doctor back in time to the creation of the Daleks, with the goal of either preventing their creation, or at least making them less aggressive. While there, the Doctor is captured by the Daleks' creator and is made to detail every Dalek vulnerability he knows about. Being the universe's resident expert on fighting Daleks, this would have been a catastrophe had he not destroyed the tape before leaving the scene.
  • Shoot the Dog: The Doctor, normally one to abstain from the practice regardless of the target, is forced to torture Davros by holding down the switch that would shut off his life support system in order to get him to halt production of the Daleks. It almost works before Nyder knocks the Doctor unconscious, allowing Davros to rescind the order.
  • Shot at Dawn: Averted. After the Doctor and Harry are captured, Ravon remarks that normally they would be executed by firing squad, but since ammunition is so scarce, they'll be hanged instead.
  • Shout-Out: The Doctor's meeting with the Time Lord was inspired by The Seventh Seal.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!:
    The Doctor: Davros, if you had created a virus in your laboratory, something contagious and infectious that killed on contact, a virus that would destroy all other forms of life; would you allow its use?
    Davros: It is an interesting conjecture.
    The Doctor: Would you do it?
    Davros: The only living thing... The microscopic organism... reigning supreme... A fascinating idea.
    The Doctor: But would you do it?
    Davros: Yes; yes. To hold in my hand, a capsule that contained such power. To know that life and death on such a scale was my choice. To know that the tiny pressure on my thumb, enough to break the glass, would end everything. Yes! I would do it! That power would set me up above the gods! And through the Daleks I shall have that power!
  • Significant Anagram: Kaleds — Daleks. The Doctor points it out immediately.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Apart from Sarah, the only female character is Bettan.
  • State Sec: The SS-esque Kaled guards led by Security Commander Nyder.
  • Strange Salute: The Kaled salute is a quick stamp of the heels.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Sarah and Harry get strapped to a table by Davros, so he can torture them to force the Doctor to reveal the information of how he defeated the Daleks in every encounter in the past (in Davros' future).
  • Stupid Evil: Nyder has a brilliantly illogical moment where he opens fire on the Doctor, Harry, and General Ravon risking his general's life just to kill a couple of people out of racism. This actually works to enhance how much of a psycho he is.
  • Stupid Good: Gharman is quite gullible when he believes Nyder would turn against Davros so easily.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted, for once. Although he struggles with the decision to exterminate the Dalek race, the Doctor doesn't hesitate to turn off Davros' life support system to force him to destroy his weapons, and although he's interrupted by Nyder, it's very clear that the Doctor was more than willing to stand by and watch Davros asphyxiate to death.
  • Thrown from the Zeppelin: When Davros confronts dissenter Gharman and his scientists and guards and asks who is with him and who is against him, a few step over to join him and Nyder. No prizes for guessing what happens to Gharman and the others.
  • The Time Traveller's Dilemma: The Doctor is given an opportunity (an order, even) to prevent or seriously alter the creation of the Daleks. The only obvious downside is that at that point the Daleks hadn't done anything wrong (yet), and so he'd be committing genocide against a thus-far innocent race, who he knew would turn evil and try to wipe out entire species... he didn't, merely delaying their development for a while, for which causality is thankful.
  • Time-Travellers Are Spies: The Doctor and Harry are mistaken for the Kaleds' deadly enemy the Thals (or their common enemies, the wild mutants that run around in the nuclear wasteland). Everyone being Human Aliens in this case doesn't help.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Up until this story, the Thals were the Daleks' good counterparts. All that changes as it turns out they use mutos as slave labour or simply shoot them if they're unfit, infect their prisoners with radiation poisoning, psychologically abuse Sarah for kicks and not only butcher the entire Kaled population but force the Doctor to watch. Possibly an inversion, as all their previous stories are set later on in their history.
    • Previous stories set later in the Thals timeline often mention their hatred of war and violence, based on their experiences with it, and that they used to be warriors. It was never said that they were that bad, though.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The serial ends with the Daleks turning on and killing Davros. He gets better, though.
  • Undying Loyalty: Nyder to Davros.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Davros very quickly lapses into one when his creations betray him.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The giant clam. It comes out of nowhere, has no bearing on the plot, doesn't make a lot of sense and was clearly tossed in to stretch the episode out another couple of minutes.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Why does Davros have a button on his chair for the express purpose of shutting down his own life support system? Do you think he'd ever let himself be taken alive?invoked
  • Weight and Switch: A variation is done when the Doctor stands on the land mine: Harry props rocks under the mine, so it is blocked.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Subverted with Davros, who at first appears to be this (he claims to the other Kaleds that he was trying to prolong the survival of his race through changing them to a form more suitable for surviving in a nuclear apocalypse, and everyone seems to treat him with respect). When the Doctor attempts to morally reason with him towards the end of the story in the hope that he'll realise how dangerous the Daleks are and see some sense, it soon becomes apparent that Davros is, in fact, a completely delusional Omnicidal Maniac who knows exactly how terrible the Daleks are and is going to do it anyway to set himself up above the gods.
  • We Need a Distraction: "Hello, could you help me? I'm a spy."
  • Wham Episode: This six-part serial is crucial to Doctor Who mythos, due to it depicting the creation of the longest-running antagonists, as well as the introduction of Davros and establishing a rivalry between the Time Lords and Daleks that would come to a head by the end of the Eighth Doctor's life. It was also the inspiration for various Expanded Universe stories, as well as televised stories such as "The Magician's Apprentice"/"The Witch's Familiar".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Kavell, the Kaled scientist who frees Harry, Sarah and Gharman, disappears between Parts Five and Six. He's last seen midway through Part Five leaving with Gharman, but isn't with him and the other Kaleds when they're confronting Davros in Part Six. Unlike other MIA Kaleds (Ravon and Tane especially, and the latter was only seen in Davros' bunker, not the city), it can't be argued he died in the Kaled dome when the Thals blew it up, since that happened a couple of episodes earlier.
  • When Props Attack: When the Doctor is attacked by the "naked" Dalek mutant, it is clearly an inert object being manipulated by Tom Baker.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Gharman, despite being in a hopeless Forever War, and on the side ruled by a sociopathic psychotic mad scientist, is convinced that peace and reason will win out, even after everything else Davros does. Surprisingly, he actually makes it to the last episode before dying.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Davros pulls one(or thinks he is) on the dissidents:
    • Scenario 1. He addresses those in the bunker, convinces the dissidents to take his side. The revolt is over.
    • Scenario 2: Dissidents reject his offer, has the Daleks eliminate them. Which is what ultimately happens. Either way, he wins (though in the end it backfires on him)
  • The X of Y: The title returns to this format, following a brief break from the trend (which had been going on since "The Power of the Daleks" in 1966) with "Death to the Daleks". From now until the end of the Classic Series, all Dalek stories will use the "(something) of the Daleks" title format.
  • You're Insane!: Davros reacts thus to being outvoted:
    Davros: Do you believe that I would let a lifetime's work be ended by the will of spineless fools like you? You have won nothing! I allowed this charade to be played out for one reason only: To find those men who were truly loyal to me and to discover those WHO WOULD BE-TRAY ME! WE— I! WILL! GO! ON!
    Gharman: You are insane, Davros!


Video Example(s):


"Do I have the right?"

The Doctor has been sent to Skaro's past by the Time Lords, who want him to prevent (or at least severely weaken) the creation of the Daleks, a species infamous for their violent authoritarianism and genocidal racism. When presented with an opportunity to wipe out the Daleks in one blow, however, the Doctor is deeply conflicted on the matter, both because of how many worlds will unite against the Daleks and out of fear of becoming no different than them by committing genocide.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / GenocideDilemma

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