This, inexorably, is becoming the show I remember from my childhood. It’s started to look like Peter Davison Doctor Who – the pretty, desolate location filming; the interiors a mix of brightly-lit white spaceships and gloomy, cluttered dark ones. I get a frisson from this that I’ve not really noticed before. And this is even starting to sound like 1980s Doctor Who. The Daleks’ slave worker Veldan says things like, ‘They keep their captives in a prison ship in space. Once you’re there, your life expectancy tends to be on the short side’ and ‘Anyone attempting to escape and the Daleks kill five of those remaining. Escape plans are not as popular as they were.’ Perhaps it’s the pervasive influence of Blake’s 7, or maybe it’s just a coincidence, but this is like Eric Saward dialogue.
There’s no comforting Dudley Simpson music either, just what sounds like wind howling as the Daleks capture and interrogate Romana. For the opening serial in the show’s “undergraduate humour” series, this is all very sombre. Romana breaks down and cries (hard to imagine the old version being that weepy); the Dalek slaves despair, and even the Doctor sounds bitter and regretful when he discovers Davros’ body and says, ‘I could have stopped him.’ Fair enough, there’s that divisive line of the Doctor taunting the Daleks to climb up a shaft after him, but it’s immediately followed by him spotting Romana’s grave and scrabbling at the sad pile of rocks to uncover her corpse (this time, she’s spooked him).
On the plus side, this is directed well, and it’s very exciting that Ken Grieve used a Steadicam. But what he’s capturing isn’t exactly scintillating. Episode One got a pass because it was establishing the relationship between the Doctor and the new Romana. But this isn’t packed with incident either (although the mystery of what they’re digging for is pretty good). It also doesn’t make much of the Daleks. The gap between this and Genesis of the Daleks is about the same as that between The Evil of the Daleks and Day of the Daleks, and just as in Day, it’s almost like they’ve forgotten how to do Daleks. The voices sound weedy (especially in the interrogation of Romana), the movement’s off (one of them zooms past sideways), and the props have never looked tattier. It’s more noticeable because, for a lot of the episode, there’s not much else going on.
Next episode: Destiny of the Daleks – Episode Three