Starring Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen
Originally Broadcast March 8, 1975
Whenever someone mentions classic Doctor Who, this serial is almost always brought up as one of the greatest stories in the history of the show. The fourth story of the Fourth Doctor’s run finds our hero charged by the Time Lords with the task of traveling to a point in history where the creation of the Daleks can either be stopped outright or influenced to where they do not become as evil as they are.
The planet Skaro has been suffering a war of attrition for centuries between the two races inhabiting the planet, the Thals and the Kaleds. The Time Lords drop the Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, and Harry Sullivan on Skaro and set them about investigating. The TARDIS is not here, so the Time Lords give the Doctor a special ring that will return them to the TARDIS when the mission is complete. The problem is that the Time Lords left all three of them in the middle of a battlefield and they almost get blown up.
They make their way across the battlefield, with Harry saving the Doctor from a landmine. They find a domed city and make their way to it, slogging through trenches littered with bodies of dead soldiers wearing gas masks and mixes of modern fabric and modern weapons with animal skins and primitive weapons. This war has gone on so long that all resources on the planet have been all but used up and the soldiers have had to resort to older ways of fighting. This is also shown when the Twelfth Doctor visits Skaro.
Someone drops a gas shell on the trio and a fight breaks out. The Doctor and Harry are captured by Kaleds and brought inside while Sarah is left on her own. The two men are brought to command for questioning. The production makes no mistake in presenting the Kaleds as evil space Nazis, even down to the salute.
The Doctor and Harry gain the upper hand in the interrogation, Harry gets his hands on a gun. The as yet unnamed Kaled leader continues to promise the Doctor he will never leave this place alive and insists on referring to them as Mutos, suggesting there is a third faction of people fighting this war. The Doctor shrugs him off and uses the Sonic Screwdriver to short out the station’s radio transmitter.
Sarah wakes up outside all alone in the trench. She finds a gun but no ammunition and wanders off away from where the Doctor and Harry were captured.
Back inside, the Doctor and Harry take the Kaled leader to see his leader. When they reveal they have a friend who was left outside, the Kaled leader tells them not to worry as she will be picked off by the Mutos as soon as night falls. Here we find this Kaled leader is named General Ravon when Security Commander Nyder finds them roaming the corridors. Harry keeps a gun to Ravon’s back as he talks to Nyder. Nyder has two guards with them and, at his command, they open fire on the Doctor and Harry, and probably Ravon as well. (You know how nasty these space Nazis can get.)
The Doctor and Harry run away while Nyder scolds Ravon for letting the two outsiders get the better of him. Ravon tells Nyder that there’s something different about those two. They aren’t Thals or Mutos. Nyder says that they will find out what they are during the autopsy.
The Doctor and Harry run through various corridors trying to escape. They escape up an elevator and back outside. Nyder tells the Kaled soldiers where they ran to. The Doctor and Harry run through the battlefield. Harry sets off a tripwire. He is unharmed in the explosion, but it gives off their location and they are recaptured immediately and brought back to the command room where Security Commander Nyder waits to give them a proper interrogation.
Meanwhile, Sarah wanders around outside and gets followed by a Muto.
The Doctor tells Nyder that they are not from this planet. Nyder tells then that according to Davros, there is no intelligent life off of Skaro. This is the first ever mention of Davros in the show’s history. The Doctor asks who the Mutos are, and we find out they were Kaleds who were ‘genetically wounded’ with chemical weapons during the beginning of the war and were exiled to the wastelands. The Kaleds demand their bloodline be pure and untainted.
Nyder wants the Doctor and Harry brought to another room for a more intense interrogation while he hands Ravon a requisition list. Ravon complains that he can’t spare the equipment, Nyder tells him he has no choice but to comply since the form was signed by Davros himself.
In the wastelands, Sarah finds herself surrounded by Mutos but gets away from them where she finds a bunker being set up for target practice. In it we find a withered husk of a man sitting in his automated chair. This is Davros if you have never seen him before. They are ready for ‘The Test.’ Davros flips a switrch on his chair console and a Dalek rolls out. Cue credits and theme music.
In this first episode, they really drive home the point that Daleks were created from evil. This is not a case of good people turning bad. The parallels between the Kaleds and Nazis were absolutely intentional. The second world war had only been over for thirty years with the memories of Nazis and the Third Reich still fresh in most peoples minds.
Originally Broadcast March 15, 1975
While Sarah is surrounded my Mutos, The Doctor and Harry are brought to Security Command. As they are forced into a security, they are told of their rights which are none at all. The Kaleds take the Time Ring away from The Doctor. The prisoners are handed over to another security officer.
The Mutos fight with each other over whether they should kill Sarah or not. One of the Mutos protects her only for both of them to be caught by the Thals.
The Doctor and Harry are talking to a scientist who refutes the claim that these two prisoners are from another planet. But when he reads a medical report, he discovers the truth. Before he can get around to asking any questions, Davros arrives for a visit in order to show off his new creation. The Doctor calls it a Dalek, but Ronson tells him it is called a Mark III travel machine (they haven’t been named Daleks yet), and he shows how deadly it is. The Dalek immediately tries to kill the Doctor and Harry, but Ronson stops the experiment much to Davros’ annoyance. Ronson has until dawn to interrogate the prisoners, after that, they will be used as target practice.
In the Thal base, Sarah, her Muto friend and a Kaled officer can do nothing but wait to be used as slave labor. The Thals have a rocket they plan on launching at the Kaled city, but before it launches, it has to be packed with radioactive material. The slaves have to load the material themselves, giving them only a few hours to live afterwards. They are hauled off to work, Sarah included, but she is the only one looking for a way out. The rest have accepted their fate and begin the work.
The Doctor and Harry wait in their cell. Science Officer Ronson returns telling them that Davros has announced the name of these travel machines will be the Daleks. The Doctor reveals that he is from the future and knows all about the Daleks. Ronson confides to the Doctor that he’s concerned in which direction Davros wants to take the Daleks in. The Kaleds bodies have all been affected by radiation. Davros saw that the humanoid Kaleds would mutate into creatures unable to sustain their own lives without mechanical help. So he invented the travel machines, trained them to kill and has just given them the name of Dalek.
After the first work shift in the Thal city, Sarah schemes a plan of escape by overpowering the guards and climbing the scaffold surrounding the rocket.
Ronson tells the Doctor that Davros is going too far and if those in power knew what he was doing, they would shut him down immediately. Ronson isn’t allowed to leave the building, so The Doctor and Harry agree to escape so they can find the government officials and get the science base shut down. Ronson tells them of a service duct that empties into a cave system, but that it’s inhabited by mutated experiments that Davros has disposed of. The Doctor and Harry escape into the duct. The Doctor and Harry make it to the caves and they have to avoid every monstrous creature they can.
Sarah and her prisoner friends create a diversion and they escape the Thal guards. They all burst into the rocket room and begin climbing the scaffold. They are discovered and the guards start shooting Mutos off the scaffold. They are almost to the top when Sarah loses her grip and falls.
Nice cliffhanger ending.
Originally Broadcast March 22, 1975
The good news is that Sarah didn’t end up falling too far. She only landed on a platform a few feet below her. Her Muto friend makes it to the top of the scaffold and are ready to escape through the top of the rocket silo when the Thal guards catch up to them and force them at gunpoint to climb back down so they can continue to work.
The Doctor and Harry make their way through the cave. Harry gets his leg caught in a giant mutant clam that just happened to be sitting there waiting for someone put their foot in. An example of the creatures Davros had created and discarded when they no longer suited him.
While Davros and his scientists continue to work on the Daleks, Ronson is questioned about his assisting the prisoners’ escape. At first, he insists he knows nothing but is coerced into giving up his secret while Nyder watches from across the room.
The Doctor and Harry are meeting with the Kaled leaders, with Ravon in attendance. The Doctor pleads his case asking the leaders to shut down Davros’ work.
While Sarah is getting weaker and weaker from loading the radioactive containers onto the rocket, Nyder has told Davros about the meeting the Doctor just had. When Nyder tells Davros that Ronson’s prisoners were at the meeting, we all know what will be happening to him. Davros wants to take care to Ronson himself.
Back at the meeting, the leaders promise a full investigation while Davros’ experiments are put on hold. The Doctor doesn’t think this will stop Davros, but he will take what he can get. For the moment, they want to get back to finding Sarah. Ravon tells that his agents inside the Thal dome have seen Sarah. Ravon tells them how to get there.
Mogran and the council tell Davros he has twelve hours to shut down all of his work. After they leave, Davros tells Nyder that he would rather sacrifice the entire race of his own people to keep the work on the Daleks going. Davros orders twenty Kaled mutants to be implanted into the Dalek shells.
By the time the Doctor and Harry have made their way into the Thal dome, they discover so have Davros and Nyder. They overhear Davros giving the Thals a chemical formula that will destroy the thick concrete dome over the Kaled city. The Thals wonder why Davros would agree to kill his own people. Just like every other power-mad maniac in the universe, he lies and says it will bring about peace and an end to war.
The Doctor and Harry need to hurry up, find Sarah, and get back to the Kaled city so he can warn everybody about the imminent Thal attack. They pull off the old trick of taking out two guards and wearing their clothes. He sends Sarah and Harry back to the Kaled dome so they can get the warning out, while the Doctor stays behind to sabotage the rocket. Unfortunately, a guard sneaks behind him and pushes a button on a panel that electrifies a fence just before the Doctor grabs it. The Doctor is being electrocuted which makes for a nice cliffhanger to bring about the end of the episode.
What will happen when Sarah and Harry get back to the Kaled city? Can the Doctor survive his shocking ordeal? Find out next week for the second half of this exciting review!