I quite liked that episode. I thought it was good.
It is of course impossible to say much else that hasn’t already been said, and I knew that this would be the case, having seen this serial several times before. What’s added by watching it in sequence is the realisation of just how much it stands out against recent Dalek outings, none of which have been truly great since the black and white days. It’s also Terry Nation’s most original story since the Hartnell era – not a petrified jungle in sight.
I’ve also realised that it’s not until fairly late on that this serial becomes so remarkable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely brilliant throughout, it’s just that the rest of the series is also mostly brilliant. The first three or four episodes represent a fairly standard adventure, albeit one where the quality is a little higher than normal. But towards the end, when Davros and The Doctor start interacting… oh, man.
Davros has arrived completely fully formed, and his ruthless and complex machinations are so entertaining that you’re almost on his side as he arranges to utterly destroy Thals and Kaleds alike. He also looks and sounds brilliant, and it’s an astonishingly good performance from Michael Wisher. When he links up with Tom Baker, it turns into a tense, psychological and philosophical battle, made all the more effective by the mutual respect between both characters and actors. The chat about the hypothetical armageddon virus is perhaps the best individual scene in the series so far.
That is until the next episode, which has the “do I have the right?” scene. It works because it’s so ambiguous as to whether The Doctor is doing the right thing, and the show doesn’t attempt to present a definitive answer. The whole of the first five episodes builds up to that moment, with layer upon layer of moral ambivalence. It’s the very essence of The Doctor – he creates a possible solution to all his problems, then considers the morality of his actions for so long that he chickens out of making a decision all together.
But even aside from these huge moments, it’s just a brilliant story from start to finish. Nyder is such a perfect sniveling little shit that he’d be the highlight of most serials. The war zone seen at the start is one of the most gritty and realistic ever depicted in the show, and the Thals using Mutos as slave labour is equally grim. Plus, perhaps thanks to how sparingly they’re used, this is the best Dalek action we’ve seen for ages too – Zippy on top form as they hoist Davros with his own petard, with their emergence as the xenophobic maniacs we know and love had me grinning from ear to ear.
And as for Tom Baker, it’s hard to believe that this is only his first season. He quite simply *is* The Doctor, even at this early stage. Basically, this has been the highlight of my Christmas.