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Doctor Who (Tom Baker) is persuaded by the Timelords (his own
people) to prevent his arch-enemies, the Daleks, from ever being created,
so he and his companions Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry (Ian Marter)
are sent to the Dalek's homeplanet Skaro, a planet devastated from a way
too long war bwetween the Kaleds (yes, it's an anagram on Daleks) and the
Thals, with the Mutos (mutants who became that way by too many atom bombs)
caught in the middle - and neither side is holding back, despite
ammonition running very low lately, and they don't refrain from biological
warfare or even more atom bombs.
As it is, the Doctor and Harry soon become prisonsers of the Kaleds,
where the Doctor manages to interest a scientist, Ronson (James Garbutt),
for his ideas of peace and his knowledge about the future of the Daleks,
while Sarah, along with a Muto called Sevrin (Stephen Yardley) is taken
prisoner by the Thals and fored to load their latest, all-destroying
And then there's Davros (Michael Wisher), head-scientist and secret
leader of the Kaleds, who has built an army of robots in which the Kaleds
who have reached the next stage of their mutation (these special Kaleds
are nothing more than a lump of flesh and a brain) can comfortably live,
robots that look suspiciously like moving pepperpots ... or in other
words, like Daleks. Now building robots for crippled mutations would not
be a bad thing in itself (quite the contrary), but in the process, Davros
also removes all traces of conscience from the Kaleds/Daleks' brains and
builds them into the ultimate warmachines.
Now that has got several of Davros' scientists on the edge, most
notably Ronson, who helps the Doctor and Harry escape to warn the Kaleds'
council of Davros' obvious madness.
The council gives Davros a fair warning, but Davros acts like innocence
itself and agrees to fulfill all the requests of the council - but a short
time later, the Doctor and Harry, who have left the Kaled Dome to free
Sarah, find Davros with the Thals, giving them plans on how to
successfully bombard and destroy the Kaled Dome (which houses most of the
Kaled race safe for Davros' science division).
... and soon enough, the Kaled Dome goes boom, despite the Doctor's
best efforts to prevent it. But once that's achieved, Davros lets the
Daleks loose on the Thals.
Somehow, the Doctor can persuade one of the more intelligent Thals,
Bettan (Harriet Philpin) to form a resistance group against the Daleks
together with Muto Sevrin, while he himself heads back for Davros'
underground science division with Harry and Sarah, to fulfill what he has
come for, wipe the Daleks off the face of the universe. But when he's
about to blow up the tank holding the mutated Kaleds destined to become
the Daleks, he realizes he can't, because that way he would commit
genocide and be no better than Davros and the Daleks.
Davros meanwhile is brought to trial by the remainders of the council
that had not been in the dome when it went boom (about which they don't
know that it was Davros' doing as well). Davros agrees to put his cause to
the vote, and the council feels all self-confident, but in fact, he has
long put his Dalek army into position, and when he is outwoted, he has the
Daleks cold-bloodedly shoot those against him.
Upon seeing this, the Doctor realizes he has to commit genocide to save
the universe - even if it is against his conscience ... and in the end it
is even taken out of his hands by a Dalek accidently activating the
detonator. In the meantime, Bettan and Sevrin have positioned enough
explosives to close the only entrance to the place but good, and the
Doctor only just makes it out ... but the real drama happens down in
Davros' lab, where the Daleks, which were built totally without
conscience, turn against their master forcing him to self-destruct his lab
(and himself and the Daleks with it).
Now the Doctor might not have succeeded in preventing the Daleks from
being created, and he knows they eventually will emerge again (many times,
actually), but at least he ahs slowed down their development.
Wow ! This really is good, a multi-layered war story (often reminiscent
of botht he first and the second World War) that doesn't offer any easy
answers, with even its main villain Davros being granted a tragic moment
in the end, and the Doctor, a notorious pacifist, ultimately forced to
commit genocide. Fast pacing, a sombre tone (with Tom Baker for once
refraining from throwing in a joke every now and again - which he is
incredibly good at), excellent storytelling and very moody lighting help
make this one of the best-ever Doctor Who episodes !!!