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A Comparison of The Caves of Androzani and Genesis of the Daleks

By Andrew Cook

I don't know that this can be a very fair review, since The Caves of Androzani was broadcast nine years to the day after Genesis of the Daleks. I found that Genesis suffered from the old 'Doctor is captured, escapes, gets caught by the other side, escapes again, and generally does a lot of running around' syndrome. (Isn't anyone ever glad to see this Time Lord?) The plot could really stand a lot of tightening up. If shot today, I would say that it would have only stretched to four episodes, not the six that were lavished upon it in 1975.

The scenes that take place in the Kaled Science Bunker I thought to be quite good, with a suitable amount of tension. It was basically the parts that take place in the atomic wastelands and the Thal dome that slow things down. Having heard the audio tape and read the book, I was looking forward to the video. But both the audio tape and the book, if my faulty memory serves, don't take as long over the wasteland scenes. The audio tape is just the TV soundtrack, edited down with narration provided by Tom Baker, dropping in the odd word or two so that things aren't too confusing. I suppose that a few well chosen words can set a mood better than a number of long tracking shots (in an unbelievable quarry), and an attempt at dramatic music will - if not shot with some atmosphere. This is what really slows Genesis down. The audio tape also has the advantage of being only about an hour long instead of the two hours and twenty three minutes of the video (so much must have been cut!).

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good slow story. I think The War Games is the best Troughton story I have seen (and yes, I have seen The Tomb of the Cybermen). This too had a touch of the 'Doctor is captured...' syndrome, but is done with such style that it didn't really hit me over the head upon first viewing it. The pacing of that story is quite different to any other Who that I have seen. It also manages to juggle a large number of characters over its ten episodes.

Genesis also suffers in this post-Aliens world with regards to the rather pitiful incubation room scene. A few rubber blobs in glass science beakers, surrounded by some bubbling liquid (probably from the heat of a nearby bunsen burner), just doesn't cut it any more, especially with the build-up of not showing them until the Doctor is about to blow up the entire room. They could have done a lot better using plain acetate for the containers, and a bit of latex, sculptured over a balloon inflated via the umbilical cord.

With a bit of judicious pruning, perhaps following the audio version, this could have been the good story it deserved to be.

The Caves of Androzani, on the other hand, is brilliant. This too has the Doctor being captured (three times, by my count) but that is not easily distinguished through the double, triple and quadruple crossing that goes on. After a while, one doesn't know who is on whose side. In the past I have not thought much of Davison's Doctor, commenting to friends on several occasions that he was a wimp and just there to draw the female fans to the show - for some reason they seem to think he is cute!

Caves has the advantage of better special effects, probably due to a bigger budget, a better set of characters and a much better script (turned out by Robert Holmes).

One of the nice things about Caves is the amount of screen time for which the Doctor is not present. Indeed, we visit a planet that the Doctor goes nowhere near. Holmes allows himself to develop his supporting characters past the cardboard cutout stage. It certainly helps that no one is squeaky clean (baddies make much more interesting characters than the guy in the white hat on the white horse). Upon reflection, the Doctor does not help this story along much at all. He is just there to explain a few things to the viewers, save Peri (an excuse to take him away from the main action a number of times), and to regenerate. In fact, I would go as far as saying that the Doctor is the supporting character here, with the main players being Morgus, Sharaz Jek, General Chellak, and the chief gunrunner Stotz. Even the President's character shows through from the short time he is on screen.

Like another recent Holmes script (The Two Doctors), this story has a large amount of violence for a Who story, although in Genesis thousands, perhaps millions, are wiped out through Davros's treachery. In both cases it is used to advance the story or develop the characters, and is not there for its own sake.

As you may be able to tell by now, I preferred Caves to Genesis. If I had the chance to re-shoot either of them, I would pick Genesis; the story is good but requires trimming. The Caves of Androzani, on the other hand, could not be made any better. If you are thinking of buying a Who video you can't go far wrong with this one.

This item appeared in TSV 33 (April 1993).

Index nodes: Genesis of the Daleks, The Caves of Androzani