In the fifth episode of the 1975 story "Genesis of the Daleks", Davros threatens to torture Sarah and Harry unless the (Fourth) Doctor provides information about Dalek losses. I assume that there was some means of telling whether the Doctor was being honest or, otherwise, it would have been pretty pointless.

Under interrogation the Doctor states that the Daleks were defeated on Earth in the year 2000, and the conversation tails off as he mentions "release of magnetic properties".

Of course, in the 1964 TV serial "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" the date of the invasion was given as 2164. Moreover, the reason for the Dalek failure was through the setting of off an active volcano, the Dalek saucer being caught in the explosion, rather than the release of magnetic energy. (This was the explanation given in the 1966 film version Daleks Invasion Earth: 2150 AD.)

In the final scenes of "Genesis," the Doctor notes that the Daleks have been "delayed by perhaps a thousand years".

Two related questions: (1) Was the Fourth Doctor's 2000 date was in some original time line, which changed because of his actions delaying the Daleks, or just poor continuity checks? (2) Was the comment about "magnetic properties" influenced by the film or rather, again, poor continuity checks?

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    I think it's sweet that you think that after more than 50 years of making this show, that the writers give more than a passing thought to what happened in previous episodes.
    – Valorum
    Jan 4, 2020 at 22:26
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    @Valorum check out the 5th Doctor story Earthshock
    – user66716
    Jan 4, 2020 at 22:28
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    @Valorum --- I don't understand your comment. How are the current writers relevant to a question about Genesis of the Daleks (1975)? Jan 6, 2020 at 21:27
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    @IanThompson - Because canon continuity has never been a feature of Doctor Who
    – Valorum
    Jan 6, 2020 at 21:32
  • @Valorum Or is it that canon incontinuity is a feature? Wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff and all...
    – Harabeck
    Feb 5, 2020 at 22:25

3 Answers 3


I think what the Doctor said actually was intended as a reference to "The Dalek Invasion of Earth." However, Terry Nation (or whoever actually wrote that bit of dialogue; by 1975, Nation's contributions to the actual shooting scripts of the Dalek stories was in the midst of the long period of gradual decline, even though he was still credited as the sole writer) misremembered the details of how the events of the 1964 story had played out. The rough details are not that dissimilar: The invasion occurs in the year 2000 and something, and the Dalek's plan involved somehow messing with the magnetization of the Earth's core by exploding a bomb at the center of the Earth and then somehow making use of the modified magnetic properties of the planet to fly it back to Skaro's solar system. Fortunately, Ian found that the Dalek's had left some lumber lying around, and he was able to single-handedly scotch the Dalek's plan to send a device to the center of the earth by blocking the railroad track the device was mounted on. (The volcanic eruption that finished off the Dalek installation was just a secondary knock-on effect of detonating the bomb too close to the Earth's surface.) So what the Doctor describes sounds a lot like an incompletely remembered version of "The Dalek Invasion of Earth." It sounded approximately right, and that was enough for the production staff at the time.

This might seem strange today (not so much strange that there might be trouble remembering what had happened in an episode from more than ten years earlier, but that no one bothered to check the continuity); however, at the time, there was extremely little attention paid to maintaining past continuity. "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" had not been broadcast in Britain in years, and under the prevailing opinion of the time, the early episodes were considered ephemera that were certainly not worth preserving for their own sake. Into the 1980s, the BBC was regularly deleting the master (and, in many cases, only) copies of episodes from their older library. (This is best known for the effect this had on Dr. Who, but some other shows that were never as popular suffered even more; there are BBC television series that ran for years but which are now completely lost. It is also a powerful testament to how lean the BBC's budget actually was that a significant motivation for these erasures was that they wanted to save money by reusing the magnetic tapes.)

In 1975, the show's production staff was not expecting that anybody watching "Genesis of the Daleks" would be likely to remember the details of what had happened in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth." It's actually easy to see that throughout the 1970s and 1980s, a surprising amount of material was produced that referred back to older elements of the show—yet which included serious errors that showed that nobody had actually bothered to read the scripts of the older episodes. Even after John Nathan-Turner, who was a long-time fan of the show and really liked references to older villains and other elements, took over as producer, it seems like a lot of the backwards references were based on little more than personal memories, brief capsule summaries of storylines, and whatever promotional photographs they happened to have on hand. We known now that all the production scripts for the early episodes still exist in the BBC archives, and there are audio tape recordings of the lost episodes that were made by viewers; however, it seems that it simply never occurred to anyone to do the research and seek these things out as part of preparation for new Dr. Who stories.

This led to continuity errors in the show itself, like this one from "Genesis of the Daleks," and there were plenty more problems in other merchandise connected with the show. To take a couple examples (both from a bit later, 1983, which was well into Nathan-Turner's tenure and producer, when there actually tended to be significantly more attention paid to the show's long-term continuity than there had been five to ten years earlier, around when "Genesis of the Daleks" was made), I could mention the Dr. Who Technical Manual, which is full of obvious errors, especially in its histories of the Daleks and the Cybermen. The early parts of those histories sound just like they were based on very brief summaries or half-remembered recollections of "The Daleks" or "The Tenth Planet"; clearly, the author, Mark Harris had not consulted the actual episode scripts. This was clearly not a product of laziness; Harris produced some impressive plan and perspective drawings of elements from the show. On the other hand, he clearly did not always know what he was looking at—such as accidentally including the feature film Dalek designs (with pincers) among his retrospective of historical Dalek designs. There were similar problems in the Radio Times Doctor Who 20th Anniversary Special. The magazine included information about every companion and every story through the history of the show. However, for many of the older shows, the information was clearly based—again—on brief summaries or dubiously accurate personal memories. This led to numerous mistakes; most glaring, in retrospect, was that how the First Doctor's companion Katarina had died in "The Dalek Master Plan." The episodes had been lost, but had the still-extant scripts been consulted, presumably they could have given a correct account of what happened. Apparently though, nobody bothered.

So there was a long-running pattern of not putting much effort into providing accurate descriptions of things that occurred early in Dr. Who's run. This affected the show and its merchandise. In other words, the answer is probably that the incongruity was simply due to, as you said, "poor continuity checks."


What The Doctor says about an invasion in the year 2000 has no resemblance to the events of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, which as you say, take place in 2164.

The Doctor says of the 2000 invasion:

"The Dalek invasion of the Earth in the year 2000 was foiled because of an attempt by the Daleks to mine the core of the planet. The magnetic properties of the Earth were..."

From these details alone it sounds more like their plan was foiled by their own undoing, and The Doctor may not even have been involved. However, if that were the case then it would be part of Earth history.

Possible explanations to retrofit this with continued Who lore:

  • The unsuccessful Dalek attempt to mine the Earth's core took place without them being noticed by any humans and therefore is not part of Earth history.
  • The Doctor was involved, or retrospectively undid the timeline.
  • The Doctor was giving Davros deliberately misleading information in order to placate them.
  • It was the events of Genesis of the Daleks which changed the timeline - as you point out, the Doctor said that the creation of the Daleks had been delayed by about a thousand years. However, as The Daleks have long had the ability of time travel (the first reference to this was in the 1965 First Doctor serial The Chase) this wouldn't necessarily move the invasion date by a thousand years - it would just change events.

As the Doctor Who film Daleks Invasion Earth: 2150 AD is not part of the TV serial canon, it is unlikely that the intention was to suggest otherwise. Interestingly though, it was modern Who writer Steven Moffat's intention to make the existence of the movie part of the TV universe by including the movie poster in the Black Archive. This never happened - but it could be retrofitted that The Doctor was referencing plot elements from a fictional movie loosely based on him to mislead Davros and the Daleks.

  • I took the 4th Doctor's thousand year to be an over estimate and they released themselves over a period of time of order 100-150 years so that the new invasion of Earth was delayed from the original year 2000 to later. Yes, the Daleks achieved time travel but I've always taken the development to be after the Invasion of Earth.
    – user66716
    Jan 10, 2020 at 18:45
  • Regarding the comment about the influence of the movie, in the original TV story "Dalek invasion of Earth" it's difficult to understand how the Dalek space ship being blown up would imply that they couldn't invade Earth again. I first wondered if the movie influence came in, specifically in the first Doctor story "Dalek's Master Plan" when the Doctor urges Bret Vyon to look into Earth's past to 2157 AD. However this is not possible since the Daleks Master Plan was broadcast in 1964 while the movie was filmed in 1966. Whether it influenced the Genesis of the Daleks is still open in my opinion.
    – jim
    Apr 23, 2021 at 18:45

(I point out that this was a question of mine from a previous incarnation. Since then I have obviously regenerated).

In the book The Black Archive #51 Earthshock by Brian Robb, it was pointed out that one of the defining features of the show in the 1980's was that the producer (John Nathan-Turner), script editor (Eric Saward) were both keen Doctor Who fan's before (indeed, Adric, played by Matthew Waterhouse, was also known to be a member of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society) becoming involved professionally on the show. It was this time that Ian Levine (a well known fan) was also brought in to advise on continuity.

Though Terrance Dicks (at the time, the script editor) did write the 1997 Target novelisation Dalek Invasion of Earth, while Genesis was broadcast in 1975 (indeed, Dicks also wrote the 1976 Target novelisation of Genesis).

Overall, it seems unlikely that the line Genesis was anything other than a continuity error. Shame!

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