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Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

Roses are red, florists deliver...
"Daleks on the streets of Londoooon..."

Season 2, Series K

Starring William Hartnell as the Doctor

With William Russell (Ian), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara) and Carole Ann Ford (Susan)

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin
Produced by Verity Lambert

Episodes and Broadcast Dates:
  1. Worlds End - 21 Nov 1964
  2. The Daleks - 28 Nov 1964
  3. Day of Reckoning - 5 December 1964
  4. The End of Tomorrow - 12 December 1964
  5. The Waking Ally - 19 December 1964
  6. Flashpoint - 26 December 1964
How To Watch
All episodes available for streaming on Britbox (subscription required) and are currently in rotation (as of May 2022) on Pluto.tv

Plot Summary

The TARDIS lands in London on or some time after 2164, and our heroes discover that the Daleks are now in control of Earth. Some humans are 'robotized' into hulking enforcers called Robomen, others put in labor camps, but most perished ten years ago following a plague sent in advance by the Daleks. They meet a ragtag resistance group, but their planned assault of a Dalek ship goes horribly awry and Team TARDIS is split up.

The Doctor, weary after nearly being robotized, with Susan and a young resistance fighter named David, manage to escape London through the sewers before it is incinerated. Ian and another rebel named Larry conceal themselves on the Daleks' flying saucer and end up at their main base, an enormous mining project in Bedfordshire. Barbara and a rebel Jenny also escape the city in a stolen truck before ultimately being captured.

All parties ultimately converge at the mine. They learn that because the crust of the Earth is particularly thin in Bedfordshire, the Daleks are planning to drop a penetration explosive deep into the mine to tap the core of the planet, and replace it with an engine to pilot the planet through the universe. Larry dies in the arms of his robotized brother. The Doctor is aware of the growing feelings between Susan and David. Barbara and Jenny bluff their way into the Dalek control room, and with the Doctor's help they find the control center of the Robomen and order them to attack the Daleks. Ian sabotages the penetration explosive, and the resulting detonation consumes the Dalek headquarters.

The survivors face the prospect of building a new world. As our heroes prepare to depart in the TARDIS, David asks Susan to stay and marry him. She acknowledges her feelings for him, but can't bear to leave her grandfather. The Doctor ultimately makes her decision for her by locking her out of the TARDIS, bidding her farewell over the PA system. She watches the TARDIS dematerialize, drops her key on the ground, and leaves with David.

Analysis and Notes and Stuff

Here is the moment where Doctor Who, as a program, after a year of adventures in history or on distant planets, took the opportunity to really stretch its wings and present a truly epic adventure set on Earth, surrounded by familiar and iconic landmarks. This was the first time the show featured extensive location filming and hordes of extras. The idea of a bombed out London must have triggered traumatic memories for many adult viewers; it was barely two decades since the Battle of Britain.

This is where the Daleks truly took root in the psyche of viewers. This was where 'EXTERMINATE' became an iconic catchphrase. This was where the production team firmly established how the Daleks sounded, moved, spoke, and behaved. This was where they cranked the Nazi allegory up to eleven. This was where they arrived. And as it was broadcast over the holiday season, store shelves were full of Dalek toys. The BBC were no fools. Viewership soared to 12 million, and stayed above 10 million for months afterwards; ratings wouldn't be this high again for over a decade.

This is also Terry Nation's best Doctor Who script, full of interesting characters with backstories and two – sometimes three! – dimensions, even if the Daleks' 'pilot the planet' plan is utter crap, even if it muddles the Daleks' timeline. It helped that the guest cast weren't Dan Dare-style Space Security agents or random alien species, they were people like us, regular Earthlings thrown into horrifying experiences; poor Larry looking for his brother; Jenny, so traumatized by death and loss that she pushes everyone away; lovable ol' Wells with his thick West Country accent, helping our heroes behind the Daleks' backs. Even the minor characters make impacts, the black marketeer Ashton, the eerie women in the woods, etc.

And director Richard Martin still manages to nearly fuck it up. Original viewers probably never noticed, of course, because OMG DALEKS, but wow. The Robomen probably sounded frightening but to our ears sound like the Gumbys' idiot cousins. The TARDIS was supposed to be buried in the rubble of a collapsing bridge, but it was realized on screen by a single girder falling somewhat feebly in front of the TARDIS doors. The fight on the saucer between Ian and a Roboman was almost comical. When the Roboman hits the machinery, the actor's reaction, the explosive flash and the sound effect all fail to happen simultaneously. And the saucer model shots are, even by my generous standards, embarrassing. The tragic reunion between Larry and his brother almost fails completely: the sound effect of the machine gun is mistimed, and I watched it for years before I realized that Phil wasn't groaning as he died, he was saying "Larryyyy..." And the Slyther? Oh lord. And there are other similar moments where I'm sure they'd desperately wish for another take or two, but that's not how they made television in 1964.

I suspect those original viewers didn't remember those moments, by and large. They'd remember the Dalek emerging from the Thames (even if that shot made zero sense, do they not use bridges?). They'd remember bad-ass Barbara driving a truck through the Dalek barricade. They'd remember Susan's tearful departure. The moments that made visceral, immediate, emotional impacts. And in these pre-Star Wars days, if the special effects weren't great, the audience filled in the gaps (and maybe the blurry tv screen helped as well).

Which basically reinforces how these shows were not designed to stand up to repeat viewings. Mainly because with some exceptions, they would not be repeated (and 97 episodes, currently, can never be). If you missed that week's episode, too bad. By the time the series was revived, not only had most of the original series been released on home video, the culture of television production had evolved where they took more time, more budget, and more care, because it was a given that these series would be watched several times. If the original producers had conceived that people 50-60 years later would would not only still be watching these episodes, but could watch virtually every episode any time, in better-than-broadcast quality no less, they'd likely be horrified.

Susan's departure was written into the story – Carole Ann Ford was getting increasingly frustrated with Susan's lack of development – and care was taken to build the relationship between her and David. Her wanting to belong to a single place and time was written into the script. My objection is to how the decision was ultimately made. She didn't choose; the Doctor robbed her of her agency and made the decision for her. Didn't even give her a goodbye. Maybe that's how they roll on Gallifrey, but still: not cool.

Mostly it holds up because, as noted above, it's the most human story Terry Nation wrote for the show. This is our planet, and the Daleks have no place here.

Tidbits

William Hartnell injured his back during the recording of Episode Two. Actor Richard McNeff was carrying him down the flying saucer ramp when it collapsed, causing Hartnell to land on a camera stand. Episode Three was hastily re-written to give him a week off to recover. Edmund Warwick served as his body double.

When writing the scripts, Jenny's character was initially conceived as a replacement for Susan, and a different actress was originally cast. As the scripts were re-written, the production team changed their minds and created a new character, Vicki, to be introduced in the following story, and the role was re-cast before filming.

The story was adapted into the feature film Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD, with Peter Cushing and Roberta Tovey reprising their roles, plus past/future Who actors Bernard Cribbins, Philip Madoc and Eileen Way among others.

Jean Conroy, the younger of the two women in the woods, has the unfortunate distinction of being the first Doctor Who cast or crewmember to pass away. She was killed in a street accident a few weeks before her scenes were broadcast.

Haven't I Seen You Already In The Future?

Bernard Kay (Tyler) makes the first of four appearances in Doctor Who. He'd return later in the season as Salladin in The Crusades, then later as Inspector Crossland in The Faceless Ones and Caldwell in Colony in Space.

The uncredited Roboman who drowns himself at the beginning of Episode One is Kenton Moore, who would later play Noah (and make green painted bubble wrap almost look menacing) in Ark In Space. The actual submerging into the Thames was done by stunt performer Peter Diamond.

Edmund Warwick would double for Hartnell again as the Daleks' murderous robot assassin in The Chase.

And of course, although he never appeared on Doctor Who again, Nicholas Smith (Wells) is best known to Britcom fans worldwide as Mr Rumbold on Are You Being Served. This was his first speaking role.

Rating

3 out of 4 defective acid bombs

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John Geoffrion is a semi-retired semi-professional thespian, a professional data guy, and a Dad. He usually falls asleep to the Pluto.tv Classic Doctor Who channel.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, it's always kind of bothered me that the Doctor gives Susan no choice about her own exit. Although everyone involved plays it well and Hartnell gives one of his best performances ever with that speech.

    Welcome back, John! It;s so good to have you doing these again!

    ReplyDelete

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