Parts: 7 (The Dead Planet, The Survivors, The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition, The Ordeal and The Rescue)
Writer: Terry Nation
Directors: Richard Martin (Parts 3, 6 and 7) and Christopher Barry (Parts 1, 2, 4 and 5)
Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Susan Foreman (Carol Ann Ford), Peter Hawkins and David Graham (Dalek voices), Alan Wheatley (Temmossus), John Lee (Alydon), Virginia Wetherell (Dyoni), Philip Bond (Ganatus), Marcus Hammond (Antodus), Jonathan Crane (Kristas), Gerald Curtis (Elyon)
Behind the Scenes
The Daleks were created by Terry Nation, who also came up with the main idea for the story, however, script editor David Whittaker is believed to have done a lot of work on character development and dialogue. Nation’s agent negotiated a deal for him that meant that Nation ended up doing very well financially out of the Daleks, as he was made a co-owner. Coincidentally, Nation’s agent was Beryl Vertue, who would go on to found the production company Hartswood Films, which produced several comedy series, including Steven Moffat’s Coupling in the early 2000s, and is Steven Moffat’s mother-in-law.
The Daleks would prove to be Doctor Who’s saviour. Despite Sydney Newman’s insistence that he did not want any aliens in his new series, Verity Lambert stuck to her guns and got the Daleks made. Her confidence in the story and the Daleks themselves would prove to be vindicated, as the story pulled in significantly more viewers than An Unearthly Child, and prevented the BBC from pulling the plug on the series. The success of the Daleks amongst the viewing public was reflected by Dalek-mania, which would see the nefarious villains return every season up until season 5. The Daleks would go on to appear opposite every Doctor (Paul McGann has faced them in Big Finish), and are as synoymous with the show as long scarves and blue police boxes.
The first appearance of the Daleks is interesting, if a bit of an overlong story. One of the most interesting things that I found about it was how early some of the lore that I had almost assumed got introduced in Genesis of the Daleks is actually brought in here. The Thals, Skaro and the mutants (or gorilla gloves covered in vaseline) are all seen in this story. Although The Daleks and Genesis can be seen to be contradictory, this didn’t really impact on my enjoyment of the story. I think that the story does massively benefit from how menacing the Daleks look in black and white, and thinking about the reaction to their first appearance, it is easy to see how they became such an phenomenon.
The TARDIS team here get a bit more development which is welcome and the story does tap into contemporary concerns, with the radiation sickness storyline. The Doctor here is shown to be quite self-centered and willing to put his granddaughter and her two teachers in danger to satiate his curiosity about the mysterious city. However, when he realises his mistake, he does apologise to his companions – a bit too late really. We also get a great exchange at the beginning of the story between Ian and Barbara about their situation and about their doubts about the Doctor too. Ian is more of a traditional heroic character here, and occupies a role that modern audience would be more likely to associate with the Doctor rather than the companion. Susan shows initial promise but then seems to blend into the background for most of the rest of the story, except when she screams. She’s no Mel, but boy, can she scream.
With hindsight, some of the elements don’t work so well. The question of whether or not the Daleks are actually villains in the first couple of parts doesn’t work with the benefit of seeing episodes featuring the Daleks for the last 55 years. There is also the issue of the story feeling a bit too overstretched, with the story being made up of seven parts, however, I am never too bothered with this as an issue with ‘Classic Who’, as the stories were never ever intended to be binge-watched on DVD, and this story does benefit from more interesting villains and supporting characters in the Thals than there were in the previous story.
Verdict: A good story introducing an iconic villain, which perhaps suffers from the fact that there are more interesting stories involving them in the show’s history. 7/10
“You wanted advice you said. I never give it. Never. But I might just say this to you. Always search for the truth. My truth is in the stars and yours is here.”
The First Doctor
The sequence in which they discuss the logistics of food on the TARDIS. Or the cliffhanger at the end of the first part with the plunger with Barbara.