The Daleks

If they call us mutations…what must they be like?

Alydon

Synopsis

The TARDIS brings the Doctor and his companions to the seemingly dead planet of Skaro, where they encounter two indigenous races – the evil Daleks and the peace loving Thals. The TARDIS team convince the Thals of the need to fight.

Review

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

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)

Writer: Terry Nation

Directors: Richard Martin (Parts 3, 6 and 7)  and Christopher Barry (Parts 1, 2, 4 and 5)

Parts: 7 (The Dead Planet, The Survivors, The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition, The Ordeal and The Rescue)

Behind the Scenes

  • Terry Nation created the Daleks, however, the script for their debut story was heavily edited by script editor David Whittaker who revised a lot of character development and dialogue.
  • Nation would benefit greatly from his creation of the Daleks thanks to his agent. One of the people who worked on this deal was Beryl Vertue, who ensured that he was made a co-owner. Vertue would later become a producer, founding production company Hartswood Films which would be involved in a number of comedy series, including The Vicar of Dibley and Coupling, a series written by Steven Moffat, and Sherlock. Vertue is also Moffat’s mother-in-law.
  • The Daleks was significant for ensuring Doctor Who’s survival. Despite Sydney Newman’s insistence that he didn’t want any ‘bug-eyed monsters’ in the series, Verity Lambert stuck to her guns and was rewarded by high viewing figures for her gamble and ensured the show’s continued survival.
  • This story kickstarted ‘Dalekmania’ in the 1960s, which would see the Daleks elevated to an iconic status and the Daleks would reappear in every Season up until Season 5, when Terry Nation tried to sell the Daleks to American television.
  • The Daleks have appeared opposite every incarnation of the Doctor to date, including Paul McGann, who has faced them in Big Finish productions.
  • The story marked the first contribution of directors Christopher Barry and Richard Martin, designer Raymond Cusick, costume designer Daphne Dare and future director Michael Ferguson.
  • The success of the Daleks would also lead to a feature film and a sequel starring Peter Cushing as Doctor Who.

Best Moment

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.

Best Quote

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

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