The TARDIS lands in London in the 22nd Century, and the city is very different to how Ian and Barbara remember. The Daleks have invaded and it is up to the Doctor to stop them once more.
The return of the Daleks in Doctor Who’s second season kickstarted Dalekmania in Britain in the 1960s. Whilst their first appearance was successful, there was something about seeing the alien menace travelling the streets of London that really brought it home to the contemporary audience. This is still a great story, even outside of the post war/Cold War context it was originally broadcast in, and would have convinced production teams, both at the time and subsequently, that Earth invasion stories would work for the show. If this had flopped, then it is hard to imagine stories like The Invasion and the early Jon Pertwee era taking the same form that they did.
As is standard with Doctor Who of this era, the production values are a bit shaky. Richard Martin’s direction looks fantastic when shooting on location; for instance, the iconic shot of the Daleks trundling over London Bridge still looks fantastic. On the other hand, we have the footage of the attack on the Dalek saucer, shot on studio which feels really flat and I personally struggled to tell what was going on as the camera remains static for most of this sequence. The less said about the visual of the Dalek saucer flying over London, the better really. Most of the set filming seems to kill the pacing completely. There is also the issue of the Slyther, which looks like a human under a weighted blanket which removes any kind of feeling of fear that the viewer might have had and the alligators in the sewers under London are just laughable.
From a writing standpoint, this is a pretty solid Terry Nation script, with some issues. He leans more heavily into the Nazi influence of his famous creation and uses ideas and fears about what would have happened had they invaded Britain quite heavily here. FOr instance, the Chief Dalek is black, like the SS uniforms and the prisoner camp in Bedfordshire is very similar to the concentration camps, complete with a Dalek commandant. I really enjoyed the first part, World’s End, as it does really good work to establish the tone and feeling of an invaded Earth from the opening shots of the Roboman walking into the Thames and the large poster forbidding dumping bodies in the water. The first part does so much well, keeping the action between the Doctor and his companions for the majority as they begin to investigate where they have landed, before guest characters come into the narrative, taking Susan and Barbara away from where the TARDIS has landed. The first part culminates with the Dalek emerging from the water, which despite questions about what it was doing there in the first place, is iconic and would have been a surprise to viewers in 1964. Having built up this momentum, the second part completely kills it. The puzzle set for the Doctor to prove his intelligence – the key in the crystal box – feels like padding by Nation to bulk this out to six parts and ultimately completely unnecessary. It does establish some of the main guest cast, like the rebels, but it is ultimately a lot of people sitting around and not doing much, until the poorly directed attack on the Dalek saucer. The remainder of the story is largely pretty good and Nation manages to recover the tone and feelings he established in the first episode, so it is to his credit that this does not derail the story completely.
The return of the Daleks is good, and they are aided here by the Robomen, human slaves converted to their means by their helmets. The Robomen show the sadistic nature of the Daleks, as they are enslaved to their will by the helmets but ultimately, their conversion to Robomen will ultimately kill them, necessitating more humans to be captured and thus converted. This cycle highlights their view that life other than Dalek life is completely worthless. Sadly, the Dalek voices are pretty poor and had me longing for the consistency of the Dalek voices under the stewardship of Nick Briggs at times. There is a section of dialogue in the second episode where I cannot for the life of me work out what the Daleks are saying after the Doctor manages to solve the puzzle and break himself, Ian and Craddock out of their cell. There is also a moment of humour later on where they attempt to interrogate a headless mannequin in the Civic Transport Museum, which does go some way to undermine them a little bit. Ultimately, I’m not sure what the point of them removing the core of the Earth is, except to give them a James Bond villain style plot, but it does give me an amusing mental image of the Daleks flying the Earth through space, smashing into planets like an interstellar dodgem car.
I never felt there was any time or place that I belonged to. I’ve never had any real identity.
One day you will. There will come a time when you’re forced to stop travelling, and you’ll arrive somewhere.Susan Foreman and David Campbell
This is an episode which the Doctor can be seen to complete his journey to heroism and it is in marked contrast from the character we saw attempting to kill a caveman with a rock in An Unearthly Child. We see him here refuse Tyler’s gun and he ultimately feels a responsibility to defeat the Daleks and put the Earth back on track. Ian gets to do the more action-orientated bits as usual, and Barbara acts as a counterpoint to Jenny, a rather pessimistic rebel. She also gets some strong moments, such as driving a truck through a Dalek roadblock, and she remains hopeful of overturning the Dalek occupation, despite Jenny’s defeatist attitude. Of course, the biggest talking point of this story is the departure of the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan. It is, of course, very problematic that she leaves to marry a man that she has just met, although David Campbell was in this much more than I remembered. Having only watched this story once before, I thought that it was a bit more jarring, but they do actually spend some time together in the course of the story, but not enough to justify being written out in this way. That being said, the closing scene is really well written by David Whittaker and well acted by William Hartnell and Carol Ann Ford. I thought that Carol Ann Ford was pretty good throughout this story and gives her best performance here, and she and Peter Fraser do a good job with their time together, especially the scene where he tells her . Of course, as the show developed and ideas around Gallifreyans having longer lifespans than humans were introduced to the show’s mythos, the less comfortable the idea of the Doctor abandoning Susan is.
Verdict: The Dalek Invasion of Earth marks a successful return for the Daleks, despite some issues with the script and direction. 8/10
Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright). Carol Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Bernard Kay (Carl Tyler), Peter Fraser (David Campbell), Alan Judd (Dortmun), Martyn Huntley and Peter Badger (Robomen), Robert Jewell, Gerald Taylor, Nick Evans, Kevin Manser & Peter Murphy (Dalek Operators), Peter Hawkins & David Graham (Dalek Voices), Ann Davies (Jenny), Michael Goldie (Craddock), Michael Davis (Thomson), Richard McNeff (Baker), Graham Rigby (Larry Madison), Nicholas Smith (Wells), Nick Evans (Slyther Operator), Patrick O’Connell (Ashton) & Jean Conroy and Meriel Hobson (Women in the Woods).
Writer: Terry Nation
Director: Richard Martin
Parts: 6 (World’s End, The Daleks, Day of Reckoning, The End of Tomorrow, The Waking Ally & Flashpoint)
Behind the Scenes
- Working titles included Daleks Threaten Earth, The Invaders, The Daleks (II), The Return of the Daleks and The Daleks in Europe. Working titles for Episodes 4 and 6 were The Abyss and Earth Rebels respectively.
- This story features the first departure of an original cast member, Carol Ann Ford. Ford would reprise her role in The Five Doctors and Dimensions in Time and has also appeared as Susan in numerous Big Finish audio plays.
- The story originally would have seen a new companion, a 15 year old girl called Saida, stow away onboard the TARDIS and become the new companion. However, this idea was scrapped and the character was replaced by Jenny.
- William Hartnell was injured when the ramp to the Dalek saucer collapsed, causing him to land awkwardly on his spine. He was temporarily paralysed and once he recovered, it was decided to give him the week off, and Edmund Warwick, his stand-in, deputised for him.
- The final speech from The Doctor to Susan would be used again to introduce The Five Doctors and would feature twice in docudrama, An Adventure in Space and Time, delivered once by David Bradley and once in its original form. The scene was written by script editor David Whittaker rather than Terry Nation.
- The final story to be script edited by Terry Nation.
- The Daleks start to use their famous catchphrase “Exterminate!” in Flashpoint. Previously, they had used the phrase “Exterminated”.
- Following the success of Dr. Who and the Daleks, the adaptation of The Daleks, this story was also adapted into a movie, Dalek Invasion of Earth 2150AD, again starring Peter Cushing as Dr. Who, and also featuring Bernard Cribbins. Cribbins would go on to play Wilfred Mott, grandfather to Donna Noble and companion in his own right. The film underperformed at the box office and so would be the last story adapted for the cinema.
- Bernard Kay appeared in The Crusade and would go on to appear in The Faceless Ones and Colony in Space.
- Martyn Huntley would appear in The Gunfighters.
- Michael Goldie also appeared in The Wheel in Space.
The cliffhanger at the end of Episode One with the Dalek emerging from the River Thames. As much as the Dalek being in the Thames makes no sense, it is a fantastic culmination of a great first part.
One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. Goodbye, my dear. Goodbye, Susan.The First Doctor
Previous First Doctor review: Planet of Giants
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