When a ghost attempts to assassinate Sir Reginald Styles, a delegate to the Second World Peace Conference, the Doctor and Jo investigate. It transpires that the ‘ghosts’ are actually Freedom Fighters from the 22nd Century, attempting to prevent a sequence of events that leads to the Daleks conquering Earth.
Day of the Daleks kicks off Jon Pertwee’s third season and the show’s ninth in an authoritative fashion. It is rather remarkable that in the show’s 57 year history, the show doesn’t use time as a central plot point more often, as when they do it normally leads to pretty great stories. I have watched both the original and Special Edition, and enjoy both equally. I find that the cosmetic changes made in the Special Edition, such as increasing the number of Daleks in the final attack and changing the Dalek voices, only improve upon the foundations of Louis Marks’ original story. Whichever version you prefer, those building blocks make for a fun and enjoyable serial.
By this point in their run as producer and script editor, it is perhaps fair to say that Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks really knew how to kick off a new season of Doctor Who, with the return of the Daleks after five years off screen. Whilst it is fair to say that the Daleks don’t have an awful lot to do here, likely due to their eleventh hour insertion, they would have likely been a draw to the story at the time of its first broadcast and certainly to fans watching this story in the years since. The fact that this story is one of a relative few to use time travel as central to its narrative makes it stand out all the more. Marks’ script works really well, complete with twists that you don’t see coming, like the reveal that the Controller has developed a conscience about being a quisling for the Daleks or that the guerillas are responsible for the chain of events that lead to the Dalek occupied Earth 200 years in the future. By the way, this story taught me the word ‘quisling’, which I’d never come across before, and also about the phrase ‘tell it to the Marines’ used by the Doctor as a duress code to the Brigadier, which made me appreciate it all the more. This is also one of the few stories in Doctor Who where the monsters have already won – the only one that jumps to my mind is The Dalek Invasion of Earth – which is interesting even of itself. It’s not a story entirely without minor flaws though. The fact that the Daleks are sidelined in a little room for the majority is a little baffling, although given that Earth in the future is under their control, it is perhaps an intriguing look at how they would go about managing the Earth and using it as a stepping stone to the rest of the universe. From a production standpoint, it is no doubt due to their late addition to the script. Then there is the infamous attack on Auderly House with the three Daleks and limited Ogrons, improved upon in the Special Edition. Whilst the original looks a bit rubbish, it is worth noting that this was in the days before we really appreciated what a sole Dalek could do. The Special Edition does improve on this scene greatly though.
You went back to change history, but you didn’t change anything. You became a part of it.The Third Doctor
Day of the Daleks is a really well-paced story and feels as though a lot happens in each part, as opposed to some other serials, and that is in no small part down to the writing of Louis Marks and direction of Paul Bernard. This story did come into criticism from both Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning, whilst the direction was thought to be bland by producer Barry Letts. I certainly dispute that claim as this feels very solidly directed, and both Marks and Bernard had to deal with the late addition of the Daleks. This story certainly feels as though it feeds the modern show in its approach to the Daleks and feels as though an outlier in comparison to some other Dalek stories in the original run. The twist that one of the guerillas, Shura, is ultimately responsible for creating the future that the guerillas are desperate to avert works really well, and it’s a nice use of a temporal paradox. The Third Doctor’s time on Earth has lead to him understanding that humanity is more often than not it’s own worst enemy. There are some nice moments inserted into the story here, such as this being the Second World Peace Conference, carrying on from The Mind of Evil and seeing the First and Second Doctors during the mind probe sequence, which acts as a reminder that this is still the same character.
This story marks the debut of the Ogrons, and their costumes look pretty great. The great thing about having them is that it acts as a shorthand for the galactic outlook for the Daleks. Previously, we have only seen them subjugate humans to act as their slaves, having a race of aliens acting in this capacity helps make it believable that the Daleks are conquering the rest of the galaxy. The Ogrons’ sheer strength makes them feel quite threatening and scary, able to knock humans out with a single swipe. Whilst Jon Pertwee was always quite scathing about the Daleks, he admitted that he was slightly afraid of the Ogrons due to their size and they certainly do add brawn, if not brains, to the Daleks operation. There’s certainly more of a feeling of Earth being a stepping stone rather than an Endgame for Skaro’s famous creation, especially when it is revealed that in the future, the Daleks are essentially using Earth and the remaining humans for its resources for fuel.
The central cast is on great form here too. Pertwee is suitably commanding in all of his scenes and his chemistry with Katy Manning is fantastic. It helps that Jo isn’t reduced to just asking questions but takes an active role in dialogue, contributing her observations in discussions like the one where she and the Doctor are tied up in the cellar. The Third Doctor is probably the only one who would feel completely at home in a setting like Auderly House, but equally in his action sequences. The two leads probably benefit from the fact that Jo and the Doctor are separated relatively early on, as it allows Jo to show that she is capable of holding her own in these scenarios. The UNIT crew are good here too, and I particularly like the “RHIP” scene with Yates, Benton and Jo, which feels very natural. The guest cast are solid too, with the standout performance being Aubrey Woods as the Controller, who demonstrates a conflicted nature between serving his masters and his loyalty to the human race. He shows compassion in the scene with the manager, and his exchanges with the Doctor and Jo obviously impact him to the point that he ultimately plays a role in the Daleks’ downfall.
Verdict: Day of the Daleks is a lot of fun, thanks to an interesting plot playing around with time. This is a good strong start to Pertwee’s third season as the Doctor and definitely in my favourite stories. 9/10
Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), Wilfred Carter (Sir Reginald Styles), Jimmy Winston (Shura), Anna Barry (Anat), Scott Fredericks (Boaz), Aubrey Woods (Controller), Jean McFarlane (Miss Paget), Deborah Brayshaw (Girl Technician), Gypsie Kemp (UNIT Radio Operator), Tim Condren (Guerilla), Valentine Palmer (Monia), Peter Hill (Manager), Andrew Carr (Senior Guard), George Raistrick (Guard at Work Station), Rick Lester, Maurice Bush, David Joyce, Frank Menzies, Bruce Wells and Geoffrey Todd (Ogrons), John Scott Martin, Ricky Newby and Murphy Grumbar (Daleks), Oliver Gilbert and Peter Messaline (Dalek Voices), Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Voices (DVD Special Edition) & Alex MacIntosh (Television Reporter).
Writer: Louis Marks
Director: Paul Bernard
Behind the Scenes
- The story had working titles of The Ghost Hunters, Years of Doom, The Time Warriors, The Day of the Daleks and Ghosts.
- Louis Marks’ story outline did not contain Daleks. Producer Barry Letts decided that they should return in Season 9 and Terrance Dicks nominated this story.
- The first time (with the exception of the mirror scene in The Power of the Daleks) that images of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton appeared in the show. The only other time this would occur in Pertwee’s era would be The Three Doctors.
- Episode 4 originally contained the Daleks explaining that they had destroyed the Daleks infused with the human factor (as seen in The Evil of the Daleks) before turning their efforts towards conquering Earth using time travel. This was cut due to the story overrunning.
- The first appearance of the Daleks since The Evil of the Daleks, and thus their first appearance in colour on television. As such, the production team were not sure what Daleks should sound like and following this story, voice artists Oliver Gilbert and Peter Messaline were not used again.
- In the 2011 DVD release of this story, the special edition features more Daleks and they are voiced by Nicholas Briggs.
- In a scene cut from the televised story but included in Terrance Dicks’ novelisation, the Doctor and Jo would have come face to face with their past selves in a reprise of the scene earlier in the story.
- The first story not to feature the Master since Inferno.
- The first Dalek story since The Daleks not to feature the departure or arrival of a new main cast member.
- Scott Fredericks would later appear in Image of the Fendahl.
The Doctor is attacked by one of the guerillas looking for Styles, throws him to the ground, finishes his glass of wine, places it down on the table before straightening up in time to counter his next attack.
Who knows? I may have helped to exterminate you.The Controller
Previous Third Doctor review: The Daemons