The Chase

We’re trying to defeat the Daleks, not start a jumble sale!

The First Doctor

Synopsis

Using a Time/Space Visualiser taken from the Moroks’ space museum, the Doctor, Barbara, Ian and Vicki discover the Daleks have built a space/time vehicle and are in pursuit.

Review

I’ve tried to watch The Chase a number of times over the last couple of years but never quite managed to watch it through until the end. I’m not entirely sure why – I remember getting to the Empire State Building part of the story and just never coming back to the story again. I think it feels almost throwaway and disposable, which then makes me view it with disinterest. I know some people really love this story, and whilst it’s not my favourite Hartnell story, it is largely entertaining.

The Chase is a story that I could comfortably say wouldn’t have been made in another era of Doctor Who. The concept of having the Daleks pursue the TARDIS through time and space is a great one, and the story largely has fantastic pacing aided by hopping from planet to planet. This makes it feel inventive and fresh. However, it does mask the fact that the plot is paper thin and the story sometimes slows to a crawl, especially in The Death of Time. When the TARDIS lands on Arudius, an arid planet, the plot feels like a traditional part one, however, in this case, the Doctor and his companions create problems with no solution after unleashing the Mire Beast and the Daleks on this civilisation. This would be okay but the presentation is dull and plodding and at times tired me whilst watching it.

I’m not sure where the injection of comedy into this story came from, but I don’t think it does the story or the Daleks any favours. Whether this was from Terry Nation or the production team, it reeks of a sense of fatigue with Dalek stories. Nation has a comedy background, having written for Tony Hancock, but I have read that none of the moments like the Dalek coughing as it emerges from the sand were in the original script. Then we’ve got Morton Dill, played by Peter Purves, who feels like Sherriff Pepper from the Roger Moore Bond films, a stereotypical view of an American rural hick. Maybe I had a sense of humour failure but I found a lot of the story’s attempts at humour to fall flat. There’s a lot of the first part of the story that feels quite fun, like the parts with the Time-Space Visualiser with Ian, Barbara and Vicki seeing moments in history, like the Gettysburg Address, Shakespeare meeting with Queen Elizabeth and the Beatles performing.

Ultimately, I think that this story’s biggest flaw is the direction of Richard Martin. He seems to not cut scenes at logical points, resulting in a couple of shots that just seem to linger and feel like they should have ended seconds later, like where the Daleks leave the Mary Celeste. An even more glaring error comes as Vicki is left behind at the haunted house, where the shot broadcast clearly shows a presumably unintentionally stationary Dalek poking out from behind the TARDIS and there is clearly a cue for both Maureen O’Brien and the Dalek to start moving. All the scenes in the haunted house feel a bit messy, not helped by the fact that Terry Nation’s script never deigns to explain this sequence to the TARDIS crew or the audience in any definitive terms – we only get a glimpse that this is an abandoned haunted house in the festival of Ghana. That being said, Martin does go out with a bang, directing that Dalek and Mechanoid fight in the final episode, which is certainly the high point of The Chase. Unfortunately, this high point cannot salvage the rest of the story, which feels like a mess.

I think that part of the story that doesn’t really work very well is the robot duplicate, which may have worked better when first broadcast is the robot duplicate of the Doctor, portrayed by Edmund Warwick and William Hartnell interchangeably. It may not have been so obvious to the audience watching in 1965 that Warwick bore no similarity to Hartnell, but it is all too obvious for a modern audience, and the decision not to have Hartnell perform double duties as the Doctor and robotic doppelganger for the entire time is perhaps inexplicable, although may have been due to the fact that there wasn’t time or budget to film William Hartnell in some of the long shots because it really does take you out of the story watching it now.

This is Ian and Barbara’s last story, and it does feel as though both actors are sleepwalking through this last story until they reach the scene when they realise that they can get home using the Dalek time machine. Both actors seem to light up at this news, as I’m sure they were probably quite exhausted due to the show’s gruelling production schedule. It is notable for leaving William Hartnell as the show’s last original cast member, and his emotions really bleed through onto screen in these moments where his companions tell him that they wish to leave. Hartnell is pretty decent here, even if he is given very little to do, something which could also be said for Maureen O’Brien as Vicki. The Doctor’s new companion, Steven Taylor, played by Peter Purves, comes across as a compelling character and an interesting new character, who seems to disappear at the end to make room for Ian and Barbara’s departure, but I’m intrigued to see where this all goes.

Barbara, we made it.

I don’t believe it!

London 1965!

Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright

Verdict: The Chase is an entertaining but messy story, with some distinctly dodgy direction from Richard Martin. 7/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Maureen O’Brien (Vicki), Steven Taylor (Peter Purves), Robert Marsden (Abraham Lincoln), Roger Hammond (Francis Bacon), Vivienne Bennett (Queen Elizabeth I), Hugh Walters (William Shakespeare), David Graham and Peter Hawkins (Dalek Voices), Robert Jewell, Kevin Manser, John Scott Martin and Gerald Taylor (Dalek Operators), Jack Pitt (Mire Beast), Ian Thompson (Malsan), Hywel Bennett (Rynian), Al Raymond (Prondyn), Arne Gordon (Guide), Peter Purves (Morton Dill), Dennis Chinnery (Albert C. Richardson), David Blake Kelly (Captain Benjamin Briggs), Patrick Carter (Bosun), Douglas Ditta (Willoughby), Jack Pitt (Cabin Steward), John Maxim (Frankenstein), Malcolm Rogers (Count Dracula), Roslyn De Winter (Grey Lady), Edmund Warwick (Robot Doctor Who), David Graham (Mechanoid Voice), Murphy Grumbar, John Scott Martin and Jack Pitt (Mechanoids) & Jack Pitt and Ken Tyllsen (Fungoid).

Writer: Terry Nation

Director: Richard Martin

Parts: 6 (The Executioners, The Death of Time, Flight Through Eternity, Journey into Terror, The Death of Doctor Who and The Planet of Decision).

Original Broadcast Dates: 22 May – 26 June 1965

Behind the Scenes

  • This story had the working titles of The Daleks (III) and The Pursuers. It was commissioned to replace another of Terry Nation’s stories, thought to be The Red Fort, and The Chase in a previous forms featured scenes in Ancient Egypt and on the planets Stygian and Vapuron, which would be recycled into The Daleks’ Master Plan.
  • The last six-part story until Power of the Daleks, making it the last story of this length in William Hartnell’s time as the Doctor.
  • The final story directed by Richard Martin.
  • The appearance of The Beatles is of particular interest, as the recording used for this story only survives in this story and the original recording of their performance was wiped. It was originally planned that the Fab Four would appear as old men in the 21st Century, however, this idea was vetoed by their manager, Brian Epstein. The Chase also introduces the idea in Doctor Who that contemporary music would be considered classical in the future; this happens again in The End of the World and The Beatles themselves are again referred to as classical music in 42.
  • The story marks the first appearance of Steven Taylor, played by Peter Purves, making him the first actor to appear in two roles in the same story. He also is the first actor to play a guest character to play a companion to the Doctor, an honour he shares with Ian Marter, Freema Agyeman and Karen Gillan, however, only Purves can boast that he is the only one to be made a companion in the same story he plays a completely different guest role.
  • The scenes of Ian and Barbara’s return to London were filmed as a part of production for The Time Meddler, and therefore directed by Douglas Camfield.
  • The Chase would have provided the basis for the third Peter Cushing Dalek movie, however, the film was never made due to the poor performance of Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D at the box office.

Cast Notes

  • Roger Hammond would go on to appear as Dr Runciman in the Fifth Doctor serial Mawdryn Undead, as well as appearing in the Big Finish plays The Eternal Summer and Brand Management.
  • Hugh Walters would also appear as Runcible in The Deadly Assassin and Vogel in Revelation of the Daleks. He also appeared in the Sylvester McCoy Big Finish story The Fearmonger.
  • Ian Thompson had previously appeared as Hetra in The Web Planet.
  • Arne Gordon also appeared in The Web Planet, playing Hrostar.
  • Dennis Chinnery went onto play Gharman in Genesis of the Daleks and Sylvest in The Twin Dilemma.
  • David Blake Kelly would go on to appear in The Smugglers as Jacob Kewper.
  • Malcolm Rogers would appear in The Daleks’ Masterplan playing a policeman.
  • Roslyn De Winter had previously appeared in The Web Planet, a story for which she was also the choreographer.
  • Edmund Warwick had previously played Darrius in The Keys of Marinus and stood in for William Hartnell as the Doctor after he was injured during filming of The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

Best Moment

The fight in the Mechanoid City is one of the best directed parts of this story. Two evenly matched opponents cancel each other out, leading to the destruction of the city.

Best Quote

Look. I know we’ve thrust ourselves upon you! But we’ve been through a great deal since then! And all we’ve been through will remain with us always! It could be the most exciting part of my life. Look, Doctor, we’re different people. And now we have a chance to go home. We want to take that chance. Will you help us work that machine?

Barbara Wright

Previous First Doctor review: The Space Museum

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