On the jungle planet of Spiridon, the Doctor and Jo join forces with a group of Thals who have come to defeat a Dalek taskforce searching for the secret of invisibility.
Planet of the Daleks feels like a letdown because it feels so disjointed from Frontier in Space. Part of this is obviously not the production team’s fault as Roger Delgado’s untimely death would have prevented them from using the Master in this story.
I think that the story’s biggest problems is the fact that it feels a lot like the greatest hits of Terry Nation’s Dalek stories. We have the Daleks creating a virus to wipe out all non-Dalek life, a rather crammed in romantic subplot for the Doctor’s companion and, of course, Nation’s fondness for throwing the word “space” in front of anything in the belief that it sounds advanced and futuristic – in this case, space medicine. There’s also the fact that Nation seems to be under the impression that the inclusion of the Daleks is a surprise to the audience, seemingly ignoring the fact that we’ve just seen the Daleks in the last serial and that they are named in the title of this one. Terrance Dicks was often fond of stating that Terry Nation only had one script and kept resubmitting it year after year during his tenure as script editor, which may be unfair, but when you consider the number of aspects that repeat themselves, he may have had a point. This story also completely drops the Draconians, one of the more interesting alien races that have been introduced in this era of the show, and the Ogrons. I don’t think that the blame squarely lands at Nation’s door though, as this story clearly does not have a budget. As soon as you see a story that has a plotline that involves invisibility, you can almost guarantee that they are covering something up. Here, it is the Spiridons, who remain unseen for almost the entirety of the runtime of the story, although having them appear once they die is a nice idea, but the purple fluffy coats that they wear instead make it look like Grimace is patrolling Spiridon. The story also feels very padded, especially in its first part, where the story about the Doctor’s recovery from his injuries is just delaying the part one cliffhanger, which is as I’ve already stated is underwhelming but this story does seem to suffer with very indifferent cliffhangers anyway. Perhaps the biggest problem is that its antiwar message is slathered on rather thickly, as it ends with the Doctor telling the surviving Thals not to glamorise war when they return to Skaro.
The guest cast are pretty underserved here. In the shape of Bernard Horsfall and Prentis Hancock, this story has two actors who had previously appeared in other stories and would go on to appear in much better ones, who just spend time here bickering amongst themselves and the addition of three more Thals just seems to be for cannon fodder and I think a lot of this has to do with the material they have been given to work with.
There’s only so much that director David Maloney can do here. With a lack of budget, this story is completely studio-bound and it really shows. The forest of Spiridon, whilst a great idea, with vegetation more like animals, capable of sealing the TARDIS to stop the Doctor and Jo from easily reunited, never feels anything but. As mentioned above, the lack of budget makes everything feel quite cheap, and the money was probably spent on other episodes this season, like The Three Doctors or on the location filming for The Green Death.
It’s a shame that the Daleks’s sole commendable entry for the Pertwee era is Day of the Daleks where their inclusion feels a bit like an afterthought and it’s almost as though you can sense them running out of steam here. Nation would, of course, shake things up a little by introducing Davros a few years later, but having Daleks feature in multi-part serials every season was clearly not working. It is perhaps notable that the three Dalek stories that took place immediately prior to this one weren’t written by Terry Nation and are potentially amongst the strongest stories, not just of the Dalek stories, but in general for this era. I do like the Supreme Dalek, even if the headlight eyestalk is a bit distracting, and even he sounds a bit unsure when he says that the Daleks will always be successful.
There’s only one little world I want to see right now.
That one.That one? But Jo, that’s Earth.
That’s right, Doctor. Home.
Home it is, Miss Grant.Jo Grant and the Third Doctor
Jon Pertwee was very open about the fact that he did not like the Daleks and it does come across in this story. Pertwee seems disinterested for most of its runtime and seems much more interested in spending time with the Thals than fighting the Daleks. I think that there are some nice moments for Pertwee’s Doctor here though, especially when he is concerned about the safety of Jo and there is a stretch when both Doctor and companion believe that the other one must be dead. Katy Manning has to carry a lot of the first episode with Pertwee’s Doctor incapacitated and I think that she does a very good job. It’s clear that she has matured a lot in her travels with the Doctor and it’s almost setting the audience up for her departure at the end of the next story. The moment at the end of this story where Jo states that she wants to go back to Earth is obviously significant. Jo gets a really unsatisfying romantic plot with Latep, which feels utterly unearned to the point that it feels as though Susan and David Campbell got a well thought through arc.
Verdict: Planet of the Daleks is a bit of a let down. There is little carried through from Frontier in Space, despite the stories being linked. 4/10
Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Bernard Horsfall (Taron), Prentis Hancock (Vaber), Tim Preece (Codal), Jane How (Rebec), Roy Skelton (Wester), Michael Wisher and Roy Skelton (Voice of the Daleks), John Scott Martin, Murphy Grumbar and Cy Town (Dalek Operators), Hilary Minster (Marat) & Alan Tucker (Latep).
Writer: Terry Nation
Director: David Maloney
Original Broadcast Date: 7 April – 12 May 1973
Behind the Scenes
- This story had the working title of Destination: Daleks.
- This was the first time Terry Nation had been commissioned to write a script for Doctor Who since 1965. As a result, he gave his individual episodes titles, which were Destinus (the original name for Spiridon), Mission Survival, Pursued, Escape or Die, The Day Before Eternity and Victory.
- The first directorial work done on Doctor Who by David Maloney since The War Games.
- This story does continue the storyline begun in Frontier in Space, making this in effect a twelve-part story.
- Due to the requirements of the story and the aging of the original Dalek props, new wooden Dalek extras were made for this story, albeit that they were completely static. These would later be used as prop bins to repair the original Dalek props. It would not be until Resurrection of the Daleks that new Dalek props were built. The quality of these Daleks was not as good, due to them being made of wood rather than fibreglass, and they were largely kept to the background.
- Terry Nation also loaned one of his own Daleks from the Peter Cushing movies – the Gold Dalek – to be the Supreme Dalek in this story.
- Episode 5 was originally intended to finish with all the Thals being massacred, however, this was changed at the insistence of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, as the programme was starting to draw attention for being too violent.
- Rebec was included at the insistence of Letts and Dicks to provide a female character for visual variety and for the female audience members. The character was named after Terry Nation’s daughter, Rebecca.
- The Supreme Dalek in this story is the first Dalek to have headlamps rather than bulbs. This would become the norm in the revived series.
- Bernard Horsfall had previously appeared in The Mind Robber as Lemuel Gulliver and The War Games as a Time Lord. He would go on to play Chancellor Goth in The Deadly Assassin and Arnold Baynes in the Big Finish audio play Davros.
- Prentis Hancock had previously played Jimmy in Spearhead from Space. He would go on to appear in Planet of Evil as Salamar and The Ribos Operation as the Shrieve Captain.
- Tim Preece played the President in the Doctor Who Unbound Big Finish story He Jests at Scars…
- Hilary Minster would go on to play a Thal soldier in Genesis of the Daleks.
Despite some rather mediocre cliffhangers, the moment the Daleks notice the boot under the Spiridon cloak is quite good.
Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.The Third Doctor
Previous Third Doctor review: Frontier in Space