Wow. That was awful. I like campiness. I enjoy B-movie schlock. But this was terrible. It wasn’t even so-bad-it’s-good. The Chase is a Dalek story, but only barely. And even the Daleks were disappointing. Terry Nation must have been having a bad day. I suppose the concept was alright: the Daleks develop a time machine that is capable of tracking and following the TARDIS. Not the best concept, but it could work. However, it does not work. It stinks. Here’s my impression: Terry Nation had a bunch of concepts that he couldn’t/didn’t develop. So, he strung them all together into a single, incoherent, poorly directed story.
One thing I liked happened at the very beginning of the first episode. We see the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki just chilling in the TARDIS. It was a neat look into their “daily” lives, if there can be such a thing. During this scene, the Doctor is building some machine that allows them to view any moment in time. Do they use it to see what Susan is up to? No, no. They watch the Gettysburg address. And, The Beatles. They view a clip fromTop of the Pops from 1965 in which the band is playing Ticket To Ride, a great tune. (Interestingly, the 25 seconds that appear are the only surviving moments from that show that apparently fell victim to the great BBC destruction of the late-60s/early-70s.) Ian and Barbara begin dancing and singing along. Now, they left London in the Fall of 1963. Beatlemania was in full swing, but the chances of two teachers in their late 30s enjoying it I would suspect is low. Nor would they know the words to Ticket To Ride. That aside, Vicki notes that The Beatles remain famous throughout history. Wonderful foresight, there. I can’t imagine a show in 1998 that would dare to claim Hootie and the Blowfish would become lasting classical music.
But back to the story. The travelers end up on some desert planet, and the Daleks arrive. How do the Daleks get around so well in the sand? Then, they go to the Empire State Building. Here we meet an irritating and stereotypical tourguide. That speaks with such an awful fake New York accent….”Heah in da tawllest buildin’ in da woild…” and an even worse Alabama boy with an even worse accent full of “gawl-ly” and “aw shucks.” While I’m sure that Brits don’t actually believe Americans sound like these people, I’m going to take this opportunity to say: Americans don’t actually sound like those people.
Then, they end up in a haunted house. And Barbara, Ian, and Vicki are terrified. Terrified? They’ve fought Daleks, burned Rome, defeated the animus. And the cheesiest haunted house in history sends them running for the hills? And why did Frankenstein actually attack the Dalek? Am I to assume he would attack a person? That’s not a very well-designed theme park attraction.
They land on the Marie Celeste. A boat that turned empty because the entire crew abandoned the ship for fear of the Daleks, beings they’d never met and who made no attempt to harm them. Simply asking “Where are the time travelers?” was the deadliest weapon ever. Way more efficient than the weapon that turns victims into photographic negatives. and how did the Daleks get up the stairs?
The story looks up a bit at the very end when the travelers are holed up in a cave, waiting to blast the Daleks with some strange machine the Doctor built. But it’s better when they are taken prisoner by the robot inhabitants of Mechanus (the Mechanoids?). They become exhibits in a zoo and meet Steven, who has been held prisoner for two years. He has apparently made a stuffed panda bear his best friend. His captivity has made him, as one from Alabama might say, crazier than a shithouse rat. So crazy, in fact, that re-enters the burning building to find his stuffed panda. Not even Tom Hanks jumped in the ocean to retrieve his volleyball. The last we see of Steven, he is practically crawling through the forest. However, my reading of some other reviews tells me that he is a new traveler that is going to join us in the Time Meddler. I didn’t really see enough of him in this to make much of an evaluation of him as a permanent character. I suppose he is valiant, going back in after the panda and such. I’ll have a better idea after the next story, I suppose.
The most important part of this horrible, useless story was the departure of Ian and Barbara. The Dalek’s time machine is apparently superior to the TARDIS in that it’s not broken. They can actually control where it goes. So, once the Daleks are defeated (in a surprisingly well-done battle with the mechanoids), they ask the Doctor to help them work it. The Doctor is angry, but Vicki tells him that it’s their choice. This whole exchange was done well..but the actual departure was, like the rest of the story, a let down. When Susan left the interaction was touching. This time all we got was an angry Doctor storming into and back out of the Dalek machine. Then, without a visible goodbye, Ian and Barbara were gone. It didn’t seem like Terry Nation knew how to handle the leaving, so he almost didn’t handle it. He kind of reacted like the Doctor..angry and then dismissive. The Wikipedia tells me that in the original script Ian and Barbara do not leave…so I wonder if this was a sudden decision written in at the last minute. As if they realized the departure was just as awful as the rest of the story, the writers put in a photomontage of Ian and Barbara enjoying London and the Doctor and Vicki watch them on the fancy time-watching device. It brings some better closure, but them leaving the show, especially after the farewell Susan received, seemed rushed and not very thoughtful.
Overall, this story sucked. The Daleks were no longer evil villains, but stammering idiots. The story was a hodgepodge of junk and B-Sides. Ian and Barbara’s farewell was handled poorly. We didn’t get a very good introduction to the new character. This was by far the worst story of the first two seasons. I’ve heard/seen good things about the Time Meddler, the season 2 finale. I like the injection of time plots in these last three stories (Space Museum, Chase, and I’m guessing the Time Meddler based on the title). I hope/imagine that they are starting to set up some more serious show mythology.