More like Awesome Invasion of Earth!
The second dalek story really delivers with some classic sci-fi action. There were, as I have come to expect, some questionable choices. But overall, the story is a good one that I hope is a sign of the type of show that is to come. It has an eerie beginning, probably the best beginning so far. A man with a tin-foil hat walks to the edge of the river, lets out a tortured moan, rips off his tin foil and walks into the water. It’s disturbing and intriguing and wonderful.
The travellers land in a deserted London under a bridge with a sign instructing them not to dump any bodies in the Thames. While creating a visually creepy mood would have been a bit difficult if shooting on location on a small budget in 1964, the show does a decent job. The location is creepy in its silence and in the location in which they landed. Unlike landing in the French forest, whoever, they are immediately skeptical. Apparently they learned their lesson. Susan, in a moment of idiocy tries to climb up a bank and succeeds only in twisting her ankle and burying the TARDIS in debris. The Doctor and Ian then go off to try to find some place with some tools to dig it out. In the meantime Susan and Barbara are captured.
After the creepy silence of the first episode, the story pretty much goes on a nice climb to climax, with really only one setback. It turns out the city is silent because the Daleks have invaded and the dudes in the tin foil hats are robomen that they ask to do their bidding. These are very similar to early notions of the zombie: unconscious laborers set to work by evil forces of (usually capitalist) domination (brain eating didn’t come until later, although there’s a great one from the early sixties called I want to eat your skin or something like that). So, the zombies capture people and the Daleks either zombify them or kill them by turning them into photgraphic negatives. It’s a strange way to die.
The daleks are after some precious metal. The guy leading the resistance, I forget his name, but he’s in a wheelchair and slightly deranged. I’ll call him Dr. Strangelove. Dr. Strangelove calls it dalekanium. So, the daleks have a mine out in the country (Bedfordshire?). Luckily, the travellers have arrived just when they are about to drop a bomb into the Earth’s core and turn the planet it into a gigantic spaceship. Brilliant! This is totally B-Movie schlock at it’s best. One of the greatest diabolical plots of all time. Luckily, Ian is able to foil it by blocking the bomb tunnel with a door prop. He is also able to braid about 4 feet of wire into approximately 100 feet of rope in about 3 seconds. Ian is like MacGyver.
Susan, still back in London, has fallen in love. Hard. She even makes out with the boy. They had just met! What a hussie! Luckily her ankle has healed so she’s able to help carry the doctor, who was half zombified through the city and help her new boyfriend dismantle a bomb. She’s a pretty tough girl now that she’s grown out of her screaming phase.
The worst part of the story is when Ian and some other guy are trying escape the dalek mine and get back to London (this is still pre-bomb). A strange creature called the Slither comes after them. It’s a cliff hanger at the end of one episode, then they fool it into jumping down a giant hole at the beginning of the next. Other than excitement and showing off some not-so-hot costume work, I’m not sure what the point of it was. Are slithers like the daleks’ watch dogs? No idea. I didn’t get the point of it and could have done without it. I also could have done without the running from the daleks 10 minute montage in the second episode. We saw barbara running through all of London dodging Daleks. This was the first time my wife has watched any Dr. Who with me. She refused to watch any more after that interminable chase scene. That’s how bad it is.
One story note: The doctor says that their previous encounter with the Daleks happened a million years in the future. How could he know that? And if it was in the future, what were they doing on Skaro if they could fly everywhere? And why were they referring to the bomb that deformed the Thals as happening a few centuries earlier? I wonder how this fits into the overall Dalek timeline….I guess I’ll find out eventually.
The best part of the story, though, was the very end. Susan tells her new boyfriend how much she’d like to be able to settle down, but she can’t leave her grandfather. The doctor, recognizing that she is leaving her childhood behind, shuts her out of the TARDIS to leave her behind. She’s standing there, begging to be let in, wearing only one shoe (I think the doctor has the other?). He gives a great speech about the her future and rebuilding Earth and that her place is no longer with him, but on her own. It’s a surprisingly touching moment. You don’t usually see emotional departures at the beginning of a show’s second season, but Dr. Who pulled it off. As much as Susan irritated me, it was sad to see her go and even sadder to see the doctor realize he had to leave her. It’s the first of what is bound to be many cast departures, I hope they do them all as well as this one. The Wikipedia tells me that Carol Anne Ford was bored with Susan’s character because they wouldn’t let her expand it. I can see the frustration, she had become much flatter than she needed to be. Apparently Ford reprises her role later, although I don’t know when or why. Maybe the doctor returns as he promises just before he leaves her in a deserted London some time in the future.