Posts Tagged ‘The Daleks

10
Jun
10

Story 030: The Power of the Daleks

OK, after being distracted by my current obsession with Bonanza and Twin Peaks, I awoke this morning to three new comments here. When I checked in to moderate the comments, I noticed that there had been 75 hits today. I’m not sure what caused the sudden influx of visitors, but now that number stands at 90, the most popular day yet! Thanks to those who have visited, new readers that have joined in, and the two or three regular readers out there. This swell in popularity encouraged me to finally finish and write a post on The Power of the Daleks.

The Doctor after his Renewal

This story isn’t too bad, although it goes on a bit long. The 6 episode format does not help this story, there simply isn’t enough story to carry it. I didn’t think that it was a particularly great introduction to Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, I didn’t really get a good feel for his character. It’s depiction of the Dalek’s, though, is quite good. It does a nice job of showing their intelligence and deviousness.

The Doctor recovers from his regeneration, explaining that he depends upon “change” and “renewal.” He also points out that it is a part of the TARDIS and he could not survive without the TARDIS. I found this to be pretty interesting. What about the Monk? Does he also have that feature? What if he had to renew himself when his TARDIS was miniaturized? Would he have died? I don’t know whether this ever defined or described in more detail, but is definitely another question worth filing away.

Polly is pretty sure that the Doctor is still the Doctor, while Ben is skeptical. I’m not too sure why he was so skeptical — he witnessed the change. Did he think someone had snuck in while he was watching and steal the Doctor, replacing him with this younger fellow? These opening scenes, though, are pretty good. Troughton seems to adopt Hartnell’s wit, playing it coy with Ben, speaking of himself in the third person and acting as if he doesn’t remember, looking for his journal. It was a nice touch to mention his time in The Crusade and his friend Marco Polo, likely in order to assure the audience that he was indeed the Doctor as I’m sure it may have been somewhat confusing. I’m not sure how well the promotional material would have set the viewers up for this change, if at all. I like how the Doctor answered questions by playing a little flute, gave Ben some snarky responses and wanders off on his own. At this early point, I felt like I was learning about the new Doctor. But, for the rest of the story, I found him to be rather aloof. I’m not sure if they were trying to squeeze Troughton in Hartnell’s character, they weren’t yet sure how he was going to be, or if that will become his character. I’m interested to see his development. I imagine that it is difficult to completely re-write a show’s title character. In the meantime, we have the Daleks to deal with.

The Doctor finds a murdered man in the swamp near the TARDIS. When guards come to find the dead man, he steals his identity and the human residents of the planet believe him to be an inspector from Earth. The planet is Vulcan…a reference to the real-life planet theorized to be between Mercury and the Sun. Of course, there is no such planet. It became more famous as the home of Mr. Spock (I had originally written Doctor Spock. The pointy-eared Vulcan should not be confused with the famous advice-giving pediatrician.) a couple of years later. As has been the case a couple of times in other stories already, there are rebels threatening the stability of the colony. This is getting to be a go-to device for human space-colonies. It’s a simple way to create secondary character drama and potential danger for the travelers. In this case, we get both. The colony’s government has a couple of moles, one of which killed the real inspector. They are then able to use the travelers as scapegoats, claiming they are working with the rebels. These traitors hope to utilize the Daleks, discovered in a centuries old space capsule, as servants and weapons to overthrow and control the colony.

Army of Daleks

The Daleks are the best part of the story. They are smart enough to recognize the gullibility of the humans, claiming that they are their servants. Essentially, they fool them and lull them to sleep. In the meantime, they are building a Dalek army inside the capsule. They are smart enough to never gather in groups of more than three (the original number), and they build weapons and a power source with the material that they receive from the human scientist, encouraged by the traitorous government official. Of course they turn on their supporters and alleged masters, killing nearly all of the humans on the planet. The only way they are stopped is when the Doctor is able to kill them with a power surge from the power source they had built. I thought this was a good way to stop them and really highlighted their evil nature. Once again, they took advantage of the human thirst for power. They used Chen in the Daleks’ Master Plan, and this time they used Bragen, the man most interested in ruling the colony (and the one responsible for the murder of the Inspector and later the colony’s Governor).

A Dalek with a Power Surge

Of course, the Doctor knew all along what was happening. But nobody would believe him. Still in his continuing attempts to well by those who host him and his friends, he sticks around and attempts to convince the humans that the Daleks are dangerous. But, he is put in jail for being one of the rebels and no one will listen. Until the scientist witnesses the building of the Dalek army. But by then it is too late. After killing the Daleks, the Doctor, Ben, and Polly head off for their next adventure.

Generally, this story is all right. The length makes it kind of boring, but the nicely written Dalek plot saves it. Ben and Polly play nearly no role (although in some of the pictures it appeared that Polly wasn’t wearing pants). Each is on vacation and misses an episode, and they spend most of their time simply trying to tell the people that the Doctor is right or trying to figure out what happened to the Doctor. As I alluded to earlier, even the Doctor isn’t particularly interesting in this story. While the story is passable, it isn’t much of an introduction to the Second Doctor.

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25
Feb
10

Story 021: The Daleks’ Master Plan

I finally made it through the epic twelve-part Master Plan. It started strong, went pretty bad, and then finished brilliantly. There’s a lot going on in this story and I think it’s best to talk about it in three parts: The first half of the the story, written by Terry Nation, the Christmas episode (also by Terry Nation), and the second half of the story, written by Dennis Spooner. Warning: This entry is a long one!

Terry Nation

The Terry Nation half of the story is brilliant. I was having the feeling that the story was to be his masterpiece, but that thought was pretty quickly derailed once Spooner took over. First of all, Nation seems to have gotten over whatever was making him write like a moron in The Chase. Picking up where Mission to the Unknown (Dalek Cutaway) left off, the travelers arrive on the Dalek-occupied planet Kembel where rescuers from Earth have gone in search of Kory, our hero from the Dalek Cutaway. The Doctor goes in search of medicine for Steven, still in trouble after being wounded in the hasty departure from Troy. Katarina, still positive that they are in the after-life and in search of the great beyond, is left to care for him. At this point we are exposed to one of the primary characteristics of this story: death. First, an injured Rescuer is killed by a Dalek. He would be the first of many deaths, including a couple of brilliantly done main-character deaths.

The Alien Delegation

Terry Nation, in his last Doctor Who story, put together a great tale. Chen, guardian of the solar system, has Taranium, an element the Daleks need to complete their time destructor, some apparent secret weapon that will allow them to take over the universe. Chen turns out to be a great villain. He is power hungry and, as the story goes on, becomes more and more insane. Along with Chen are other galactic representatives. They include a man that appears to be made of stone, like the Thing, a Mummy, a man in 1950s comic-book space suit, a man with Leaches on his face, one with bumps all over his body, and another one that looks a little like a robot. Apparently this is the greatest brain trust in the universe, but in reality they are all dupes to the Daleks.

The Daleks, in the Terry Nation half, are ruthless. Without hesitation they exterminate anyone that disagrees with them or threatens to get in the way. In this story we meet Dalek Supreme, the Dark Dalek (his only distinguishing feature is his dark color). Dalek Supreme is intense and it seems that even the Daleks fear him. As well they should, considering he has a couple of his own race whacked for failing on a mission.

The Doctor infiltrates the galactic conference and learns of Chen’s delivery of the Taranium (is this perhaps Dalekanium, from the Dalek Invasion of Earth?). He steals the Taranium and off the travelers go, accompanied by Brett, another Earth rescuer. The plan is to go to Earth to warn them of the Dalek Invasion. Unfortunately Chen follows them. On the way to Earth, however, the travelers stop on a prison planet occupied by crazed, violent criminals. The criminals attempt to board their ship, but the Doctor knocks them out, separating himself from the Daleks by saying he does not wish to kill anyone. One of the prisoners had managed to board the ship and quickly takes Katarina hostage.

Brett, the Gang, and TaraniumNow, Katarina. If I had been watching Star Trek (or Lost) she would have been wearing a red shirt and I would have known she was doomed. As I said, she was worthless. She thought they were in the afterlife and the Doctor was a god. She was always prattling on about the perfect place or nirvana or whatever. I think she was still concerned about it when she was taken hostage in the ship’s airlock. Mercifully, she decides to sacrifice herself and opens the airlock door, sucked out into space. It was the first death of a companion, and it was a good one. Plenty of tension, and I’ll have to admit, I wasn’t expecting it. The seconds leading up to the event have existing film, but unfortunately, the film of the actual death has been destroyed. I would have liked to have seen how they did it. The Doctor, after her death, wishes Katarina well. I don’t know why. I was happy to see her go.

Katarina, about to be sucked into space

Chen arrives on Earth before our travelers and brands them as traitors. As a result, Brett is forced to kill his friend and Sara, under Chen’s orders kills Brett. The deaths really mount in the Terry Nation portion of the story. It sets a tense and somber mood that is pretty unique compared to previous stories. At no point has there been this level of violence. As Season 3 has progressed, the show has matured. At this point in the story I was really enjoying it. I was intrigued, I found it exciting. While the secondary characters like Chen and Brett were a little flat, as is typical, the Daleks were at their evil best and I enjoyed both Steven and the Doctor. Even Chen, later in the story, develops some depth. Unfortunately at this point in the story, however, the plot begins to devolve a little bit. This is also the point at which Dennis Spooner took over the writing.

Christmas Episode

The Christmas episode, written by Terry Nation actually follows Spooner’s first episode in the story. The travelers have begun a sequence in which they are running from a so-far unknown pursuer, presumably the Daleks. They land outside of police station in England and on a silent movie set in Hollywood. Hilarity ensues. At the police station one is tempted to think of the scenes in A Hard Day’s Night in which Ringo is arrested and the rest of the Beatles try to get him to the show on time. On the movie set the Doctor has an amusing conversation with a young Bing Crosby, encouraging him to go into music rather than comedy. Charlie Chaplin also makes an appearance. Overall the episode is entertaining The reproduction shows some silent-movie-style title cards. At the end the Doctor (possibly in an ad-lib) wishes all those at home a Happy Christmas. While VERY similar to the absurdity of The Chase, the Christmas Episode was fine on its own, although it doesn’t really fit into the story itself. I give it a thumbs-up as a special episode that aired on Christmas Day, 1965.

Dennis Spooner

The Doctor as Indiana Jones in Ancient Egypt

Spooner takes over for Nation after Sara shoots Brett. And almost immediately the quality of the story drops. At first it’s not too bad. Sara and the Doctor are teleported to another planet by a device that was still in the testing phase. Interestingly, teleportation has not been perfected by the year 4000 when this story takes place. In fact, someone (I forget who) says that it is impossible. Beyond this, however, the episode begins a 4-episode string (including Christmas) of chasing down the travelers. Including what was likely originally intended to be its own story — two episodes in ancient Egypt. These episodes stink. Plain and simple. I felt that it was a rehash of an already poorly conceived concept. What I will mention, though, is the return of the Monk. he has fixed his TARDIS and is back for revenge against the Doctor. Chen attempts to use him to retrieve the taranium. These scenes, infused with humor, are good. But why are they in this serious story? Spooner was unable to maintain the mood that Nation established in the first half of the story and it was really disappointing. The Doctor, disabling the Monk’s TARDIS again, steals the device that allows him to control the TARDIS, navigating it back to Kembel in hopes of stopping the Daleks, once again in possession of the taranium. The arrival back at Kembel got the story back on track.

Chen - On the Road to Insanity

This is the point at which Chen becomes interesting. His desire for power, fully understood by the Daleks, becomes his undoing. He feels that he will be sole ruler of the universe, convinced that the Daleks cannot continue without him. He has no support from the rest of the council (which has been decimated by the murderous Daleks). Yet he gleefully exclaims that he is charge and will rule the universe. While I could not see his face, his voice was delightfully deranged. And over the last two episodes, which were brilliant, he gets crazier and crazier, culminating in the Dalek Supreme’s announcement that their alliance was over. Chen, proclaiming that he is immortal, becomes the latest victim of the truly evil Daleks. In these last episodes, Chen is awesome. So insane, so deranged, so obsessed with his own delusions.

The end of the story, I felt, matched if not exceeded what Nation had initially set up. The Doctor captures and activates the time destructor, the Daleks’ secret weapon. As he and Sara race to the safety of the TARDIS, the time destructor ages them and the planet around them. It has such an effect on Sara that she falls down, dead, turns to a skeleton, and then to dust. The Doctor, falls down but experiences no further effects. The planet ages and dies, the jungle turning to desert. And, lastly, the time has an impact on the Daleks’ casings, rusting them or something, and the mutated creatures within die. The Doctor and Steven examine a dead Dalek and express regret for the violence and the death, mentioning their friends Katarina, Brett, and Sara.

The end of the story was great. The scramble to get back to the TARDIS before the Time destructor could kill them was intense and, as I’ve mentioned, the insanity of Chen. The Daleks never lost their edge in the story and were a truly menacing group of villains. With exception of the downturn throughout the middle, I enjoyed this story a lot. The show is continuing to mature and Season 3, to this point, has been the best so far. If the more serious stories were to emulate what this one did, I think the show would be at its best. The elements of danger and suspense were unlike anything so far. This story really exemplifies what I’ve come to expect from Hartnell’s Doctor, especially considering the more comedic episodes. What I’m left wondering, though, is why the Time Destructor essentially had no effect on the Doctor? And, with Sara gone, how will they fill the open companion character slot? Last time they were left like this we had a quick two-episode story to introduce Vicki. The next story is The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve, four episodes. And while I don’t expect it to match the seriousness of this one, I’m hoping it’s not too much of a let down.

29
Jan
10

Story 019: Mission to the Unknown (Dalek Cutaway)

Well that was interesting. A single episode story and zero appearances by the travelers. Or, at least, not OUR travelers. It wasn’t bad, I suppose. In fact it was kind of good. Of course, this story is entirely missing and therefore received the Loose Cannon treatment. What I like best about these reconstructions are the introductions from the actors. First, there was the awkward introduction by the character Ian Chesterton — that wasn’t so good. But I did enjoy the intro by Peter Purves for Galaxy 4 and now this one from Edward de Souza, who played Marc Cory the main character.

One thing he says in the introduction is that this episode was designed to be a teaser for the Dalek’s Master Plan, set to air a month later. Without that information I would have been a bit confused (until I read up on the story after viewing, of course). It was probably very disappointing for Who fans when it originally aired, not including any of the cast, not connecting to any other serial that they could tell. Quite the anomaly. But, now, the story itself.

We start with a man, whom we actually saw at the end of Galaxy 4 when Vicki wondered what was happening down on a planet they were passing, crawling through the jungle chanting that he must kill…kill…kill. He approaches his crew mates from their crashed spaceship and luckily Cory spots him and shoots him first. Turns out he had been stabbed by a Varga plant, a poisonous plant from the planet Skaro. And he knows this because he has a license to kill and has been sent to hunt the Daleks. This is a great scene, when we get a close-up on his actual license to kill. That’s right — a photo ID card. Not the metaphorical license to kill — the real thing. In case he gets stopped by some intergalactic police officer. I don’t think I have ever actually seen this metaphor in its literal form. I was quite amused. I tried to find a picture, but there is none. You’ll just have to watch the episode to see what it looks like so you can forge your own license. HA!

At any rate, this story happens 1000 years after the Dalek Invasion of Earth, putting it in the 32nd century. And, now, the Daleks want to invade Earth again. This time they aren’t messing around, though. They’ve got a whole interplanetary alliance going on. They’ve got one that looks like he’s made of stone, a couple with helmets, and one that appears to be wearing a leftover Sensorite costume. They’re going to take over Earth, but first they need to exterminate the pesky Earthlings that have landed in their evil plan convention center. They eventually make short work of it, turning Cory into a photographic negative. But, this is not before Cory is able to make a tape recording with all of the important information to send to Earth. As the episode ends, we see the tape lying on the ground, presumably forgotten. De Souza’s closing remarks, though, tell us that the Doctor will find the tape in the first episode of the Dalek’s Master Plan.

Overall, the story is OK. I wasn’t excited by it, but I wasn’t bored, either. I think that the existence of this episode is another testament to the creativity of the Dr. Who team. To put a seemingly entirely unconnected episode smack between two serials and then revisit it later is a neat (and effective) move. I am now looking forward to the epic master plan, if for no other reason than to see the recovery of the tape and find out more about the Evil Alliance. Whether it was effective or well-received at the time, I cannot say. But it was a good attempt and not a bad story.

10
Jan
10

Story 016: The Chase

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.

The Daleks locate the TARDIS

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?

Daleks vs. Mechanoids

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.

01
Jan
10

Story 015: The Space Museum

On Display

The Crusade ended with a creepy scene in which the travelers are in suspended animation. I thought it was a good sign for the story to come. And, after watching the first episode of the Space Museum, I was not disappointed. It turns out they were frozen because the TARDIS was in the process of jumping a time track. When they were able to move again, their clothes had been changed (unconcerned, the Doctor notes that they have been saved the bother of having to change themselves). Things they do seem to have no impact on their environment — Vicki drops a glass that fixes itself. In a nice, subtle touch, as the Doctor drinks the water, the level does not decrease. They don’t leave footprints, and other people on the planet cannot see or hear them. They’ve landed on the planet Xeron, home of a space museum. And after walking through it, they discover themselves in cases. They have jumped the time track and ended up in the future. They then had to wait for themselves to arrive so they could prevent their display-case future.

I love time travel paradoxes. And the idea that if you’re in the future you have to wait for the present to catch up is one of my favorites. I first encountered it in the Stephen King miniseries and novella The Langoliers in which King deals with the issue mostly in the past, but also in the future. This made me very excited for the rest of the story. And while the remaining three episodes didn’t really deal with the time track (except to point out yet another broken piece of the TARDIS machinery), I enjoyed them just the same.

Exterminate!

Much of the action involves getting lost in the museum’s corridors, which is kind of boring. But my enjoyment of the time paradox kept my interest. In an entertaining segment, the Doctor, having escaped being captured by Xeron rebels, is hiding in a Dalek case that is on display. He says something in a Dalek voice as he pokes his head out of the top. Interestingly, Vicki says that she always thought the Daleks seemed rather harmless. This reminded me of my first impression of them that they were kind of innocent villains. More on the Daleks later. In another scene, he outsmarts the Moroks, a group of space-colonizing aliens that have taken over Xeron. They have a TV screen that shows the Doctor’s thoughts, so he thinks of humorous things like a bicycle instead of the answers to his questions. It doesn’t help, however, as he gets sent to the Preparation room to be prepped for the display case.

Vicki ends up with the Xeron rebels who are incredibly incompetent. They apparently can’t figure out that they need to obtain weapons in order to defeat the Moroks. But Vicki lets them know what’s up. And her suggestion of storming the armory is what changes the future. One of the more exciting scenes is the laser gun battle between the rebels and the Moroks.

The Moroks

The rebels and Moroks were, for the most part, pretty anonymous. As is common in depictions of alien races, they all had incredibly similar facial features and hairstyles (stereotypical faceless foreign enemy, anyone? Like the Japanese in WWII movies.). The Morok governor is bored with his job and therefore kind of boring to watch. The only Xeron name I could discern was Darko. In general, the story wasn’t very exciting. But I liked it anyway because of the time concept.

I’ve read some other reviews of some of the stories, including this one and The Crusade. It seems that this is widely held to be one of the worst Doctor Who stories. And everyone seemed to love The Crusade. I really enjoyed this one and didn’t care much for the Crusade. This seems to be a bit of a trend where I don’t really agree with the other reviews I see. I’m not sure why that is. I can’t be that different from your typical Who fan, except for my knowledge of the series. I wonder if my opinion of these early stories will change as I learn what the show is capable of. One review called the Space Museum B-grade science fiction. I may be wrong, but I was under the impression that ALL Doctor Who was B-grade science fiction. That’s part of the reason I became interested. Ridiculousness like stopping bombs with door props and laser-gun shoot outs are part of the appeal.

I must admit that I’m kind of tiring of William Hartnell. His “hmm?” and “he-he” habits are irritating. He seems to be phoning in his performances. He figured out what worked and kept doing it. I have a feeling that if he remained the doctor, the show would not have lasted. His character was getting stale. And Ian seems to be getting grumpier. He’s more easily angered these days. The show definitely seems to be heading toward some form of climax, probably in the Time Meddler, the season finale. I’m not sure when the Doctor changes, but I know it’s coming soon.

Before that, though, there is the 4th episode cliffhanger. As the TARDIS leaves Xeron we cut to a Dalek watching it move through space. They say that our heroes are once again traveling and that they must be caught and (of course) exterminated. A couple of things of note here: The Dalek calls them their biggest enemy. This, I would guess, sets up the Dalek mythology for the rest of the series. This is likely the moment they went from occasionally recurring villain to archenemy. Second, the Daleks now seem to have their own TARDIS-like machine to follow the Doctor’s crew.

Some questions: When did the Doctor become the Dalek’s greatest enemy? Given the timeline issues between The Daleks and the Dalek invasion of Earth, this could happen at any time. When are the Daleks? Does the Dalek timeline ever become clearer? Can they only track the Doctor when the TARDIS is moving?

The next story has all indications of being a Dalek story, something that I was not expecting. Now that I have returned to regular Who viewing, I’m looking forward to it.

10
Oct
09

Story 010: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

More like Awesome Invasion of Earth!

A Roboman with his TinFoil hat

A Roboman with his TinFoil hat

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.

Hussie!

Hussie!

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.

The Daleks visit London.

The Daleks visit London.

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.

Left Alone

Left Alone

31
Aug
09

Story 002: The Daleks

Ah, the arrival of the most evil race in the universe. Or so I’ve been told. To be honest, I’m not sure how deadly a group of mutants in R2-D2 costumes can be, but there they are. This is another intriguing story, although it goes on a bit long.

Our heroes land on Skaro, although they don’t know t, of course. The planet is dead with lots of burned up trees and such. Off in the distance is an exciting-looking city the Doctor would love oh-so-much to explore. And here his cantankerousness gives way to conniving and deceitful as he claims he needs mercury for some broken piece of the TARDIS. Once there they are, as expected, captured by the Daleks.

Now, at first I kind of felt for the Daleks. They thought that they had been left unaffected by some ancient neutron bomb and the poor Thals (a human-like race that lives peacefully in the woods) were mutated, jealous and out to kill them. There was a sad innocence in all of it. Plus, to be honest, the Thals were kind loserish. They’ve never fought? Even over a woman? When all of their women are seemingly attractive and scantily clad? Really? Thals….more like Tools.

Anyway, those glimmers of romance between Ian and Barbara are replaced by romance between Barbara and some Thal guy. And then she puts on those sweet Thal pleather pants. Phew. Ian must have been pretty angry at that, but he hides it well. Or maybe there was never any Ian-Barbara fling to begin with.

The Daleks, however, are not innocent. They are evil bastards. But, they may not be as evil as our travellers who force the Thals into fighting the Daleks. A few of them die, including two forgettable souls that drown in some crazy swamp.

Back to the Daleks…they are actually deformed mutants, presumably from the ancient bomb. However, they claim the Thals are the deformed ones…I wonder if that’s accurate? One thing about the Daleks that is definitely deformed is their voices. I admit, I don’t have the best hearing. But I had to turn on the subtitles to understand them at some points. It was either my poor hearing, television speaker, or poor original audio. Probably a combination of all of those things. That was a bit obnoxious, but I got past it. I hope their audio improves in future Dalek stories.

I could have done without the seemingly endless cave canyon jumping. Maybe one or two jumps and I would have had the point. It was a dangerous trip. Perhaps it was all very edge-of-you-seat in the sixties, but I found that wanting.

In the end, our heroes escape with the piece to the TARDIS, Barbara gets her hot pants and says goodbye to her Thal lover and off they go.

With the exception of the cave jumping, this was another good story. The Daleks, once I learned they weren’t as innocent as they initially seemed are a great race of villains. The fact that they see through those cameras is pretty great. And the subjective camera techniques when they moved/attacked was pretty impressive. It was almost (but not nearly as good) as the subjective shots in Psycho. I’m sure that movie was the inspiration for such a technique.

It seems that a pattern is developing to the stories already: travellers arrive, get nosy, get captured, escape, help someone along the way. I’m looking forward to future Dalek stories, although I hope they don’t include the Thals. I already have the DVDs for The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but it’s not until Season 2, so they will have to wait on the shelf. I’m excited to get to them.

Question: Were the Daleks the mutants as we naturally believe, or is it how they say and the humanesque Thals are the mutations of Skaro?




About These Adventures

This blog exists to document my trip through over 30 seasons of the British science fiction television show Dr. Who. Prior to beginning, I had never seen a single episode of Dr. Who and will be learning the show's mythology and experiencing it all for the first time. I began sometime in July of 2009. Hopefully it doesn't take me over 30 years to reach the end.

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