THE DALEKS II &
THE RETURN OF THE DALEKS
'THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH' DVD (BBCDVD1156) RELEASED IN JUNE 2003.
Arriving in London in the middle of the 22nd century, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan discover that Daleks have invaded Earth. Will humanity be enslaved by the evil Daleks, or can the Doctor stop their audacious plans and save mankind from extermination...?
Invasion of Earth
21ST NOVEMBER 1964 - 26TH DECEMBER 1964
1. WORLD'S END 2. THE DALEKS 3. DAY OF RECKONING
4. THE END OF TOMORROW 5. THE WAKING ALLY 6. FLASHPOINT
The Dalek Invasion of Earth is one of the best Doctor Who DVDs released thus far. The amount of painstaking work that the Restoration Team must have put into a project such as this is immense. The six-part 1964 serial is not only presented remastered with extraordinary sound and picture quality, but it even has an option allowing the viewer to watch with certain effects shots replaced by state of the art - but affectionately apposite - CGI.
Although I’ve long been biased against this story thanks to its camp Peter Cushing movie adaptation, Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD, watching the six original episodes again on DVD I was hugely impressed by both the magnitude of the story and the tear away from the claustrophobia of the studio. I mean, Daleks in London! To see them trundling around the capital’s landmarks is just as eerie today as it must have been forty years ago. This serial’s reputation as a cult classic, not just within the world of Doctor Who, but in the broader terms of television, is certainly one that’s well deserved.
The first disc of the release contains all six episodes of the serial, complete with a commentary, some production subtitles and even two 1964 trailers for the serial. I like the nice little touch of including a “Dalek Invasion of Earth” caption screen before the first episode, not just because it gets the serial’s title on screen, but also because it is done (as is most of the DVD) in wonderfully redolent ‘Dalekmania’ style. The contemporaneous trailers are fun to watch too, if for no other reason than their ability to make this seminal serial look terribly corny, bombarding the viewer with apparently random clips and disjointed music, not to mention placing the story somewhat cheesily in the year 2000 (it is in fact set in or around 2164).
The commentary is something of a mixed bag as William Russell (Ian), Carole Ann Ford (Susan), producer Verity Lambert and director Richard Martin each comment on different parts of the story. Whilst what they each have to say is interesting, the commentary doesn’t feel as fluent as those on most DVD releases, where you usually have two or more people sat together reminiscing for the whole serial.
The second disc contains the lion’s share of the bonus material. I particularly enjoyed the ten-minute Talking Daleks featurette, which documents how early Dalek voices were achieved, and the in-depth documentary Future Memories. That said, I did feel that the latter should have at least featured Russell and Ford – it struck me as odd that it didn’t, especially as they both contributed to the serial’s commentary. The rest of the special features are nothing extraordinary, but it’s nice to have them there all the same. Future Visions looks at the design of the story, Script to Screen examines how a camera script worked in those days, Now and Then looks at how the serial’s locations have changed over the years and there are also some silent rehearsal films and Blue Peter clips included. The remainder of the disc is filled up with the audio drama Whatever Happened to… Susan Foreman? which originally aired back in 1994.
The Dalek Invasion of Earth itself was an amazingly ambitious story which proved to be the foundation of the series’ success and the true birth of ‘Dalekmania’. It contains legendary scenes that were way ahead of their time – who can forget the Dalek emerging from the Thames at the climax of “World’s End”, or Barbara running down a small squadron of Daleks in that old dustcart? The plot is also innovative, probing still raw war wounds without breaking their scabs. Nazis marching around London, presiding over labour camps – ouch. Metal monsters doing the same as they intend to hollow out the Earth’s core and fly it about like a giant spaceship – much more toothsome. And then on top of all these delectable layers you have the bittersweet icing; the Doctor’s granddaughter growing up and moving on. The Doctor’s closing speech brings a tear to the eye as he bids farewell to Susan. “One day I will come back…”
The Restoration Team have certainly done this landmark serial justice with this luxuriant DVD release, and I look forward to seeing more stories from this era released in the future.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design
and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
When the Doctor Who production team promised to bring the Daleks back, they didn’t even pretend that it was going to be anything but spectacular. What a shame then that The Dalek Invasion of Earth lacks the oomph that the finest Doctor Who stories have, constituting six episodes of tedium with the occasional moment of triumph.
This serial is sold on its location work, and it’s only on location that we are treated to scenes that truly live up to their potential. The locations chosen really drive home the idea of an alien menace stalking you in familiar surroundings. London is beautiful city full of character and history, and although it might have been somewhat overused in the revived series, this was not the case in 1964. The gorgeous sun-kissed shots of Daleks gliding across Westminster Bridge still have the same hallucinatory menace that they did when the show first aired back in 1964. Similarly, that first shot of Ian and the Doctor walking up the stairs to the warehouse - and particularly that creepy establishing shot of the chain swinging suddenly – marks an astounding improvement on previous serials’ flat backdrops and cardboard worlds. Those scenes of Barbara running for her life across the wasteland in World’s End are amongst my favourite of the year.
“ATTENTION! ATTENTION! SURVIVORS OF LONDON…”
Through atmosphere alone, with no words to spoil the effect, the alien menace is suddenly very, very scary. Richard Martin had already proven himself a competent director in The Daleks, but in his location work for The Dalek Invasion of Earth he is clearly in his element. My favourite sequence in the whole serial is the frantic chase across London with Babs, Jenny and Dortmun. It’s lavishly filmed and worthy of a big budget movie, and better still it completely sells the gorgeous Blake’s 7ish idea of our heroes as guerrillas on the run in a post-apocalyptic nightmare world. When this serial is on location, the danger really comes alive.
However, whilst the Daleks may be a revelation on location, they are little more than mobile dustbins in the studio. There’s no way of getting around it - the studio scenes of The Dalek invasion of Earth are very poorly shot, particularly when compared to the surviving episodes of The Daleks’ Master Plan, which Douglas Camfield shot far more dynamically on an even smaller budget! Here the Daleks pathetically bash into each other, sloping around the sets sounding camper than they ever have. “We are the Masters of Earth, ducky!” they claim, in an unmodulated voice that makes you wonder if they’ve irradiated Graham Norton and stuck him inside a mark three travel machine! The Daleks of this serial sport their silly little satellite dishes like handbags, bumbling their way through their action scenes as though they were a bit embarrassed to be there. What I find truly astonishing though is that Terry Nation and Richard Martin could never get it quite right: here the Daleks are written as badass killers, but they bump about like comedy robots, and yet they are written as such in The Chase, but they look, sound and act with so much more menace!
Indeed, in my view Richard Martin is the man responsible for Season 2’s greatest letdowns as he took on all three of the run’s blockbusters and botched every single one of them. The Chase I can forgive anything, because I can’t think of six episodes of any television series that have given me such pleasure over the years, but his studio work here and on The Web Planet is preposterously uneven. The attack on the saucer is possibly the slowest action scene ever seen in Doctor Who, with the camera locked in stationary positions for ages (sometimes above the action), whilst the actors try and improvise a few poor moves. Martin exposes every fault that the Daleks have, and often indulges a strange tendency to shoot on nauseating tilts which add nothing to the story artistically. The script may have been written with a lot of oomph, but the direction sabotages most of Nation’s good work. There is no pace; Martin’s direction just seems to plod, plod and plod to its conclusion. After seeing the horrid flying saucer models (a harsh contrast to the fabuloso saucers seen in the Aaru movie adaptation) he should have scrapped the lot of them; they quickly reduce the serial to the level of a 1950s B movie. Indeed, The Dalek Invasion of Earth is one of the few Who stories from the 1960s that looks absurdly dated today.
Furthermore, the acting too is variable. Peter Fraser (David) could have been replaced with a lump of oak without too many people noticing. As a love interest for Susan he’s pretty cute, but he doesn’t deliver his lines with any great conviction and in their concluding scenes he takes her hand but can’t even bear to look at her. And Ann Davies is an odd one as Jenny – she’s written as a woman with a grudge against the world, and whilst it’s nice to not have a character who’s fluffy she can be a little unlikeable at times. William Russell and Jacqueline Hill are as good as ever as Ian and Barbara, thankfully, but even they spend most of their time on the sidelines as Nation pushes the Doctor / Susan / David storyline.
Some say that I’m too harsh with Susan, particularly when I compare her to much with later, spunkier companions. Not so. All I have to do is compare her with the only other woman in the TARDIS during her tenure, and the results are exactly the same. Susan was a failed experiment; an attempt to bring a touch of swinging 1960s, sexy otherworldliness to the show that soon evolved into a sulky, overbearing and mostly shrill teenager who doesn’t want to clean her room thank you very much, and hates being bossed around by her grumpy old Grandpa! Okay, so I might exaggerate ever so slightly, but the point stands. Carole Ann Ford could see that the role she had been promised hadn’t been delivered. In the hands of the right writers, Susan could have been the most exotic companion of the lot. The shot of her dancing in so mystifyingly in An Unearthly Child is the sort of sexy peculiarity that they should have capitalised on; unknowable and creepy. I don’t think there were many stories where she wasn’t treated like ‘the kid’, which is a real shame because some throwaway moments in Marco Polo and The Sensorites show that she could have been much more.
Yet a lot of the work done with Susan in The Dalek Invasion of Earth is actually rather good. If they were going to have her play the role of the angst-ridden teenager, then it follows that they should have progressed that role to its natural conclusion by having her fall in love and take her first tentative steps into an adult world. It’s great to see a genuinely passionate kiss in Doctor Who (even if a horrid slippery fish is involved), and the romance between Susan and David, whilst hardly worthy of Casablanca, is still nicely understated and wholly credible. The idea of Susan being trapped between her devotion to her Grandfather and her love for David is touchingly portrayed, and Terry Nation does a wonderful job of showing us exactly why Susan is so torn: David is an attractive guy who can offer her a stable future, the Doctor is an old man who can’t.
“One day, I will come back. Yes, I will come back…”
The last few moments of the story break my heart in a way that classic Who rarely does. The relationship between Susan and the Doctor is portrayed surprisingly gently, William Hartnell managing to tuck away that bluster and play a quietly hurt old with heartbreaking results. He may fluff one line too many for my tastes in this serial, but his heartfelt speech to Susan more than makes up for this. His touching monologue underlines the affecting notion that he is forcing Susan to leave him for her own good. We won’t see the repercussions of the Doctor’s actions until the next story, but for five minutes at the end of this serial the Doctor is more of a hero than he’s ever been because he loved Susan enough to let her go. Excuse me, I need a tissue…
On a final note, I have a little confession that will probably make you want to hunt down every copy of the Terrance Dicks novelisation and batter me to death with them: I much prefer the Peter Cushing movie to this serial. Whilst this version has more of a sense of mood (mostly because it is so weary) this is a story that needs big scary Daleks, a convincing backdrop, fast-paced action, solid effects and a lot of spunk. Okay, Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD has that often-lambasted jazz score (which actually I rather like…) but it moves at such a terrific pace and it looks and is acted with far more conviction. Susan’s romance is deftly edited out, and Roberta Tovey is somehow the Susan we should have had on the telly. And as we all know from recent experiences that anything with Bernard Cribbins in it is worth its salt. My mum used to put the movie on all the time when I was bored, and watching those huge towering Daleks blasting down humans in jets of steam never failed to grip me. When I finally got around to watching the televised version, I couldn’t help but be shocked by how amateurish it looked in comparison.
The Dalek Invasion of Earth I can’t watch too often. Considering its exciting premise, it is pretty damned boring. Flat direction sinks a potentially fantastic story, and the writing resorts to comic strip antics far too often to be even vaguely credible. Oh, and it also features those silly gay Daleks.
Copyright © Joe Ford 2010
Joe Ford has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design
and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
A trailer for this serial suggested that these events take place in “the year 2000”; an assertion apparently lent weight by the fourth Doctor’s comments when interrogated by Davros in Genesis of the Daleks. This cannot be correct, however, as in this story the Doctor and Ian find a calendar for the year 2164, meaning that at the earliest these events take place in that year. Furthermore, a huge number of later stories would refer to the invasion taking place in the 2150s, supporting a date for this serial of 2164 or shortly thereafter. Presumably the fourth Doctor was being deliberately deceitful in Genesis...
The Doctorless adventure The Curse of the Daleks, which enjoyed a few weeks’ run at London’s Wyndham Theatre in December 1965 and January 1966 before being turned into an audio drama in 2008 by Big Finish,
is set approximately fifty years after the events of this story.
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