This story takes
place BETWEEN THE TV
STORY "FRONTIER IN
SPACE" AND THE NOVEL
& DESTINATION: DALEKS
'DALEK WAR' DVD BOX
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
THE TARDIS ARRIVES
ON SPIRIDON, AN
WHERE THE VEGETATION
IS HUNGRY AND
THE DOCTOR HAS BEEN
BADLY HURT AND HAS
FALLEN INTO A COMA,
SO IT'S UP TO HIS
JO TO LEAVE THE SAFETY
OF THE TARDIS TO FIND
HELP. SHE SOON
DISCOVERS A JUNGLE
CREATURES, AND THAT
THE PLANET IS HIDING A
TERRIBLE SECRET ABOUT
THE DOCTOR'S OLDEST
ENEMY, THE DALEKS...
Planet of the Daleks
7TH APRIL 1973 - 12TH MAY 1973
It’s hard to believe that it has taken the BBC thirty-six years to find the savvy to release both halves of Season 10’s ‘Dalek War’ marathon together in one box set. However, now that they finally have, I dare say that it’s been well worth the wait.
My great fondness for Frontier in Space notwithstanding, I was looking forward to the two-disc release of Planet of the Daleks most of all as it would allow me to experience the six episodes as originally intended. Prior to this release, my enjoyment of the serial had always been blighted by the poor quality third episode, which only existed as a 16mm monochrome telerecording (the original colour videotape having been wiped shortly after transmission in the mid-1970s). But with this release, on top of the Restoration Team’s usual panoply of bonus material, Episode 3 has been restored to full colour using a combination of Legend Films’ computer colourisation, and software developed by the Colour Recovery Working Group.
And the recolourised and remastered episode is stunning to behold; in fact, it’s very difficult to tell it apart from the serial’s other five episodes, which have also been given the standard spit and polish to bring them up to DVD standard. Planet of the Daleks has never looked so good.
Above: Technical whiz Jon Wood explains how Episode 3 was restored in the "Multi-colourisation" feature
The colour restoration process is documented in a fascinating ten-minute featurette entitled Multi-colourisation. I don’t know about anyone else, but I constantly find myself spellbound
by the technical wizardry of these people. I wouldn’t claim to understand the ins and outs of what they have done here, but I gather that the Colour Recovery Working Group’s software detects traces of colour within the old 16mm monochrome film and amplifies it. It’s utterly mind-boggling stuff; or, as 2 Entertain’s commissioning editor Dan Hall so succintly puts it, “black magic”.
Before we all get too excited though, Hall makes it explicitly clear in this feature that these processes are so expensive that he doubts they will ever be able to afford to recolourise a whole Doctor Who serial or even a brace of episodes, which may mean that the black and white episodes of The Ambassadors of Death and The Mind of Evil will remain that way
for the foreseeable future. Here’s hoping that these stories are pushed to the back-end of
the release schedule then, on the off-chance that the process gets cheaper in the interim...
Above: Dalekmania at its height: the Daleks are "Stripped For Action"!
The release also includes a number of other noteworthy special features, the most enjoyable of which being a particularly interesting edition of Stripped For Action that focuses on the comic strip appearances of the Daleks in TV Century 21 at the height of the 1960s’ ‘Dalek-mania’. Fair dues, this featurette would have been much more at home on The Chase DVD, (whenever that might appear) but I’m certainly not going to complain about its early arrival.
Arguably just as significant as the Doctor’s adventures in the medium (if not more so), the Daleks pop-art adventures are spoken of very highly indeed by the likes of Gerry Anderson, Alan Barnes, Jeremy Bentham, Paul Scoones and especially Clayton Hickman, who really waxes lyrical about the timeless splendour of these strips. This fifteen-minute feature leaves very few stones unturned as ‘Whitaker’s World of Daleks’ is put under the microscope, but
for obvious reasons Altered Vistas couldn’t be given a much-deserved mention. Pity.
Above: Actress Jane How in "The Rumble In The Jungle" documentary
Meanwhile, The Rumble in the Jungle takes a colourful look back at the making of Planet
of the Daleks. Visually this featurette is very striking indeed, as rather than blue-screen in
still backgrounds behind the contributors, here the Restoration Team go so far as to include the odd squadron of Daleks slowly lulling about instead. And in terms of content, as is often the case the commentary’s most interesting anecdotes and titbits are rehearsed here, but sadly Terrance Dicks’ hilarious story from the commentary (about how he “forgot” to ask Terry Nation for permission to use the Daleks in the previous season’s Day of the Daleks, and as such found himself beholden to him whenever he came to commission any Dalek scripts thereafter), is not included.
The release’s most substantial special feature is the thirty-minute Perfect Scenario: The End of Dreams, which picks up from where it left off on the second disc of the Frontier in Space DVD. Regrettably I was not any more impressed with the second instalment of this downright bizarre pseudo-drama than I was the first; if anything, I was even more horrified,
as scenariosmith Zed’s reaction to watching Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks back to back is to euthanise all of his ‘sleepers’. I’ll try not to read too much into that…
The final disc of the Dalek War box set is then rounded up with
a lengthy but nonetheless amusing Blue Peter clip (that I would
swear has shown up on a previous release) which appeals for
anyone who knows anything about two stolen Daleks to come
forward. I know who my money is on (see picture, above).
Turning to Planet of the Daleks itself, my first experience of
the story was by way of Terrance Dicks’ wonderful Target
novelisation, which I picked up during a visit to Longleat in
the early-1990s for something like 49p. In those days, I had
no understanding of Doctor Who’s chronology, and I couldn’t
quite work out whether the Doctor had just regenerated or
what exactly had gone on in the preceding story but, even so,
something about the book just hooked me. To me, Planet of
the Daleks was the single greatest Doctor Who story ever,
and I must have read that battered old paperback five or six
times before I finally got to see the televised serial at about
two o’clock on the morning on UK Gold a year or two later.
Above: UK Gold - a logo burned into my brain thanks to endless 1990s repeats of Doctor Who
Many consider Planet of the Daleks to be ‘The Daleks’ Greatest Hits’, which with hindsight might explain my veneration of it when I first flicked through those dusty, yellow pages. If the truth be told though, ‘The Daleks’ Greatest Hits’ is probably far too kind a moniker for a story that unashamedly plagiarises almost every Dalek serial that had come before it. Had it been any writer other than Terry Nation submitting this script, then I am sure that questions would have been raised about some of the recycled ideas employed here: carnivorous vegetation? Invisible beings? The Doctor allying himself with the Thals? It certainly gives one pause.
That said, Planet of the Daleks does introduce at least one new and terrifying concept – invisible Daleks. Can you imagine a more deadly enemy? The first episode’s cliffhanger is particularly memorable, as the Thals hand the Doctor a can of spray-paint and instruct him
to spray directly ahead of him. He does as they instruct, only to reveal the outline of a Dalek!
And if you can forgive the blatantly derivative elements, there is a hell of a lot to like about
the story. Jon Pertwee’s Doctor is imposing throughout, a man of action and conscience in equal measure. His pep talk to Codal about courage is a lovely little scene, as is his speech to Taron at the end about not glorifying war. In fact, I’d say its some of Terry Nation’s finest dialogue outside Genesis of the Daleks.
Katy Manning enjoys a good outing too. Jo really carries much of the narrative on her own, especially in the first episode when the Doctor is incapacitated. Her gentle romance with Latep is also very nicely done, serving as a wonderful lead-in to the character’s final serial, The Green Death, where she runs off with a hirsute Welshman.
Ultimately, I think that my disillusionment with the televised serial is down to me having an unrealistic idea of how it should have looked, and so when it turned out to be a wholly studio-bound CSO-fest featuring a decidedly-odd looking Dalek Supreme (cannibalised from one of the old Peter Cushing Dalek movies) and a very unconvincing Dalek army, as one would expect I was disappointed. My disenchantment has now been buoyed slightly thanks to the recolourisation of Episode 3, but even so I don’t think that Planet of the Daleks lives up to the promise that it always had it my mind’s eye… nor could it.
Overall, Planet of the Daleks is a good story that has a lot of merit - particularly so if you are not familiar with the earlier 1960s Dalek serials – and the Restoration Team have done an absolutely outstanding job in restoring it to its former glory for this release. And so when complemented by a (mostly) wonderful array of special features and paired with the terrific Frontier in Space, you are really going to have to look hard for an excuse not to shell out for this Dalek War DVD set.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008, 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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