Doctor Who #46: World's End

"What you need is a jolly good smacked bottom!!"TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 1 of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, available on DVD. First aired Nov.21 1964.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands in 2164, in a bombed-out version of London. Susan and Barbara wind up with freedom fighters, while Ian and the Doctor are attacked by Robomen and... a Dalek.

REVIEW: Well, that's certainly a change of pace! Even before the TARDIS materializes, we see a Roboman commit suicide by throwing himself into the Thames. That's disturbing and harsh! But then, so it this dead, silent, and rusting London, echoing the Blitz only some 20 years before. What if the Germans had won, it seems to ask. Our only taste of humanity's future up til now has been The Sensorites, where we were traveling among the stars. This is much bleaker. The Earth under siege. Dirty Resistance members running to the underground like rats. Signs forbidding the use of the river for body disposal. And thanks to an as-yet unmatched amount of location shooting, we see a lot of that world - disused buildings, overgrown industrial parks, doors that give way to missing staircases (a nice bit, that).

And perhaps there's just too much of it. Though the running around is relatively well staged, using tense drum beats to cover the lack of sound, it sometimes feels like it goes on forever. Barbara running. Ian and the Doctor rummaging. Flying saucers patrolling. One look at the credits reveals director Richard Martin's name, which explains it. His episodes of The Daleks were similarly badly paced. And he's matched with writer Terry Nation again, and I thought for sure he was up to his old tricks when Susan sprained an ankle and Barbara was asked to cook for the Resistance. Because that's all girls are good for, right Mr. Nation? And they'd come such a long way, especially Barbara. But then when asked what SHE does, Susan fiercely answers "I eat" and I start to forgive Nation his trespasses. This may yet turn out well.characters,

What Nation does well here is create images. Nightmarish, bombed-out London. Immediately distinguishable Resistance members we hope to get to know better later - wheelchair-bound Dortmun, Tyler the gruff veteran, and young David as potential heartthrob. And of course, the Dalek coming out of the Thames, which stands as one of the most iconic images in all of Doctor Who (though I think I tend to remember the scene from the Peter Cushing movie). The Robomen, people turned into zombies by the Daleks, have clunky designs, but since when have the Daleks been interested in aesthetics? The clunkiness just makes them more disturbing, though they're only really scary in large numbers. Unless you've got a sprained ankle and can't briskly walk away from them, I suppose. The Dalek saucers, great big peanut butter cups, wobble around a model of the city. None of it is bad, but you don't want to stay on those shots too long (see Versions). But even though the world's worst prop tells us the date is ±2164, it might as well be 1964 from the costumes, sets, etc. Or even 1944. This is really where Doctor Who starts putting aliens outside our windows, among recognizable landmarks, running roughshod over our gardens and keying our cars. It's landmark television.

VERSIONS: The DVD's enhanced effects option repairs three key shots. The Battersea Power Station is no longer a still photograph, so the water's actually moving and you can better see its broken chimneys. And the two shots of the saucers now look like those we've become used to from the new series, with the big knobs on their undersides (they don't try to match the angles, sadly). The second Peter Cushing film, Daleks Invasion Earth: 2160 A.D., will get its own article at its proper chronological slot.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Though at times horribly paced, it's easy to overlook the flaws thanks to its strong visuals and sense of place.

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