Doctor Who #51: Flashpoint

"One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 6 of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. First aired Dec.26 1964.

IN THIS ONE... The Daleks blow themselves up with a little helps from our heroes, and the Doctor leaves Susan behind to marry David. Yep, we lose our first companion.

REVIEW: As in the previous episode, all things Ian are sluggish and complete nonsense. Nothing against Ian himself, of course, but I have trouble buying into his pulling at random wires inside the capsule until it stops and frees him. Or the way he stops the bomb by blocking it with thin tree trunks. It just never looks right (I'm not even going to mention the tiny Ian figure sliding down the model). Worse is that the Daleks take their time shooting him, or take forever burning through a simple rope. The tension is just sapped right out of these scenes. Thankfully, there's very little else to dislike in the final episode of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and lots to love.

Barbara is once again a real winner. Having gotten into the Dalek control room on the pretense of knowing the Resistance's plans, she spins out a wonderfully tall tale culled from every part of human history, from the Tea Party to Hannibal's elephants and more. Her plan to give the Robomen a command through the Daleks' console takes a lot of guts, and it's nice that though it fails on the first attempt, she does manage to put it into action eventually. Her gal Friday, Jenny, does ok for herself, but is quickly forgotten as she doesn't board the TARDIS after all, and Susan pulls focus (and rightly so). But I'm getting ahead of myself - we still need to defeat the Daleks here! And they do, en masse. First the Doctor sends Susan and David on an errand to disrupt their static energy broadcast system in what looks like just a way to keep them out of trouble (it's cute that he teases them about not picking daisies on the way there), but the ploy manages to overheat the Daleks and immobilize them. We're then given shots of body surfing Daleks as humanity takes advantage of the moment. It's positively gleeful. And then the base blows up instead of Earth and the volcanic eruption destroys all the saucers. An epic finish, but one that's hardly believable, I'm afraid, in no small part because we don't SEE a single saucer go up in the blast (not even in enhanced effects). They left their positions all over Earth and came to that spot? And all the Daleks were aboard? No even one straggling patrol left on a street in, say, India (which the Daleks are masters of)? Something tells me humanity isn't done with their tin-plated overlords no matter what we're told.

The return to London is also a return to some kind of normalcy as Big Ben chimes for the first time in who knows how long. And against that bittersweet ending, a companion will leave the show for the first time... This is where the show ceases to be about those four specific people and accepts its destiny as a show that could be sustained indefinitely (so long as we have the actor playing the Doctor... right?!). Susan's departure is thankfully very special (it was even broadcast the day after Christmas!). There are wonderful little moments like Ian being oblivious to Susan and David needing some time alone and Barbara having to pull him out of a conversation, and there's something quite touching about the Doctor clutching Susan's damaged shoe. David asks her to marry him with his back to the camera, not facing Susan either. He's afraid of being rejected, embarrassed and unsure of how to deal with feeling forbidden so long as there were Daleks to fight, and the lump in his throat when he murmurs "He knew" after the Doctor leaves Susan behind. And it's not just the Doctor, it's Ian and Barbara too, standing there as if they'd talked it over and decided it was the best thing for their adopted daughter. They're making decisions as a family. After that wonderful speech (quoted above), the Doctor dematerializes the TARDIS quickly before he can change his mind and though we might imagine Susan living happily ever after, it's on a note of sadness that we leave her, on a shot of the TARDIS key she throws to the ground. Even Francis Chagrin's almost inexcusably over the top dirge can't ruin this series of affecting moments. I felt myself welling up and everything.

THEORIES: So... DID HE EVER COME BACK FOR HER?! After all, no matter what was "good for her" at this point in her life, if she's a Time Lord, it's gonna be a heck of a long one after David dies from old age and she still looks like a 20-year-old. Canon doesn't say, though a couple extracanonical stories do. The 7th Doctor returns to pick up the dropped key, but doesn't see Susan, in GodEngine. The 8th Doctor returns to this time - or a few years later - in Legacy of the Daleks and sees Susan. And then again 20 years after the Invasion, in An Earthly Child, in which Susan is married to David and has a son by him (she remembers The Five Doctors but not Legacy of the Daleks... but surely, she didn't age that quickly? Except there IS evidence that Time Ladies can control their regenerations much better than Lords, so she might age her appearance for David's sake). In the canon, Susan reappears in The Five Doctors and doesn't seem distressed that she was left on a ravaged Earth and that he never came back for her. So either he did pop in at some point, or 20 years isn't very much time at all for a Time Lord.

Of course, that's IF Susan is a Time Lord. Haven't really found time to discuss, but I guess I won't get another chance. There is a theory among certain fans that Susan wasn't a Time Lord at all, but rather a human-ish girl adopted by the Doctor on his early travels. It would explain why there's never any mention of her parents or the Doctor's children (except obliquely and much later), or why the Doctor would think it was a good idea to leave an immortal with a mortal man (i.e. she isn't), why she has a human name, and any other discrepancy with Time Lord lore as it will develop. However, it's far from water-tight. Susan and the Doctor always claim they come from the same world, and she is unnaturally brainy and psychic. If the Time Lords employed human-ish servants and workers or welcomed other races in their society (like Leela), maybe Susan could be from their stock. It might be a fair compromise.

VERSIONS: In the Target novelization, the Black Dalek is bigger than the others. The cover features the Robomen and ships from the movie version (from lack of photo reference).

REWATCHABILITY: High - Even if there are a couple of dumb moments, the majority of the episode is quite good, veering to excellent in Susan's final moments on the show.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: High - Even the lull in episodes 4 and 5 isn't much of one, and the resonance between the Dalek invasion and the possibility of the Nazis winning World War II makes this Dalek serial more interesting, poignant and powerful than their first appearance. Ian's thread is the weak point, but Barbara and Susan's and particularly strong, not something I would have expected from writer Terry Nation.

7 comments:

Ramdal said...

Just want to say the conclusion of the 8th Doctor-Susan arc of audio plays devastated me.

LiamKav said...

I've only just listened to "An Earthly Child", so warn me if there is going to be a spoiler discussion, please!

That said, AEC states fairly clearly that Susan is a Time Lord. From what I understand, the Virgin novels implied quite strongly the opposite. I suppose one of the twists in the audios could be that she isn't actually a Time Lord after all, but as it stands the two extra-canon strands don't go together. (In Doctor Who? Heaven forbid!)

Siskoid said...

Sorry Liam, I didn't think it was much of a spoiler. And yeah, even the two 8th Doctor stories mentioned contradict each other.

Jeff R. said...

I'm still going to hold that Susan makes loads more sense than the Doctor's Mom as the Dissident in The End of Time, Word of God-regardless.

LiamKav said...

Oh, I didn't meant the post was a spoiler. Just wanted to stop things before we got to "yeah, the bit where Alex turns into a giant Godzilla and then eats Susan is really sad."

Siskoid said...

I hate it when that happens.¸

Even if I do like Godzilla a heck of a lot.

Randal said...

Yeah, I wasn't going to say anymore, but since Liam went ahead and spoiled the whole turn into a lizard subplot, I guess we can talk about it freely.



Kidding.

 

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