Sunday, September 23, 2012

Doctor Who #306: Day of the Daleks Part 1

"Yes, that's a most good-humoured wine. A touch sardonic perhaps, but not cynical! Yes, a most civilised wine. One after my own heart."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Jan.1 1972.

IN THIS ONE... Assassins from the future jeopardize peace on Earth and it's the return of the Daleks to the series, in color!

REVIEW: Let's get it out of the way. The Daleks return after a hiatus of 4 seasons (half the show's existence) and now they're in color (though the Cushing movies beat the show out on making this remarkable). Thankfully, the episode doesn't wait for the cliffhanger to reveal them since they, after all, referenced in the title, showing up at the 13-minute mark. That gold Dalek boldly states IN COLOR, so it's a bit sad that its cohorts are a depressing dark gray. Worse perhaps is that the production has forgotten what the Daleks are meant to sound like and they're. made. to. speak. hal. ting. ly. like. this. I'm already annoyed. But they are used sparingly, nominally in charge in a future of their own making.

At this point, writer Louis Marks has built an intriguing mystery, not only with transitions between two worlds (not unlike what he did with Planet of Giants), but by creating several factions with unknown, but seemingly all destructive agendas. The soldiers attempting to kill peacemaker Sir Reginald are obviously rebel types, but they kill UNIT men willy-nilly. Are we to side with them? They in turn are being hunted by the Ogrons, rejects from the Planet of the Apes who work for fascist types who massage computer consoles in the future (fascists who are, in turn, subservient to the Daleks). So are the peace efforts in the present what causes the future dystopia? And perhaps more importantly, did James Cameron watch Doctor Who? But hard to see at this point how even present-day history will play itself out, what with World War III brewing and all. China seems to be the lynchpin, and it makes sense they would mistrust a U.N. peace conference after the events of The Mind of Evil. The rest of it isn't too realistic, with open conflict flaring all over the world simultaneously. This is a cartoon of a war, broadly sketched, and fought with bullet points.

The season opener also brings you back into the UNIT family, with character moments for each of its members. The Doctor gets Jo to spend the night in a haunted house, even if it seems like an excuse to raid the cupboard and enjoy fine wines and cheeses. Jo's heart of gold leads her to fix a lunch for Benton, who as always is the sympathetic butt of the show's jokes - Yates pulls rank and steals his cuppa. It makes Yates look like a real tosser, but also as if there's competition for Jo's attention. Fanfic writers, to your keyboards! I don't mind at all that one of the UNITeers is played as a bit of a jerk, it adds some spice (and class conflict?). The usual conflict between the Doctor and the Brigadier is toned down, however. The Brig just takes the insults with a smile, and the Doctor, by this time, can't really get a rise out of him. They're now playing the Brig as a lovable uncle who keeps his cool even when he hasn't had his cup of coffee yet. As for Paul Bernard's direction, it has a certain modernity thanks to the frequent use of dissolves between scenes instead of straight cuts, and achieves some cool effects, like the vortex under the bridge and the temporal duplicates of the Doctor and Jo.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The Daleks are far from the best thing about this episode. For me, it's all about the UNIT family and reetablishing their chemistry.


Mitchell Craig said...

I recently watched the Special Edition of "Day of the Daleks", which (among other things) re-dubs the Dalek voices, courtesy of Nicholas Briggs. It gives them back a key element of their old genocidal selves.
It's also fun watching the Doctor and the UNIT family interact.
Be seeing you.

Siskoid said...

Yep, I've got to watch that too. Expect a review under Versions in Part 4's review.