Doctor Who #351: Planet of the Daleks Part 6

"Be careful how you tell that story, will you? Don't glamorise it. Don't make war sound like an exciting and thrilling game."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 12 1973.

IN THIS ONE... The Dalek army gets trapped by the ice, a gold Dalek isn't happy about it, and everyone escapes, even Latep.

REVIEW: The finale is written and directed with some measure of urgency, continuing the serial's matinée structure of danger-escape-danger, even if the Daleks themselves are sometimes as torpid as their frozen brethren. The toys used to represent the Dalek army work pretty well, though one particular close-up reveals just how off-model they are. It might even be acceptable, seeing as the gold Supreme Dalek is a refurbished movie Dalek with a flashlight eye and a double-decker saucer ship - why not a slightly different model for this long-iced army? Well, the Doctor gets to interact with some of the milling, waking Daleks and they're the usual kind, so...

Urgency, but where is it all heading? Somehow, I can't help but feel cheated by the end. I do appreciate that these Daleks are trying to run a lot of strategies hoping one of them sticks. They're using the Master to cause a distracting war between Earth and Draconia, they're researching invisibility, they're creating a plague, and they're waking a 10,000-mutant army. That's pretty cool. And yet, the first two aren't really relevant at all, and Dalek invisibility just acts as a cheap cliffhanger for episode 1. To make matters worse, while I wouldn't say the Doctor and the Thals don't have a role to play in at least delaying the Dalek army, the Daleks' real defeat comes at the hands of nature and the ridiculous icecanoe (Nation's word, not mine). "Molten ice"... you mean, water? Dudes. Everyone escapes, but the Daleks just say they'll start freeing their army again, so what's been gained? Second story in a row to end in a sort of anti-climax. And if the Daleks aren't defeated, only delayed, why did the Time Lords send the Doctor to Spiridon? Well, maybe the army isn't really a problem in the long term. The Doctor and Jo's actions do end up nipping a plague in the bud. No wait... why is the Supreme Dalek so sure he can de-ice his army if the previous episode showed fast-freeze kills Daleks?

Ok. Let's talk about Jo and Latep. I thought he was a goner for sure, but he lives to ask Jo to stay with him. She gets farther than Barbara did in The Daleks, but on far less chemistry/quality time. The Doctor seems pretty zen about letting her go, but that's probably because he knows there's nothing to it. I mean, she had a lot more going on with Peladon and didn't stay with HIM. But Jo, while a loyal assistant, may not be so willing a COMPANION. Most of her tenure has been spent on Earth, and in the epilogue, she's more than ready to go back. They've been away since the Doctor got use of his TARDIS back, and travel may just not be her thing. It's all very well to help people across space and time, but the next story will show us a Jo that's more interested in helping her own place and time. It's probably why she went into civil service (if we can call UNIT that) in the first place. The other unrequited crush, of course, is Codal's on the Doctor. A mancrush, surely, as on a father figure, though the new series would probably have gone for it. The Doctor did impart some nice wisdom to the Thals throughout the serial, in this case about not glorifying war. Nothing too enlightening, but good lessons for the kids nonetheless.

THEORIES: So which Daleks is the Doctor fighting here? I ask because they recognize him not only as "the Doctor", but also as "the greatest enemy of the Daleks". They certainly can't remember this version of the Doctor from Day of the Daleks, since that alternate future collapsed and never happened, but may at least have met multiple versions of the Doctor and have learned to spot him in any skin. My theory is that they're Daleks who escaped the destruction of their race "at the end of history" in The Evil of the Daleks. They had access to time travel. They're clearly rebuilding, going back to an army stored long ago on Spiridon (and uninfected by the Human Factor?). They are led not by an Emperor, but by a Supreme Council (made of several Supreme Daleks?). They're very much undermanned, subcontracting work to the Master and the Ogrons, running several projects at once, and flying around with minimal crews. Obviously, if Planet occurs in the 26th century, there should be other (pre-Evil) Daleks around, but at this point, Dalek time travelers may not be willing to risk interfering with their own history.

VERSIONS: I am unaware of any notable differences between the televized serial and Target novelization (it does coin the word "icecanoe"). However, because the third episode was only available in black and white, the omnibus version (such as shown on PBS) omitted Part 3 entirely(!).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Bit of an anti-climax across the board, but the episode is filled with color, danger, effects, action, and the Doctor's wise words.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - As a 10th Anniversary spectacular, its retro feel makes sense. It does mean it's essentially Terry Nation's Greatest Hits (not very original), and the retro-science is truly ludicrous, but as a cliffhanger-filled matinée serial, it keeps a brisk pace and doesn't let the viewer get bored.

3 comments:

snell said...

Master Siskoid: "They certainly can't remember this version of the Doctor from Day of the Daleks, since that alternate future collapsed and never happened."

Ogron Snell: "WE remember that version!"

Master Siskoid: "Well of course we remember sputter sputter"

snell said...

Sad but true: in my early days of Whodom, knowing this episode only via capsule summary, my big question was: "Icecanoe? The Daleks were defeated by a canoe made of ice? WTF?"

Siskoid said...

I have the same reaction every time I read the word. But then, I'm Canadian.

 

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