Doctor Who #47: The Daleks


IN THIS ONE... The Daleks capture Ian and the Doctor and identify the latter as a good candidate for robotisation. Meanwhile, the girls and the Resistance mount a rescue and we learn just what the hell happened to Earth.

REVIEW: The success of this episode is one of scope. Through the WWII metaphor (Resistance vs. fascists, slave labor/death camps, even Lord Haw-Haw and his demoralizing radio broadcasts), we're taken back in time even though we're technically in the future, and for Who fans, Dalek history is also discussed (see Theories). And from London, the scope extends to the entire world through the stories told by the rebels of how the Daleks invaded Earth. They paint a picture of the Daleks that would survive to the new series: Daleks playing the long game, first sending meteorites and then a plague to weaken Earth and cause society to fracture, easily conquering small enclaves rather than a unified people. In person, Daleks seem like fanatical killers, but their tactics belie a much more duplicitous, manipulative mind. Daleks aren't subtle, but their ploys can be. While soulless, they aren't machines, so I love moments that show us the mutant behind the shell casing, like the fanatic's mad, trembling voice as he chants the Daleks are the masters of Earth, or how he just can't believe it when the Doctor puts up some verbal resistance. It's not easy giving these guys character bits to do, so each one is precious and fun.

The other clear winner is the no-nonsense Jenny (Ann Davies), a potentate companion that would definitely have contrasted with Susan had she come aboard, and not just because of the blond hair. She has absolutely no pity for Susan weak hams or general wetness, and almost hilariously callous when discussing the Doctor and Ian's chances of surviving Dalek capture. I like Vicki very much, but I can't help wondering how Jenny would have gruffly interacted with Nero, the Zarbi or King Richard. There's some attention given to the Susan-David relationship - he confides in her but not in Barbara, he's her sounding board among the Resistance - but hardly anything you would consider indicative of romance. Barbara isn't forgotten either, mostly playing mother to Susan, but also coming up with the plan to infiltrate the Dalek saucer using Roboman appliances. It's almost too obvious, but I guess the Resistance had other things on their minds. Still giving props to Dortmun here when he gets up from his wheelchair, leans against the table, and gives his crew a good pep talk.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Ian are stuck in probably the least interesting section of the episode, but they make the most of it. The saucer exterior, on the tarmac, is a big set, shot from above, and that looks good. Even better with the atmospheric smoke and lights during the Resistance's attack. The interiors aren't particularly interesting though. There's this naff magnet lock and key thing in their cell that makes more or less sense, but seeing them work it out is mildly enjoyable, if not exactly as "educational" as it wants to be. In his arrogance - and this is a major character trait of the first Doctor - his escape attempt turns into proof he is a good candidate for robotisation. Hartnell has a good number of fluffs, but a lot of his dialog is terrible anyway ("Don’t you realise, before you attempt to conquer the Earth, you will have to destroy all living matter!"). Ian is the cabbage head on this episode, asking the Doctor questions and rarely understanding what's happening. Putting the two scientists of the cast together isn't particularly beneficial to his character. As if to confirm it, the Doctor even laughs at Ian's "human" schooling.

THEORIES: Only the second Dalek story and already their history is causing headaches. The problem is mainly that our information comes from the Doctor himself. When he says things like "What we’re seeing now is about the middle history of the Daleks", it seems like he knows more about the Daleks than he's ever told his companions. It's one thing to say we're "before" or "after" the events of the previous Dalek story, it's another to somehow know this is the "middle". But when he says the other adventure took place "a million years in the future", it contradicts even THAT story's timeline, in which we were told the Daleks and Thals had fought a neutronic war "centuries ago", only AFTER WHICH the Daleks mutated to their current form (or as we'll discover in Genesis of the Daleks, simply replaced the Kaled race). The "million" is the kind of hyperbole you might say to mean "a long time", but not literally "a million years". So if the Doctor is generalizing or guessing about that, he might also be guessing about the "middle history" thing. The theory I subscribe to is the one where some static-dependent Daleks left Skaro to conquer other worlds, while others remained behind. The City Daleks from the first story are the latter and the ones with the satellite dishes on their backs are the former. If the energy receivers were developed in transit, the City Daleks need not have them (they really didn't need to go into the forest until the TARDIS and then the Thals showed up there). That allows the first story to take place in the future relative to The Dalek Invasion of Earth. It can be considered their "middle" history if Genesis is "early" and everything that excludes static electricity as their sole power source is "late".

Note also mention of the Moonbase, which will become the stage for a 2nd Doctor story called, unsurprisingly, The Moonbase. It takes place in 2070. According to the Resistance, there could still be people up there hundred years later, though of course, they might have been exterminated.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Playing out on a massive scale, this is turning into the most epic Doctor Who story yet and a model for much of what is to come.



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