THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Keys of Marinus
The Plotters
BBC
The Chase

Episodes 6 The Daleks' second greatest threat... Morton Dill.
Story No# 16
Production Code R
Season 2
Dates Mar. 22, 1965 -
Jun. 26, 1965

With William Hartnell, William Russell,
Jacqueline Hill, Maureen O'Brien, Peter Purves.
Written by Terry Nation. Script-edited by Dennis Spooner.
Directed by Richard Martin. Produced by Verity Lambert.

Synopsis: The Daleks attempt to track down their greatest enemies with their newly developed time machine. The Doctor discovers this even as the Daleks arrive, initiating a chase through space and time.


Reviews

A Review by David Masters 26/5/97

The Chase is silly, but it’s fun. It over stretches the budget by a mile, but it doesn't really matter. It contains some of the hoariest cliches of all time, but its all the more fun with them on-board. Popular in its time, it has dated extremely badly, and now comes across as the campest of kitsch, but it has a soul which rescues it from similar fare (such as The Web Planet or The Ark) .

None of the aliens are particularly effective, Daleks aside. The Aridians, based on silverfish, are especially crummy - even by cheapo 1960's standards, the Mire Beasts are daft and the Mechanoids too cumbersome to be convincing. I can't bring myself to elaborate on the walking mushrooms of Mechanus, but they are really pathetic, worse even than the Optera.

Despite all of the above, and director Richard Martin's total inability to cope with the budget restrictions, there is something about this story which works. It has a zeal, a soul, so lacking in other stories. One of the major criticisms of this story is that it lacks a real point. Why are the Daleks chasing the Doctor as their chief enemy after only two encounters? Because everyone at home knows that they are the arch-enemies, obviously. What other reason should they need?


A Review by Oliver Thornton 11/5/98

This has to be one of the silliest Doctor Who stories ever made! From beginning to end, it's a hilarious concoction of nonsense, which actually makes it extremely good fun to watch (rather than those that are full of nonsense but want to be taken seriously -- they are just dreadful).

The soundtrack is the most confusing thing. For the first three or four episodes, it's nearly all played on a jazzy kind of piano. It's as if this is intended to be a silent movies style chase rather than a science fiction one. The various stops on the chase were all written for laughs, I'm sure, and the episode in the haunted house (and the Doctor's conclusion as to where they are) is daft in the extreme.

When Ian and Barbara go home at the end, in the Daleks' time machine, it's the most (only?) touching moment of the whole story. The Doctor seems still to be new to the idea of saying goodbye to his companions, and says that he really will miss them. Ian and Barbara's return is also quite touching, in a fun way, as they re-explore London, and mess about in (real) Police Boxes.

My favourite bit has to be the battle between the Daleks and the Mechanoids, simply because I enjoy robots and explosions a great deal. True, the Mechanoids are a bit cumbersome, but they blow up just the same, and they manage to destroy a few daleks as well. Just one thing -- whatever you do, don't try to take this story seriously!


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 15/12/98

It was only a matter of time before the Daleks came to be seen as comical and providing cheap laughs. So it comes as no surprise that The Chase plays on this and to great comic effect. Here we have the stupid Dalek ("er... um... er..."), the Dalek that can`t play hide and seek( it can be seen in Frankenstein`s Lab-in the haunted house episode), and several other variations too numerous to mention.

In Doctor Who terms, The Chase is in the same vein as The Keys Of Marinus, using various locations as plot devices. The plot is wafer thin, and only the four regulars manage to salvage the tale. The Mechanoids are unremarkable, being both too dull and ungainly to pose any threat. The story is overlong by at least two episodes: too much time was spent on Aridius, and the haunted house episode was pointless.

The third episode has some saving graces, notably on the Marie Celeste and the American tourist`s reactions to the Daleks. Speaking of which, Peter Purves' Morton Dill is terrible when compared to his portrayal of Steven Taylor, who gets a believable introduction. Another disappointing factor was the Doctor`s double. If the Daleks think they look alike, they should get their eye-stalks checked.

On the plus side, the departure of Barbara and Ian was handled nicely, being underplayed by Hill and Russell, whilst William Hartnell`s sadness at seeing them leave was genuine. Overall, The Chase is unremarkable and best remembered for it`s comic misuse of the Daleks.


Fun On The Run by Christopher Fare 7/1/99

I, like many other people, highly enjoy this story for no apparent reason. I don't see why I should enjoy it -- at heart, it's six episodes designed to feature the enormously popular Daleks with the very slim plot coming in second.

It's immediately obvious director Richard Martin didn't enjoy working on Doctor Who. The direction is pedestrian at best, and features a huge quantity of technical errors (cameras cruising through the background, a poorly concealed Dalek, unexplained shadows etc.). The depiction of the Daleks in this story also leaves much to be desired.

From wobbling over sand dunes on Aridius, to the stupid Dalek in the time machine, to the amazingly inaccurate robot Doctor (and the hysterical cuts to close ups of William Hartnell), the Doctor's arch enemies do not come off well.

The whole thing is really held together by the regular team of the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki. William Hartnell was at his best when there was comedic content in the dialogue, and he does very well here. Likewise, Maureen O'Brien's Vicki is also well handled here -- the highlight undoubtedly being her bravery in stowing away on the Dalek time machine when the TARDIS unwittingly dematerializes without her, and her mistrust of who is the real Doctor on Mechanus. But the real plaudits must go to the departing William Russell and Jacqueline Hill. Still being resolutely staid and unruffled in the presence of danger, the viewer shares the Doctor's sadness at their somewhat abrupt but understandable exit.

There is something in this story that makes it near impossible not to like it. My theory is that The Chase is the only Hartnell-era scientific story not to take itself entirely seriously. The humourous content of this story is what saves it: Ian's "Don't just stand there, you little fool, run!" followed by Vicki's riposte "Well don't just stand there gawping, you nit!" is a wonderful demolition of the 'screaming companion' cliché; the plan to outwit the Dalek guard with "Yoo hoo, Auntie!"; Morton Dill yelling into the Dalek's plunger his response to its question; and the unintentionally hysterical realization of the haunted house.

That said, the abrupt change in tone for the final two episodes on Mechanus does seem appropriate. The Mechanoids are a nice concept, although not too well realized on screen; and Steven Taylor is given a fuller background than usual for incoming companions, with a great performance from Peter Purves. All in all, despite its limitations, this fine story has something for everyone to enjoy.


Writers on Holiday by Peter Niemeyer 8/7/01

Yes, I must agree. The Chase is rather an unforgivable hodge-podge. The only thing saving this serial from becoming completely forgotten are the large number of historically unusual moments. But first, the dross.

I didn't mind The Chase so much for the return of the Daleks. They had been used well in the first half of The Daleks and in all of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Dalekmania aside, they were deserving of a return appearance, and certainly more deserving that any of the other aliens we had seen up to this point (Voord, Sensorites, Animus, Zarbi, Menoptera, Optera, or Moroks). And I could even see the premise of a chase through eternity working.

What I minded was the sheer stupidity in the execution of the premise. It was if the presence of Daleks alone made the writers feel like their work was done. (This may have actually been the case.) In episode two, Vicki is clearly aware that the Daleks cannot destroy the TARDIS. Why then do the travelers leave the safety of the TARDIS at their various destinations? In episode three, Barbara is clearly cognizant of the fact that they have landed on Earth in 1966 (albeit America and not England). Why didn't she and Ian get off the TARDIS then? Why did the Daleks go to the trouble of making a robot duplicate of the Doctor and then arm him with nothing more deadly than a walking cane? And why create the robot at all?

The poorly executed premise was hindered further by the production values, which really hit an all-time low. We get a stuttering Dalek, a crew on the Marie Celeste who jump overboard for no reason (the Daleks never fired a shot), a Count Dracula robot who cannot lip sync to his own dialog, a robot double of the Doctor who makes me rethink the criticism poor Richard Hurndall received for his Five Doctors impression of William Hartnell... no wonder Ian and Barbara left at the end of this turkey.

Of course, the saving grace of the serial is the number of unusual moments. This serial includes the Daleks' first dabbling in time travel, the introduction of a new companion, and a cameo by the Beatles. The most poignant moment, undoubtedly, is Ian and Barbara's departure. It is well written with excellent character depth. It is one of the best companion departures ever written, in the same league emotionally as the departure of Jamie and Zoe in The War Games, Jo Grant in The Green Death, Sarah Jane Smith in The Hand of Fear, Adric in Earthshock, and Tegan in Resurrection of the Daleks. Ian and Barbara would also hold the record for longest running companions for four more years (until The Krotons, when Jamie breaks it). With their departure, the show surrenders all vestiges of its old premise.

If ever there was a First Doctor episode written for adults rather than kids, this is not it. (I'd say that honor belongs to The Crusade.) If ever there was a First Doctor episode written for kids rather than adults, this is it.

One Thing I'd Do Differently: Change the way the Mechanoids' voices were realized. I had a very difficult time understanding what they were saying, and it's hard to find something menacing when you constantly thinking 'Eh? What's that? Come again.'

One Thing I Wouldn't Touch: The Aridius sets, particularly the shot where Ian and Vicki run up the sand dune in episode one. This was one of the best alien sets ever, on par with Vortis.

Would I Watch This Serial Again: Yes, but only if I was watching the entire season. I doubt I'd ever watch this serial in isolation.


A bare plot and poor set pieces by Tim Roll-Pickering 18/10/01

The Chase is interesting because it shows the series' production team in the schizophrenic position of on the one hand producing yet another story with the Daleks and accepting how heavily dependent the series was upon them but at the same time trying to introduce a new race of monsters to potentially rival the Daleks. Unfortunately, as with the Zarbi in The Web Planet, the Mechanoids are handled so poorly that they fail to make much of an impact and never appeared in the series again (although they spawned a few merchandising items and made it into The Daleks comic strip in TV Century 21).

The story has one of the simplest plots of all - the Daleks have built their own time machine and are pursuing the TARDIS and its crew throughout time and space until they have all been exterminated whilst en route the Doctor constructs a device to try and stop them. It is as simple as that. This leads to a number of lacklustre encounters and episodes that get dragged out unnecessarily.

The opening episode The Executioners has the feel of a holiday atmosphere, as the TARDIS crew enjoy their latest toy - the Time Space Visualizer and then land on the desert planet Aridius to relax and explore. There's little sense of anything exciting going on in this episode at all until towards the end when the Doctor and Barbara see the Daleks on Skaro and realise they are in danger. The end of the episode has the by now traditional scene in which one or more of the regulars first see a Dalek in the metal but on this occasion it's pointless because they already know the Daleks are around. The second episode (which has the title The Death of Time but no clue as to why) is far faster but neither the Mire Beasts nor the Aridians are particularly spectacular creations, though it is good to see that not all background aliens are like humans. The Daleks themselves are poorly handled, with terrible scenes such as one where the leading Dalek comes out with a list of things to do, moves off and then turns back and screams 'Well, see to it!'

There's little improvement in the next episode Flight Through Eternity. The scene on the Empire State Building is plausible as a terrible wrong landing but the scene is poorly handled and Morton Dill's reaction to the Daleks shows how they have lost their power and presence. The Mary Celeste scene is little better, and although it's novel to see the series trying to explain a historical mystery the idea of everyone jumping overboard at the first sight of the Daleks is a little hard to swallow. Journey into Terror is one of the most bizarre episodes yet presented in the series and the Daleks are further reduced when human built funfair robots are able to smash them up so easily.

The final two episodes at least have a showdown but are similar to the first two in that the travellers have reached an alien world where they get caught up in the natives' city where the Daleks head to exterminate them. The idea of the Daleks producing a robot double of the Doctor raises the question of why they didn't try this at the outset and it's all too clear that this is a fake from the way the lines are clearly dubbed over, the unconvincing medium shots and the change in background for the close-ups featuring Hartnell. Indeed the title The Death of Doctor Who is virtually a metaphor for how terrible episodes like it could kill the show. The final episode, Planet of Decision introduces the Mechanoids. They are well designed, but their voices are terrible and unthreatening, whilst their weaponry does not appear as effective as the Daleks' even though the flame-thrower is highly impressive. The model of the city looks cheap and the interior sets clearly jar with it.

Steven is only gradually introduced in this episode and, like Vicki in The Rescue, gives away very little of his background. The main feature here is the departure of Ian and Barbara in the Daleks' time machine. The scenes when they arrive back in London are mixed with some good points such as their revisiting some of the locations from The Dalek Invasion of Earth but poor ones like their self-destructing the time machine in a garage. The Doctor is clearly moved by their departure and in several ways the series can never be the same again.

Although there are one or two good moments in The Chase it is an incredibly poor adventure with the barest of plots and some terrible set pieces. This is easily one of the weakest stories in the entire series. 1/10


A Review by Daniel Spelner 6/12/01

A slightly bizarre adventure this, which signalled the end of the first sub-era (an internal period within a Doctors incumbency). This six episode caper has the Doctor and company being chased through time by the Daleks, along the way they make landings in the most peculiar places. Nation is plainly having some fun with his creations, encouraged, no doubt, by script-editor Dennis Spooner. Each "stopping off point" takes up approximately an episode, so this keeps the story mobile and therefore fresh most of the journey. Richard Martin shows some imagination in his approach to the telling of the story. But most significant is the departure of Ian Chesterton ( William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill). Both did a praiseworthy job of their roles, providing a human dimension to the series which the viewers identified with. Hartnell said after they left, "Things were never quite the same again." An offbeat story that works fairly well.


Dr Who As Pantomime by Gerry Hume 15/7/02

This is Dr Who as pantomime. However, it's about as childishly unfunny as mosy pantomimes and a real wasted opportunity. I love the last episode which is a little classic on its own. At this point the writers and the production team seem to have decided to take things a bit more seriously and it shows how good the rest of the story could have been. The last episode has all the sense of danger which the best of the early Who had. I like the mechanoids as an invention with their computer program version of English and the well done battle sequence with the Daleks. What really tops the episode off is Ian and Barbara's departure scene which is beatifully handled from their obvious desire to see home again to the lovely photosnap style depiction of their return to Earth. It's just such a shame that the rest of the story couldn't have lived up to the quality of the last episode.

Although there are some amusing and entertaining scenes in the early episodes (the Beatles on the visualizer, the scene on the Empire State) the whole story could have been played out as an exciting life or death chase with an interesting subtheme about the morality of involving other life forms in their struggle for survival. Anyway, it wasn't to be, and what we got instead was a cheap story with cheap sets and cheap monsters, largely played for some minor laughs. It's the sort of story which gave Dr Who its 'cheap' tag. Sadly, it could have been an excellent story taken seriously. And please dont't call it postmodernist which a lot of people, who dont know what the word means, use as an excuse for rubbish. I think Ian and Barbara deserved a better exit than this. It could have been the struggle of all struggles to survive and get home.


The Aridian Wore Tennis Shoes by Jason Cook 16/3/03

I'll begin by saying I love this story. It just gets more fun to me every time I see it. I love the piano ditty that plays at the outset of each episode, along with the TARDIS and/or Dalek ship floating around choppily through space. I like the view of life aboard the TARDIS we get here, as Vicki inadvertently annoys everyone else. And the "Monsters From Outer Space" book is a nice touch.

At this point in the series' history William Hartnell and William Russell really have their banter down pat; their timing is terrific. In fact all four regulars make the dialogue sound natural, almost effortless. Vicki's quick references to her past (and Ian and Barbara's future) are much welcomed here, as in other stories (her bit in The Web Planet about her schooling is one of the few bright moments of that abysmal serial). Those behind the scenes learned from their earlier mistakes by allowing Vicki, unlike Susan, to have a background.

This has got to be the worst-depicted Abraham Lincoln to ever appear in any TV series or movie; he sounds like John Wayne on Prozac! The Lincoln bit definitely makes the episode drag. The Shakespeare scene is more amusing -- I like seeing him referred to spitefully as a "scribbler." Vicki's very excited about tuning in to see the Beatles considering she's never heard their music before. I've read criticism of Ian knowing the words to "Ticket To Ride" even though it was released after he left Earth, but you'll notice that the camera doesn't cut to his lip-synch until the third repetition of "She's got a ticket to ride..." so there's really no fortunetelling or continuity goof going on there.

The Doctor really should have done more singing, as it prompts a pretty humorous exchange between him and Barbara. "Charm the nightingales out of the trees..." And speaking of singing, the Daleks get to entertain us with their brilliant rendition of "TARDIS, TARDIS, TARDIS, TARDIS!!!" Barbara really didn't have to clarify that word to the Doctor though, did she? Meanwhile the Ian and Vicki scenes in the desert could have been trimmed down by at least 30 seconds each, and that's not counting Vicki's completely irrelevant "ring in the sand" story. It just seems like something for them to do while we see the sky getting dark. Then we get a great shot of the Mire Muppet (I half-expected it to throw open a door and say, "Thirty seconds to curtain, Miss O'Brien!"), backed with supposedly sinister music.

I do like the idea of the planet having wildly contrasting weather patterns due to the twin suns. And I can't help but laugh as the Dalek rises from the sand and looks up, as if even it can't believe where it's coming from.

Luckily the Aridians' rather dry and unremittingly slow performances are in only episode two. Where did they get the casual Earth footwear? When they're explaining how the seas dried up, I want to yell at them to cut to the chase (no pun intended). And before the planet was turned to desert, do you think they called it Aquarius?

The Doctor seems outraged at the instincts of the mindless Mire Beasts when already he's seen a lot worse elsewhere in the Universe. "You mean they attack humans? Good gracious!" Not to harp, but am I betraying violent tendencies by saying I'd like to see Barbara slap the Aridians silly when they won't tell her where the airlock is so she can save Ian and Vicki? And what's with cutting everyone's heads off in the shot where they get to the airlock? In the same scene Barbara stands off to the side, in a trance, staring in the opposite direction for an unsettlingly long time.

I always love seeing Ian being proactive, and his "Operation Cardigan Drop" is really too simple to work but in this Dalek self-parody it does. And it's always fun to see Hartnell's Doctor enjoying himself when we actually know what he's chuckling about... The only complaint I have about this scene is the switch from night to day a la Plan 9 From Outer Space.

It's hilarious watching the extras in the Empire State Building sequence: the big guy in the glasses who shoves the pretty brunette out of his way, the old lady tourist getting her purse or camera strap caught on her hat, the young guy in the T-shirt who looks utterly bewildered to be there. All this is prelude to the performance of the man of the hour, Morton Dill. Peter Purves takes full comedic advantage of every single second of this appearance. He grins widely as the unconvincing tour guide speaks; tries in vain to approach the brunette; does a double take at the sight of Vicki and then removes his hat in a great show of backwoods chivalry. I love how all the crew members except the Doctor are amused by good ol' Morton Dill; at one point Vicki cocks her head to the side like she's watching a puppy she'd like to take home with her! There's also an excellent bit of business as Dill slaps the Doctor on the shoulder and he turns around with a pained expression on his face. The Doctor tries so hard to figure out how to shake this guy; I think we've all been there before. Oh, and "They... just... left!" completes the transformation of the Daleks from menace to joke.

The entire Mary Celeste scene (isn't it really spelled Marie?) is quite good; for once it's Barbara's curiosity that nearly does them in, not the Doctor's. Apart from Ian being conked on the head, this sequence is strangely dramatic coming right after the Dalek send-up, especially that shot with the woman jumping off the side of the ship with her infant in her arms. And would a Dalek really scream like that?

The "journey into terror" reminds me of all those faux-spooky Scooby Doo haunted houses, or those old Monkees episodes where the band members have to stay in the house all night to collect an inheritance. What's funny about all this is that Ian and the other companions know how ridiculous it is to be scared of the place, but can't help but shudder and get creeped out anyway. Then the Doctor runs off before Ian as soon as Frankenstein's Monster arrives on the scene! Barbara tries to argue Count Dracula out of being Count Dracula. And actually that wailing banshee makes me jump a bit the first time I see her. I love how the Doctor explains it all away as being a "world of dreams," an "area of human thought," anticipating themes from The Mind Robber. Ian and the Doctor conclude that the Daleks can never land there, and the Doctor nearly does a happy little jig on his way down the creaky stairs. Too bad he didn't just take the robotic Frankenstein's Monster with him in the TARDIS -- it could have simply beat the hell out of the whole Dalek fleet!

Interesting to see Vicki accidentally left behind, and her adventures stowing away aboard the Dalek ship. It's an oddly triumphant moment when Ian proposes capturing the Dalek time machine and the Doctor agrees -- if The Chase were a musical, they'd have sung a chorus of "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" from the South Park movie!

The robot Doctor sounds precisely like William Hartnell but looks nothing like him (in some shots, that is). Funny, that. Perhaps all humanoids look exactly the same to the Daleks?

The look on Ian's face when he finds out the Daleks have Barbara, coupled with Barbara's own expression of joy when she hears Ian's voice, point to a strong affection between them -- certainly more genuine than their initial reactions to Vicki's disappearance.

The stagy Hartnell-and-Hartnell tennis match is fun -- "Prove yourself." "I don't have to." "Why, you..." Ian nearly causes the flippin' death of Doctor Who before Barbara realizes which Doctor is real and which is fake! And I know the Mechanoids were big and bulky, and difficult to use in production, but I find myself wishing they'd returned to Who at some point. Or perhaps they did in a Virgin or BBC book? In their scenes it sounds like they keep saying, "Brat."

Peter Purves offers a complete turnaround from larger-than-life caricature Morton Dill to realistic characterization Steven Taylor. It's not hard to imagine that Steven has actually been on Mechanus for two years. And it's strangely poignant that he's only had his "mascot" Hi Fi and his Mechanoid captors for company. "Help yourself to a piece of eternity" is my favorite line of the entire story. But Steven, leave that stupid stuffed animal behind! The building is on fire and you've got living humanoids as company now! This move really undermines his character in this episode, though his sentimental attachment to Hi Fi would seem a lot more endearing if not for the very real danger he and the others are facing. Linus would never have gone into the burning building to save his security blanket if Sally was about to fall off the roof. But this does lead to the hilarious moment where Ian grabs Barbara by the back of her drawers to keep her from falling, revealing her underwear in the process. (Was that scripted?)

The Dalek-Mechanoid battle is fantastic fun to watch, though if it went on much longer it would become monotonous. "THE OP-ER-A-TION WILL PRO-CEED AT ONCE." "Defend. Brat." Great conversationalists, both sides.

"Ian, do you realize... we could get home?" One final argument scene between the Doctor, Ian, and Barbara, probably the best-acted (and written) of them all. And Vicki makes a good peacemaker here. One of the truly definitive Hartnell-era scenes. Vicki watches them on the visualizer and begins to rejoice, then gradually realizes the Doctor's quiet sadness. "I shall miss them. Yes, I shall miss them. Silly old fusspots." Love the expression on Hartnell's face here; so sad, yet so caring. And I'm sure Ian and Barbara got married no more than a month after the destruction of the Dalek time machine.

FINAL ANSWER: The Chase has a little something for all sorts of tastes -- comedy, tragedy, farce, adventure, horror, even the slightest hint of romance between Ian and Barbara. The Aridian scenes, the Abe Lincoln sequence, and too much Dalek dialogue wear the serial down a bit, but it's always been one of my favorites, and is certainly worthy of accolades.


Six episodes of pure crap... but don't you just love it? by Joe Ford 12/6/03

I'll be honest, I have got a stinking cold and it has really got me down today. You know what its like being stuck at home with nothing to do, books giving you a headache, audios requiring too much work... I just needed something that would raise a smile and lift my spirits. And The Chase fits the bill perfectly.

This is junk Doctor Who in every way, I cannot think of a single story that makes as many mistakes as this one and still tries to struggle on regardless. Nearly every area of the production can be hacked to pieces and yet somehow its complete inability to admit defeat is what makes it so damn watchable! I can still remember the day me and my bestest friend Hazel watched all six episodes on a gloomy evening over a bottle of wine and we had such a laugh. Honestly there were points where we had to stop the tape it was so funny. And in a way only Doctor Who manages we spent the next five years quoting and bringing up those hysterical moments everytime we were feeling down. For me and Hazel, The Chase represents that warm evening together and I can't think of higher praise.

Okay where do I start? I should say all the bits that really tickle the tummy such as... the thicko Dalek who goes "Um... err... eeek... umm..." when asked a question or the Dalek who is behind the door in the haunted house despite the fact they haven't arrived yet. Or I could call attention to Barbara's laughably inept "Raise attack forces and pick them up one by one! Phwar! Pwar! Pwar!" with her silly light gun! Or even better the Daleks who sing their TARDIS song (It goes something like "TARDIS! TARDIS! TARDIS! TARDIS!"). What about the bit where the Aridians wipe a bit of sand off the bottom of the TARDIS and the Dalek has the nerve to suggest they have just finished digging! Or the shadows of Ian and Vicki on the backdrops! Or the bollock-inspired Mire Beasts! And the outstanding kaleidoscope effects of the TARDIS being pursued by the DARDIS (hee hee!). Hartnell's wonderful fluff "Cinders floating around in Spain!" and the fact that the Robot double looks nothing like the Doctor in long shots but identical in close ups!!! Oh the joy this story brings me...

Richard Martin was always brought in to direct the blockbuster and that is the biggest puzzlement of all. Why? He is possibly the worst director in the history of the programme! He has no restraint, no sense of style, half the time it is as though he just shoots any old scene for the hell of it! He ruined Dalek Invasion of Earth with his flat direction and completely sabotaged any respect due to The Web Planet and with his final story of season two he displays yet more of his lacklustre style. Just watch as the scenes on Aridius go from day to night in the blink of an eye! Or how the Dalek gets up to the second level on the Mary Celeste. And his blatant exposure of such diabolical designs such as the Mire Beats and the Fungoids. This is not the work of a talented director but one who is bored and cannot be bothered.

I would have loved to have seen the faces of the regulars as they read the script. William Russell must have died when he realised he had to shout out "Ooh-ooh Dalek!" and do that crazy hand shake dance at the Beatles' Ticket to Ride. Jackie Hill must have been mortified to discover how she was going to be swallowed up by a wall in the haunted house and had her pants exposed in the last episode. Maureen O'Brien must've wondered why she was always grabbing her head as though it was about to fall off, why she was such a whiner throughout and had stupid lines like "I am a useless person!" and "Watch out or you'll be killed!" to a damn obvious android (or robot!). And poor Billy Hartnell must have thrown the script in the air with disgust when he saw he had to shout out "Ooh-ooh Archie!" and "Neither tame... time... or space, we were trapped in a period of human thought!" and "You are idiots! Absolute idiots!" ...it makes me chuckle just writing about it.

And yet somehow.... somehow they manage to make it work. Despite the absurd situations they are put through, ignoring the crappy FX works (those bats on the strings! The model boat! The toy mechanoids roaming through the model city!) they all manage to give highly enjoyable performances. Never before has that 'family' feel felt so real especially with the heart-wrenching ending where they split up for good. It is almost as if the writers wanted Ian and Barbara to go out not on a gripping adventure but one last final romp with lots for everyone to do. I have to admit the last ten minutes of this story really brings a lump to the throat as we finally leave our two friends behind. It's odd how comforting their presence in the TARDIS really was. Nothing would ever be the same again...

But back to the fun and what about a quick mention of Peter Purves' American sightseer! Who could forget it as he takes one look at the Daleks and bursts into laughter! And then he grabs the sink plunger and shouts into it "They just left!" Oh dear oh dear... I love it when he spots Vicki and says "1966!"

It's all such unadulterated rubbish you can't fail to love it. Simon watched this with me today and he was chuckling to himself quietly (he realises now how upset I get when he takes the piss and tries to keep it quiet) but in this case I had no objections... in fact this may be the one story where the fan laughs more than the non-fan. After all it's nothing but a total comedy, isn't it? Albeit with some 'dramatic' trappings.

So I come not to condemn this delightful story but to praise it. It's odd you know, recent re-watchings of stories I have always considered to be rubbish (Paradise Towers, Time and the Rani, Claws of Axos) have proved to be positive triumphs in my wizened years and yet stories that have long been considered classics (Tomb of the Cybermen, The Happiness Patrol, The Sea Devils) have come up comparatively short. Odd that...

Goofs and fluffs galore, this really made me see how stupid I was to sit around moping whilst I was ill and got me back on my computer do what I like to do best. Writing reviews! So hurrah to The Chase, another underrated anti-classic.


A Review by Brian May 6/12/03

I'm not really sure what to make of The Chase. Watching it in one go, it can be an extremely long, tedious haul, made even more difficult by the lack of any real plot. The fact that the six individual episodes are for the most part self-contained adventures, or a series of vignettes, should work in the story's favour, but it doesn't - most of them are pretty dull and plodding. I don't even imagine viewing them once a week for six weeks, as originally intended, would make any improvement.

This is not to say that The Chase is dreadful. Well, almost. It's definitely a weak story. The great thing about Doctor Who is that it rarely takes itself too seriously. This story fails in the fact that it takes this light-heartedness to the extreme. It's way too flippant, almost high camp. The greatest offence is in the treatment of the Daleks. Their previous story, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, portrayed them as a foreboding, conquering race of Nazis. This representation of the Daleks, at the time, was the truest to Terry Nation's original vision of them. In The Chase, they are reduced to incompetent halfwits. We have the stammering subordinates, the bumbling morons; one on the Marie Celeste falls overboard very easily, and just about everyone ridicules or humiliates them, from Alabaman halfwit Morton Dill to the mechanised Frankenstein's monster. They also seem to have lost their ability to shoot straight - especially when the Doctor ventures out of the cave to meet them in episode five and hobbles back inside unscathed after we hear a volley of shots. There is only one moment which emphasises the Daleks' ruthlessness, and that's when they extort the Aridians into surrendering the Doctor and Barbara.

Even if The Dalek Invasion of Earth was too dark in its depiction of the aliens, and subsequently this was an attempt to lighten them up - there is a difference between presenting a lighter side and totally taking the mickey - the latter of which happens here. According to some fans and quite a few non-fans, it's difficult to take the Daleks seriously anyway - we don't need a story like this to exacerbate it!

Putting this matter aside, The Chase has other problems. As I mentioned before, there is no real plot, just a collection of set pieces under the umbrella concept of the Daleks chasing the Doctor and his crew through space and time. There is a long, slow introduction on the planet Aridius, which takes up the first two episodes. This is very dull, the Aridians themselves are boringly designed and rather blandly characterised, while the Mire Beast looks like it was made on Blue Peter. From episode three the chase begins proper, which just seems to be a repetitive sequence: TARDIS lands before the Daleks, TARDIS crew exit and have a look around, Daleks arrive, Daleks are ridiculed, TARDIS crew leaves. It ends when the Daleks come up against the Mechanoids - they destroy each other and the TARDIS crew slips away.

In the middle of all these there are some confusing and exasperating details. Vicki's separation from the crew in episode four is incredibly contrived (how they don't notice she isn't aboard the TARDIS is bewildering). The Daleks build a robot version of the Doctor that looks nothing like him; their amazed observation that "It is impossible to distinguish from the original" is hilarious. (I know the stories were recorded "as live" back then, but you'd think allowances would be made for instances like this.) In the TARDIS the Doctor builds a machine - its function is not specified, but he assures us it will defeat the Daleks. When he sets it off in episode six, all it seems to do is explode with a tiny bang and destroy one Dalek. (It could be argued that it started the fire in the Mechanoid city, but this is open to question, what with the battle going on outside.)

Then there are all the pointless mini-adventures in between. The Empire State building and the Marie Celeste are the worst parts - I actually don't mind some of the sequences in the haunted house (more on this later), whereas episode five seems to consist entirely of wandering around the swamp, while Vicki doesn't wise up to the fact that those ridiculous looking giant mushrooms aren't friendly, as they ineptly try to engulf her - and she lies there ineptly, looking pathetically helpless - about three times. Throughout the whole chase, the jaunty music doesn't help, nor do the scenes of the TARDIS and the Dalek time machine wobbling through space.

However, there are a few things I like in The Chase. They're not in the majority, but there are some memorable moments that prevent the tale from being a total travesty. Firstly, Arne Gordon as the Empire State Building tour guide. His Noo Yoik accent is great! This incidental character has some personality - I love that lascivious stare he gives the attractive young female tourist!

Episode four - even though there are some silly moments, much of the haunted house sequence is rather fun. The sets are quite atmospheric, and the scene when the ghostly image of the Grey Lady floats in front of Ian is quite spooky. In all honesty, until the true location is made clear, it is a bit perplexing as to what's really happening.

However, the best part of The Chase is episode six. This is a wonderful twenty-six and a half minutes! There is finally something happening after five episodes of plotless meandering. The introduction of Steven Taylor is handled well, with Peter Purves making a good impression (much better than that hick he played in part three!). The Mechanoids are not really effective in themselves, but their battle with the Daleks is terrific - stylish editing overcomes the constraints of the budget. The attempt to climb down the city wall has some edgy moments, although Steven is rather stupid to let go just to retrieve a stuffed toy!

But the finest moment of all is Ian and Barbara's departure. It is incredibly moving. From the Doctor's angry refusal - he's almost in denial - to his and Vicki's sombre exit from the Daleks' time machine, to the actual moments when Ian and Barbara are back in London. This is something special - the montage of still photographs enhances this and the whole sequence is touching. These two companions had become as much an institution as the Doctor himself in the early days of the show. Their leaving is a sad moment and is reflected accordingly.

As a whole, The Chase is not very good. The lack of any real plot and the flippant attitude taken towards the Daleks contributes to this. It's too tongue-in-cheek for its own good and is very slow, despite the varied locations. However, it has some wonderful individual moments - some of them quite special. It's not a complete disaster. 4/10


Clash of the Titans by David Massingham 9/2/04

In this review, I will attempt to answer the age-old question -- is The Chase better than a slap in the face? I think many of you may agree that this is no easy task, and the pros and the cons of each must be taken into full account.

First up, the slap. Well, it's quick, that's a plus. It certainly jolts you back to reality, as many screaming Doctor Who companions can attest to. On the flip side, it does sting a little; but that's life isn't it? You've got to take the good with the bad...

Which brings me to The Chase.

Actually, it surprised me to find that many of the reviews of this story here at the guide examine The Chase in a very forgiving light. I understand that this is a story that has had more than its share of criticism in the past, so perhaps the rather defensive tone taken in many of the reviews above are just trying to lay off an oft-flogged horse? That said, many fans seem to gain much pleasure from this season two entry, in a so-bad-it's-good, Plan 9 From Outer Space kinda way.

I wish I was there with you, guys. I wish I could look past the atrocious direction, the sheer dullness of it all, the inept and amateur scripts. Unfortunately, I can't. Oh, sure, I'll cackle at the odd silly Dalek, or chortle at that guy with the Peter Falk impression, but try as I might, the inherent badness wins out. That is why I'll begin with the negative aspects to this adventure -- they'll be easier to tackle.

I assume that Terry Nation's scripts were designed to be humourous... unfortunately, that's what makes them all the less funny. The horrible, hernia-inducing segments on the Empire State Building (not to mention the haunted house) fall flat on their face. To make things worse, these are the parts that are remembered from this serial -- Morton Dill making a fool of himself and the Doctor's greatest enemies is not something that I personally enjoy watching. I don't take it seriously, I try to open up to the "laughs"... it's just not there folks. These comedic scenes go on and on, rendering any potential laughs (of the laughing at, not with, variety) impotent. The scenes in the haunted house are terribly staged, with horrible rubber bats, shockingly bad lighting (it's a fun episode in which to play "spot the boom shadow"), even bad acting from our beloved regulars. For some reason there is a Dalek hanging about in the background of the laboratory before their Time Craft has even arrived... it's just feeble.

The dull opening episodes don't help affairs either. Aridius, although a nicely designed place, hosts a boring mini-adventure featuring wet guest characters, overly chatty Daleks, and an awful lot of padding. Time is wasted on confrontations with the Mire Beasts and shallow conversations with the Aridians. And the less said about Ian and Doctor's plan to trip the Dalek into a hole, the better.

I would be remiss if I didn't give a quick shout out to the "glimpses of history" scenes in the first episode (padding has never been so obvious), Steven Taylor's mascot, HiFi (I never thought I'd advocate a Tom Hanks movie, but Castaway tackled the imaginary friend thing much better), and the misguided Doctor-double, which even features a battle between the two Doctors.

I suppose I should probably note the things that The Chase has going for it.

Oddly enough, the one thing that I really enjoy about this story is that snappy, jazzed-up tune that features as the main theme here. Now, if the whole story had aimed for camp as the composer obviously did, then maybe I might have something better to say about it. Unfortunately, instead of coming off as camp, the six episodes that make up The Chase come across as an assortment of cliches and unoriginal ideas, executed so... bloody... slowly... that I cannot find it in my heart to laugh at it.

Actually, that isn't entirely fair. The final episode isn't a complete disaster, with the Dalek/Mechanoid battle looking like it took up two-thirds of the budget (aside from the cartoon explosions of course... dear god...). The plot does move a lot quicker by this point, but we still get horrible Dalek dialogue and that stupid panda, Hi-Fi. Steven comes across as a bit of a dolt, but thankfully this is mostly rectified in the far superior Time Meddler. And the final scene between the Doctor and Ian and Barbara is nicely done, even if I don't particularly like the "snap-shots of London" schtick that follows it. Well, I suppose I can understand why someone would laugh at that sequence.

Anyway, that's what I think of The Chase. Now, back to the real point of all this -- the Clash of the Titans! A slap versus season two's irrepressible champion -- who will win? Which will be relegated to the halls of shame to be gestured at in rude and unpleasant ways? Which will be able to hold its' head up high as say "I am better than that thing over there!"?

Well, the slap obviously wins. At least it's short and to the point, unlike the drawn-out pain that its competitor inflicts. The Chase, therefore, shuffles off to the dark recesses of Doctor Who's cloister room, to remain there as the subject of jibes and ridicule.

What's that? You find it hilariously camp and fun? Don't see it myself...

3.5 out of 10


Tone Alone by Andrew Wixon 9/5/04

The Chase and I go way back together. It was the second Hartnell story I saw, and the first I could repeatedly watch, courtesy of a very blurry copy of an Australian transmission I was lent by a well-connected someone from school. Since then it has nearly (and I have very much more than) doubled in age. It doesn't have the novelty value it once possessed, but even so that hasn't made me rate it any less highly... because even way back then I could tell a turkey when I saw it. In fact, fandom's attitude to The Chase is perfectly summed up by the circumstances in which I got the copy I now own. I was browsing the shelves at a video dealers when I spotted it: The Chase, as released as part of a box set with Remembrance. Except the owner had hung onto the other story and just got shot of this one, looking rather sad and sorry in a battered cardboard sleeve.

And I can't really say anything too nice about the vast majority of the story myself. It is at once lamentably lazy and hopelessly overambitious, and not especially well-produced. Terry Nation had already got away with the Republic-serial 'let's change settings at least once an episode' stunt in the (possibly even worse) Keys of Marinus, so it doesn't even have very much novelty value. Apart from the Mechonoids, all the other new aliens and monsters are embarrassingly crap - I'm not exactly sure what Joe Ford is referring to when he talks about 'the bollock monster from The Chase', there are at least two candidates, but either way he has a point. And it's just inexcusably painfully badly done, even by 60s standards - Daleks hanging around in the back of shot trying not to be noticed, the Mechanus jungle being a palpably tiny set with the TARDIS and/or Dalek time machine always visible, and this even before we get to the stuff with the Doctor's double - 'it is identical in every detail!' crows the Chief Dalek. Well, apart from the minor humanoid detail of it having a completely different face, yes.

But what really junks The Chase and consigns it inescapably to the series' black museum is the fatally misjudged tone of it all. The Daleks are out for revenge on the time travellers, and intend to ruthlessly pursue them throughout infinity! And given this, the makers of the story opted to play it as a jolly romp with lots of slapstick humour. This is The Chase's main problem - it's there in Ian's bizarre dance in the first episode, in the crazed, demob-happy performances all the regulars turn in, in Peter Purves' ridiculous Forrest Gumpish tourist, and in a dozen other places too. If the story doesn't take itself seriously, how does it expect anyone else to?

Well, perhaps it doesn't. One of the other things distinguishing The Chase is that it marks probably the only time the series plays on its status as a set of pop-culture icons, something driven by the fact that was the first post-Dalekmania Dalek story. So it quite happily incorporates those other 60s legends, The Beatles, for no good reason whatsoever. And later on the Daleks get to rumble with the Universal horror monsters - another set of icons in vogue at the time. With more pizzazz and money and some psychadelic colour, this story could have been great - imagine the Cushing movie it would have made!

In any case, right at the very end The Chase transcends its lump-of-excrement concept and tone and becomes genuinely moving stuff, as Ian and Barbara say their farewells. (This is the one part of the story that looks better now than it did in 1986, simply because I now know the original crew that much better.) The scripting is pedestrian but Hill, Russell, and Hartnell break your heart anyway - and one wonders how much of the Doctor's reluctance to say farewell is genuine emotion on Hartnell's part. The back-in-London sequence is marvellous, bittersweet stuff - and although these are two regulars never heard of again in canon Who (there, I've said it!) one never really doubts how their lives will unfold. The series is never quite the same again with them gone.

Still doesn't quite forgive the bollock monster, though, whichever one it is. Fast wind to the last fifteen minutes and spent the other two and a quarter hours reading an improving book, or something - you know it makes sense.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 7/7/04

Coming across reviews for this story that deviated between wonderful and abysmal, I was mighty confused by The Chase. I knew it was a runaround, Season Two's Keys of Marinus. I knew the Daleks weren't taken seriously at times in it. I knew Ian and Barbara left and Steven joined. But I was quite looking forward to it. There seemed to be lots of different settings, and surely if one episode on the Marie Celeste was bad, the one on Mechanus would be at least be different.

The story starts unusually. The Time/Space Visualizer is accessed (what a small screen for such a huge machine) and after some very dull costume dramas they uncover a group of Daleks explaining they are on their way to Aridius! Convenient this certainly is, seeing as the TARDIS has just landed there! The Visualizer is a great thing though, and Ian's superb Dad-dancing deserves particularly praise - it certainly made me laugh out loud.

Aridius is a sand planet and why the travellers want to spend any time there at all is a bit of mystery. They also make the fatal mistake of splitting up (before they know the Daleks are there though). Unfortunately Aridius is the setting for the first two episodes, even though they do go underground for the second half. Aridius is a boring planet, the Aridians are very silly creations and the Mire Beast is the sort of shapeless forgettable monster that only appears in very detailed monster books by David Howe.

I was rather glad when the TARDIS leaves Aridius, episode 2 was very bad, and we needed a change. With the Daleks in chase it's quite nice to know we'll be treated to many TARDIS jumps. As a result the TARDIS is featured quite heavily, and I like that. First jump is to the top of the Empire State building, and this is excellent.

Peter Purves makes his first appearance in DW as Morton Dill, a Southern American who just can't believe his cotton-picking eyes at what he sees. The fact that he is the only one who sees first the TARDIS, then the Dalek timeship and Daleks is convenient, the other tourists being on the other side of the tower. But his acting out the roleplay of most when they meet the Daleks on their many appearances, is excellent. When the two timeships arrive aboard the Marie Celeste the story is less successful. The model ship is a good model, but still a model and bears little resemblance to the actual set too. The crew don't convince at all that they can man such a ship - and the "surprising" revelation that the Daleks were responsible for the mysterious disappearance of all this crew actually makes me sigh. Move on, I thought, this just isn't very convincing or funny.

By far the best segment so far is the 4th episode when the two timeships arrive in a haunted house. The scenery folks have really gone to town with this set, and with the staircase down the middle and cobwebs galore this is excellent. The frights are genuine, even though the Robotic exhibits give the game away. I can understand parents phoning up about this one, because it made me jump, especially when the skeleton fell on Barbara and Vicki. Spooky indeed, even though there were a fair amount of laughs in there. This episode shows off a better haunted house than any I have been in, but these things always look better in black and white, don't they!

When the TARDIS arrives on Mechanus I thought we were back in Zarbi land again, and again bouncy castles are on show. Rubber plants are just something that looks ridiculous and coming so soon after The Web Planet I just felt this was a rehashing of an old story. Far better then when for episode 6 we arrive at the Mechanoid city.

This model city was wonderful. The little tiny Mechanoid Balls travelling along the Curved Ballustrades, wouldn't you just love to own that model! The Mechanoids themselves were terrific. Unusual speech patterns and voices where you strained to hear what they said - but you were convinced that these would be a real match for the Daleks. The final battle is great as the two sides struggle for supremacy. That the Mechanoids were never employed again in the series is very surprising.

The introduction of Steven is excellent. Surviving on Mechanoid handouts alone over two years, Purves successfully portrays a man delighted to see human beings again. At first I wondered why he hadn't tried to escape before, but where would he have gone. The Mechanoids were looking after him just fine, and the rubber forest would have killed him. It's a great introduction for a character that is very underrated in DW folklore. Ian and Barbara's leaving is also handled very nicely. It's good to see the first Doctor showing anger at their idea how to get back, we just know he is going to miss them, despite their differences over the last two years. But it was time for the two schoolteachers to go. The characters had been with the show a long time, and it was time for others to take up the baton. Their jumping around Trafalgar Square was spontaneous, and it was nice to see these two likeable people getting exactly what they wanted - to finally go home.

It's therefore remembered as a story of introduction and departure, but this was only the last episode - an episode admittedly which is the best of the six (the haunted house episode is nearly as good though). I enjoyed The Chase. It didn't all work as I've explained above, but there was a lot of good in it. I like the comedy that it employs, and I liked the varied settings. 7/10


A Review by Terrence Keenan 4/3/05

A lot of time the Hartnell gets a pass in a lot of respects. Because of all the behind the scenes pressure just to get a single episode made, because of the whole missing episode fiasco, and other reasons as well.

I'm no different. Hartnell's time as the Doc is the least familiar to me. He's new and interesting to me in ways many other Doctors are not. And so, on first viewing, I manage to get myself sucked in as a fan again and just watch the story unfold. It's kind of a cool feeling.

But then there's The Chase...

I don't even know where to begin. Let's just say that the only good thing about The Chase is the performances of the regulars. In fact, I'll go as far as to say they are the only reason to sit through all six episodes.

If you ever want to see the single worst acting moment in Who history, wait till epsiode 3, and meet Morton Dill, played by Peter Purves. I ended up muting my TV. It was that bad. It has nothing to do with the American accent, it was just an awful performance (made even worse in context, by Purves performance as Steven Taylor in part six).

The other lowlight (in a serial full of them) is the episode in the Haunted House. It was about as much fun to sit through as a rectal probing. Not even the regulars could save this part.

The story in itself is a runaround very similar to The Keys of Marinus (both written by Terry Nation), except with Daleks. From the results on screen, I'm going with the "Blasted on Gin" theory -- as each episode lurches along, you can count the drinks Nation had (He must have polished off the bottle for the Morton Dill scene).

The very beginning with the Time/Space Visualizer and the ending, with Barbara and Ian's departure are the best parts of the story. I did like the use of stills when Ian and Barbara are back in London. A nice Director's touch in a story that needed much more. Also, the final battle between the Mechanoids and Daleks is all right, considering. Also of Note: Maureen O'Brien shows a fetish for hitting people on the head, and is running around the desert planet with no shoes on in the location footage, but is shod in the studio work. Finally, the Mire Beast: I usually don't bag on effects, but it really does look like a testicle with tentacles.

I suppose you can make the "so bad it's brilliant" argument about The Chase, but the truth is that The Chase is just bad, as in stultifyingly, snot-dribbling, rectal probingly bad.


The not-so-final end by Rob Matthews 29/3/10

I must confess to always having a bit of a chuckle when I read Doctor Who reference books that note audience reports from the time of broadcast. Many a 1960s episode seems to have viewers making grumbles along the lines that the show had run out of ideas and was past its best.

It's easy to point and laugh at this when we're talking what's now a bona fide TV institution not so very far away from its fiftieth birthday. How naive to think, in 1965, say, that Doctor Who could run out of ideas so quickly, when we now know that but a few months later the show would come up with one simple new idea - changing the lead actor and making it part of the story - that would ensure it had the potential to go on indefinitely. That it would have Cybermen and Time Lords and UNIT and the Master to play with; that Tom Baker's huge, boggling personality would become part of the fabric of telly. And that's before you even get to the nation falling in love with Rose Tyler or David Tennant annexing Christmas 2009.

However, watching The Chase for the first time in a long while, along with its preceding story and DVD companion piece The Space Museum, I've realised how plausible it is to think that the show really could have ended more or less right there, and it would have felt satisfactory, with no sense of possibilities left unexplored.

That's because one of the most remarkable things about watching these two stories, from comparatively early in the show's history, is a sense of tiredness and weary self-referentiality, almost of the show running on empty. It's interesting to look at with hindsight, because presumably no one at that time would have dreamed that the series could continue for so long or undergo so many changes. It seems sensible to assume that no one but the odd wily producer even saw it continuing beyond William Hartnell's involvement. Looking at it from 2010, Doctor Who's evolved into a huge, huge phenomenon, but it is still, as of The Chase, just another television programme with a finite lifespan.

And, bloody hell, it feels like one. From our Nicholas Briggs-era point of view we might see this as 'only' the third Dalek story. But in actually watching it, you almost feel as wearied by the Daleks as Terry Nation reportedly did at the time; we've seen them on their home planet, we've seen them invading Earth. Now they're back for a thankless runaround, and it's quite possible for even a fan like me see it and feel like the possibilities of these creatures have been exhausted, that they're a bit of a flash in the pan and they've already had their day. The show has, in The Space Museum, already taken to pointing out that they're not particularly scary-looking, and here we have a few instances of their being used comically - or, more accurately, in a would-be comic fashion that doesn't really come off; a couple of instances of them acting thick - and a scene where one becomes a stooge for an appalling attempt at a comic character (it would be good form here to make a snarky comment along the lines that this isn't even the worst 'Daleks-on-the-Empire-State-Building' scene we'll see in Doctor Who. But let's be honest, it really, really is). By the last episode we're faced with another race of robotic creatures who manage the uniquely cynical feat of being an obvious, rubbishy rip-off of the Daleks in an episode that already has the Daleks in it anyway, as if they were not themselves interesting enough to hold the viewers' attention any more.

I won't go into each and every aspect of this hodge-podge collection of episodes - yes, Aridius is roughly four feet of canvas, Edmund Warwick doesn't look so much like William Hartnell etc - but the serial has a number of elements that conspire to add to this feeling of end-of-tether desperation.

First and foremost, there is the lack of an actual story here. The first Dalek adventure told the story of a planet laid waste by an atomic-age war between two native races; the events of the episodes encompassed perhaps a few days but the story being told encompassed hundreds of years. The second Dalek serial told the story of Earth in our future being conquered and enslaved by an alien race, and finally liberated. It was much less satisfying than the first Dalek serial, whatever old Dicky Martin tells you, because the Daleks' actual motivation for this invasion seemed bizarre and unwieldy, and they were defeated much too easily, but it had a certain grandiosity of vision. This, their third serial is simply Daleks: The Revenge. It has nothing to it at all. 'The Chase' is not so much a title as a synopsis.

With this non-story in place, what we get is a host of distractions. The opening scenes with the Time/Space Visualiser are a good example - and it's oddly appropriate that this element should have been set up in The Space Museum. That story depicted a museum of intergalactic artefacts that no one was the least interested in going to see, manned by the staff of a (we have to assume) once-mighty race grown fat and bored and oddly-coiffed. It was a story pretty much about torpor and tedium, conditions it largely portrayed via the cunning expedient of being... well, you can guess where I'm going with this.

That sense of exhausted possibilities carries over into the early scenes of The Chase. Yes, I know some people might think the bit with Vicki watching the Beatles on the visualiser is a delightful piece of concentrated sixties-ness; the Beatles and the Daleks in the same story! But, really, I don't get the point of it. In a show that's about exploring time and space, one where we've already popped back and met Marco Polo and the ancient Aztecs, the characters are now content to stand around in their relative-dimensional rec room and watch time and space on the telly. So, what, we won't actually do a story with Shakespeare in it, but we'll do a lame sketch with a bit of "Hamlet, eh? Hmm..." mugging in it. Really, what's the point of this?

(I must note, though, how nicely prescient Vicki's reaction to The Beatles' "classical" music is. I think I'd tended to assume that John Peel added that line in when he did the novelisation. If only the Doctor had said "Now, my dear, let's see if we can find some of those lovely old tunes from These New Puritans...", but I digress)

Then, in a later episode, when the story does venture into recorded history, we get the Daleks appearing on the Mary Celeste and scaring all the crew into jumping overboard; to their deaths, essentially, which makes the rather chipper tone of these scenes somewhat jarring. Notably, this whole sequence is cheap and hokey. That's 'cheap' in the sense of being obvious and not very good, by the way. A famous mystery (albeit one that's been conflated with the Arthur Conan Doyle story it inspired) gets 'explained', for a bit of a chuckle, as being caused by our time and space-travelling heroes. The thing is, this isn't truly awful - they could show the clip on Confidential and raise an indulgent smile - but neither is it inspired or particularly interesting. The best thing I could say about it is that it demonstrates the series developing a sense of humour, and of the possibilities of timey-wiminess as a concept beyond simply 'don't interefere with history!' But what I don't care for is that it's already straying from Verity Lambert's oft-stated 'play it absolutely for real' ethos; it's killing people, the crew of the Mary Celeste, for the sake of a historical pun, and - implicitly - it's saying it doesn't matter if those people die, because they're just 'history'. It's against the grain of what the series usually is, both up to this point and ever since (for the same reason, I've never gotten away with that bit in The Romans where the bloke gets 'hilariously' poisoned). I can well imagine viewers watching this at the time and deciding the show had 'got silly' - jumped the Mary Celeste, if you will - and, because it was the first time it had done so, they'd have no reason to think it could rebound from it. Verity Lambert, of course, would later appear on clip shows and DVD featurettes talking about how they started 'sending it up' after her time. It's worth noting that that happens in miniature even during her tenure.

The biggest symptom of the show stumbling off track is probably the 'Journey into Terror' episode. This is the one where the TARDIS lands in a haunted house, or Dracula's castle, or the Addams Family's holiday home in Ilkley, and it turns out to be a Jungian realm created by the human unconsciousness, or else some kind of ghost train in 1990s Ghana with a bunch of amazingly sophisticated robots that nonetheless appear to have been abandoned there.

Here, the uncertainty on the part of the production team about what's actually going on in the story makes it onto the screen itself. Ostensibly, the Doctor's fanciful idea about where this place is to be found - within the the realm of human imagination, dear boy - turns out to be mistaken, though he never discovers this himself, and is in fact merely some kind of fairground attraction. In practice, the 'explanation' bit appears tacked on, it doesn't seem to be what anyone was thinking in the making of the scenes themselves, and raises more questions than it answers. Not to mention that it replaces an at-least interesting idea with a crap cop-out.

I can see why the Doctor's, um, psychodimensional theory might have been thought not to cut the mustard when those making it got a taste of what this actually looked like on screen. Most Doctor Who environments, especially at this formative point, are an approximation, within the show's particular limits, of a concept. They're not what a place or a planet actually is; instead, they're a guide to stimulate our imaginations, more or less a theatrical backdrop. That is to say that though Skaro is bigger in our minds than cramped sets and radiophonic sounds, those are the prompts the production gives that allow us to create it in our heads. What the show has now, in the 21st century, are bigger, better and more lavish prompts - so the Gallifrey we glimpse in The Sound of Drums can be seen as a closer approximation to a notional 'real' Gallifrey than the one we saw in The Invasion of Time.

However, here we are presented - until the idea is lamely debunked - with what is supposed to be an environment somehow forged by the collective subconscious, pretty well the platonic ideal of a Creepy Haunted House. It's supposed to be the perfect embodiment of an idea - and this can't work in a show that can only ever imperfectly embody ideas. An archetypal vision of something just shouldn't look this shoddy. At least they realised that and didn't try it again.

Of course, the memorable image this episode leaves us with is that of the Daleks battling Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster - albeit android versions of phantasmagoric memes or something. Yes, it's tempting to kind of like this bit, at least in the abstract. At a glance, you could see it as sheer pop art, like the pages of a comic book have got jumbled together.

And yet... Daleks versus Dracula and Frankenstein just suggests a paucity of ideas again. There is a boldness to suggesting that these upstart dustbins are already icons on that level. But, like almost everything else in the serial, it's just stuff chucked on the screen to fill up the running time. Plus, reduced to their 'iconicity', without a narrative context, icons don't really mean anything.

Similiarly, the later on-film battle scenes between the Daleks and the Mechonoids look good, because for the first time on screen they suggest another universe in which the Daleks can exist, with creatures to battle from a similar asthetic neighbourhood. But they're really pretty empty because the Mechonoids are merely ad hoc not-quite Daleks. As impressive as this battle looks for the show at that time, I don't think it's ever once been cited as a classic Doctor Who scene, which is telling.

Still... as I suggested, it's plausible to imagine the story of both Doctor Who and the Daleks could have ended right here, and what's more, it could have felt like a proper resolution. Ironically, this is thanks to an abrupt upturn in quality during the last episode. The Chase appears for all the world, even watching it now, to demonstrate that the Daleks were an idea with a limited shelf life. Already we've seen them turned into figures of fun by Morton Dill, and their effectiveness as a threat in earlier serials feels severely diminished in this one. Worse, the new avenues the production team were trying to explore with them here - and sometimes you wonder exactly what the hell those avenues are - clearly haven't worked. So the fact that their climactic battle with the Mechonoids looks quite good could have led the show's creators to quit on a relatively high note; the Daleks dispatched by a race of robotic beings not unlike themselves, a satisfactory enough conclusion to their story.

Then there's the departure of Ian and Barbara, which works astonishingly well. Having not seen it in a while, I'd forgotten how good it was - the sudden, subtle realisation that it's possible for them to get home, the brilliant, joyful sequence of them revelling in being back in London, even the Doctor being able to witness their safe return on the Time Space Visualiser, which is a clever reveal, because by this point you've completely forgotten about it. It's great, and it beautifully concludes the story that began with Doctor Who's first episode, with the kidnap of two schoolteachers in An Unearthly Child.

So, with the Daleks looking ropey and inspiration for the Doctor's adventures seeming to wear a bit thin, what an opportune place this could have been to finish. Just one serial away from the end of the season too - plod on for four more weeks, then the Doctor heads off into the stars, thank you and goodnight.

Fortunately that didn't happen. You probably know that.

As for afterwards ...

I now think it was the Daleks' next serial, The Daleks' Master Plan, that really established them as the creations we still know today. The Chase was the last gasp of the original conception of the Daleks as city-bound radiocative mutants in travel machines. The Dalek Invasion of Earth stretched that concept to suggest that at some point in their history - perhaps even before the events of The Daleks - they'd fitted big solar discs on their back to allow them to shimmy out of their city and invade Earth, for some reason or other. In The Chase, the discs are replaced by the vertical slats, the last time their dependency on an external energy source is an issue, and, smarting from the events of the previous two stories, they pursue their greatest enemies throughout eternity. Given that these 'greatest enemies' are two schoolteachers and a doddery old bloke, they remain a bit of a tin-pot outfit, if you'll pardon the pun.

In The Daleks' Master Plan, however, and likely influenced by their comic strip adventures, they've become not just a bunch of nasty creatures, but an empire. For the first time they're portrayed as players on an intergalactic scale (their council in that story of assembled space weirdoes really serves no other purpose but to illustrate this), and they're spoken of as conquerors of numerous worlds. The other important conceptual refinement that takes place in the story is the introduction of the human who interacts closely with the Daleks for reasons of his own (this is discussed in Faustian terms by Fiona Moore and Alan Stevens in an essay in the book Time And Relative Dissertations In Space). Mavic Chen inaugurates a tradition of portraying the Daleks, roughly speaking, as representing the potential for inhumanity lurking within ourselves. That's there in the background of Terry Nation's earlier stories, but its dramatic possibilities are only unlocked once you have characters like Chen, Lesterson, Maxtible and Davros on screen chatting back to the monsters. Thanks to Chen, two characteristics of the Daleks are established that are still central to their new-Who incarnations. One is the odd, disdainful and drawn-out inflection they'll give certain words or phrases (in this case "Maa... viiic... CHEN!"), the other is their ability to be quite funny, in character (from "You make your incompetence sound like an achievement!" to "We have your associate!").

So, reports of Doctor Who having run out of ideas were greatly exaggerated, and not for the last time. Far from being exhausted, the possibilities of the Daleks, and of Doctor Who in general, had barely been tapped.

But, blimey, it's no thanks to The Chase that we discovered this...