THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Chase
The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Dr. Who & The Daleks
Doctor Who in an exciting adventure with the Daleks
BBC
The Daleks
aka. "The Mutants" and "The Dead Planet"

Episodes 7 A rehearsal shot from episode one
Story No# 2
Production Code B
Season 1
Dates Dec. 21, 1963 -
Feb. 1, 1964

William Hartnell, William Russell,
Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford.
Written by Terry Nation. Script-edited by David Whitaker.
Directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin.
Associate Producer: Mervyn Pinfield. Produced by Verity Lambert.

Synopsis: The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan encounter the malevolent survivors of a nuclear holocaust, who are destined to become the Doctor's greatest enemy...

Back to page one (the first twenty reviews)


Reviews

A Review by Declan McKeown 25/7/08

Most people say The Daleks is one of the best Dalek stories . Yet I would have to disagree with them for a few reasons.

The first reason is because the whole thing drags after the second episode mostly because of Ian saying that he can't feel his legs, and also because of pathetic acting from the people who played the Thals.

Also the Dalek voices are terrible and the dialogue is lousy. I mean, episode six's cliffhanger is woeful and the way the Daleks themselves are dispatched is laughable. The statue thing that the Thals are carrying is portrayed by the most amateurish modelwork and the way the TARDIS crew and the Thals escape from the Dalek citadel is not even shown.

The visual effects for the time might have looked impressive but now they end up looking cheap and dated. The lake of mutations is not necessary, the cliffhanger featuring it is as you'd expect - rubbish - and half the story is spent running around corridors and the other half is spent moving around boring and dreary-looking locations. Hartnell also looks bored rigid.

When I sat down to watch this, I had my doubts but I was expecting something better than the end result. I was put off watching William Hartnell stories but I am watching them again because of true classics like The Aztecs and The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

It took me a week to watch this dreary rubbish, yet some bits of this story are good, like a creepy episode one and impressive Daleks. But ultimately this is nothing more than an exercise in padding.

2/10


A Review by Anthony Smith 29/8/09

Just to prove that everyone is different and opinion is subjective, I'd like to completely disagree with certain other reviews of the absolute classic, The Daleks. (And while we're about it, The Dalek Invasion of Earth is pants.) The Daleks carries on the wonderfully gritty style of 100,000 BC, carrying on with the point of view of Ian and Barbara, now adrift on a strange alien world. I adore the way they accept it so readily: no melodrama, just numb acceptance.

The great thing about The Daleks is that every single episode title describes what happens in the next twenty two minutes (The Escape, The Ambush, etc) and you then get the most bottom-clenchingly tense episode; every one of the seven episodes project the story forward a huge amount. The first four are completely about the time travellers' ordeal, and what an ordeal! Considering everyone claims that at first Doctor Who was simply a kids' programme, we here have the second story ever, in which, by the second episode, every one of our heroes has radiation poisoning and is surely going to die a horrible slow death. I can't decide if it was more scary in the sixties where the threat of nuclear war was ever present, or in the modern day where we have all been deeply emotionally scarred by Where the Wind Blows.

The Invasion of Time is always cited as how to do a long story correctly, with it split into two parts. Here is the blueprint. In one of the earliest classic cliffhangers, the TARDIS crew are finallly free of the Daleks' city, when it gradually dawns on Ian that he has left the fluid link in the hands (plungers?) of the Daleks, and they have to go back. We then have a very uncomfortable few scenes where the Doctor and Barbara want to casually use the Thals as their own disposable army to get them back, with Ian getting some great moral outrage across.

Everything switches for the last couple of episodes, as we switch to the Thals' point of view. The spotlight is firmly on Ganatus and his brother, Antodus. Antodus isn't brilliantly acted, but you can really see his perspective. He doesn't understand why they have to risk their lives to help the others, but only signed up because his big brother immediately did. Ganatus covers for him when Antodus tries to cowardly leave Ian and the others, and when he kills himself - beautifully, you are never sure if it is to save Ian (doubtful), or if it is just because he would rather die than show any backbone whatsoever - Ian finally clicks that Ganatus has just been carrying his kid brother, and shows some understated compassion.

Well, I say understated, but let's face it, William Russell does his job, but he's no Brando. (Show me a dad who isn't a tearful wreck in any of Jor Els' scenes in the director's cut of Superman, and I'll show you someone who, well, isn't me, I guess.) Jaqueline Hill, though, shines throughout. Considering Who companions are always considered to be very wet screamers, Barbara is probaby the strongest woman in the history of the classic series, and Hill never ever puts in a duff performance. I cheered when she grabbed Ganatus and kissed him at the end. The Daleks themselves are obviously brilliant, though it's surprising how they talk together: they say things like "Precisely that" instead of "Yes", although they really feel like characters instead of your tin plated pepperpots.

Okay, it's a bit rubbish where the Thals run in and just push the Daleks over at the end, but what else could Nation do? In any real sense, the Thals would be slaughtered, but, let's face it, it's good, but seven episodes is enough. Hartnell's great as usual and Carol Ann Ford isn't as bad as in the first story (seriously, what is with that weird head lolling running?). Utterly brilliant, overall.


The second best Dalek story by Roland Thompson 22/3/10

In my opinion, this story would rank as the second greatest of all Dalek stories, close behind Genesis of the Daleks. In The Dead Planet, one gets a genuine sense of atmosphere from the outset with haunting mechanical tones set to an aerial view of the as-yet-unnamed planet Skaro. In the previous story, it was Barbara reassuring Ian when he became frightened, and now the other way around; an excellent juxtaposition.

There is a wonderful sense of voyeurism throughout the entire first episode. We really do get the sense that these characters are being watched. With only the main characters, we don't have as much dialogue to get in the way of the visuals (the city) and the music (mechanical and haunting) to interfere with building the natural tension. Long, drawn out dramatic pauses allow the tension to build yet there is still some remarkable dialogue, Hartnell displaying a pomposity and dramatic flare that most other Doctors couldn't pull off ("Uninvited passengers... I didn't invite them into the ship!").

This is part of what made Hartnell's portrayal the greatest of all the Doctors in my humble opinion. His cantankerous nature was tempered with a moral fiber that was unrivaled by any other Doctor. You loved his inherent tendency to be a curmudgeon. Why? Well, you also knew that it came from the same sort of old school, flaming teapot, haughty nature that also made him angry with injustice and firmly committed to the righteous.

By the end of part one (The Dead Planet), the viewer feels an eerie sense of desperation. Ian, Susan and the Doctor are all inexplicably disoriented, the Doctor having no idea what destoryed life on this planet... for now. Meanwhile, Ian earnestly waits for the return of Barbara, who has been trapped in a maze of corridors by Daleks who finally approach her as she screams in terror... Without a doubt the best Doctor Who cliffhanger bar none.

With that we go to The Survivors. The drama in this episode focuses on some breathtaking dramatic scenes in a Dalek prison room where Ian, Susan and most especially Barbara and the Doctor wallow in radiation-addled illness. Susan must show her teenage spitfire like bravery, venturing out among mutated Thals to recover their (the Thals) radiation medicine with Ian crippled by a Dalek gun; Barbara and the Doctor too weak to move. Perhaps the most grit and raw drama of all the different situations throughout the story can be found here in the second episode.

In the third episode, The Escape, we see the best interplay between the four main characters in the story. As in the previous episode, we see Ian portrayed as the leader whereas the Doctor is more a cunning and sometimes even devious ally (lying about the fluid link). The playacting to throw the Daleks off the scent is an especially nice touch. The benevolence of the Thal Alydon reinforces the evil nature of the Daleks ("if they call us mutations... what must they be like?"). There was so much movement and action in the first story (100,000 BC) that we didn't really have a chance to see the characters relate to each other as people as we do here in the third episode of The Daleks. Susan has had a chance to show her bravery and Ian has successfully played the role of courageous leader. Of course, now it's Barbara's turn. To stop the Daleks with something so simple (mud) gives us a sense of whimsy yet this does not detract from the drama and genuine sense of panic we feel as the four attempt to deactivate a duped Dalek! The final shot of the creature's arm popping out from beneath Alydon's cloak must also rank as a hall-of-fame cliffhanger.

In the fourth episode, The Ambush, the dramatic focuses shifts much more decidedly towards the Thals and their situation. This covers the much more intellectual nature of the story which begins to manifest at this point. Issues such as the cosmic fate of worlds (epic fare reserved usually for traditional thought-provoking science-fiction novels; Poul Anderson, Issac Asimov, Arthur Clarke, Edgar Burroughs, etc), pacifism and the consequences of nuclear technology and indeed nuclear war are all brought to bear here, and these deeper intellectual aspects of the story come to fruition here. That aside, much of the action was centered around the escape from the Dalek city. Ian's escape from the Dalek machine, the scenes with the lift and Ian's attempt to warn the Thals are some of the most-well-filmed action in the programe's history and holds up even to today's standards. Though reluctant to leave the Thals to their doomed fate, the Doctor and company are ready to be on their way after what they've been through when Ian discovers that the fluid link, which had been functional all along, was taken from him... in the city.

Another great cliffhanger takes us into the next episode, The Expedition. In one of the most pivotal scenes from this story, Ian forces the Thals to defend themselves. This early in Doctor Who and we already see gritty moralism and realism. The Doctor and Barbara want to use the Thals to fight for them so they can leave Skaro but Ian realizes that that Thals must want to fight for themselves and by teaching them to do that ensures that they will fight willingly and not retreat into their plateau "There is nothing wrong with being afraid to die but there is a terrible shame in being afraid to live!"

We have a grim set of circumstances to contend with at the beginning of the classic harrowing sixth episode, The Ordeal. Ian and Barbara are part of a two-party force out to attack the Daleks. However, the way is fraught with many dangers as the classic lake beast claims a victim. There are remarkable feelings of tension when watching the cave sequences even in comparison with a modern gritty horror film. The chemistry between Ganatus and Barbara is shockingly believable and carefully developed for television at this time, not to mention how natural the flirtation is for the early 60s. The fatalistic character of Antodus is also nicely constructed, as is his relationship with the brother, Ganatus. You can't help feeling sorry for both of them and what ultimately happens between them creates some great drama in the sixth episode...

After the tragic heroic beginning to episode 7 (The Rescue, not to be confused with the second season, two-part story The Rescue), Ian, Barbara, Ganatus and Kristas keep looking for a way into the Dalek city through the mountains and the caves. They realized they were only a few feet away from the city when they saw light coming in. The Doctor, Susan, Alydon, Dyoni and the other Thals tamper with the Daleks' instruments by reflecting their energy back at them. Again, Doctor Who's tradition of staying within reality and realistic drama is reinforced when Ian reminds the despairing Ganatus that his brother died for something, even if he had been afraid and contemplated treachery. A strong old chunk of moralism in the very early weeks of the show.

The Daleks know they must destory Skaro to survive, making them all the more bent on destruction. While Susan and the Doctor are prisoners of the Daleks, Alydon and a group of Thal men storm the defenseless city (they were blocking their defenses while Ian, Barbara, Ganatus and Kristas storm the Dalek control center at the same time). It is the Doctor Who equivalent of the gunfight at the OK Corral. The Daleks' power is dying out rendering them immobile. They beg the Doctor to save them who replies with yet another classic Hartnell line in this story (the others are too numerous to mention), "Even if I wanted to, I don't know how." An epic struggle which portends the challenges that the Doctor and those he calls his companions will face in the TARDIS; "No doubt you will have other wars to fight".

The Daleks is the second greatest Dalek story of all time, one of the five greatest Hartnell stories of all time and one of the ten greatest Doctor Who stories of all time. As we ponder on fighting to defend what we believe in and those that we love, as we think on the consequences of our actions in the world and how the things inside our hearts lead us to good (Thals) and evil (Daleks), we might remember that while good may not always have as much power, it has much more strength. We might remember that powerful secrets and powerful knowledge are not worth their price if we live in an underground shell like the Daleks. We might remember that it is better to have known and loved someone then to have not, even if they leave us. We might also remember these words from the good Doctor himself, voiced by the one and only William Hartnell:

"You wanted advice, you said. I never give it, never. I will say this. Always search for truth. My truth is in the stars and yours is here"
10/10


A Review by Francis Salvi 17/4/11

When they first appeared in the chilly Christmas season of 1963/1964, no one could possibly imagine how successful they would become, how they would send kids scurrying behind the back of the sofa. But they have become successful, they have sent kids behind the sofa ever since. Who are they? The Daleks of course!

Following the relatively dire An Unearthly Child, the series really gets into gear with The Daleks, a seven-part epic by one of the series' most prolific writers, Terry Nation. What he has done is crafted a wonderful seven episodes that have become immensely popular, even being made into a feature-length film, Dr. Who and the Daleks.

Personally, I find this an immense improvement over An Unearthly Child, with the seven episodes neither moving too fast or too slow, just how I like it. We see a more selfish side to the Doctor when he sabotages the fluid link. We also see the first signs of the crew moulding into a sort of family. The city itself is remarkable, even if the background in some scenes is just a painted backcloth. I find the scene where the Doctore confesses he sabotaged the fluid link to be a tense and enjoyable moment. But the scene most people remember of this serial is the image of the arm of an unknown creature menacing Barbara at the end of the first episode, which I think is one of the finest cliff-hangers in the series if not the finest.

The Daleks themselves are well-realised. An obvious image of Hitler and the Nazis, they must have brought back memories of World War Two. In this story, they show a cunning not seen anywhere else, deliberately goading the travellers into trusting them and manipulating the Thals into coming to the city so they can exterminate them. There is also the first appearance of an Assault Dalek, which might not be as well-realised as the one in The Parting of the Ways in the new series, but it opens up the mind to how many variants of Dalek there might be.

The other inhabitants of Skaro, the Thals, are not so great. Wearing shocking hot pants and tops that I'm still convinced to this day were re-used in 1968's The Dominators (even though the tops in that story were a lot bigger), they come across as pretty pathetic, even for pacificts. The other unconvincing element is the lizard creature glimpsed occasionally in the jungle scenes in the first half of the story.

The latter half of The Daleks focuses on the Doctor, Susan, Ian, Barbara and the Thals' efforts to find their way into the Dalek city. The side story, of Ian, Barbara and one batch of Thals making their way through the caves, is pretty exciting stuff, with one of the most touching self-sacrificing scenes in the entire black and white era of Doctor Who. The other half of the quest, the Doctor, Susan and another batch of Thals trying to disable The Daleks' sensors, is equally exciting. The resolution is a bit rushed, and the tipped-up Daleks look a bit pathetic, but these are only minor quibbles in an otherwise fantastic story.

At the end of the day, The Daleks is a story no Whovian should miss. And for those looking to introduce their friends to Doctor Who, they should show them this as their first black and white story.

Verdict: 9/10


A Review by John Laking 9/1/14

The Daleks saw the Doctor and the TARDIS crew make their first trip together to an alien world and in doing so encountered their first alien beings, who would prove to be the most iconic in the series' history. The impact of the Daleks was immediate and saw the show's viewing figures climb dramatically, establishing it in the public consciousness. As a creation, they transcend the programme and it is remarkable to think that they represented just the kind of 'bug-eyed monster' that the series' creators had initially set out to avoid.

Following on from An Unearthly Child, the initial exchanges in The Daleks are a slight disappointment. The dialogue between the show regulars that had sparked with tension in the first story here falls a little flat. Terry Nation, the writer of the serial and creator of the Daleks, has a reputation for writing good adventure stories, but his dialogue is often less impressive. The actors also seem to be having a tricky time delivering the lines, with their excellent naturalistic performances from the first serial slightly slipping in quality in the early stages of the new adventure. William Hartnell fluffs the odd line, but I should point out at this stage that these mistakes have never bothered me. There's an argument from some fans that many of the so-called fluffs were deliberate on the part of Hartnell as part of his characterisation of the Doctor. Personally, I think the fluffs are understandable mistakes given the pressure on the actor and the ridiculously tough recording schedule he and the acting team had to deal with. There are times when they interrupt the flow, but more often than not they make little difference and, deliberate or not, can be seen as part of the charm of the first Doctor.

The Daleks had two different directors over its seven episode run, Christopher Barry and Richard Martin. Both make some interesting choices and there are some very nice touches such as when Barbara places her hand on the camera lens when feeling her way around a wall. Generally though, the more interesting and experimental elements of the direction jar with what is a pretty static piece. In particular, the directors seemed to struggle with exactly how to make the scenes involving just the Daleks seem interesting given their lack of movement and often long speeches. That said, Barry does provide us with one of the most iconic shots in Doctor Who history as episode one ends with Barbara pressed against the wall in fear as we see a Dalek arm approaching her.

So to our eponymous monsters. They make their first full appearance in episode two and the first thing that is noticeable about them is how incredibly verbose they are. The nature of the Dalek speech pattern and their relatively static nature in this serial does cause a few issues with the flow and rhythm of the adventure; nonetheless, their initial appearance makes an immediate impact. It's well worth stating that this is in no small part down to the brilliant work of Raymond Cusick. The design of the monsters has barely changed in fifty years and the many subsequent attempts to recreate their success by later designers demonstrates just how impressive Cusick's achievements were. It is also notable that at this early stage the Daleks haven't quite developed their exterminate on sight policy. They initially simply temporarily paralyse Ian when he attempts to escape and overall these Daleks are far more scheming and thoughtful than many of their later incarnations. In episode four, we get our first tiny glimpse of the insides of a Dalek. I mentioned in my review of An Unearthly Child how particularly in the early stages of the show much use was made out of the reactions of the actors to events happening off screen. This is a classic example of how well that can work to cover up a limited budget and the limits of special effects. When Ian and the Doctor lift up the lid of the Dalek casing their reaction is immediately one of horror and disgust. It's a wonderful moment and it allows the audience to imagine what they may have seen. Shortly after we get a glimpse under a Thal cloak of the Dalek and, though it is only fleeting, it can't really live up to the effect of that initial reaction shot.

By the end of the serial, there are the first signs of the Doctor who we see as a hero starting to show themselves. However, at the beginning, he is still very much the untrustworthy and seemingly selfish individual we left at the end of An Unearthly Child. As the TARDIS crew land on the unfamiliar planet, they all agree that they should leave as soon as possible and only the Doctor wants to stay. He therefore lies to his companions, claiming that he needs mercury for the TARDIS fluid link in order to leave, ultimately endangering the lives of them all just to satisfy his scientific curiosity.

His first thought remains his own safety and he is seemingly quite happy to leave Barbara stranded when it first becomes clear they are in danger, even snapping at Susan when she challenges him for this reaction. Despite this, there is evidence of a bond developing between him and Barbara later in the story. First he praises her ingenuity when they overpower the Dalek and then later they form an alliance when attempting to persuade Ian to use the Thals to get into the Dalek city. Ian's relationship with the Doctor remains frostier, but they enjoy a nice moment after the Doctor gets Ian's name wrong. The Doctor remains happy to leave the Thals to deal with the Daleks on their own until he realises they cannot leave without first returning to the Dalek city. It's noticeable though that at the end of the adventure the Doctor remains with the Thals for longer than is absolutely necessary, suggesting that his meeting with the pure evil of the Daleks, coupled with his introduction to Ian and Barbara, has already made him re-assess his general policy of non-intervention and self-preservation.

As the Thals are introduced, the story turns into an attack against pacifism as Ian and the crew attempt to persuade their alien allies that fighting the Daleks is essential if they are to survive. Sadly, the Thals come across as being rather bland. It's ironic, given the clear influence of the Nazis on the Daleks, that the Thals are positively arian in their looks. Furthemore, while they look mostly the same, they are also fairly indistinguishable as characters. The exception is the character of Antodus, who though mostly whiny and cowardly, does have his own personality and when eventually dying in a moment of self-sacrifice he completes an interesting character arc that is sadly lacking with his fellow Thals. Of course, the TARDIS crew do eventually manage to persuade the Thals of the need to fight and the Doctor's response of "the mind will always triumph" to Ian's query of how they were supposed to take on the Daleks with no weapons can be seen as a defining mantra for the show in the ensuing years.

The link between the Daleks and the Nazis is often mentioned and it's clear from very early on in their creation, most blatantly in episode six when their arms point upwards in a Nazi style salute and they chant about becoming 'the master race'. Ian had earlier pinpointed the Daleks hatred of the Thals as simply a 'fear of the unlike' though there is again a slight irony in the positioning of this statement. It comes in the middle of a scene in which Barbara and Ian talk regularly of a lack of humanity and human characteristics in the Daleks, and the tone and manner of their speech makes it clear that they are including the Thals under the umbrella of the term 'human' simply because they look like them, when of course they are really just as alien as the Daleks.

Ultimately, The Daleks isn't the best Dalek serial in Doctor Who, but as the first it is an early watershed moment in the history of the show. The Daleks themselves are very successful and they provide a genuine menace that makes it easy to understand why they caught on to such an enormous extent. The Doctor and his companions' relationships are continuing to develop alongside the series itself. A development that would kick on once more with the next serial, the unique The Edge of Destruction.


"The unwilling adventurers" by Thomas Cookson 20/1/16

One thing is clear when looking back on Hartnell's era. This wasn't an era where the Doctor was your best friend or staunch reliable protector. He was anything but. He was the quite frighteningly wilful, unsympathetic self-serving egocentric and quite down-patting and unappealingly stern patriarch. He was not one hundred percent on your side even a fraction of the time.

We weren't with him to embrace or regard affectionately with inspiration or championing this pioneering crusader. Because he wasn't one. He was the king of his manor, and frankly he believed that struggling people elsewhere needed leaving to their own fates. But within his sphere, his word was law.

This story for me is the quintessential encapsulating of Hartnell's Doctor. The self-willed unpredictable manchild who's clearly used to getting his own way and isn't really so unpleasant about this. Seeing him fool the rest of his unwilling companions here is immensely amusing and satisfying. The way he gets his way, it's impossible not to cheer him slightly. Not just at his self-serving nature, but at just how good he is at cajoling, fibbing through his teeth to thus ensure his way. We even feel complicit in his breaking of the fourth wall to boast of how the time of day is set to have everyone agreeing to do what he wanted and holding up his handiwork proudly with a smirk. And we can't really hate him for it, even though we should.

But because we have headstrong, proud characters like Ian and Barbara to fiercely defy him and golden-hearted, innocent Susan to reach and appeal to his better nature, we don't see whether Hartnell could be so bullying as to virtually threaten grievous bodily harm if they won't let him explore the city. That's the whole point of his deception. It was his only way around these people's dictates. That's what makes him someone to root for: because he has something worthy and challenging to go against.

We see here the charms that won us all over about him and made him always a point of unflinching curiosity. Because you daren't take your eyes off him.

Moffat's TSV interview made no concessions whatsoever, describing Hartnell's performance as unbroadcastable, and the slow-burner pacing of The Daleks as 'boring' (particularly worrying given Moffat's preference for Let's Kill Hitler's horrid frenetic overkill mess). No taking time to appreciate the finer points. I'd expect better from someone claiming to be an accomplished writer than to wilfully overlook the content and sneer at the more patient execution.

So it's a boring story if you don't count the Doctor and companions nearly dying of radiation, Susan being stalked in the forest, the perilous trek through mutations and the treacherous cliffs. It's about war of nerve. A hopeless situation the show's never depicted these people being in before. The directing is cutting edge, emphasising the unnatural treacherousness of the nightmarish forest, the Dalek city's exotic alienness and the walls and floor being live. The heroes dying by radiation or overexposure to Dalek rays really stings and hurts. The main cast are the best they've ever been, and if it's an episode too long, then six out of seven isn't bad.

It's important to note points where the Doctor acknowledges he's beaten, or desperate. He tells Barbara he is too old to relate to Susan's adolescent feelings and asks her to speak to her (this is the beauty of the show's prime family focus), when he realises his game with the fluid link has gone too far, when he's so desperate to stop the Daleks from committing genocide he even willingly bargains his ship's technology for the Thals' lives. Much of this story is actually at its core about the bitter taste of defeat.

This phase of the show wasn't about the heroic Doctor, but about living under his terrifyingly selfish arrogant authority, forcibly exposing them to this universe's worst horrors. Hartnell's Doctor perhaps lacks empathy or perspective. Force and rigidness of arrogant old habit render him unknowably wise yet too narrow to understandably care he's being self-serving. He loves Susan yet rides roughshod over her, treats like she doesn't know her own mind. She pleads him not to take off, dislocate and entrap them in places none of them want to be. Yet that's what defines them all. This is about the least suited to being brave having to be so anyway, with all the courage and strength and conviction they have.

When they're all dying of radiation, Susan's the least brave, but she alone is fit and healthy enough to face the horrors outside the Dalek city's strangely clinically protective shelter to fetch medication for them all. Fleeing her allegedly mutated monstrosity stalker Alydon.

I love damsels in distress. Vulnerable, preyed on, breathy nervy females with panicked heaving bosoms, desperate, trembling, mortally terrified, so alive and excited, needing men's physical comfort, protection. Susan's pre-sexual and alone. Now scorned in this unwelcoming desolate nightmare with one relieving protective shelter she cannot stay in. But she discovers Alydon is beautiful, kind and chivalrous. Fear gives way to euphoric awe. In this frighteningly uncertain world, Alydon's almost her sexual awakening. But he takes no advantage. It's her trusting, curious nature to love his company. As he walks her back to her cell.

That whole sequence of her realising to her horror she must go alone, the warm sweet relief she feels when finally within the TARDIS shelter. But then Ian's words come back to haunt her. "Don't stop for anything, straight there, straight back. An hour could make all the difference" Reminding her she's not here just to save herself but save those she loves too.

We're in a period where every written line of script matters. Where dialogue is a beautiful persuasive thing designed to reach hearts and minds and justify motivations. We're still in an era where character sentiments and motivations actually go hand in hand. So Susan trembles before turning the switch to the TARDIS doors and shivers before making herself venture out again against the threatening lightning storm. Then, when she meets Alydon, she is almost awed by him and trusts him and bonds with him. This moment in particular I see as Susan having her sexual awakening within the midnight forest. Beautifully acted! With her whole very face and body as well as her delivery. I was with Susan every step of the way here.

Anyhow, the Thals perhaps represent the zoned-out Hippie movement but also echo their literary inspiration, the naive child-like Eloi from The Time Machine. Basically living in a paradise of innocence, which had made them forget what it means to have to struggle and fight to survive. I also detected a sense of the Garden of Eden about them (partly because of their Aryan good looks as well as their innocence), with the point being made that actually we need to embrace a bit of sin in order to survive against it - which is a common theme of mythology and horror fiction. I also sensed that Ian and Barbara were speaking from the point of view of being schoolteachers who know that the school bully will keep on picking on the victim until they fight back and speaking for the good old days when said bully would actually get a caning as their deserved punishment and deterrent.

These Daleks aren't hateful. They're routine creatures, caring nothing for others. It doesn't matter who lives or dies to them. Like Cybermen, they're even beyond caring to exact revenge for fellow units they place no value or sympathy on. They can't be bothered being destructive. For the moment, the fact they're keeping the TARDIS crew alive is no reassurance, as it is more than clear that they're being regarded rather like lab rats in a long gruelling experiment. But the more the Daleks learn, the worse they get. They learn they can fool the Thals and then kill them for sport. That they as a species are dependent on the very radiation that is fading and dying away. They learn that the elusive Thals are gathering numbers. They and their breathing toxic life blood is to be purged utterly. Daleks share nothing.

The Doctor, usually keen to leave well alone, even when leaving struggling cultures to their own fatalities, here challenges this enemy of the universe's life force, with words of reason that are coldly calculated against and dismissed by his enemies:

"You'll be responsible for more deaths unless you help these people."
But their minds are made up. His altruism is nothing to them. Conversely, the Thals, the ones most ill-suited to fight or to do harm or to spoil community harmony, learn they must fight and destroy that which would destroy them first and value nothing of what they are.

These Daleks are technologically and physically limited. I think it was perhaps consistent with Nation's original belief that the Daleks, like the Nazis that inspired them, or like the end result of nuclear holocaust, should not be something desired or vaunted as a superior force, but in certain hands could be potentially and wrongly glorified (and, to be fair, David Whitaker's comic TV Century 21 strips did turn them perversely into the strips' heroes). But they will counter and learn, just as the Doctor and his allies have learned. They'll develop freer reign, through their environment and space - and even time.

The 50 year war begins today.


A Review by Charles Crowe 2/4/17

Terry Nation is not an amazing writer. He is, frankly, a very inconsistent writer: he has written some good stories, he has written some bad stories, and he never has a streak of pure brilliance or utter bollocks for more than two or three stories. Despite this, Terry Nation is a very important writer for the show. If not for him and this seven-part 'epic' (loose term there, but still) the show may have died within a year or so.

Now, The Daleks is not one of the best Dalek stories. Far from it, in fact. It's good, sometimes great, but it doesn't belong in the league of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Power of the Daleks, Evil of the Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks or Dalek.

It's still a competent story. More than competent, in fact: it's quite a well-written, if sometimes badly paced, science-fiction adventure.

The Thals are rather poorly realised, but make an effective pacifist (ish) foil to the violent and deranged obviously Nazist Daleks. While the Thals seen in Genesis are a far cry from the pouty pretty boys we're shown here and in Planet of the Daleks, it does effectively (if somewhat retroactively) showcase a transitioning in their race's public consciousness, going the fairly bland 'good guy' way, whereas the Daleks go the 'bad guy' way. Now, this is a very base tale of good versus evil - which isn't necessarily a bad thing after a very grey first story with no defined protagonists or antagonists - but to the modern audience it's a little bit simplistic.

Watching all seven parts in one sitting is not the correct way to view this story, and I wouldn't recommend it at all. It emphasises the negatives of the story without really demonstrating any of the positives. Paced correctly, over seven weeks or (more realistically) seven days, the mounting tension and reasonably epic scope of the plot begins to make itself known, and a newfound appreciation can be found for the story.

Even this early in the series, you can see certain character traits starting to develop with the mains. The Doctor, manipulative and mischievous, making things difficult for everybody else just to satisfy his insatiable curiosity. Susan, the screaming girl, terrified of monsters and pretty much completely useless. Ian, the male action hero, performing daring feats of adventure and saving everybody's arse. Barbara, the oddly promiscuous (she's wearing Ganatus' pants in Episode 7 for god's sake!) female counterpart to Ian, the intelligent and relatable heroine.

The Daleks are the real stars of the story, though. This is a sentiment echoed by many others throughout the years, but it really is a good point. They are responsible for most of Who's popularity in the early 60s, and in this story it is fairly obvious to see why. The Daleks, for the first time, are to some degree genuinely frightening; they won't reach this degree of unsettling again until 1965, and from then only '75 and 2005 will treat them with the right respect again.

But we'll talk about that another time.

The Daleks isn't the best debut story for the show's most-loved villains, in fairness. It's got its problems, and it eludes 'classic' territory in my books, but for a show only just finding its feet, it's a winner.

8/10