Aaru Productions
Dr. Who & The Daleks
in colour!

Length 78 minutes
Premiered 1965

With Peter Cushing as "Dr. Who",
Roberta Tovey, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden.
Screenplay by Milton Subotsky,
from the original BBC serial by Terry Nation.
Produced by Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg,
Directed by Gordon Flemyng.

Synopsis: Dr. Who brings us on an exciting journey through space aboard his spaceship Tardis. Dr. Who and his band of voyagers travel to an unknown world devastated by nuclear fallout. When the space adventurers are captured by the murderous, metallic Daleks, the action builds as the group tries to outwit the Daleks and escape. An enjoyable frightening adventure for all!


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 9/12/98

Depending on what you define as canonical probably has a lot to do with how much you enjoy this film, as its only real connection to the television series Doctor Who is that it is based on its second story. That said however, Dr Who And The Daleks still looks better than its television counterpart, boasting not only a bigger budget but also less padding, allowing the story to be told in roughly half the time than the BBC Dalek tale.

The first thing you notice when watching this are the production values. The Dalek city entrance, topped by a wide bank and featuring equally wide doors, looks impressive as does the eerily lit blue forest. The Daleks themselves, redesigned now look bulkier, their voices echo in the city, are just as imposing on the big screen as they were on the small screen. The Thals, however, haven`t aged very well; their make up and costumes appear dated.

The four leads are also impressive: Peter Cushing establishes himself as a gentle, eccentric Professor playing the scientist Dr. Who. Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey (in particular) give convincing performances as Dr. Who`s granddaughters. Roy Castle has the most difficult task, however, in playing the romantic lead, Ian, in a comical way; however, it is to his credit that he is able to do this convincingly.

This may be the retelling of a familiar tale, but at least Dr Who And The Daleks is retold enjoyably.

BIG SCREEN ACTION! by Joe Ford 20/9/02

What is there not to like about this movie? It captures the spirit of the show more vividly than the TV movie and even gives the original broadcast a run for it's money. Its exciting, well paced and superb entertainment. It has four great leads and it's big, bold and full of Daleks!

I love The Daleks (that is the original TV broadcast) to pieces. But even I have to admit for all its menace and character work (which are both undoubtedly superb) it is a little slow (six episodes!) and more than a little creaky (in a way the black and white only can be). This movie tells the same story in half the time with double the excitement. Okay so it doesn't have the TARDIS crew character building but that isn't what a movie is about, it's about churning through Terry Nations marvellously escapist plot as quickly and effeciently as possible. With no time for this plodding character work the film comes out with much less depth but much more entertainment. That's not to say Nation's themes of genocide, pasifism and cowardice aren't touched upon (they are) but they are dealt with brilliantly fast and don't detract from the thrills and spills elsewhere.

Everything about this film is BIG! From the marvellously creative TARDIS set, not some alien device but a mess of wires and instruments to the huge alien forest to the impressive sets of the Dalek city. The Daleks themselves are giant and come in all manner of colours! Those huge flashing lights of theirs are great and oh so magically sixties! They glide through the city with their deadly exterminating blast (woah, fire extinguishers, cool!), such wonderful designs, you can see, even today, why they were such a success. Even the mountain and ravine look smashing, a far cry from the polysterene original. Visually despite some hysterical dating (lava lamps must have been the new thing!) which merely adds charm instead of detracting it the film is spectacular to look at.

Peter Cushing is just wonderful, a far cry from the bland cipher he would become in Daleks Invasion 2150AD. The first shot of him flicking through Eagle as his family read Science and Science and other rubbish is so endearing and wins you over to this gentle spin on our regular character. It's all there, his spirit of adventure when exploring, his deviousness as he sabotages the TARDIS on purpose, his manipulative nature when telling Ian to take the girl to the Daleks for experimentation... but he plays it so well, so adoringly you can't help but love this human version of the character. Roy Castle, of course, is lovely and such a dish (oh is that just me?), his comic relief can be grating (at times, sometimes it's quite effective) but he plays the role of the boyish hero so well. Roberta Tovey is so good, so much better than the whimperings of Carole Ann Ford it's untrue! She displays initiative, intelligence and bravery. How very refreshing. And Jenny Linden, the least of the four still makes quite a formidable Barbara (although nobody touches Jackie Hill, all right!). Together they make a hugely engaging team and the whole film is vastly watchable thanks to this intrepid foursome.

The set pieces are what make the film, of course. Attacking the Dalek in the cell, Ian trapped in the Dalek shell as they break down the door, the Thals walking into a trap, the attack on the city... all the joys of the original but with a juiced up budget, a more exciting score and some good direction. I just love the bit where Doctor Who and Susan are on the mountain when it splits open automatically and three Daleks appear from the city doors screaming "Do not move!" in unison.

Adventure, exploring the unknown, charismatic leads, great monsters and loads of excitement... yeah I'd say they captured the spirit of the series alright. And the fact that they do by upsetting so many fans by changing the whole premise of the show. it seems just for a laugh (Dr Who is just a doddery old man who invented TARDIS in his backyard!) makes it all the more fun for me. I don't really give a stuff for continuity when you can produce something as fun as this.

Personally I love it.

Now on the big screen... by Tim Roll-Pickering 22/1/03

The consistent failure to produce a cinema film over the last decade and a half has left many fans speculating on just what a large scale budget and other cinema effects could bring to Doctor Who to make for a brilliant adventure. But equally there is the danger that such a movie could ignore the basics of the series to the point where it becomes a film version of Doctor Who in name only. Alternatively the producers of such a movie might want to retell a story from the television series, as happened way back in 1965...

Dalekmania was at its height in that year and the appearance of a film comes as no surprise. The original trailers and movie posters focused heavily on the fact that the Daleks would appear on the big screen in colour and be more terrifying than ever before. Whilst the first part is true, the second unfortunately fails to ring properly. This film tells the same tale as the original Dalek story The Mutants but does so in barely 80 minutes. The only notable changes are that Kristas has been removed (though his character was extremely minor on television anyway), the Daleks' plan has been simplified to being to detonate another bomb and there's a clear Dalek hierarchy with both a Black and a Red Dalek appearing. Otherwise virtually every major part of the story is present even though it is told in half the time and also includes a sequence introducing the characters and TARDIS. Unfortunately the major cuts in the story have been the characterisation and tension that gave the television version so much of its weight is missing here. None of the Thals are given any depth whatsoever, with the relationship between Barbara and Ganatus being exorcised, whilst the Daleks are explained in a much more 'matter of fact' style than before. Ian is turned into a buffoon, tripping up and slipping so much that some scenes descend into slapstick, whilst Barbara is reduced to a helpless blond. Susie is shown as more intelligent than her television counterpart even though she is a younger girl, whilst Dr Who is now an absent minded human mad scientist but neither of these characters especially inspire. As a result the film is tedious to watch at times and reliant upon the sets and action for its impact.

Design wise it is clear that a lot more money was spent on the film than on the television series, but unfortunately not enough to make the surface of Skaro convincing in colour. The Dalek city exterior is a lot less visually impressive than its television counterparts in either The Mutants or The Evil of the Daleks, but the interior shows where the money has been spent. Although the claustrophobia of the television is lost, what is gained are sets that don't give away any sign of cheapness whilst also offering a grand scale. The Daleks suffer a little from their colour scheme being too friendly but with many more functioning casings than on television they are able to offer themselves as a credible army when they need to.

What is missing in particular from the story is the level of Nazi symbolism from the original. Here it manifests itself only briefly in a scene where the Black Dalek tells the other Daleks that the final end of the Thals is almost upon them and the camera work and placing of the Daleks suggests a political rally. Otherwise a lot of the concepts are ignored, whilst visually the Thals no longer look like Aryan supermen now that they have blue skin and eyelashes, an effect that just doesn't make them look impressive anymore.

The cliffhanger ending of TARDIS materialising in the middle of a Roman army on the march is a nice touch even though the stock footage of the Romans is clearly of low quality and on a different level to Ian as he looks out. However the final shot of Ian going crazy whilst the others all sit or stand about doing nothing is an unfortunate closing scene since it offers neither a sign of the liberation that has happened in the story nor a great promise of adventures that will exist only in the imagination.

Of the cast, Peter Cushing gives a good performance as Dr. Who and it is easy to see why he listed this as one of his favourite films since he is a far cry from his more traditional scary roles. Roy Castle is lumbered with the unfortunate role of Ian but wisely plays the character so that the buffoonery seems natural. Otherwise there are no especially inspiring performances at all in the film. The direction is reasonable but rarely builds up a sense of tension. The result is a movie that may have delighted fans in the 1960s by offering the big screen, colour and a greater budget but nowadays it comes across as a cheap cash in on the wave of Dalekmania. 2/10

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 22/3/04

The first "spectacular" Doctor Who movie, indeed both the Dalek 60s movies, were a glitch in my DW knowledge. It was almost as if I had forgotten about them - justifying the tag that Peter Cushing often has as the forgotten Doctor. It was time to remedy that DW absence in my life, and where better than Saturday afternoon - it was matinee time!

Going into the films all I knew was from a hazy remembrance from my long-distant childhood and the odd article in DWM. They were in colour (everywhere seemed to advertise that, even though their movie release was a few years before I was born - and I only saw them on colour TV anyway!), they had Peter Cushing as Doctor Who (an English gentleman who loved inventing things), they were the same stories as the first 2 Dalek TV serials with the original TARDIS crew, Roy Castle was in the first and Bernard Cribbins was in the second. That was it, that's all I remembered and knew. And so on that Spring Saturday afternoon, Dr Who and the Daleks entered the Video - and what a splendid time was had by all!

What strikes a chord from the opening credits is the music - that strange kind of 60s kitsch sci-fi stuff. Then we come across the Who Family. Mr Who, also an inventing Doctor, has 2 grandchildren who are visiting with him - Susan and Barbara. Susan is an young girl, not older than 10. Barbara is young woman, early 20s. Barbara's Boyfriend, Ian, comes to visit too - and off they go in the Doctor's invention - a time machine.

It's amazing that this is all taken at a fair old stride within the first quarter of an hour. No thought is given to why the TARDIS is shaped like a police telephone box, it just is. The TV show was, after all, mega popular back then - and police boxes are good ways to travel to other worlds. A fore-knowledge of the TV series then was useful. But then the TV series is changed. There's the same characters (Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Susan), but they are quite different from their TV cousins.

Peter Cushing's Doctor is an English gentleman. A human inventor who likes to read comics. He's your dippy old uncle who spends all his time in the garage meddling with gadgets. He's a very likeable old gent, and Peter Cushing is excellent.

Ian Chesterton is a bumbling young man. Roy Castle gets lots of the laughs, trips up lots and is ultimately very heroic against the monsters. It was great to see the versatile Roy Castle in Doctor Who, full stop. He's one of the great entertainers of British stage.

Barbara Who is a quiet young woman, shepherded by everyone around her. By far the weakest member of the foursome, she has very little to do, she doesn't even scream that much.

Susan Who is a likeable young girl. Roberta Tovey is a fantastic child actress, far better than most. She succeeds in coming over as clever, but also the sort of girl you want your kids or sister to play with.

The Daleks are magnificent. In glorious Technicolour they really are impressive. Helped by booming voices that echo off the metal walls of their city, this really is their film. They look great, they sound great. Their city is very impressive too - the set designers providing a real alien, metallic setting for our favourite monsters. Less successful are the Thals. Eye-shadow and pretty hairdos is great for the women, but the men look ridiculous. When DW is described as camp, this is where they were looking.

The script is the 7-part Dalek serial condensed into 80 minutes. Halving the Dalek script you would think much would be missed out, but it really doesn't seem that way at all. But it's unfair to compare the 2 - the Dalek TV serial was 7 25 minute segments and paced as such. The film is to be watched in 1 sitting, and is therefore much more urgent. Looking back now at the mass of DW, it's a shame they didn't give us an original story - but if a story is that good why not make it even better, and they definitely did that for the most part!

It all looks great in its Technicolour brilliance. The TARDIS could have been better inside, but the occupants (except Barbara) are very watchable and entertaining. The Daleks have never looked better. I could really see how Dalekmania took off in the 60s after watching this film - it really was quite exciting! I'm looking forward to the sequel in Earth 2150 AD already! 7/10

A Review by Finn Clark 8/6/06

Peter Cushing's first Dalek movie is one of the most kiddified things ever to appear under the Doctor Who label. That's not random abuse, by the way. I find it fascinating for precisely that reason. There have been more child-oriented products (colouring books, World Distributors annuals, Tom Arden's Nightdreamers) but you could go dizzy counting the changes they made to the BBC's original en route to the big screen.

  1. It's cuddly! The original was an intense, claustrophobic production of a grim, survivalist life-or-death script from Terry Nation. Its themes included post-atomic armageddon, radiation-induced mutation, Nazi race hatred and the dangers of pacifism when facing extermination. The big-screen remake, on the other hand, has comedy with Roy Castle and a box of chocolates.
  2. Susan (or "Susie" as Cushing also calls her) has become eleven years old and arguably the main character! If there's any action, she's usually at the heart of it. Certainly in the first half she seems to get all the big plot moments. Susan grabs the medicine, goes alone into the forest, meets Alydon, writes the letter, steals the pen, sabotages the camera and suggests that the cape be used to insulate the Dalek from the floor. Admittedly she's less prominent in the second half, but that's because the film stuck to Terry Nation's plot structure.
Admittedly one could also build similar arguments around Ian or the Doctor, but compared with their TV incarnations the three adults have all been watered down. Roy Castle's Ian is a timorous goofball, Jennie Linden's Barbara barely exists and Doctor Who [sic] is an absent-minded grandad. Nevertheless little Susan has become an improbable genius who spouts technobabble, reads high-level physics textbooks and has more brains and guts than the grown-ups around her. I don't see this as related to Carole Ann Ford's version of the character. I think someone crafted this brand-new Susan with the film's target audience firmly in mind.

The other leads are even mostly defined by their interactions with Susan. Barbara isn't lovey-dovey with Ian, is she? Similarly Ian may be Barbara's boyfriend, but you get a much stronger sense of his joking relationship with her little sister. Roy Castle brings schoolboy charm to his role, but unfortunately he also gets lots of physical gags of which not one is funny. He's like a black hole of anti-comedy. In fairness however I'm not convinced it's all Roy Castle's fault, since I don't find this film particularly well directed.

As for Peter Cushing... I've never felt Cushing had much acting range, but within his limitations the man was a genius. No one will ever out-Cushing Cushing. He breathes life into godawful fifth-rate British horror flicks simply by stepping in front of the cameras. Elegant, courteous, chillingly callous and either breathtakingly noble or deliciously evil, I worship his memory.

Here, alas, he's none of that. Cushing could have been awesome with a more Hartnell-like characterisation, but here he's just a grandad. My favourite actor to play the Doctor gives what's still the worst performance yet in the role, if you don't count Richard E. Grant. He doesn't command the screen. He stoops. He potters around. He gives a big wink whenever he's up to something dodgy, to reassure us. And, like everyone else, he's mostly defined by his relationship with Susan. She's his real companion, with Ian and Barbara just tagging along. He's an affectionate dodderer who loves playing with his granddaughter and only really comes alive when she's threatened. There's a line in the second film where he actually shows some steel: "You should have made them stay." He's very protective of the wee lass.

In fairness Peter Cushing was the sweetest, kindest man you could ever hope to meet and he loved playing this movie's Doctor. Furthermore, given the film's focus, this characterisation makes sense even if it's not what I'd have chosen. You couldn't put Hartnell's sinister old bastard into this kind of family film. However Cushing's Doctor isn't even a watered-down version. Apparently Cushing hadn't watched the TV series and just played it as "an eccentric scientist". Mind you, on occasion Susan's safely out of the way and Cushing almost becomes a different character. He's more Doctorish, relaxing into the situation as he acts more like Hartnell did. I enjoyed the "we'll give your girlfriend to the Daleks" scene, even if Cushing does give another of those bloody winks.

Of the main cast, only Roberta Tovey stands comparison with her TV counterpart. Hartnell, Russell and Hill are so far ahead of their replacements that it's not even funny, but Tovey is surprisingly capable. She has her glitches ("Coward, I for one am going to investigate!"), but it's the scriptwriter who needs shooting there. The screenplay credit says Milton Subotsky, but apparently Terry Nation only let them use his original scripts on condition that David Whitaker did the adaptation. If so, was he on drugs? How many children speak like that? And you thought Jake Lloyd had it bad in The Phantom Menace! Admittedly the BBC's Susan was a more compelling character, but this film puts its weight on little Roberta Tovey and if she'd cocked up then the film would be unwatchable and we'd have all been screaming for decades about the ghastly child actor who single-handedly ruined a classic. In fact Tovey was an experienced child actress who did eight films during 1960-66 and stayed in the business as an adult, unlike many child stars. As an incentive during filming, the director Gordon Flemyng paid Tovey a shilling whenever she did a scene in one take. This made her so much money that Flemyng retracted the offer for the sequel.

Visually this film is brash, colourful and less striking than the BBC TV original. (Did I mention the weak direction?) Its sixties kitsch is fun, but honestly! That TARDIS interior, the Dalek city... are those Christmas decorations? What's with the Thals' eyeshadow? However I like the petrified forest, with its two-tone colour schemes like cheap comic books of the period. Occasionally also the higher budget gives us a gem, with glass shots of Skaro's landscape or the cracking open rock face in front of the Dalek city.

I also love the music. It's hardly subtle, but it's fun and it fits.

I haven't yet mentioned the Daleks! They're too colourful, like their city tarted up as if it's the week before Christmas. (Arguably Skaro should have been colourless, both in the metal city and the petrified forest, but we all know what the film's producers would have said to that.) Nevertheless a Dalek is a Dalek. They're still treacherous, bloodthirsty and thoroughly watchable. With their kick-arse fire extinguisher guns, they bring this film to life. They're the real stars. If a Dalek's trying to kill you, you know you're in Doctor Who! One problem with this movie is structural: once our heroes have escaped from the city, there's not enough Dalek action! They have some odd speech patterns, though. Apparently their dome lights flashed randomly in filming, then afterwards it was realised that the lights were meant to coincide with their dialogue. Ironically they're at their most chilling in the trailer. This film is a strange beast: a cuddly family movie based on a grim Terry Nation script about nuclear war, extermination and race hatred. The strain is particularly obvious during Ian and Barbara's trek through the mountains, which doesn't really fit. It wants to be intense and scary, yet it has Roy Castle. The only thing that became scarier in the big-screen transition is the fact that you can't lock these TARDIS doors. Nevertheless I've always enjoyed it. It's dumb fun, obviously faster-paced than Serial B and good for a laugh.

I also think it's a better children's film than its sequel. Camp as a row of tents, of course, but sometimes that's no bad thing. The plot is beautifully simple and you always know what our heroes are trying to do, as opposed to the rather bleak and cheerless follow-up where everyone spends most of the film running away until they get their act together in the final reel. Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. is probably a better film, but ever since I was small I've always preferred this one.

A Review by E. John Winner 9/9/12

If any Doctor Who story has rightful claim as the 'ur-text' that every other story explicitly or in some way subtly refers back to, it is the first Dalek serial (sometimes known as The Daleks, otherwise The Mutants, rarely The Dead Planet; here I'll just call it The Daleks). But, problematically, this story exists in five distinct versions, three of which are still fairly well known: Terry Nation's original script; the actual serial as televised; the AARU film production with Peter Cushing (script by Milton Subotsky); the Dell Comics illustrated version based on the motion picture; and the novelization by Terry Nation's script editor David Whitaker. I haven't seen the Dell comic nor Nation's original script, so we'll set those aside; these versions are not widely remarked upon these days anyway. The differences between the serial, the movie, and the novelization are striking enough.

The serial struck such a chord with the viewing public of its day because it was dark, brooding and mysterious, resonating with memories and stories of the horrors of the Second World War. Although the story begins to drag and date badly in the later episodes, the opening retains its mystery and scare value, after five decades.

The novelization by Whitaker, on the other hand, is written as a 'classic' science fiction story ala Verne or Wells, narrated by Ian Chesterton in a breathless, vaguely archaic prose. It almost achieves successful pastiche of the classic SF style, although compared with all the novelizations and original novels since, it is certainly in a class by itself: alternately charming and preposterously out of date. But, on its own terms, it's a good read.

And the movie... Well, that's what we're here to discuss.

By deciding to go with The Daleks as the second complete story for the TV series, Verity Lambert and her creative team effectively tossed aside three prime directives from Doctor Who progenitor Sydney Newman; first that the show was to be aimed primarily at children; second, that there must be a child character young viewers could identify with; and third that there were to be no "bug-eyed monsters." The broadcast Dalek serial is clearly adult science fiction, with large concepts and little humor. Carol Ann Ford may have looked youthful and petite, but she was clearly not a child, no matter how much screaming was demanded of her; and of course the Daleks' eye-stalk made them 'bug-eyed', however loosely.

When co-producer/scripter Milton Subotsky adapted the serial for the big screen (obviously with an eye to selling it to the American market), there wasn't much he could do with the Daleks; but he did make an interesting choice to compress the story for a younger audience (hence the infusion of humor and outright comedy provided by a much redefined Ian), and to portray Susan as a child of about 10 or 12, rather than a blossoming young adult. So, to some extent, we're actually witnessing here a version of The Daleks that perhaps Newman himself would have preferred.

I remark on that, because it's important to realize that, when we watch the movie, we are not watching a reductive remake of the serial, or just a quickie ripoff. This is a true alternative version of the same story.

There are at least 20 film and television versions of Conan Doyle's Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Some are better than others, but what draws us to each in turn is a fascination for the original storyline, and desire to see what insights different creative teams can bring to the project. If one likes, one can think of the original Dalek serial as the Basil Rathbone version, and the Dalek movie as the Hammer Films version of the same basic storyline. Each version has new insights to add. While Roy Castle's Ian is occasionally annoying, the real revelation here is Peter Cushing's bouyancy and sense of humor. The television series wouldn't see that quality in the Doctor until Patrick Troughton. And, of course, we wouldn't see the red frock coat on the Doctor again until Jon Pertwee. The Doctor wouldn't regularly produce his reading glasses until Peter Davision... Actually, let me be blunt. Peter Cushing has been far more influential on the development of the Doctor's personality than William Hartnell. (Although Hartnell's Doctor is a true misanthrope, disdaining everything human, which gives him that 'alien' quality Cushing lacks.)

Another revelation is Roberta Tovey as Susan. As I've hinted, being a pre-teen, she is far more in keeping with the original vision for the character than Carol Ann Ford. But let's continue to be blunt: she is a far livelier, more independent, more interesting Susan than Ford! (That is not Ms. Ford's fault; it becomes very apparent very early on the TV show that the creative staff had not the slightest idea how to write the character or direct Ms. Ford's portrayal of her.)

The most important insight the film provides into the story itself is in its compression (to some 80 minutes) of the narrative that the BBC took 175 minutes to relate; this without missing a single vital point or episode. Of course, the pacing of the BBC show was that of an episodic serial, somewhat akin to that of a soap-opera, as is natural to television, and must be respected on those terms. Nonetheless, it is stunning that such compression can occur without even the hint of narrative loss. And by pacing the film for a short, sweet B-movie of its day, Subotsky and director Gordon Flemyng reveal that beneath the heavy-handed allusions to the Second World War in the serial ran the plot of a cracking good old-fashioned adventure yarn (something on the order of The Wizard of Oz, with the Dalek city standing in for the castle of the Wicked Witch...). If that hadn't been the case, the serial itself would have died. But only in the film do we live that adventure in its unpacked, streamlined purity and simplicity.

Story and cast aside, the movie just as such is really enjoyable. Skaro is more completely realized here than on the original show, simply because the method of realization has to do with the cinematic techniques of lighting, color and the use of space, all of which were unavailable to the serial's production crew. It is simply wrong to prefer one version to the other (what the serial's Skaro lacks in realization, it makes up for with an atmosphere of mystery). Both production crews did the best with what they had to work with, and did so quite well in their differing media. The film's cinematography and editing, using techniques also unavailable to the TV show, are crisp and to the point. There's very little wasted footage here. The film, as already noted, is rapidly paced and family oriented. Frankly, watching it, I always imagine myself a 12 year old sitting in a car at a drive-in theater of the time, munching popcorn, alternately thrilled and amused.

Taken on its own, it's a fun film. Taken as a Doctor Who story, it's still a fun film. It's as much a Doctor Who film as any version of the Hound of the Baskervilles is a Sherlock Holmes film. And, despite all the canon-wonkery, for me Peter Cushing will always be the other 'First Doctor'. (Yes, there can be two First Doctors; see, during the Time War, the Doctor had to regenerate as his primal self and relive past adventures...) And I spend no more time thinking about the film's pretense that the Doctor is human than I do worrying that Doctor Who: The Movie pretended he was half human. The question is, as he appears and acts and speaks in any given adventure, is he still THE Doctor, scourge of the Daleks and traveler through time and space? Well, here he most decidedly is.

Technicolor of the Daleks by Matthew Kresal 26/1/22

When we think of 1960s Doctor Who with the Daleks, our minds often think of monochrome images. We think of William Hartnell and later Patrick Troughton on BBC television, facing Terry Nation's creations in encounters ranging from their city on Skaro to invasion-ravaged Britain and beyond. Yet, for brief occasions in the middle of that decade, that wasn't the case. One could see them in color, with Peter Cushing playing Dr. Who in the cinema. The first of these movies, released between the TV series second and third seasons in 1965, was Dr. Who & The Daleks.

How did such a thing happen? It's worth remembering the ephemeral nature television was seen in at this time, especially in the UK, with it being seen in similar terms to stage plays in that you either saw it or you didn't. As a result, UK film companies often had themselves a market to do remakes of programs for cinema release, allowing audiences who missed the original broadcast a chance to see things that were often shorter in overall running time but with (at times slightly) bigger budgets. Hammer, for example, now famous for their horror films, got an early start by bringing the BBC's Dick Barton radio thrillers to the screen in the late 1940s and later had their first sizable successes remaking Nigel Kneale's Quatermass serials as films. Amicus, founded by Americans Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, saw a similar opportunity with the first two Dalek serials, paying the princely sum of £500 to writer Terry Nation and the BBC for the rights.

As such, when Subotsky (and an uncredited David Whittaker) adapted the seven-episode serial into an 80-minute movie running scarcely half as long, some changes were inevitable. Perhaps the biggest being a change of origin story, given that the production of the TV series would preclude bringing back the TV series' main cast. Instead, William Hartnell's Doctor (who still had his harder edge in the TV serial) becomes a genial, grandfatherly human scientist named Dr. Who, played by Peter Cushing, who has built the TARDIS in his back garden. Susan (or "Sussie" as Dr. Who often calls her) is a bright tween, played by Roberta Tovey, with an older sister named Barbara played by Jennie Linden. And, as you might expect, given Barbara is no longer a school teacher, neither is Ian Chesterton, who becomes Barbara's bumbling and slightly cowardly boyfriend, played by actor/comedian Roy Castle. The TARDIS itself is different, too, with its interior, while still "bigger on the inside," looking and sounding very different from its TV counterpart, including having the now-famous "wheezing groaning sound" replaced by altogether less memorable electronic noise. From its opening minutes, then, the movie is a very different kettle of fish from what BBC TV viewers saw in the early weeks of 1964.

The movie itself, beyond those opening minutes, plays like a more tightly presented version of the TV serial. Virtually all of the significant plot points are here, from the travelers exploring the Dalek city that leads to the first encounter with the titular monsters to the various treks through the jungle and swamp of mutations leading to the final confrontation. Many scenes receive a trim, with some scenes or supporting characters getting omitted altogether. There's also, likely due to the intended cinema audience, some changes in emphasis, including having a Thal character late in the plot - who sacrificed himself in the TV version after going over a cliff - manage to survive by finding a convenient ledge here.

There's also a different tone. If the TV serial was an action-adventure story with sometimes grim moments, the movie presents a lighter touch through its script and the direction of Gordon Flemyng. It's something apparent in the characterization of Ian Chesterton, with Roy Castle's Ian being less William Russell's man of action and more comic relief, something that starts in his very first scene and lasts until the closing frame. While what we might think of as "horror moments" remain in places, they're often off-set (if not outright dissipated) by more comedic moments that soon follow. It's something that feels jarring perhaps today, but it's easy to see both why filmmakers chose this route and why the movie worked so well at the time for audiences with only hazy memories of the TV serial at best.

The movie has one other thing going for it. Namely, in being made for cinema screens, it's in both widescreen and glorious Technicolor. As the film moves beyond Dr. Who's home and garden behind, it becomes full of vibrant colors, from the green lighting of the petrified forest to the multi-colored Daleks who populate the city. Even the Thals get made up in borderline garish colors, complete with blond hair and blue/green eye make-up. While the sets themselves, and the Dalek city especially, somehow manage to be more dated than their TV counterparts as a very 1960s vision of the future, they're still gorgeous pieces of work to look at. While we take color for granted today, and we've now had our share of multi-colored Daleks in televised Doctor Who (most infamously in 2010's Victory of the Daleks), it's still something that makes this movie stand out.

In the final analysis, Dr. Who & The Daleks is an intriguing curiosity. It feels like an odd cross between 1960s BBC Doctor Who and the Adam West Batman TV series of the time. Which means it's splashy, colorful and over-the-top fun. Is it a patch on the original TV serial? Perhaps not. But as rainy day or late night viewing, especially for those likely to be put off by the thought of monochrome, it's a suitably diverting 80 minutes.

Not to mention worth seeing for the sight of Peter Cushing as Dr. Who.