Planet of the Daleks
|Dates||Apr. 7, 1973 -
May 12, 1973
With Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning.
Written by Tery Nation. Script-edited by Terrance Dicks.
Directed by David Maloney. Produced by Barry Letts.
Synopsis: Continuing from
Space, the Doctor and Jo attempt to destroy the largest army of Daleks
|Note: Episode 3 survives only in black and white film.|
A Review by Jeff Sims 19/7/98
Despite being presented as a sequel to Frontier In Space, this is really a stand-alone story, and one of the most action-packed of them all. So much happens that I can hardly remember the plot... Oh, yes, long after the events depicted in The Daleks (to which this is much more of a sequel), the Thals have developed space flight, and have pursued the Daleks to a creepy tropical planet. Thal commandos, joined by the Doctor and Jo, wade through the carnivorous plants while endeavoring to destroy their eternal enemies. The Daleks, meanwhile, supported by their native henchmen, plan to awaken their gigantic secret army, hidden far underground, and conquer the universe.
The excitement is nonstop. The Doctor and his allies blow up Daleks, zap them, push them down shafts, and drown them with hardly a pause for breath. The good guys are constantly hunted, trapped, and threatened, but most of them survive to get the job done. The Daleks, of course, certain of total victory until the last moment, are their good old evil selves.
This one is a lot of fun. It doesn't have many clever ideas like some of the others, but as a straight adventure yarn it can't be beat. Third Doctor and Daleks fans must see this one. The b/w third episode does not detract from the enjoyment.
Insipid, Dull and Derivative by Tom May 8/10/98
Season 10 was a fairly reasonable season. The Green Death was passable, Frontier In Space was enjoyable, Carnival of Monsters was class and The Three Doctors was forgiveable. The same simply cannot be said of Planet of the Daleks, a story in which no new ground is trodden. The production is tame and oddly restrained, and you get the feeling if someone other than Terry Nation had wrote it, it wouldn't have been made.
Nation's script outrageously rips off his original Dalek story, The Daleks. He doesn't even rip it off in a clever way, he dillutes it. The Daleks are predictable, the Thals are pathetic, and the team of Jo and the Third Doctor was never done worse than here. The opening is fairly promising, yet ultimately fizzles out with the appearance of the bland Thals. Katy Manning turns in a fine performance in episode 1, yet struggles to rise above the script's inaptitude.
Jon Pertwee, who had, by this point, developed a predictable, vaguely eccentric "man of action" Doctor, barely tries to rise above the script, and acts in accordance with the story's style. While The Daleks had a fairly original script, an interesting race of Daleks, Hartnell, Russell and Hill, Planet Of The Daleks has little to commend it with. Even the title is rather incorrect, as the eponymous planet, Spiridon, is obviously not the Daleks' planet. Spiridon is a vaguely Skaro-like planet, with a rather false jungle and unbeleiveable plant life. The Spiridons themselves, are pretty lifeless, and are copied, somewhat ridiculously, in Terry Nation's next story, Death To The Daleks.
Whole aspects of the plot of The Daleks re used in this story, and one tires of Nation's useless Thal morality. The Thal leader's character is treated badly, and any subtlty and credibility is lost when his leadership style is excessively dwelled upon.
By this time it's clear Nation wasn't bothered whether he wrote a good story or not. Judging by this, he should've left it to others. Louis Marks produced a reasonable Dalek story, and David Whitaker wrote the best two of all. Planet of the Daleks was a huge disappointment, one that ruined Terry Nation's credibility. Never before had Doctor Who been so derivative and lifeless. The only way Planet of the Daleks succeeds, is that it is a sure way to put the viewer to sleep. 2/10
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 24/4/99
This is basically a rehash of the original Dalek tale made for the Pertwee era. And unfortunately not a very good one at that.
Planet of the Daleks is basically a straightforward action/adventure yarn with not a lot to recommend it. Some elements of the tale may be seen as pure nostalgia, with references to the events in The Daleks, but it certainly lacks the sense of wonder of that tale. The 10,000 Daleks are clearly toys, and the full size ones don`t fare much better. The title is somewhat inaccurate, as Skaro is the planet of the Daleks, not Spiridon, and the cliffhanger to the opening episode is somewhat pointless, as The Doctor was captured by the Daleks at the end of Frontier In Space and would`ve been expecting to discover them sooner or later. Besides, the title also gives the game away....
Planet of the Daleks does have some good points, however: the development of the Thals is logical, (even if they do seem to have abandoned their pacifist ways), although the idea that Jo would fall for one of them seems unlikely. The appearance of the Dalek Supreme is also impressive and unexpected.
So, in summary, Planet of the Daleks is enjoyable, but not essential viewing.
A Review by Anthony O'Connor 25/1/00
I was eleven years old when Planet of the Daleks was first unleashed on the British public. Now, some 27 years later I had the chance to see it again with it's release on home video as part of the Planet / Revelation tin extravaganza.
I had heard and read over the years how people had been so very disappointed with the story. How it was a bland re-hash of Hartnell's original Dalek episodes and was very uninspired.
To be quite honest, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the story from Episode 1. I set out to view it, not through the eyes of a critical thirtysomething fan (which I tend to do far too often) but as entertainment that was produced to be enjoyed. It's not very often that I catch up with a story that I have not seen since it's original transmission so I did not want to spoil it with my adult interpretation, which unfortunately will probably come soon enough during a future viewing!
It may be a tad too long at 6 episodes and could probably have been compressed into four had the obligatory padding been removed but all in all, the Daleks were suitably nasty, Jo was suitably brave, sweet, vulnerable, caring and all those other traits that once made her so appealing to an eleven year old. The dear Doctor was resourceful and the Thals were, well they're just Thals aren't they.
One part that I probably noticed more as an adult viewer than a child was the Doctor's reaction to Jo's apparent demise in the Thal spaceship after it was destroyed by the Daleks. If I had been the Doc's travelling companion I would have hoped for a little more boo-hooing at that point in the proceedings, but that's just me. (Selfish to the last !)
To sum up, see Planet of the Daleks for yourself and form your own opinion just as you would do with any story for any Doctor. Some people will love it and others will hate which at the end of the day is basically what being a Dr Who fan (sorry "enthusiast") is all about . If we all loved every DW story in existence Fandom would certainly be a very dull place to visit and I like it just the way it is thank you very much. (Except maybe for those people who know what every button on the Tardis console is for - they tend to scare me a little)
A Review by Samuel Payne 2/5/00
One of the most underrated stories ever is Planet of the Daleks by Terry Nation. Fans accuse this adventure as being a rehash of the successful original Dalek story, which was shown ten years previously. Fine, the adventure is similar in content to the original but has much more built on. For fans of the original this is essential viewing as it reunites the Doctor with the Thals on similar territory as before, with good fighting evil with heavy odds. The story is classic adventure style, which is probably a little too broad with the standard Doctor Who budget, as it does ask a lot from special effects. For example the ice tunnels, the ventilation shaft, the cave full of Daleks and the heavy terrain involving icecanoes, rock circles and a giant city, but the production handles most of this well.
The Doctor is out cold due to his incident with the Master in the previous story. Travelling in the Tardis to the planet Spiridon, Jo ventures out and is infected by a deadly skin disease. An invisible Spiridon looks after her. When the Doctor awakes he assumes she is dead as the Daleks destroyed her last whereabouts, the Thal spaceship. Teaming up with the marooned Thals the Doctor attempts to destroy the army of ten thousand Daleks on the planet, which are in cryogenic suspension. The Doctor succeeds and the Thals escape home in the Dalek Supreme's spaceship and the Doctor and Jo return to Earth leaving the remaining Daleks stranded.
Anybody who was lucky enough, like myself, who watched the adventure back in late 1993, will not forget how exiting it was. This adventure is solely designed to be watched episode by episode, as does not really hold attention watching all at once.
With some of the best cliffhangers in Doctor Who history, for example the Dalek chasing the parachute up the ventilator shaft and the parachute tearing is a great "How will they get out of this one?" ending.
This story is also great because it incorporates the Dalek Order idea of Daleks being led by more important Daleks. The introduction of the flashy Dalek Supreme, with its black and gold trimmings is interesting; especially it's extermination of the failed unit operator Dalek. Sadly though, the new Dalek props created by the BBC effects workshop are sloppy reproductions of their forefathers, with strangely sloping back skirt sections and crude panels, as they do detract from the originals.
The Doctor is good in this story, and plays it quite cool. Jo Grant is brave and plays her part well, and the Thals are well portrayed. It is nice to see them arguing over domestic issues, as in the original I found the Thals were far to calm. An interesting story nevertheless, with a great final episode.
Good but too long! by James Neirotti 7/8/00
Terry Nation's Planet of the Daleks explodes into an action packed begenning. Episode One finds the Doctor dying in the console room of the TARDIS following his battle with the Master, Ogrons and the Daleks in the previous story. Jo takes control as the lead character as she ventures outside of the TARDIS into an exotic jungle on the planet Spiridon. Some complain that this story is a 'blow them up' feature, and guess what - they're right! For once we don't have to sit back and think about the plot, all we need to do is relax and watch the fun. However, the cliffhanger in one of the episodes where Pertwee reveals an invisible Dalek is rather silly, we know a Dalek is going to turn up sooner or later look at the title. And the plot of 12,000 Daleks in hybernation ready to wake and start a masive war is something worth waiting to see if it will succeed or not.
As with all Pertwee stories it is rather long (6 episodes) and you tend to lose intrest around episode four. This story could have fit better into a four parter. That's something a little sad about the Pertwee era, great stories just too bloody long. However, the story is saved in the finale by the possible departure of Jo Grant to live with the Thal's and the arrival of the Supreme Dalek. I'd rank this about a 7/10. Great first episode, great last episode but a little boring and predictable in the middle.
The Ebay Batch Part 3 by Robert Thomas 2/4/01
How about that Bernard Horsfall who is in this one too. He puts in another good performance and is rising up my list of favorite guest actor. This is a very fun story with not much of a plot but a lot of action. It has been said this is a rehash of The Daleks, but it needs to be said most of the people who watched this on transmission either hadn't seen it or didn't remember it.
The Doctor has a lot to do but like some above reviewers I found him a bit quieter than usual. After having a think about this I think I have the answer. This is bar the odd scene at the end a studio bound story, when we think of Pertwee we think of the all action Doctor, riding and running and generally getting about a bit. In this story we see a more talkative Doctor which is why it seems different. Again this story is a-typical of his era, all bar a few of his other stories had location work, and in the other studio bound stories (the Peladon ones) he had a couple of fight scenes to get through.
Very rarely mentioned is the fact that we see the first flying Dalek here. My sister who is watching these videos with me is under the impression that most of Who had cliffhanger starts and endings. If you watch this with a non fan for the first time warn them that they may get a shock or heart attack at the end of part one - always works for me.
So apart from some dodgy special effects (the animal eyes) a fun little action story. With part 3 being the most atmospheric, maybe due to the black and white. The scenes in the ice tunnels and the ice tomb at the end are very good.
Planet of the Dull Hack by Andrew Wixon 21/11/01
Oh, my, Mr Terry Nation! What are we to make of him? When he was good (Genesis, odd bits of The Daleks and Android Invasion and Destiny, and of course Blake's 7 and Survivors) he could hold his head up high alongside the giants of his field. But when he was bad...
Well, I've always said that there's no such thing as a bad story, only a boring one - but unfortunately Planet of the Daleks very nearly qualifies as both. Weirdly though, I'm finding it very hard to actually dislike it - it's just that uninteresting. Consider - the Doctor arrives looking for the Daleks so he can defeat them. The Daleks want to conquer the galaxy. The Doctor and his new friends stop the Daleks from conquering the galaxy by defeating them. There really isn't very much more to the story than that, no humour, no moral complexity, no texture or depth to anyone or anything involved. The only meaningful character interaction is bloody awful Thal soap opera or the Doctor making another terrible speech (the bit where Codal says 'You've done a lot for me, Doctor' gets my vote as the lowest nadir that DW ever sank to - outside of Warriors of the Deep, anyway).
The basic plotting is fine, even if it does wander off towards Blake-style space opera silliness in bits. But it's just so irritatingly poorly written - there's precious little linking into Frontier in Space, the first cliffhanger is pointless given that the audience has surely already guessed there are Daleks in the story given that they're in the title, the second cliffhanger loses a lot of its impact given we all know that however many Daleks there are only three of them will ever move at the same time, the invisible Daleks idea is interesting but almost wholly neglected... and that's not even mentioning how many elements Nation is reusing from his sixties scripts (and let's face it, would reuse again over his next four scripts).
The realisation of the story is okay but just a few more location sequences would improve it immensely. The cast are mostly drippy or stodgy, excepting Bernard Horsfall as the Nation-surrogate Taron, who gives a committed and convincing performance (but saying that's a bit like saying they remembered to put film in the camera). The Supreme Dalek nearly steals the show, only slightly letting the side down with its peculiar nasal delivery.
So in the final analysis, is Planet of the Daleks boring or merely bad? You know, I really can't bring myself to care either way. The reason the word 'hack' exists is to describe the writers of this sort of thing.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 12/12/01
We recently decided on a weekend break with some friends in a cottage in the country. A very nice and relaxing weekend was the objective. My mate, being a keen fan like myself, suggested taking a DW Video to enjoy. The wives wouldn’t mind, they liked the show too. So out came the Dalek Tin, very nicely packaged in a bump-strewn tin, and Planet of the Daleks found its’ way into the video on a cold November Saturday evening.
Being known as one of the weakest Dalek stories I was intrigued. Would this carefully arranged atmosphere (Saturday early evening, coal fire burning, Pertwee, Daleks) hold up after all these years.
Me and my mate sat there, re-capturing the magic of our childhood – commenting on the stories similarities to the original Daleks, how impressive the planet Spiridon had been created, the grand entrance of the Dalek city, how Jo was clearly moving away from the Doctor’s guidance ready for her departure in The Green Death. We commented on the MFI wardrobe of the TARDIS, never see that again I expect – and we never did! How the invisible Spiridons were a pretty naff idea, but we did like their fur coats. We liked the impressive model work of the Dalek stronghold, that still looked like Models anyway. How the show was pure pulp B-Movie Sci-Fi – complete with underground cities, freedom fighters and ventilator shafts to escape and break in. How the show dragged, and that was watching it in 3 2-part stints! How good Pertwee looked in his Purple Velvet Jacket and frilly shirt – what a Doctor!
Our wives sat entranced. Mine and Eric’s antics were the main source I expect, but the Dalek story unfolding before their eyes also helped. Ruth with eyes aglow, it was Pertwee – her favourite Doctor – after all. Nealm commenting how bad the effects were, but still looking sufficiently interested as to judge the evening a success. Exclamations of outrage were heard as Jo again showed all the characteristics that endeared her to men, but appalled her to women.
There was one other cute, tiny if notable presence in the Cottage that cold November evening. Nikita is my mate’s daughter. She’s nearly 3, and has seen bits of Doctor Who since she emerged into the world. Her Dad is on a noble Crusade to teach her where the real joy in the world lies – and she is now clearly at the right age to start that treatment in earnest. As grown-up, over the hill, saturated in all aspects of Doctor Who, fans we forget the original impact of the show on the very young. It is with great wonder then I report the reaction of this nearly 3 year old:-
The Daleks rolled onto the screen, through the foliage of Spiridon. Nikita grabbed her Daddys’ hand, her eyes wide open at the TV. She inched ever closer to the back of the easy chair, all the time keeping her eyes firmly fixed on the Daleks and her hand in her Dads. She was scared! So scared she gave this trauma up as a bad job, and went to play with her Dolls, behind the sofa!
Looking back at the weekend, a few days later as I write this review, that will be my abiding memory of our stay in the country. Planet of the Daleks will always remind me of that weekend. No doubt many of us remember where we were when 1 specific story was screened. Holidays linked by regenerations, birthday parties with the Mandrels, whatever – Doctor Who was always there, as a backdrop to key events in our lives. A lot of Doctor Who fans revel in this kind of Nostalgia, it brings a warm glow to us – may it continue to entrance us.
I like Planet of the Daleks, it tells its simple story well. The Daleks are scary. The Doctor is debonair. The sets are quite impressive. I also like it because it showed me again the effect that Doctor Who can have on a small child – the effect it had on me when I was young, and the founding reason that I became a fan and remain so. 8/10
The same old story? by Tim Roll-Pickering 16/4/02
Okay let's start with the standard bit for any review of Planet of the Daleks. This is yet another remake of the first Dalek story, The Mutants. The story is familiar enough by now. The TARDIS lands on a strange planet in a bizarre jungle. Deep in the jungle is a city occupied by Daleks. The Doctor teams up with a group of Thals. Along the way there's a cliffhanger at the end of the first episode where a Dalek is partially revealed, someone is hit by the Daleks' rays and is temporarily crippled, the Doctor and companions move about freely in the Dalek city because one of them is hiding inside a Dalek casing, the Doctor is captured by the Daleks and rescued by a small group of Thals that infiltrates the city through hostile tunnels, the Daleks planned to wipe out all hostile life through a special weapon that gets disabled in an attack on their control room and there's a spark of love between one of the Thals and the Doctor's human companion. What more can be said?
Well quite a bit actually. Firstly it's extremely easy to dismiss Planet of the Daleks as being a mere retelling of an earlier story in an age where the original Dalek story is now easily available thanks to no less than two video releases in the last thirteen years. But this overlooks the fact that at the time the original story had last been seen in the UK over nine years earlier and there seemed little prospect that it would ever be repeated or indeed ever made available to the fans in any form at all (this being long before the era of convention screenings and home video releases). Furthermore many other Doctor Who stories liberally draw huge inspiration from other areas of storytelling and indeed it has often been one of the show's strengths that it is able to successfully rework elements from such sources. Why then should the series not look to its own roots for inspiration? And what better story to go to than the one which is widely accredited as having made the series as successful as it is, especially given that this story had already been retold three times? (David Whitaker's 1964 novelisation, the 1965 film Dr Who and the Daleks and the Dell Comics adaptation of that film.) And Planet of the Daleks did go out as part of the series' tenth season, which was by far the most 'nostalgic' so far. Producing a retelling of a classic Hartnell adventure that many would not have seen the first time around makes sense when considered in context and the story should not be venomised because of the subsequent recovery of the original story and video revolution.
Nor should it be criticised unduly for the fact that it starts off with the Doctor wounded from events in Frontier in Space and mysteriously asking the Time Lords for help given that for the original viewer (or for any modern viewer watching the stories together) this naturally follows on from the previous tale. Indeed it was a deliberate aim of the production team to combine the two narratives together to produce as near to a 'twelve part epic' as was feasible. Only subsequent video releases (more than four years apart in the UK) and isolated repeats (such as the 1993 repeat of the story to celebrate the series' 30th anniversary) make such a joined narrative a problem when it was not one at the time.
And there is a lot of originality in Planet of the Daleks as well. Many elements do not spring from the original Dalek story, such as the Daleks' experiments with invisibility and biological warfare, the hidden Dalek army, the 'liquid ice' (so what if it isn't exactly scientific!) and the escape up the ventilation shaft whilst the Spiridons and Dalek Supreme derive from other adventures, most notably (and appropriately!) The Daleks' Master Plan. Furthermore there's a degree of realignment of the narrative and the story does not take place on Skaro but on an alien world (although this does make the title silly).
Productionwise Planet of the Daleks is an example of good direction, competent acting and supportive music covering up for design weaknesses due to the budget. Nearly the entire of the story has been recorded in television studios and this shows up the artificialness of the jungle. The Dalek city is small but it doesn't need to be large and so it provides for many tense moments. The jungle is less effective at this.
The Daleks are visibly more in number in this story than in either Day of the Daleks or Frontier in Space but are let down by the obvious differences in their casings. It soon becomes clear that one of the functioning Dalek props is a lighter grey than the others and this often means that the Daleks dispatched in one scene are not identical to those in the next scene - or indeed that the close-ups and mid shots don't always match up completely. The Dalek Supreme makes its first appearance since The Daleks' Master Plan, but with a slightly altered coloured scheme and a flashing eye lens that doesn't always match up. And the huge Dalek army is clearly comprised of Dalek toys that look slightly different. Nevertheless the Daleks makes a strong presence in the story that they have hitherto lacked in the colour era.
On the acting side Bernard Horsfall is clearly the strongest of the guest cast, bringing to Taron the right mixture of determination and concern. The weakest is Hilary Minster as Marat, who only appears in a single episode and contributes virtually nothing to the story. The other cast are mixed but none give a particularly bad performance. David Maloney's direction is competent and routinely manages to cover up the weaknesses in the design. Above all Planet of the Daleks is a strong story that deserved a bit more money to be spent on it. Nevertheless it is a good addition to the series' tenth anniversary season and more than justifies its own existence. 7/10
Underrated by Joe Ford 30/7/03
UK Gold has recently screened their back to back 'Dalek Days'. What a feast, two days of non stop Dalek stories, every single one that exists from The Daleks to Rememberance of the Daleks and a fine time for me to tape all the ones I don't have. The Dalek Invasion of Earth, which proved to be a bitter disappointment, a clear copy of Day of the Daleks to replace the old scratched version I have cobbled together by BBC Video all those years ago and, of course, Planet of the Daleks which I've never owned by always enjoyed.
I'm not sure why everybody seems to have a such a downer on this six parter, it is surprisingly competent for Pert Doctor Who and maintains its length without ever reaching the depths of The Mutants or The Time Monster. It has some real standout moments and one episode that ranks up there with the greats. The director is working overtime to try and make the whole thing work and the actors give it their best shot. Aside from a few FX disasters I can't say there is that much wrong with the story.
I watched the whole thing in black and white. How strange you might think but it actually enhances the story no end. Their are certain Doctor Who stories that share a similar feeling of claustrophobia and oppression such as this one (Frontios, The Happiness Patrol) that become a great deal moodier with the colour turned right down. Episode three of this stories exists in black and white anyway and it's no surprise that for atmosphere it is the scariest of the lot. The somewhat plastic jungle (still miles better than similar attempts in Kinda... sorry what's that? Gratuitous Davison adventure slagging off reference number #2459) takes on a life of its own without colour, no longer rubbery and fake but shadowy and menacing.
Okay this is the same story Terry Nation churns up again and again, you've got the TARDIS landing on a hostile planet, the Doctor and his companion split up, Daleks walled up in a city, the Thals on hand to try to destroy them, a daring escape attempt using a 'lift' shaft... it's practically The Daleks in all but name. However the tone of this story is very different which just proves how much pacier things become over time. The Daleks is a superb story full of character insight and relevant issues, Planet of the Daleks is more standard action adventure fare but works very well on that basis. The action scenes have a lot more kick than that earlier story and as a whole it flows more smoothly, maintaining a real sense of danger throughout whereas the Hartnell adventure paused every now and again for more reflective scenes.
Planet of the Daleks reminds me of why I became a fan of the show in the first place. It really appeals the child in me. The TARDIS, this mysterious contraption taking the Doctor and his companion to an aggressive planet, the young girl off exploring on her own, the evil Daleks scheming and plotting and shooting anything that gets in their way. There's not a lot of depth to the story but it chugs along with its punchy adventure storytelling. There's lots of running about and ingenious escapes from impossible situations... yes this is very much the kind of story I would like to be the companion in.
I love episode three, it has a wonderfully nostalgic quality to it. Set almost entirely within the confines of the Dalek city and with palpable sense of danger, it is 25 minutes of engaging action. Don't you just love it when the molten ice covers those two Daleks. And unlike Day of the Daleks (as effective as that tale is) there are clearly loads of Daleks around, I counted as many as eight in one scene plus the Supreme Dalek... they certainly look impressive and the voices are harsh and menacing.
This is another winner for David Maloney who is a superb director, responsible for such gems as The Mind Robber and The Talons of Weng-Chiang and this is the perfect warm up for his later triumph Genesis of the Daleks. He handles the Daleks very effectively, giving us a sense of scale and danger. He really tries his best with the jungle set, shooting at loads of angles to give it a sense of disorientation. To his credit he mostly succeeds with only some of the odd alien plants ruining the effect. Plus this has some well handled action scenes that contain the right amount of nail biting suspense, throwing the Dalek into the icy waters for example looks superb.
Pertwee and Manning have their rapport down pat and deliver their usual entertaining performances. Pertwee seems to enjoy the chance to run about and give a lot of speeches and he brings a lot of gravity to the story. Manning is reliably dippy and gets the chance to her own bit in episode one where she goes off exploring, looking for help for the Doctor.
Of the guest cast only Bernard Horsfall makes a real impression (he's a favourite of Maloney's being used in three of his stories), he makes a convincing leader. Sunk under a weight of Terry Nation speeches the rest of the cast struggle but their are no real offenders. Prentis Hancock plays the muscle headed rebel without much conviction but their are only a few moments where he crosses the line.
Six episodes of fun and excitement, all in all it is one of the better Pertwee tales and a strong contender for the best of season ten.
A Review by Brian May 27/5/04
Planet of the Daleks has received lots of criticism, mainly for two reasons. Firstly, for being an inferior rehash of the very first Dalek tale and, secondly, for being a poor sequel to Frontier in Space (as it's effectively the second half of a tenth anniversary epic).
I tend to agree with the latter accusation, but not the former. It's by no means a retelling of The Daleks, although there's a heavy influence. The Discontinuity Guide describes it best, calling it a "reworking of the themes and set pieces" of the Hartnell adventure. The inclusion of the Thals; the attempts to infiltrate the Dalek base; someone disguising themselves as a Dalek... these are all such acknowledgments. And why not? As part of the tenth anniversary celebrations, what's the harm in a few nods to the Daleks' debut? They were, after all, what propelled Doctor Who's success, and having lasted ten years, it's well deserved.
However, compared to Frontier in Space, which leads directly into this, it is indeed the poorer story. But this isn't obvious from the beginning. The first episode of Planet is terrific, particularly because of the contrast. Frontier operated on a large scale - a space opera with lots of galaxy hopping, empires and politics on display, while the beginning of this story is incredibly low key. The first fifteen or so minutes are wonderfully bleak as the Doctor passes out and Jo is left on her own, unsure of where she is, struggling through a hostile jungle. The image on the scanner suddenly being squirted by an unknown liquid adds to this atmosphere, as do the spores that slowly engulf the TARDIS. I'm not sure if the entries she makes on the tape recorder are meant to explain things to the audience while the Doctor is unconscious - but it's fairly easy to follow what's happening anyway, and in my opinion its inclusion is unnecessary.
The only disappointment with the first episode is, of course, the woeful cliffhanger. The obligatory Dalek appearance is horribly contrived and the Doctor's expression of surprise is awful, given that he followed them to Spiridon. (Chatting to Thals and recalling the first Dalek adventure just a few minutes before should have been a clear indication as well!) Episode two is enjoyable; the Dalek presence is kept to a minimum, while the Doctor's capture is well executed. It's in the third episode that the story begins to drag. The Daleks' roles become more substantial, the party of Thals has increased, and then there's the usual escaping and running about corridors, with only a few bright moments (the cliffhanger is quite good - the story's best).
Planet of the Daleks gets worse with each episode. It's inferior to Frontier in Space as a whole, which is a pity after the great start. What lets it down first and foremost is the script. It's incredibly boring. Not badly written, but unoriginal and ponderous. The Daleks scheme away with another plan of conquest - the Doctor, Jo and the Thals make plans to stop them. That's all it is. The Daleks themselves suffer - they have always been much more interesting when kept in the background - for example, Power, Day and Genesis. In these stories, their relationships with other characters, and the focus on these individuals (Lesterson, the Controller and Davros respectively), make the creatures all the more effective. In Masterplan there's Mavic Chen, while in Evil, there's Waterfield, Maxtible and the Doctor himself. All these alliances and/or interactions bring out the Daleks' more subtle qualities, all of which are absent here. On their own, they're just another bunch of baddies. And rather highly strung ones, at that - after the two Daleks are trapped in the chamber with the escaped bacteria, its OTT "We can never leave! Never! Never! Never!" scream is rather emotional for a race that claims to have none.
Going back to the story's relationship to Frontier in Space, there's no real sense of continuity. The Doctor briefly makes some explanations to Jo in part four, trying to tie up some loose ends linking the stories - but they seem included as an afterthought, as if the writer or script editor suddenly realised they had to make a brief explanation. And, when this episode was screened, a whole month had passed since the end of Frontier, so, for the viewer, the memories are stale by now.
And, frankly, the final half of the story is just so boring. It drags on too long. Scenes such as the encounter with the "creatures" at the Plain of Stones are silly. A row of flashing lights is not particularly scary, nor are the poorly acted attempts to drive them off. Vaber's capture and subsequent extermination; the Doctor and Thals luring the Daleks into the pools of ice, and just about the entirety of episode six is just dull set piece after dull set piece. Tedious, that's all it has become.
However, the story has its moments, and benefits from good direction. David Maloney always knows what he's doing. Some scenes you wouldn't think would work on television, such as the journey up the shaft with the makeshift parachute, are well realised. Maloney keeps to tight, low angled shots and milks every bit of suspense possible (a hole in the chute, Daleks coming up after them). The reviving Dalek accidentally knocking the bomb from the Doctor's reach in episode six is another effective moment. Conversely, there are some scenes that should work, but don't - namely, the rock falling on Jo's head as she tries to defuse the bombs. It's just poor and sloppy.
But Planet of the Daleks is one of those unfortunate mixes of quality and tackiness. For a story which sports a lampshade Dalek ship and an army of Louis Marx Daleks, there's the jungle set, which is exceptionally well realised. An impressive looking Dalek Supreme is offset by out of sync lights. The acting is not that very good either - the exceptions are Bernard Horsfall (Taron), Tim Preece (Codal) and Roy Skelton, who's excellent as the voice of Wester. Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning look less than enthused, which is disappointing after the wonderful performances they gave in Frontier in Space (although Manning has great moments in episode one, when Jo is alone in the jungle). As for Vaber - he's a prat and he's atrociously acted, so that's two good reasons not to care when he dies.
There's also a real moralistic feel, with dialogue that wouldn't be out of place in Star Trek. The Doctor's speeches to Codal (about bravery) and Taron (about glamorisation of war) seem patronising. Even Jo's comments to Latep near the end have a condescending tone.
Overall, a disappointing story, which is a real pity, as it starts so well, but just peters out into nothing. 5.5/10
Somewhere on this planet, there are ten thousand Daleks by Michael Hickerson 12/9/10
The problem with making a statement like that (as a cliffhanger no less) is that, eventually, you've got to make good on the promise and give the audience 10,000 Daleks on-screen. Or at least a room full of enough Daleks to feel like 10,000 could be lurking out there somewhere.
In the modern age of CGI, it's not that hard to pull off. In the day and age Planet of the Daleks was made, it means a promise of seeing lots of tiny models of the Doctor's greatest foes. It's not necessarily disappointing, but the scenes when we see the cave full of Daleks in hibernation mode just aren't quite as awe-inspiring as the script would like us to believe they are or could be.
Of course, that disappointment would be a lot easier to get over if the script surrounding them were good. Unfortunately, that's not the case with Planet of the Daleks.
Pursuing the Daleks across time and space, the TARDIS arrives on the planet Spiridon. The Doctor is injured from his wounds at the end of Frontier in Space and so Jo heads out into the jungle to try and find help. She is infected by some strange planets that spit out a venom that causes a potentially fatal fungus to grow on whoever and whatever it contacts. Jo stumbles across a group of Thals who have come to Spiridon to stop a gathering army of Daleks. Though how exactly three Thals are expected to take on 10,000 Daleks is never made quite clear.
The Doctor eventually comes around, escapes the TARDIS (the fungus apparently drains all the oxygen from the ship, though it's not really explained) and meets up with the Thals. We then spend a lot of time chasing around Spiridon, hiding from the Daleks and the enslaved (and invisible) Spiridon workers and trying to find a way to put a monkey wrench into the pepperpots' latest scheme to conquer the universe.
Terry Nation returns to write for his most famous creations for the first time since the William Hartnell era and fills his script with every Dalek cliche he can find. There's not one but two deadly viruses (the one from the plants and then one the Daleks hatch to try and kill all life on the planet), the Daleks coveting a new technology and the threat of the Daleks conquering all life in the universe. Oh yeah, and there's lots of being caught, locked up, escaping and running down corridors (though some are cleverly disguised as a jungle).
And, of course, Nation comes up with two or three more weaknesses for his creations in the course of the story. This time we learn they have an SOS alarm that sounds when their casing is opened and that they don't like extreme cold. I watched all the Dalek stories in order a few years ago and it's interesting to keep track of all the ways Nation comes up with to weaken his famous creations from story to story. It's almost as bad as the weaknesses dreamed up for the Cybermen...
And that's all before the Supreme Dalek shows up in episode six to take charge of things.
Pertwee was famous for not caring much for the Daleks and given his three encounters with them, it's easy to see why. While Day of the Daleks is a solid enough story and fondly remembered, his next two encounters with the Doctor's most ruthless enemies aren't much to write home about. It's hard to decide which story is the lesser, Planet of or Death to. Honestly, Planet may come out a bit ahead because it doesn't have the blasted musical score that grates in the same way Death to the Daleks does.
One of the biggest criticisms lodged as classic Who and its six-part stories is that they're often too long and overpadded. That's the case with Planet. It might have been better served as a four-part story.
Planet of the Daleks is infamous in Doctor Who circles for being syndicated for years with episode three missing. In fact, the first time I saw it, the story jumped from the end of part two to the fourth episode. This is because the original color version of part three was lost and only a black and white copy remained. Rather than show the black and white version, the story just skipped episode three entirely. And here's the sad part: outside of wondering how the Doctor got out of his cell, the jump isn't really all that noticeable.
Bootlegs of episode three were swapped for years and the BBC eventually released the black and white version on the VHS release. Many of us assumed it would be the same way when the story hit DVD. However, thanks to new technology, the color has been restored to episode three. No, the episode hasn't been colorized, but instead information from the black and white film version was used to decode the color and restore it. The episode looks fantastic and if you didn't know it wasn't originally in color, you'd never be able to tell. A whole extra about how the color was restored is on the DVD and it gives me hope that we may see all of the Pertwee era in color again someday soon. (Hopefully the sales of this DVD will justify the expense of using the technique on Mind of Evil and Ambassadors of Death.)
The story is also part of a 12-part storyline from the tenth anniversary season. The show does make quick mention of the events of Frontier in Space but you don't necessarily have to have seen Frontier to figure out what's going on here. It's an interesting - but in the end not as successful as it could be - experiment.