Sunday, 22 March 2009

The Dalek Invasion of Earth: March 2009 - Week 10


  1. I have history with this one.
    I used to read and re-read the Target book over and over as a kid. I used to stare at that brilliant cover.
    So, I know those characters pretty well, and all the blanks that were filled in by the novelization too.

    I became a little bored of the Daleks in the 80's due to, what I perceived, to be their misuse. They became Davros's robotic guard dogs. And their stories were largely uninspired.
    It was New Who that gave them new life, by a writer who clearly loved what them so popular i the first place.

    The actual plot of DIOE is quite ludicrous really. The Daleks have become galactic joyriders... but that's not what it's all about for me really.
    It's the human struggle. The strength of human spirit.
    Also, it's a great showcase for our crew.
    The Doctor laughs at the Daleks and their attempts to control the Earth like someone just told him a bad joke. He has no fear of them, just contempt, and an unwavering certainty that he will defeat them again.
    Barbara once again shines; an independent woman who can match her mind and ingenuity with the vest of them. She will never give in to despair, or falter when the odds are stacked against her. What a gal!
    Ian is our all action hero again. Risking his life for others and diving into the heart of danger.

    I guess DIOE will always be remembered for the departure of Susan.
    It's a great departure, emotional, sad, and yet uplifting too.
    I've not been her greatest fan, as a character. She's been the most inconsistent, and often the most annoying.
    It's unfortunate, then, that she starts this story off with that most cliched devices that has stricken a Doctor Who companion over the years - the twisted ankle.
    Over the 6 parts however, her character gradually finds love and a sense of belonging. Pondering the challenge of re-building Earth, and finally settling down.
    As her grandfather takes off without her, it's one of the great departures the series has ever seen.
    At the time it must have been quite shocking. It was the first of it's kind, and was the first sign of just how flexible the format would become.

    One of my favorite things about DIOE is the great characters.
    Dortmund and Tyler being especially brilliant.
    But throughout, there are strong supporting characters who colour the story well.

    Weaker elements for me, are the Slither. The actual monster itself is poorly realised, but also its actual point is lost on me. It feels like an added element for episode 4 (the weakest, for me), perhaps to cover the fact Hartnell has gone AWOL.

    Peter Fraser is not very good as David Campbell, in my opinion.
    He strikes me as an inexperienced actor whose energy is misjudged in most of his scenes. frenetic, overly demonstrative.... he jars with everything else, and almost derails the Susan/David relationship.

    There are other minor gripes along the way. the Robomen at times are rather poor in execution. maybe the pitfall of having to hire lesser actors in those kind of roles?
    And the plot noticeable screams at times as its bent to head ina certain direction.
    Daleks kill on sight if you are not useful. Why wait to kill Barbara after discovering she's lied?

    Overall, though, I think it's a great story in Doctor Who history.
    The eerie first episode is a classic. Even today, it feels atmospheric and creepy.
    The Dalek emerging from the river (I'll overlook why) is still awesome.
    And the ending of episode 6 is brilliant.

    A new chapter awaits us, as The Doctor begins his journeys as a lone Timelord with his human companions...


  2. THEY'RE BACK!!!!
    The first returning villains in Doctor Who history, those demonic pepper pots the Daleks reappear in what I think is the first Hartnell story I ever saw.
    The Tardis lands on earth and our four travellers emerge into an eerie deserted London with signs about not dumping bodies in the Thames. Obviously something is very wrong and the sinister air of episode one is excellent though dissipated a little by the terrible saucer effect complete with strings. The climax with the Dalek emerging from the water has always been a favourite cliffhanger of mine as I found it a genuine shock on first viewing.
    The Doctors contempt at the Daleks claim they are the masters of Earth following this is wonderfully performed and it's interesting to note that this was the last story of the first production year and The Doctor is now recognisably the character we all know from later stories. Watching the stories in order as we have really shows how that character has taken shape since we first saw the grumpy, irascible and rather sinister personality of the first three stories.
    From here the travellers get involved with the resistance to the Daleks and I've always enjoyed this aspect of the story. The characters are well drawn and, for me, a couple of performances are truly superb. First, Alan Judd as Dortmun, confined to a wheelchair and sacrificing himself to ensure that Barbara and Jenny esacape. Best of all, Bernard Kay as Tyler, weary of the death but refusing to give in and surrender, gives a lovely layered performance. The regulars too are all on form. The Doctor is wonderful throughout, particularly in the cell. I do love it when he is being grumpy with Craddock while showing off his intellect to Ian. Barbara is right on form, independent, feisty and intelligent. Ian is the action hero. And Susan, despite suffering the 'ooo my ankle' plot device in episode one, is growing up and falling in love and it's nice to see a relationship given time to grow as Terry Nation also did with Barbara in the first Daleks story.
    Where the story starts to fall down is at the mine. The slyther is terrible and the Daleks plan is B-movie nonsense that makes absolutely no sense. And Ian appears to stop a bomb dropping by shoving two pit props in the way. Don't buy it I'm afraid.
    But by this stage I'm so caught up in the story it doesn't spoil it for me. And there are some great moments. David teasing Susan with the fish I find quite touching and Hartnell beautifully conveys awareness of what is happening.
    The very end of the story when The Doctor shuts Susan out of the Tardis shoeless is beautiful. Susan, missing a shoe, confessing her love, Barbara pulling Ian away to let her say goodbye to David and the Doctors speech as he says goodbye all combine to make the first departure one of the greatest in series history.
    So , overall, for me a good story with a few weaknesses so I'll give it 7/10

  3. "I don't believe we're anywhere near your time - the 1960s..."


    Another fantastic story from Terry Nation. From the start, it grips and doesn't let go.

    The thing about Terry's writing is the way it implies such an enormous world with such limited resources. With one small set, he collapses a railway bridge on top of the Tardis. And it's believable - London has visibly decayed.

    "Why would you put a poster under a bridge?" "If you had a body to get rid of..." is a great example of exposition via intrigue - and makes perfect sense for why they would discover that information in the location they're in.

    Or listening to the Daleks' radio broadcast: "The West Africa group are off air." Again, the writing shows a much larger world than it's possible to reproduce on a budget.

    Though, having said that, it's obvious that the budget on this story is huge by Doctor Who standards. The heliport set, for example, is bigger than anything we've seen before (and the high angles show it off beautifully.) It's like the difference between Buffy Season 1 and Buffy Season 2 in terms of money going into the show.

    And then there's the location filming. Lots of it. With the regulars. Seriously, the sheer bloody scale of this production is amazing. The film sequences in London and (wherever stands in for) Bedfordshire! All of those slaves dragging that mine cart? In 1964, all of this is serious money.

    Which just goes to show how popular Doctor Who was back in the early 60s. And it lost that popular shine in later years, until Russell T Davies brought it back to us. Here's a thing that a lot of people who saw Doctor Who in its end years in the 80s forget - it was a huge show in its time. Huge. The biggest thing that Russell did for the show was to bring that epic scope back to us.

    One question does need to be raised about the Robomen, though. How did the Daleks ever get any? If the intelligence test on the saucer is how you test for Robomen (get the frequency just right otherwise you get showered in razor sharp glass) it's a wonder anyone actually passed.

    The first episode cliffhanger is widely renowned, and for good reason. That Dalek gliding from the water... it fair sends shivers up your spine. Mine, at least.

    The line about the events on Skaro being a million years in the future is a bit weird... Cos, they were stuck in their city then. So, what, they got worse in the future? Doesn't make much sense, does it.

    A lovely line from Susan about a bomb: "Can you dismantle it? I only know about atomic devices." Again, lovely writing because it implies so much that is left unsaid...

    And of course, there's the fact that the entire story is built around invasion, occupation, and collaboration... As the writers who were alive during World War Two die off, these stories aren't told as often. This is very much a story of its time.

    It's also notable that while the Doctor is quite happy to slap a Roboman round the head with his cane when he is perfectly safe himself, when Tyler goes to kill said unconscious Roboman he says "No, Tyler, no. I never take life. Only when mine is immediately threatened [...] Leave this creature to his own devices and salvation." To me, this is the essence of what Doctor Who has always been about.

    And as a philosophy to live your life by, it's not a bad one.

    Finally, the shocking end, as the Doctor realises that his granddaughter is a grown woman now. And that she needs to go forth in all her beliefs... and prove to him that he is not mistaken in his.

    This series contains some of the best television writing, not just in Doctor Who, but in the world.

    Ladies and gentlemen: Terry Nation.

  4. “Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.”

    This is a mindblower, and like nothing we’ve seen on our travels so far. The scope is huge, and this story actually fills with six episodes without dragging.

    Not a lot I can add to the previous comments.
    I feel sad that I’m not upset to see Susan go. The character that was so fascinating in her first episode never recovers that mystique. I will miss her habit of unhinged laughter at gloriously inappropriate moments though.

    At least she gets a lovely leaving seen, although Hartnell OWNS it! Her shoe. That speech...

    Better than – The Aztecs?
    Not as Good as – On the whole I think this is probably the best, and the most satisfying, story we’ve yet seen. Certainly it’s up there with my personal favourites so far; The Aztecs and The Reign of Terror.

  5. I've just noticed that I spelled "scene" as "seen" in my previous comment. How horribly embarrassing. And now I've pointed it out, hmmmmm...