Doctor Doctor Who Guide

'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' is notable for several reasons, the most obvious being the return of the Daleks themselves. If 'The Mutants' established them as a scientifically advanced, xenophobic, ruthless threat, then 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' takes them several steps further. In their first appearance we saw them perfectly adapted to their environment, and prepared to wipe out the Thals with a release of radiation in order that they might survive, without any care of the consequences to others. Here, they have progressed further and have overcome the limitations on their mobility, now not only able to leave their city, but able also to build spaceships and travel to other worlds, where they can move beyond the confines of their ships. Now able to move and exterminate anywhere, they seem utterly unstoppable. Had I seen the ending to episode one on its first broadcast, it would undoubtedly have had huge impact, as the Dalek glides out of the Thames (frankly, I don't care what it was doing in there); even seeing it for the time in the right story order, it still has impact, as the Daleks become the series first recurring threat, and it sends a shiver down the spine. Just as they were prepared to eradicate the Thals, here they are prepared to eradicate mankind in order to achieve their aims, a scenario given all the more power by the way in which they conquered Earth – stories of horrendous plagues wiping out most of the Earth's population are starkly horrific, and the Robomen only enhance the Daleks' monstrous influence. Whilst they are often criticized for being stupid looking, the Robomen are surprisingly effective in the context of the story, being in essence zombies – they horror is not in the idea of being robotized per se, but in the thought of being forced to fight friends and loved ones irreversibly transformed into brainless collaborators of the Daleks'. This is most effectively shown in the scene between Larry and his brother, as the traumatized rebel tries in vain to appeal to his brother's memories only to be killed by him even as he anguished kills him in turn. It is interesting that Tyler notes that the Daleks knew robotizing captives would "humiliate and degrade" surviving humans on Earth and serve to further break their spirit – it demonstrates an unpleasant understanding of other species on the Daleks' behalf, indicating that whilst they do not care about the consequences of their actions for others, they do understand them, making them seem even more callous. The often-citied Nazi allegory is clear and appropriate – the Fourth Reich had no redeeming features and neither do the Daleks. The new appearance of the Daleks (they now have an energy collection disc on their backs and enlarged bumpers) is not their best, making them look somehow more unwieldy than usual, but it serves as a reminder that they have managed to overcome the problem of movement beyond metal floors and are hugely advanced scientifically, a point further emphasized by their admittedly rather B-movie plan of removing the Earth's core and installing a motive system – this is an ambitious plan, and their confidence in their abilities to safely channel they energy released by the penetration explosion is further testament to the danger they represent. All this however pails in comparison with the main reason that they are so effective here – the location filming.

This is the first time that Doctor Who was filmed extensively on location, after the brief film inserts in 'The Reign of Terror'. This largely because, although it is set in the future, it is clearly filmed in London 1965, and as such we get the first example of the Yeti-on-a-toilet-in-Tooting-Beck principle – the Daleks were impressive gliding through their city on Skaro, but the sight of them gliding around Trafalgar square and other landmarks is truly unforgettable. It gives an air of realism that really lifts the action of out the studio. That said, the sets are also impressive, giving a convincing dingy feel that fits in well with the overall feel. This feel also helps to emphasize the sense of paranoia and fear throughout – if 'Planet of Giants' was too laid back, 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' more than makes up for it. From the initial discovery of the "It is Forbidden to Dump Bodies in the River" poster to the climax as the resistance and the TARDIS crew race against time to prevent the culmination of the Daleks' plans, the story is charged with danger, as resistance members are routinely killed off, and danger threatens from all sides, be it from Daleks, Robomen, alligators, human traitors or the Slyther. Throughout the story, the TARDIS crew are confronted with constant threats, all of which they must struggle harder than ever before to overcome. 

The regulars all fare well here – Ian fulfills his usual action man role, single-handedly saving the Earth by blocking the Daleks' bomb-shaft, and Russell gives it his all throughout. Even when facing the ridiculous looking Slyther, he acts with utter conviction. Barbara is also hugely resourceful, helping Jenny to escape London in a van and running a Dalek blockade in the process, and later brazenly and bravely lying to the Daleks in an unsuccessful attempt to gain control of the Robomen. Hartnell is also on top of his game here, as the Doctor ferociously pits himself against the Daleks and taking a key role in their defeat, by destroying their (still-external) power source at the mine. Interestingly, in episode two when he is seized and taken to be robotized, he seems genuinely frightened, something which has not been so clearly seen since he was held prisoner in the last two episodes of 'The Mutants' – this adds to the menace of the Daleks, since even the Doctor is clearly afraid of them and doesn't underestimate their threat. After using his brain to escape from the cell, he basically loses control of the situation and seems truly vulnerable, and that has rarely happened thus far during the series. And then there is Susan.

I've never been a fan of Susan, but watching the series in order has made me change my mind a bit. She is still annoying and prone to hysteria, but she's a lot braver than I remembered. Here she gets a fine send-off, showing increasing independence from the Doctor as she joins David to fight the Daleks. Her desire to belong somewhere and her obvious attraction to David build nicely and convincingly towards the climax, where she tearfully prepares to leave in the TARDIS. I've seen the episode several times before, but never in the context of the entire series – the moment when the Doctor locks her out of the TARDIS is shocking, and the subsequent speech he gives over the TARDIS loudspeaker is extremely moving. I was surprisingly moved as the TARDIS dematerialized and Susan dropped her key in the dirt. However much she has occasionally irritated me, she's still been a member of the TARDIS crew since the beginning, and her departure makes a notable impact.

Another part of the success of 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' is in the characterisation, especially of the resistance members who all give an impression of people desperately struggling to survive. The young and passionate David, the cynical and world-weary Tyler, and the bitter but idealistic Dortman are all well played, as are Larry and even the older woman in the cottage who gives Barbara and Jenny away to the Daleks. The only weak links are the badly acted and wooden Jenny, and also Ashton the latter of who gets several cringe-worthy lines. Nevertheless, they still fail to detract from the whole.

'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' is not perfect. Despite occasional references to other countries and continents, it still feels like The Dalek Invasion of England, and it is difficult to believe that London in the 22nd century will resemble London 1965. These points are minor quibbles however, and unavoidable given the production costs and technical limitations of the time. Less forgivable are the dreadful saucer model work and the Slyther, which looks ludicrous in both costumes (the costume from the end of episode four was replaced for the reprise in episode five) and is present only to provide a cliffhanger to episode four. There is some awful dialogue as well, especially during the conversation between the Doctor and the Dalek in episode two. And 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' has some of the worst episode titles ever seen in the series. In spite of these quibbles, 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' is a true classic, and having watched it all in one go, I found that it didn't drag at all, and it gets my vote for first VidFIRED six-part Hartnell DVD release.

Filters: DVD First Doctor Series 3