Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Doctor Who: The Daleks (Parts 6&7)

In our final instalment, we take a look at the final two parts of what is collectively known as ‘The Daleks’. So far we have the Doctor being a jerk, Ian messing with Thal heads, Susan running around and Barbara … kind of just being there. The TARDIS crew have joined forces with the Thal people in order to find a way to a) combat the Daleks and b) find the parts necessary to repair the TARDIS … that the Doctor purposefully broke to begin with. Team Thal/TARDIS has broken into two groups; one to trek through a mutant infested swamp so they can find a path into the Dalek city and the other to play decoy at the Dalek wall.

The Ordeal

Not sure if the background is impossible geography or a painted backdrop…

We have a recap of the end of Part 5, wherein a member of Team Swamp gets dragged to his soggy demise by a giant mutant. One of the Thals, obviously dropped on his head a lot as a child, asks if the deceased fell in and what happened despite the scene being very clear. Between the die-hard pacifism of the Thals and the intellectual prowess on display here, it is easy to piece together why the Thals went from being the equals of the Daleks/Kaleds to starving to death in the wilderness.

Meanwhile Team Decoy, including the Doctor and Susan, scout out the edge of the Dalek city. The Doctor realises that for the plan to succeed the Daleks surveillance system needs to be knocked out of commission, as the Daleks themselves are not that mobile and rely on cameras to keep an eye on happenings. They take the low-tech solution by shining sunlight (via really shiny metal plates that the Thals had been conveniently carrying around) at the city – the equivalent of a speaker at a meeting who gets blinded by a data projector he’s using to run his PowerPoint presentation. The Doctor, Susan and the Thal leader use the interference to sneak into the city where the always resourceful Time Lord ruins Dalek power systems by bashing them with a stick. The Doctor’s new found obsession with bashing things, however, distracts him enough that he and Susan get captured by four Daleks.

Take that science! Mindless stick based violence for the win!

Meanwhile the Daleks, who have been spending three episodes talking about building and exploding a neutron bomb, decide that it will take too long and look for other ways of spreading yummy radiation across the planet. This does come across as blatant time padding and does not do the flow of the story any good at all. They explain to the Doctor and Susan that instead of bothering with building and launching a bomb, they will simply open up the city’s nuclear reactors to the atmosphere. This scene is a credit to the writers who could have just had the Daleks being evil for the sake of the need of villains, instead the Daleks are going down this path because they now need radiation in order to survive – they are simply placing their existence above that of the Thals. This supposed moral grey area evaporates, however, when the Daleks do their best impersonation of a Nazi salute and start chanting together.

“And now we shall play … Duck, Duck, Goose!”

Team Swamp finally finds a path through the mountains by conquering tight tunnels, Barbara’s inability to tie off a rope, torch props that illuminate absolutely nothing at all and the idiot from before being a complete coward with inspiring lines such as “Let’s both turn back. They’re all going to die anyway, let’s go back to the others and tell them the Daleks killed them”. His aspirations of copying Sir Robin from Monty Python and the Holy Grail are ruined, however, as a tunnel collapse stops any backtracking for everyone in the group. Continuing the script padding, the group is further delayed by a chasm in the floor of their tunnel – that appears to be a grand three feet across. Everyone eventually makes it over though, to the surprise of no one, Sir Robin stuffs his jump and falls down the chasm – while being tied to Ian via rope resulting in the plucky science teacher desperately trying to stop himself experiencing death via a surplus of gravity. This literal cliffhanger leads us to …

The Rescue

Ian struggles to not die due to Sir Robin being useless, though the brain addled git partly redeems himself by cutting the rope so he dies and Ian lives. No one sheds a tear. The death does sap morale from some of the Thals and some start to talk about giving up. Ian finally notices that light is coming into their underground tunnel from somewhere, which is a pretty good sign there is a way all the way through to the city – and sure enough there is.

The Thals in the jungle, seeing the the Dalek’s surveillance systems do not appear to be working, ready themselves for a fight by arming themselves with branches. Even though, at the very start of this story, we saw that the branches in the dead forest tend to crumble to the touch. It also may have been an idea to sort out weapons during the planning stage of this endeavour, not when you are halfway through it.

The Doctor, now shackled to a wall as a prisoner, tells the Daleks about the existence of the TARDIS as being able to travel through space and time would be really useful for the Daleks, whose main motivation seems to be able to escape the confines of their city. To prove the ship exists, the Doctor describes the fluid link that the Daleks took from Ian a few episodes ago and challenges the Daleks to examine it, to test the level of technology at play. The Doctor offers to teach the Daleks how to build their own in exchange for their lives but they are not having any of it, declaring that once everyone is dead then they will have all the time in the world to crack the secrets of the TARDIS anyhow. Despite this ploy not working, it does reveal to the Doctor exactly where the needed fluid link is – so even this apparent defeat has some benefits.

Ropes and bondage? I didn’t know it was that sort of party!

Team Swamp becomes Team SWAT as they make their way through the Dalek city, disabling cameras as they go and they soon meet up with the Team Decoy who has likewise managed to get inside. As the countdown continues for the irradiation of the atmosphere, the Thals (with Ian and Barbara) get closer to the Dalek control room. Not everyone makes it, as Daleks manage to shoot down a few nameless Thals (if a character is killed, but doesn’t have a name, does anyone care?). The Thals actually play it smart, luring out Dalek guards so they can dealt with one at a time while Ian frees the Doctor and Susan … from shackles that do not appear to be locked to start with. In the resulting combat, a Dalek is shoved into a control panel which knocks out the power system that feeds the Dalek casings power – neutralising the Dalek threat.

The Daleks beg for the power to be restored, with the Doctor listening but not actually giving any damns for their plight and stating that even if he wanted to help he did not know how to repair the damaged systems. His lack of compassion is interesting when compared to how the Fourth Doctor would later act in Genesis of the Daleks – this Doctor did not care that the Daleks were dying, while his later self was horribly conflicted about if he had the right to stop the Daleks from ever being created to begin with.

The TARDIS crew say their goodbyes to the Thals and leave Skaro. Thanks to the incredibly expensive nature of this story, they head into the budget saving The Edge of Destruction.

“To rebuild a whole world, how I envy you. I’m much too old to be a pioneer, though I was once amongst my own people” – The Doctor

Overall, The Daleks is a solid story that suffers from much of what the classic Doctor Who story did; lack of budget and too much script padding. Hartnell is a delight to watch and he commands essentially every scene that he appears in. Ian and Susan are given enough to do, though Barbara is relegated to the background a bit too much and her subplot (a light romance with a Thal) goes absolutely nowhere. The ending of The Rescue with all the Daleks being well out of commission does not fit well with later Dalek stories – how did they manage to bounce back from such a comprehensive defeat? Regardless, it is very easy to see why this story was such a massive hit back in 1963 and it really is required watching for anyone who fancies science fiction.

  • Times the TARDIS crew is knocked out: 0
  • Times the TARDS crew is captured or taken prisoner: The Doctor and Susan: 1
  • Times the TARDIS crew screams: 0
  • Times sonic screwdriver used: 0 (ages until it is first introduced)
  • Overall rating: Must see.

One comment

  1. Le Messor

    I kept thinking about this quote:

    Walsh: It’s only our methods that differ. We use the latest in scientific technology and state-of-the-art weaponry, and you, if I understand correctly, poke them with a sharp stick.
    Buffy: Oh, it’s more effective than it sounds.

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