“The Daleks”

 

The First Doctor Season One Serial Two

reviewed by Tom-Tom

 

The end of Serial One saw the First Doctor (played by William Hartnell), his granddaughter, Susan, and her two schoolteachers race into the TARDIS to escape from caveman society by faking their own deaths with torches and skulls. They came to an alien planet which, unbeknownst to them, is radioactive. This planet is Skaro. If that name makes your ears prick up, you’ll know why. It is the home planet of the Daleks. This is a long serial (7 episodes x 25 minutes) and for those used to current Doctor Who, it can be pretty slow going at times. But there is a gold mine of back story about the Daleks and the entire Skaro world. Some TARDIS info is revealed as well, such as what time travelers eat by a Willy Wonka-like contraption that makes processed cheese block looking things that apprently taste like bacon and eggs or whatever you like. To my surprise, I learned that there were non-Dalek natives on the planet as well. A tribe of Uber-men and women called the Thals help the time travelers early to get over the radiation sickness they don’t realize they’re experiencing. The peaceful beautiful people and horrible war-like tribe somewhat reminds one of the Eloi and Morlocks in “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells.

The first episode after some initial exploration of the weird alien world with metallic fossils of animals and stone trees brings the travelers to the heart of the Dalek city. In a low ceilinged building with plenty of automatic doors Barbara gets lost. The camerawork here is really nice creating a real claustrophobic effect ending in the first cliffhanger with the plunger of a Dalek just in the frame aiming at a screaming Barbara. The Doctor shows how heartless he can be offering to abandon Barbara to leave the planet at once. The Daleks reveal themselves, 5 ft pepper pots with a toilet plunger and egg whisk for arms, a telescope-like eye and a flashing bulb on either side of its head which blinks in tandem with its harsh voice. That it chooses to temporarily paralyze rather than kill Ian when he attempts to make a break for it will surprise current Whovians as the Daleks are now known to kill so indiscriminately while screaming “EXTERMINATE!” The Daleks here are relatively tame. There’s even a light moment when a Dalek brings the prisoners rations on a tray. It’s Twilight Zone-like how the Daleks refer to the beautiful Thals as being horribly mutated which makes Susan’s first encounter with them all the more surprising when allowed by the Daleks to go and fetch medicine for everyone’s radiation poisoning. The inside of a Dalek is revealed in an ambiguous glance as the slimy thing crawls from underneath a cloth after being scooped out by Ian. He gets to ride inside the Dalek, something that’s never happened since. There is so much fun to be had in this serial as it is revealed how merciless the Daleks really are. They are a testament to what was considered hateful about the times Doctor Who was created in. The Daleks are cruel, xenophobic, quick to double cross, and use people only to their own purpose. Their heartless execution of a Thal character whose only wish is peace is so dramatic and jaw dropping, that it was to establish the Daleks as a major Doctor Who villain to this day. The Doctor’s nonchalance at non-companion characters dying for him is a bit creepy but prophetic of many future episodes to come. You can see a real basis for the influence they had on later sci fi films. A Dalek using its plunger to access a security door’s control panel should remind everyone of a certain blooping and bleeping droid in a galaxy far far away.

 

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