Written by Terry Nation and Donald B. Wilson
Directed by Richard Martin
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television series that has been around off and on since 1963. The main character is just known as “The Doctor” and is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. This means he travels through time to various places. One of his favorite places to visit is Earth. Typically, he has a companion traveling with him, usually female, sometimes male, sometimes one of each. He travels in a time machine known as a “Tardis” which is disguised as a British Police booth.
A Time Lord can regenerate if fatally wounded, which has accounted for all the different actors who have played The Doctor throughout the years. In this episode, he is portrayed by William Hartnell. He is traveling with three companions, including his “granddaughter”, Susan (portrayed by Carole Ann Ford).
The TARDIS lands in London, sometime in the twenty-second century. The city appears deserted when the Doctor, Ian (portrayed by William Russell), Barbara (portrayed by Jacqueline Hill), and Susan wander outside. The deterioration is apparent, even before the steel structure of a nearby bridge collapses and cuts off their access back to the TARDIS.
The four of them become separated. Susan and Barbara end up with a resistance group while the Doctor and Ian wander around the river shore, trying to figure out exactly what’s going on. They meet up with what seems like local enforcement and are about to dive into the river when Daleks begin ascending from it.
The enforcements are called Robo-Men and are how the Daleks used humans against other humans. They are also using them in their plot to destroy the Earth. Having been captured by the Daleks, the Doctor is subject to the process by which the Robo-Men are created. In the middle of the process, the resistance group stages a raid on the facility, doing a good degree of damage and stopping the Doctor’s transformation.
But the four time travelers are more separated than ever. The Doctor has disappeared in all of the fracas. Ian is still on board the Dalek vessel. Helen is with the resistance group as they move out of London. Susan is with freedom-fighter David (portrayed by Peter Fraser) and develops feelings for him.
I honestly wasn’t expecting a whole lot from this black and white story-arc that first aired in 1964, but it is quite good. Both the main recurring characters and the new supporting characters are written very well. The emotional story of the Daleks in London killing almost everyone, save the few who survive hiding out in the Underground is a huge plus, giving the audience an investment in what seems like it could be our future. In addition, the story of Susan falling for one of the insurgents as she and Barbara help them in their fight to survive also brings in the emotional investment of the recurring characters. The story of how the Daleks have conquered the Earth when the traveling group witnessed their apparent destruction earlier in the series is told as one of the vagaries of time travel. It’s explained that those events took place very far in the Dalek future. This second appearance really does a lot to make the Daleks the most feared villains in the serial.
The episodes making up The Dalek Invasion of Earth were written at a time when the future of the series was not that sure. Producer Verity Lambert had only received a commitment for this story arc and nothing beyond it. Since there were impending cast changes possibly coming out of this story arc, whether or not they followed through on those cast changes depended on the commitment she had from the BBC. Eventually, thirteen episodes beyond this story -arc were agreed to.
Since Carole Ann Ford had decided to leave the show at this point, it was interesting to see how that is achieved. As the “granddaughter” of a Time Lord, I had to wonder what powers she had, if any, and how that would play into what happens to her. That is not addressed here at all and leaves a lot of possibilities open for the future. Ford does a tremendous job here and gives the character a hugely positive note to remember her on.
Hartnell is excellent here. He’s missing from almost one entire sequence due to an on-set injury, but his presence, or lack thereof, is explained very well. It’s a credit to those who worked on the show both behind and in front of the camera that his absence and the subsequent change in storyline really doesn’t miss a beat. However, when he is present he comes across as a wizened figure watching out for those he cares for and humanity in general. This is a stark contrast to the fun-loving, seemingly ineffectual Doctor currently on the air.
Both William Russell and Jacqueline Hill are good, with Hill getting a bit more of the meat of the role. The survivors hiding out in London are good, especially Alan Judd as Dortmun. Though confined, the man does an excellent job as someone who doesn’t let that hinder him and is determined to find a way to defeat the Daleks and eradicate them from his planet. Peter Fraser really has to do a lot in a short time to be convinced of his romance with Susan. He doesn’t fail miserably, but I was more convinced of Susan’s feelings for him than I was of his for her. Ann Davies as Jenny was originally intended to replace Susan on board the TARDIS, but with the show’s future uncertain that idea was scrapped and her role reduced. These people play their roles like survivors of a war. Perhaps they could draw on their own memories and that of their families as this was less than twenty years after the end of the Second World War ended and the beating London took in that conflict.
The bit of effects present are surprisingly good considering the time period. Watching the Daleks scoot around London and around various landmarks is quite good. Although London doesn’t really appear to be all that futuristic, perhaps having it so closely resemble the current time period served the story arc better as it resonated as being the home of the viewers, rather than being something abstract in the future.
The restoration has been done quite nicely and the picture and sound are both excellent. The two-disc DVD release is loaded with extras and makes it worth viewing and owning if you are a series fan.
I was surprised at just how much my kids and I enjoyed The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Having the action set on Earth in the possible future was a huge plus. Both the recurring cast and guest cast were strong. The story was excellent and moved along at a terrific pace while allowing the characters to develop. It’s one of the best story arcs I’ve come across from the Hartnell era.
• CGI Effects Sequences
• BBC1 Trailers
• Commentary with Gary Russell, Carole Ann Ford, William Russell, Director Richard Martin, Producer Verity Lambert,
• Information Text
• Future Visions
• Future Memories
• Talking Daleks
• Now and Then
• Script to Screen
• 40th Anniversary Celebration
• Blue Peter
• Whatever Happened to Susan?
• Rehearsal Film
• Who’s Who