The year is 1964 and Doctor Who has now been on TV for a full year. Thanks in no small part to the Daleks it has become a very successful and popular TV show and so naturally, plans were made to bring them back.
And what better way to capitalise on their success than to bring them back in a story set on earth.
The Daleks!! In London!! Surely this would be a sure-fire commercial success? And it was. The ratings for this story would range between 11.5 and 12.5 million viewers – up from around 8 million viewers in the previous story and almost doubling the viewership from early in the first series.
Around this time as well, Carole Ann Ford decided to leave the show, and so she would be written out at the end of part 6, thus breaking up the original cast of the show and starting the revolving door casting policy that exists to this day.
So without a doubt The Daleks Invasion of Earth is an important and memorable story in the history of Doctor Who.
But is it any good?
Doctor Who – The Daleks Invasion of Earth Review: What’s This One About?
It’s London in the year 2164 and yes, you guessed it, the Daleks have invaded Earth. Their aim is to mine their way down to the earth’s core, destroy it and replace it with an engine that will allow them to pilot it anywhere in the universe.
No…I don’t know how that could possibly work either.
But anyway, they have turned the entire region of Bedfordshire into a giant mine-works and are using the oppressed human race as slave labour. Some of the humans have been
converted into the zombie-like Robomen, who are controlled by the Daleks through transmitters on their rather cumbersome head-sets.
Small sections of the human race are still fighting on though and you know what they say; when there’s life, there’s hope.
Having landed by the Thames, the travellers are conveniently locked out of the TARDIS again – this time because Susan has managed to collapse a bridge just in front of it, meaning they can’t get back in without cutting equipment. But they don’t get the chance to find the cutting equipment as they become separated from each other and are thrown straight into the fight against the Daleks. As the story progresses, we watch as the main cast each make their way down to Bedfordshire in the hope of finding each other and defeating the Daleks into the bargain.
Ultimately the Daleks are defeated and the travellers are reunited, but it seems as though Susan has fallen in love with David – a member of the resistance. Knowing that she would never willingly leave him, the Doctor decides to take the decision away from her and locks her out of the TARDIS before telling her she must get on with her life without him. He promises to come back and visit her, but as we all know, he never does.
If you buy the DVD of this and watch it in all of its remastered glory, the first thing that will strike you about the Daleks Invasion of Earth is that it seems like its been done with a far
For a start – other than about 15 seconds of footage in the Reign of Terror – this is the first time Doctor Who contains scenes filmed outside the studio. Not constrained with the small studio at Lime Grove, the production team make the most of the added freedom they now have, with plenty of striking images of the Daleks patrolling around well-known London landmarks. It must have been pretty frightening/exciting for children to see the Daleks in a familiar environment like that.
And not only do they get to film outside, but they seem to have the money to hire more people. Thanks to outside footage and the amount of extras involved, the scene in episode 6 where the humans and Robomen emerge from the mine-works having overthrown the Daleks is probably the most impressive shot of all of 1960s Dr Who.
Overall it makes the whole thing seem a lot grander and film-like.
But if the story itself is crap, then all the outside footage and extras in the world won’t save it.
As it happens, the story is alright. It’s far from the best Doctor Who story and is probably the weakest of all the 1960s Dalek serials. Part of what makes the story good is what makes it suffer.
I would say it’s a bit like they agreed upon the concept before working out a story. Yes, the Daleks are back and yes they are in London, but beyond that there isn’t all that much to it. In a few months time I’ll get to the Patrick Troughton story – The Invasion – where the Cybermen invade the Earth. That was a gimmick too, but the difference there is that the Cybermen were far from major players in the story. The real villain was Tobias Vaughan. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
The point is that the Daleks don’t really do much in this at all, and yet beyond them there isn’t really anything to it. As it is, the Daleks have a very sketchy motivation for their actions. They are yet to have the focus of knowing who the Doctor
is, and they aren’t particularly evil either. Yes, I’m sure that it looked impressive having a Dalek coming out of the water at the end of episode one but there wasn’t really any need for it.
As an interesting side note: Both the actor in the Dalek casing and the Roboman who went into the Thames in Episode 1 had to be immediately rushed to hospital once they’ve filmed their scenes because the Thames was so filthy that there was a serious chance they could have become ill. Health & Safety wouldn’t stand for that now.
But as I say, the Daleks just didn’t do enough. Oh the actors inside them seemed to be having fun, happily trundling round in circles around the set of the studio for no apparent reason while the voice actors delivered their lines, but that didn’t make them interesting. And the voice actors themselves didn’t do a particularly good job. In some cases, the ring modulator didn’t seem to be used to make ‘The Dalek Voice’ and instead they resorted to putting on squeaky, high pitched voices to say stuff like ‘Kill him’.
And then beyond that Terry ‘Not At All Lazy’ Nation uses exactly the same demise for the Daleks – their power gets drained meaning the humans can defeat them with punches, kicks and pushes.
Oh, and their entire plan is ruined by Ian blocking the descent of their bomb with a plank of wood in the mine-shaft. Not exactly fool-proof.
Criticisms of the Daleks aside (hey, that could be the title of the next Dalek story), the rest of the story is a bit hit & miss.
For a start, you really have to criticise the writers, designers and production team in general for their depiction of London in 2164. Why? Because London of 2164 is exactly the same as London of 1964. People are wearing 1960s clothing and living in 1960s squalor, while technology doesn’t appear to have evolved and London looks no different. The only references to this being in the future come from the rather lazy lines “Have you been on a Moon Station or something” and (in reference to a woman’s trip to see London) “Oh and there was the moving pavements, the shops and the Astronaut Fair”. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh because I’m sure that sounded
futuristic at the time, but even so, that’s not nearly enough.
Yes, credit must be given for making London seem like a barren wasteland following a few years of Dalek occupation, but it still looks like what London would have looked like following a few years of Dalek occupation in 1964. Seeing as they probably had to set it in the future, they should have done a slightly better job with that. At least they could have tried to differ the clothing.
My other problem – and it’s a small issue really – is with the Robomen. Don’t get me wrong – I think the Robomen are a great idea and they are very well realised in the story. Indeed, the Robomen in the TV story are far more scarily effective than the ‘Silly Soldiers’ we see in the big screen movie adaptation of the story. But my problem with them relates to the Daleks’ selection process. We see in Episode 2 that they set a very intricate and clever trap to test the prisoners’ intelligence. Those that pass get turned into Robomen. Leaving aside the contradiction that they turned the ignorant and stupid Jack Craddock into one of them anyway, why would the Daleks look to turn the intelligent people into their zombie-like muscle? Surely they should turn the strong into Robomen regardless of intellect and kill the weaker intelligent subjects if they fear them to be potentially dangerous?
One element that does deserve praise is the human side to the story. Even though the Doctor & Co. only turn up at the tail end of the invasion, you get a good sense that the rest of the human resistance are tired, damaged and barely holding on to their emotions. Almost all of them have a back story, and the actors add little things to their performances to give their parts a sense of believability. Apart from one notable exception, there aren’t really any failures among the human cast of the show.
While I enjoyed the story-arc of Larry – the guy who travelled to Bedfordshire with Ian to try and find his brother – the pick of the bunch was definitely Bernard Kay as Carl Tyler. As Kay said himself in the documentary included in the DVD, he decided the best thing to do to bring out his character was to do nothing. Tyler is a man who has come to guard his emotions having seen so many of his friends die. How do you act that? Well Kay does it by understating it. When the focus of the camera is not on him, he stands there with his arms down by his side looking quite blankly around. He looks, acts and sounds like someone who has been fighting a war for years. Excellent work.
Not so excellent is Peter Fraser as David Campbell. Let’s just say he’s not very good and move on.
In terms of the main cast, three of them do a good job and one doesn’t. I’m sure by this point you’ll be able to guess who the odd one out is.
Yes, it’s Carole Ann Ford as Susan. Thankfully, this is her last appearance for 19 years and the character of Susan won’t be missed. The sad thing about it is that Ford isn’t that bad an actress but Susan just isn’t a good character. And it’s not that there aren’t enough storylines to go around or that the ‘young’ member of the cast has to be portrayed in a specific way because her replacement – Maureen O’Brien as Vicki – is meant to be around the same age and she is miles better.
Suitably, Susan’s farewell storyline isn’t very well done, as she falls in love with the dreadful Peter Fraser. This leads to some pretty ropey scenes in which they ‘gradually fall in love’. I think the Doctor summed up the viewers’ feeling towards the storyline when he abruptly tells them not to “…stop to pick daisies along the way” when they are sent to disable the Daleks’ power supply.
Of course, even though we’re probably all glad to see her go, the way the Doctor leaves her in a war-ravaged time with a guy she’s really only just met, with no shoes or even a chance to say goodbye is a little bit harsh. And, from a Ret-Con point of view, he’s left her there to marry a bloke with a completely different life cycle to hers. The Tenth Doctor let Rose down by saying that she’d grow old and die while he stayed the same and he couldn’t do that to her or to himself. But to Susan and David? Yeah, that’s ok. Unless of course, Susan isn’t really his granddaughter and has the same life-span as a human. After all, she says she’s 15 in Marco Polo.
Alright, I know that the whole life-span thing wasn’t a consideration at the time so we…
Wait…15? What sort of man leaves his 15 year old granddaughter alone to live with a bloke she’s only just met. With no shoes. And does David know about her age?
No matter what way you look at it, that’s just wrong. In fairness though, he makes it seem like a nice thing to do with his legendary “One day, I shall come back”.
But he could have left her with some shoes…
Speaking of the Doctor, we discover that he doesn’t like to kill people, but he sure has hell loves to give them a beating. The way he pounded the crap out of that Roboman with his cane seemed to give him a lot of pleasure. This is backed up in a couple of stories time in the Romans, so look out for that. He also appears a lot braver than he did since the last time he encountered the Daleks; the way he stands up to the Dalek coming towards him as if to say “‘Mon then!!!” may just have been an excuse for the director to do a bit of ‘First Person Perspective’ camerawork, but I think it really adds to his character.
Barbara is…well…Barbara. Jacqueline Hill puts in another good performance.
Ian meanwhile does a very good job of managing to survive in war-ravaged England, stowing away in flying saucers, traversing treacherous mine-works and evading Daleks while wearing a suit. He really is an action hero to look up to.
Some other observations…
The Doctor was unnecessarily rude to Jack Craddock when the two of them and Ian were locked up together. And I really want to know what Craddock was going for with the abruptly cut-off line “And the Great Big Pumpkin…”
Episode 5 is called The Waking Ally, presumably because the Doctor was unconscious during episode 4. But he was unconscious because a real-life accident on set meant William Hartnell spent the week off work. So what was it called originally?
And finally, I couldn’t let this review pass without mentioning the Slither. So I mentioned it. Good old Slither.
Doctor Who – The Daleks Invasion of Earth Review: Should You Watch The Daleks Invasion of Earth
If you want to see 1960s Doctor Who looking as big-budget as possible then this is the story for you.
But while it looks great (issues with the Black Dalek’s paintwork and 2164 looking like 1964 aside) it isn’t the best of stories.
The Daleks just aren’t all that impressive. The voices are sometimes poorly done, their plan is stupid and they are destroyed far too easily.
It’s the worst Dalek story of the 1960s but is still better than most of the Dalek stories of the 70s or 80s.
Overall there are better stories out there than this, but it’s still entertaining and is worth watching for the historical significance and to see Susan leave.