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“The Daleks”, 1963
Part 7: The Rescue
Well I’m quite excited for the final part of this story. Wimp Thral is still screaming “I can’t hold on”. Oh pipe down you big girl. Ian’s grip is slipping. Ganatus is back to help him. One of the funniest exchanges in TV history now.
Ian: Thral’s name is> get a grip on the cliff face, take the weight off the rope!
Wimp Thral: It’s … too smooth.
I’m laughing as I type. Ian calls him a fool. Ha ha. Ian is even a dick when a guy is about to die. Wimp Thral has a knife and cuts the rope. “Ahhhhhhhh”
Get in. That ridiculous milk child had to die. Ganatus is upset.
Back to The Doctor who is asking the daleks why they have to destroy. “Only one race. Can sur-vive!”
The daleks plan to flood the atmosphere of Skaro. Everything will die. “Ex-cept. The. Da-leks”
The Doctor is royally pissed off about this: “This SENSEless evil killing!” He shouts. Susan is shocked at this display of emotion.
Ganatus, Ian, Barbara and a Thral minion are despondent in the cave. Ganatus is pretty pissed off about Wimp Thral’s death. It was his brother. They want to turn back. The situation does seem quite hopeless.
Ian spots a light coming from somewhere. They climb up a bit and have made it through to some engine room in the dalek city.
Alydon readies the troops but they don’t seem to be reacting much. The Doctor and Susan are in prison. The Doctor thinks on his feet and tells the daleks about the TARDIS.
Hold on now doc, is that REALLY a good idea? Telling these psychos about that?
The dalek does not believe it. The Doctor says that he needs the mercury back. The dalek has it. The Doctor promises to show the daleks how to create their own TARDIS. The Doctor says that he will not explain the TARDIS’s secrets or “philosophy of movement” to them if they don’t comply with his bargin.
I want to pause here to revel in the phrase “philosophy of movement”. This is a great phrase.
The Doctor is getting fed up of the daleks and seems exasperated.
Ian and co have breached the city and are sneaking in. What was their plan exactly? How are these four people going to spring an attack?
The frontal attack seems to be getting bigger, we see a dalek guard head there. But the daleks have spotted Ian and call an alarm for level 8.
I still don’t understand exactly where Ian and co are going. Oh right! They are armed with anti-radiation. But wait …
The Doctor only JUST found out about that. A plot loophole? Surely not.
No, they are looking for the control room and they want to knock it out. The daleks seal them in. Are they trapped? Situation looking dire.
Barbara and Ganatus manage to slide under the door Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom style. The door gets stuck on stop of them and Ian and Thral minion try to push it up. Barbara gets through and they all manage to get through.
The daleks are counting down 36, 35, 34, 33 to their massive radiation emission. I must have missed how exactly they sourced an alternative source of radiation, but this is no time to ponder small details.
Alydon is with Ian and they rescue The Doctor and Susan. A dalek shoots at Susan. Misses. The others ambush another dalek. A thrall gets killed. A lot of action here. Another thrall down.
They are using closing physical attacks on the daleks. Good tactics. But as this struggle is going on, they lose power. They’ve lost their source of power.
A dalek pleads:
“Li-sten to. Me. Save. All. Power. Or. It will be. The end of. The da-leks”
The Doctor says he doesn’t know how to do that and the dalek looks upwards in quite a comical way and says “Ahhh”. That’s it then? The daleks are finished?
“It’s finished” says Alydon.
The Doctor is back to business.
“Chesterson. Come along my boy. We have work to do.”
I still haven’t had a decent look at a dalek beyond that claw. Come on give us a look at one.
Susan tells Ganatus to experiment with the dalek technology.
Alydon wants the Doctor to stay and help rebuild the planet. He says he’s much too old to be a pioneer “although I was once among my own people” he says cryptically. He flings out a few pearls of wisdom now about seeking truth. His is “in the stars”.
Susan is excited. She has some new clothing. Crap Thrall clothnig. She falls down with the excitement.
“Come along child, I’m hungry”
Barbara and Ganatus say goodbye without ever having got it on. He gives her a crappy Thrall dress too. Ganatus kisses her hand and they have a quick peck on the lips.
The TARDIS disappears.
Hey y’know it’s big in that TARDIS on the inside.
Excellent fun. Although I would have liked to have seen a dalek beyond one little claw.
Final thoughts on “The Daleks”
In this process I will not be dealing with ratings, which would be against the spirit of what I’m doing, I will just provide thoughts in a few key areas.
Thoughts on the plot and pacing
Stretched over seven parts. While the overarching plot is quite straightforward — arrive on planet, get captured by daleks, escape, befriend thrals, attack, win — there are a lot of little complications along the way. I can summarise a few of these:
– The Doctor actually tricks the companions into checkout out the dalek city. Both the initial argument and this little bit of dishonest create increasing tension between The Doctor and Ian.
– Rather than simply persuade the thrals to overturn their pacificism and attack the daleks, Ian and the Doctor are again at odds. This time the whole group argue and argue about the correct course of action.
– Once the thrals are onside, the attack is not straightforward. First off it’s quite a complex two-pronged affair, secondly not all of the thrals are that keen to fight. This creates even more arguing. Wimp Thral, for example, shows the “human cost” of what the companions have done here.
Some commentators on this serial have accused all this of being “padding”. The claim is that the running time is artificially stretched out and the whole thing could have been wrapped up in 3 or 4 parts rather than 7.
While that is superficially true, I actually think all that arguing and group tension is the very thing that makes this storyline interesting. There are quite a few competing philosophies on offer.
The Doctor is happy to ride roughshod over the needs and wants of his companions to pursue his own scientific interests. Ian is consistently utilitarian in wanting to do what is best for the majority. This accounts for Ian’s flipflop on the issue of the thrals going to war. He knows that ultimately the Doctor’s plan is to save their own skin, not that of the thrals. The Doctor is pretty open about not really caring for their fate. Ian, on the other hand, insists on thinking about their best interests as well the party’s. It’s an interesting moral dilemma that is explored in some detail over the 7 parts.
We also have some interesting stuff about pacificism vs. violent self-preservation in the war between the thrals and the daleks. All very sci-fi cod philosophy for sure, but the exchange between Barbara and Ian about what the thrals need to do in order to survive is rather insightful.
In terms of excitement and drama, the earlier cliffhangers are very effective. Barbara being chased down by a dalek at the end of part 1 and that terrifying little dalek claw at the end of part 3 did their job in making me want to watch more. The whole escapade over the lake and into the mountain with Wimp Thral being a general gimp the whole time does admittedly drag in part 6. They spend and inordinate amount of time jumping across that chasm. That was the only part that might have really been cut down. Did we really need to see each and every member of the group make the jump?
All-in-all though, this was effective storytelling exploring some serious issues through interesting and strained group dynamics.
Sets and costumes
Doctor Who is famous, or rather infamous, for some real budget-based shite in this department. But, on this evidence, that’s a little unfair. The daleks look great, the metal is chunky and real. The corridors of the dalek city aren’t anything worse than what we see inside the Death Star in 1977; this was 1963. The model of the dalek city also looks great and it’s believable.
Once we move outside of there though things are considerably dodgier. The thral’s costumes are pathetic. That turtle cape is absolutely ridiculous.
Acting [NB. Only actors playing the Doctor or major villains will be named. All other actors will be named using their character names. I’m not looking up these no marks]
William Hartnall as the doctor is great. The companions start very poorly. Ian is at his worst when suffering pain and his selling of the leg paralysis is absolute bobbins. He is almost “the hero” or at least the protagonist for much of this story, and while the character is just a dick in my view, the actor playing him does an okay job of getting across his personality. Or he might be terrible, and his bad acting is to blame for what a total wanker Ian is. Barbara and Susan both do their fair share of annoying shrieking. But Barbara in her more serious moments is quite likable. Susan does the worst running I’ve ever seen, needs to be seen to be believed it’s that bad. However, she’s quite feisty and plucky and I think we like her for it.
The dalek voices are all as you’d expect. Perhaps not as aggressive and insistent as they would later become, but effective.
Every single actor playing a thrall is totally and shockingly shit. Woeful supporting cast.
What better villains could you want? The Doctor’s first encounter with the daleks. They prove themselves to be sly, paranoid, utterly ruthless and not easily tricked. Perhaps we could have had a stronger leader figure as all of the daleks look identical, I think there were two who seemed to be running the show, but it was hard to tell. Difficult to get any real sense of their hierarchy or chain of command.
I’d have loved a closer look under that cape to see more than just the claw too.
Great dastardly evil villains though.
The star of the show of course, although unusually took quite a back seat to Ian for much of the running time. His character is fascinating. By turns grumpy, abrupt, taciturn, playful, curious, condescending, wise, pig-headed, over-confident, deceitful, cunning, vulnerable and (sort of) caring, he is quite an enigmatic chap. The keynote of his character seems to be that he’s quite the curmudgeonly old grandfather who can’t be doing with the follies of youth: “come along now young man”. But at the same time, he has a gleefully mischievous, almost childish streak that almost inverses his relationship with Ian — making Ian the curmudgeonly grandfather and him the anti-authoritarian child.
One thing that is striking about The Doctor here is just how relentlessly selfish he is. He is happy to put his companions in harm’s way in his pursuit of knowledge. When he thinks they are safe and can leave (before they discover the mercury link has been left behind), he is happy to leave the thrals get destroyed by the daleks commenting that “their fate” is not really any of his concern. This part of his character reveals a cold, inhumane indifference to the needs of others — and it’s one of the most interesting things about him. This guy is not human. He doesn’t think like a human. And that’s what makes his arguments with Ian so compelling.
All-in-all, I really like this take on the Doctor so far.