On this day in 1964 the Doctor defeated the Daleks for the first time as the Rescue, the final episode of the first Dalek story, was broadcast. Now amusingly this story has about half a dozen titles but for simplicites sake I shall stick with the title used on both the Target novel and the domestic VHS/DVD which is quite simply: The Daleks.
Now this is a story which exists in multiple forms, the original seven part serial, the Aaru movie adaption with Peter Cushing and David Whitaker’s novelisation. Normally I wouldn’t separate the novel and TV serial but on this occasion the novel features such substantial differences to the screenplay I feel it should be classified as a separated entity. My focus here of course, is the TV serial.
As with An Unearthly Child, the opening episode to this story is more or a less a four hander to establish the set up. On this occasion the Dead Planet and how each of the four traveller’s reacts to the situation, the Doctor is naturally curious to the level which he endangers his fellow travellers by his selfish and childish antics. Ian and Barbara on the other hand are more interested in leaving and getting home… so to avoid any arguments the Doctor deliberately sabotages the TARDIS. An action which he isn’t really held to account for, some how “you fool, you old fool” doesn’t quite cut it.
While the pacing may be slow I am glad the story was made when it was as we get generally introduce to each set of antagonists. Episode 2 “The Survivors” presents us with the Daleks and introduces them well, they scheme and plot while remaining curious as to the presence of the time travellers, also it is worth noting at this stage the Daleks barely meniton the word exterminate.
Episode 3 “The Escape”introduces us to the humanoid Thals, who aside from Temeasus, are a rather wet bunch if we are honest and start off a Doctor Who trend of terrible fashion for humanoid alien races. At this stage the scenes with Thals are watchable and give the feeling they are travelling nomads, unfortunately once the leader is popped off by a Dalek they pretty much become stock characters and the story loses its harder sci fi edge and becomes dangerous journey through the mountains to defeat the Daleks.
Again,it is worth nothing that as with An Unearthly Child, it is Ian who is the active protagonist who encourages the Thals to take the fight the Daleks as it is their best chance of survival, whereas all the Doctor is interested in is getting the fluid link back. However it is worth noting that the Doctor’s arrogance and selfishness does get him shot down metaphorically, in episode five the Doctor is so busy bragging about how clever he is for disabling the Dalek long distance scanners he totally fails to notice the Daleks sneak up behind him.
The story falls flat at the end, with a very rushed defeat of the Daleks which isn’t really explained clearly and a long epilogue with the Thals discussing the rebuilding of Skaro. But despite these flaws it is well worth watching and gives the sense of the Daleks as an actual species rather than the mini tanks of later years.
It is easy to see why the Daleks have stood the test of time, the combination of the iconic image and the semi robotic voice really sell them as aliens, Terry Nation was very correct when he specified the Daleks have no legs so they aren’t clear men in suits. To this day people often ask if they were radio controlled props.