At the end of the second serial of Doctor Who, did people think that a monster like the Daleks would stay dead?
Did they heck!
Riding high on a wave of Dalekmania, Terry Nation decided to bring back the Daleks a mere one year later. This time, he took them away from their home planet of Skaro and placed them among our landmarks and on our streets. Thus begins The Dalek Invasion Of Earth.
The first serial does a very good job of establishing the setting. Nothing brings implied horror to the mind better than a sign that says “it is forbidden to dump bodies in the river”. Eventually the characters clock on to this, and start finding out where and when they are.
It turns out that the travellers are in 2164 (some fans have advanced the theory that they’re in a later time period and nobody’s bothered to keep calendars, but since we see no evidence to suggest a later date, I think the date we have is fine). Robomen stalk the streets of a deserted London, subjugating resistance wherever it may arise. And as the first episode reveals at its climax, they’re just puppets for the Daleks.
What follows is a fairly standard invasion story. Although most invasion stories have a resistance movement that just needs a catalyst (such as the hero’s arrival) to remove the boot of oppression pressing down on them, most of them don’t have the enemy trying to burrow deep into the Earth to mine the sweet lava-y goodness that is the molten core.
Russell T. Davies was clearly so enamoured with this story that he had the Daleks invading present-day Earth during his tenure. In those episodes (The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End), there are several nods to this story, such as Sarah Jane crashing into some Daleks, the reference to somebody trying to move the Earth once before, and the use of a direct quote from the 1964 story: “the males, the females, the descendants”.
Good as it is, however, no other piece of dialogue in this serial can hold a candle to the Doctor’s farewell speech to Susan, the first of its kind:
“One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. Goodbye, my dear. Goodbye, Susan.”
It’s a beautiful speech, but it is also heart breaking because if we’re going by TV continuity, he never did come back.
You can clearly tell that the mythology of the show was not locked down at this point, with Susan being strangely frail for the grand-daughter of a Time Lord. Bear in mind that this same Time Lord would later fall through a glass skylight from a spaceship and not need to regenerate and you’ll see why it’s strange that his grand-daughter keeps spraining her ankle.Yet despite her weaknesses as a character, Susan is one of the show’s core elements up until this stage; this, dear readers, is the first “regeneration moment” which sees the show surviving a change of personnel (almost effortlessly, in this case).
On that note of “things that get better as time goes on”, it’s interesting to note an idea in this story that Terry Nation would return to with the character of Davros. Both Dortmun from this story and Davros are crazed crippled scientists who try to use their weapons to lay waste to the enemy – and both die for it. Except of course, Dortmun doesn’t come back. Repeatedly.
Incidentally, the moment when Dortmun sends Barbara away so he can go and face the Daleks like a man is one of the best of the entire serial. This is where the viewer is led to believe that he’s made some sort of breakthrough and that through death he’ll lead the heroes to victory. Not so: the Daleks exterminate him just after he throws his bomb, which then fizzles out and does nothing. It’s a sobering message: not all sacrifices achieve something.
If you’ve never seen this story before, I’d say it’s essential viewing – it adds to your enjoyment of current Who and it’s an essential piece of Dalek history – if only to see where all those oft-recreated Dalek Nazi Salute pictures get their inspiration from. I may have called it a standard invasion story earlier, but the fact of the matter is that this is a surprisingly watchable story. It may have its share of awful moments and cliffhangers (including the Slither and the blatant miniature work when Ian’s in the mineshaft) but it remains something that every fan should watch at least once – if only for the legendary cliffhanger at the end of the first episode, when the Dalek rises out of the river, indicating that it’s not just Robomen the Doctor needs to worry about…