Doctor Who News Peter Cushing starred as "Dr Who" in two Dalek movies

Published on July 1st, 2014 | by Alex Skerratt

Time To Defend The Peter Cushing Dalek Movies

That’s right, Kasterborites – it’s time to defend the Peter Cushing Dalek movies of the 1960s. “But are they ever under attack?” I hear you ask.

Well yes, actually. You may think it’s just the anonymous posters on the forums who like to challenge the films’ integrity, (“Are they canon?” being the oft-asked question!), but the gaming-and-movies site IGN recently took a swipe at the spin-offs in an article about the TARDIS interior…

“In Doctor Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150, the Doctor is actually the human inventor (surname Who, seriously) of the TARDIS. This is reflected in the science lab appearance of the TARDIS interior. Although not strictly canon, it’s worth flagging up here, to illustrate how utterly rubbish Doctor Who could have been in the hands of Hollywood execs.”

Ouch!

Is such an analysis justified? I mean, canon or not, like them or not, is it fair to imply that Mr Cushing’s adventures were “utterly rubbish”? I would like to question this slightly controversial comment from IGN! (I would also like to question why they have referred to the second film as Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 when everyone knows it is, in fact, Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. Pfft!)

Pedantry aside, I understand why some people feel negatively about these movies. For a start, they didn’t feature the ‘current’ Doctor Who (William Hartnell) or, indeed, any of the series’ regulars, despite the fact that they were movie adaptations of First Doctor stories. Furthermore, they clearly weren’t rooted in the television series’ mythology – Cushing’s ‘Doctor Who’ was, as IGN points out, a madcap inventor with a TARDIS in his back garden, not a wandering traveller from a distant world. And yes, the TARDIS interior was basically a naff-looking laboratory, with curtains.

Yet I for one am very grateful for these films. I became a Doctor Who fan during a very strange period in the show’s history; it was a year after the television movie had been broadcast, and I was desperate to collect all of the old videos, most of which you couldn’t find for toffee, despite the fact they had only been released a couple of years previously. But for some reason, these Peter Cushing tapes were in abundance in my local W.H. Smith, and in the same way that people say that the Target novelisations were as close as they could get to, say, Planet of the Spiders, these movies were the best possible imitation of the Hartnell gems that I craved. The original stories were never going to be repeated on terrestrial T.V., and all of the available videos had been snapped up years ago, so I genuinely never thought I’d get to see the real things. And let’s be fair - they are very, very true to Terry Nation’s original scripts, and offer a faithful retelling of those Dalek classics. In short, they got me through a very difficult period of Who starvation, and I shall be eternally in their debt!

Bernard Cribbins co-starred in the second Dalek movie

Furthermore, you can’t deny the influence they’ve had on the relaunched Doctor Who. Just look at those Dalek bulbs! Not a technical term, I know, but come on, they’re good – much more distinctive than the stubby maglites that plagued them right up until the series’ cancellation. And Russell T Davies obviously liked the bulbs as well, as he copied them wholesale for the pepperpots’ triumphant return in 2005. As well as those TARDIS doors – oh, those TARDIS doors! Why did it never occur to anyone to make the TARDIS’ exterior doors match up with the interior doors? It seals the illusion that they’re inside a police telephone box, as opposed to a studio. It bothered me incessantly as a pedantic nine year-old (not much has changed!) and yes, it’s true that Cushing’s TARDIS may lack a certain air of magic or mystery, but in some ways it’s the most successful interior of the classic run; it contains the optimum threshold!

Finally, if you’re still wondering whether these 60s flicks are worth their salt, (looking at you IGN), then I have just two words to say: Peter Cushing. He is incredible. Yes, trying to squeeze him into the twelve-regeneration line-up causes more headaches than The Valeyard or even John Hurt, but that doesn’t matter – he plays the part so brilliantly; he’s the perfect mix of grandfather, scientist, hero, doddering eccentric and – dare I say it – quintessential Brit. He could so easily have been a television Doctor Who, and while I would have preferred William Hartnell, he is an excellent alternative. More power to you Mr Cushing! Or should I say, Mr Who…?

So there you are – lots of reasons to dust down those old video tapes, (I assume that if you have the DVDs then you don’t need convincing!) Need I say more?

Oh yes – Daleks :)

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About the Author

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likes William Hartnell, whisky, being creative, debating canonicity, The Gunfighters, The Keys of Marinus and City of Death. He has a strong dislike of cold quiche, corporate PowerPoint presentations and lanyards, but loves terrible puns. He's currently employed by a mute teddy bear with black ears.




28 Responses to Time To Defend The Peter Cushing Dalek Movies

  1. avatar TonyS says:

    I also have struggled to understand why the films are held in such low regard in certain quarters. (There is no accounting for taste, I suppose).

    I must confess a bias: Peter Cushing is one of my favourite actors of all time. He rarely put a foot wrong (even in some clunkers- Biggles: Adventures in Time, anyone?). As a four/five year old child (then- not now), I preferred the avuncular Dr Who to William Hartnell’s portrayal. And the films have stellar supporting casts. Roy Castle goes over the top. But I suspect that that was how he was told to play it. But he is excellent in the part. Bernard Cribbins also. These are people I would have wanted to share the adventure with.

    Peter Cushing reportedly only agreed to do the second film if Roberta Tovey would be in it. From anyone, that is a compliment. From an actor of Peter Cushing’s calibre, wow!

    Also, each film is about half the length of the story it was based on. Far be it for me to suggest that this helps make two somewhat long-winded stories more bearabvle… Actually, no. I am going to say just that.

    If anyone wants mne I shall be hiding in South America!

  2. avatar Michael says:

    The main problem with the two Peter Cushing Dalek Movies, is the sad fact that we have only two Peter Cushing Dalek Movies.

    • avatar Charles Norton says:

      If you want to see the ‘third’ movie in the series, watch 1976′s ‘At The Earth’s Core’. Cushing’s back again as the eccentric Doctor, inventor of a new mad travel machine. The script’s one again from Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg is back as one of the producers. The plot’s a virtual re-tread of the first Dalek film and Cushing’s even wearing the same costume. It’s so close to a sequel, you can smell the copyright infringement.

      • avatar Rick says:

        I completely agree with that. At The Earth’s core is a Dr Who movie.

  3. avatar Christine says:

    Not even mentioning the wonderful Bernard Cribbins in Dalek Invasion as well as timey whimey stuff, great scores (I’ve got them on CD) and – (copy paste) O Yes Daleks! But then I really don’t need convincing, I’ve got the Dvd’s!


    • I like to think we made up for that with the image :)


  4. I really wish there had been a third one! I don’t think the first movie holds up as well as the second, but I think they’re both pretty underrated :).

    • avatar TonyS says:

      There is a very impressive fan trailer for a putative third film on You Tube. Check out Daleks vs Mechons for what might have been.

  5. avatar Lord Darth Tyeler says:

    I love the Cushing movies – don’t diss the Cush. I think they’re better than the Hartnell versions – certainly better paced. As a kid, I also loved the assortment of Dalek colour schemes.


  6. Thank you for writing this excellent feature, Alex. Posting a link to this at our facebook fan Page account and website. Thanks again!

    Marcus Brooks
    the UK Peter Cushing
    Appreciation Society

    petercushing.org.uk

    est 1956


  7. I actually like the movies as their own independent piece of work. And they ARE indeed quite faithful to the original scripts. I like them to the extent that I’ve been trying to see if they could actually fit into the same continuity … after all, none of the MAIN characters ARE actually the same characters. Basically what I’m trying to figure – could there exist in the Whoniverse a Human called Dr. Who who just happened to invent a time machine which (coincidentally or not, considering how the Doctor and his TARDIS have touched so many people directly and not) is called Tardis.

  8. avatar gordon says:

    I always get the impression that certain “fans” dislike the films because of there comedic nature, you know the type that are obsessed with having the show be viewed as “serious business.” Awful people through and through.

  9. avatar John Shandler says:

    I love the second one, the first hasn’t aged quite as well. Cushing is amazing, as are the supporting cast. TARDIS’ interior looks rubbish, but does fit in with the ditzy Earth inventor that Cushing was playing. No, he’s not the Doctor. But he is the definitive Doctor Who!

  10. avatar TonyS says:

    Actually I like the TARDIS interiors too. Less keen on the TARDIS having a border of flowers when it is in Dr Who’s garden at the beginning of the first film. But, hey ho!

  11. avatar J W says:

    Personally I don’t see how anyone can’t have a fondness for these two films, as cheesy as they can sometimes be. And obviously they have had a big influence on the Whoniverse despite their not being canon. The series proper reused redressed movie Daleks in several episodes, most notably in Planet of the Daleks. The Paradigm Daleks are based off the movie Daleks both in size and color scheme, and Big Finish often uses the sound effects of the Dalek Control Room from the first movie layered under the standard Dalek pulsating sound effect.

  12. avatar TonyS says:

    I should have said this earlier and I apologise that I didn’t: another excellent article, Alex :)

  13. avatar Simon Danes says:

    Is Cushing’s Doctor human in the second film? He never says he is, and memories of his saying so in the first film would have faded by the time the second one was released. (I’m assuming they weren’t originally screened as double bills; I don’t think it was.) Maybe the producers had realised they’d made a mistake and let it drop quietly; nothing in the second film to suggest he isn’t alien. Cushing also plays the part very differently in the ‘Invasion’ movie, and much better too: he’s far less of a bumbling old geezer and there’s more steel in the character. Even so, the originals (bar the effects and, for ‘Invasion’, the Dalek voices) are much better – except that they don’t have the superb Philip Madoc. The TV version of ‘Dalek Invasion of Earth’ is pretty black: much more on the theme that this is what the UK would have been like had the Nazis won the war, and much, much darker. ‘The Daleks’ is far more claustrophobic and adult.

    Are they canon? Nope.

  14. avatar DaveP says:

    I enjoy the Cushing films and like Peter Cushing as an actor, but to me at best the films are a curiosity. My understanding is that they were largely financed with American money and needed to go down well in the States to recoup the cost of production. That is why Who was transplanted into a domestic setting with a family – very cosy and apple pie (It is said that most American culture comes back to family in the end).The domestic element though goes against the grain of the tv series. One of the interesting things to me about the character of the Doctor is that he is not a cosy character – compassionate, yes, but not cosy. Cushing’s performance does not give any hint of this. Terry Nation is also on film saying that he thought his performance was ‘too sweet’. So, the films are worth checking out but definitely not canon!

  15. avatar bryan simcott says:

    Ive never understood the love for these movies. Ok so Daleks in Colour , but after that, they have butched the plots and scripts, Roy Castle is cringe worthy in the extreme and the awful, Robomen dance squence in the 2nd film is well Awful.

    The Music for both is dire and very dated now and to be honest Both do not hold the test of time, like the originals do. my Nephew loves the Dalek invasion of Earth (BBC DVD) Albeit the cgi spaceships version rather than the fairly liquid ones.

  16. avatar docwhom says:

    Tell em, Alex. The two Peter Cushing (or Dalekmania) movies are beautiful creations and more than outweight the minor point about whether he’s called Dr Who or not.

    In the mid 1970s school holidays, my local cinema (an old fashioned full-sized theatre with balcony) used to put on full afternoon programmes to get kids out from under their parents’ feet. We’d get cartoons and a full series of Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon episodes. Then after an intermission we got both Delekmania movies back-to-back. I must have seen them umpteen times.

    Anyone who’s seen them on a big screen will tell you that they’re brilliant. There are only 2 downsides. Not being able to get the Robomen music out of your head for the next 30 years. And RTD not choosing to make Donna’s grandad a retired Tom.


  17. There’s one very important thing you have to remember here, and it applies to the who 50 years of Who, you need context.

    These films were made in the early 1960s, long before Doctor Who had really, properly established itself as the franchise that wouldn’t die. Hell; we were still on Hartnell, the idea of a different actor playing the Doctor was a pretty bold move.

    Do these films hold up today? Better than they should, but why should they? Absolutely no-one on the production team thought us Whovians would be dissecting every decision nearly 50 years later. As products of the 1960s they are pretty solid and do EXACTLY what they set out to do.

    Oh and they have Peter Cushing playing the Doctor.

    Seriously; Peter Cushing. That’s worth the price of entry all by itself.

  18. avatar The 2.5th Doctor says:

    The Second Movie is AMAZING. Not as good as the original, but great nonetheless.

  19. avatar Geoff says:

    Speaking only for myself Bryan I just think they are quite good fun.

    Back in the 80s when I was a teenager I saw them and was mortified that this gawdy rubbish could be associated with the hard hitting show of the time (Saward era) that I loved. I think that a lot of Who fans had grown up with the show felt similarly. Now though we are in our 40s and older and perhaps see them differently. For my part what I appreciated upon seeing them for the first time in years (in about 2001) was that they were just really good wholesome action adventure adaptions of Doctor Who. If you just treat them as standalone pieces of family entertainment they are great. Yes they are still gawdy but rubbish? Well I don’t think so anymore.

    Of course their are a whole host of younger Who fans that get these movies and enjoy them. Far more discerning and mature than I was at their age!

    BTW canon? Why not in some kind of bizarre Fobwatch Family of Blood or alternate Universe way? It always bothered me that when they went into the alternate universe in Age of Steel there was no alternate Doctor. Maybe this vocals be it but he’s pottering around believing he’s human and that he invented the Tardis! I remember Steven Moffat said that the only reason there was no photograph of Peter Cushing in the Under Gallery in Day of The Doctor was because the rights were incredibly expensive and they couldn’t justify the cost. Imagine what that would have done to your canon!

    One final word: Peter Cushing. A brilliant Doctor, and the first big big star to take on the part. It’s sad he’s over looked a lot (understandably as the films are a oddity) because he is so good in the part.

  20. avatar james says:

    ive been waiting for them to hit bluray in region one. thought the anniversary year held promise on that front, but they never hit this side of the pond. a real shame as i’m dying to see those crazy colors the way they were intended.

    sorry, i meant colours.

  21. avatar Gareth Kavanagh says:

    I don’t know a single person who hates these movies. Not one. And I know lots of people, I’ll let you know (hmmmm)! You can keep the originals, these are the real McCoy for me!

  22. avatar TonyS says:

    yesterday I watched the first film. Then I watched the Hartnell version.

    As Billy might say, “hmmm. Hmmm?”


  23. Cushing was brilliant but the films were a disappointment to us fans at the time, mainly because of very corny supposedly “futuristic” sets. We laughed when we saw the Robo conversion booths…They were clearly transparent phone booths which we recognised at the time. The tardis controls were ,just old boxes with switches.The robo men’s hats quite obviously motor bike helmets.Despite this we enjoyed as teenagers the nice time at the Cinema.One downside: Mr Moffatt liked these Daleks with their “playroom” colours so much that we saw them in new episodes….I am quite happy with the Eccleston Daleks. The T.V. series despite having a limited budget had designers who went out of their way to make things alien or futuristic and to a certain degree they stand the test of tome.The films ,by contrast are just clichés of the 60′s. One good thing in their favour….The exterior of the Dalek Spaceship made us gasp in amazement. but…..NOT CANNON.

  24. avatar TonyS says:

    I really don;t care whether the films are canon or not. I have no need to know whether or where they fit in. They are fun. They are meant to be enjoyed- not dissected.

    And yet again I say “Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, Roberta Tovey” :)

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