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.”
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!
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