These early episodes are clearly a product of the times. With Neutron bombs and fear of radiation poisoning.
We learn a little bit more about our relatable characters. There are the sweet stories of affection. Ian trying to be chivalrous, comforting Barbara. But in the end Barbara is just charmed by the chivalry (or come-ons) of the locals.
I continue to enjoy Susan. She finds drawing to be soothing, which indeed it is. And I too would be delighted by a petrified flower, of course not one that oozes radiation… Her hysterics, in particular her running through the woods continue to be ridiculous. She is extremely difficult to understand when she becomes hysterical. That is a bit annoying.
However, the silly effects or unbelievable (not in a good way) acting are some of the reasons I find these early episodes charming. I enjoy chuckling with my hubby when Susan runs in place or Ian suggests, “let’s split up.” These qualities are endearing.
On a less endearing note we meet the Daleks. Their first appearance, yeah it’s kind of scary despite the corniness. My favorite quality of the Daleks is how they express the panic we all feel in certain situations. With their increasingly high and loud voices, repeating and repeating. Man, I sometimes hear that same voice in my head.
And then there are the Thals. With their white hair, tall statutes, and command of “do not be afraid” like angels.
I find serenity in the fun flirting, the petrified flowers, the smiles I share with my husband, the “other-worldly” Thals, and the fact that we all have our Dalek-esque moments.
First things first, I think that the only way that I am going to be “consistent” on this blog is the scale in which I grade the episodes (school grades: A+ down to F). My motives and criteria for grading will not even be consistent; how could it be?! Opinions are nothing more than subjective “me think”. The format in which I lay out my ideas will vary widely, and with that, so too will the length. So without further adieu, here is my review for “THE DALEKS!” (Hey, they deserve to have their lead story told in all caps, it’s how they speak… and the exclamation point cannot hurt.)
Views on “The Doctor”:
- He seems to be more focused on science in this story.
- Calls Ian by only his last name, “Chesterton!”, more often than not. I love this! It’s a dynamic that plays to the viewer quite easily, as if The Doctor knows he is being viewed as second-fiddle, the non-hero of the story. His way of ‘setting things straight’ is by being rather formal and not calling Ian by his first name, like a friend would, but by his surname in order to sound like a teacher or superior.
- “Old fool!” Words spoken by Ian, which sum up the lies and shiftiness of The Doctor quite perfectly.
- It’s hard to draw the line between “The Doctor” and “William Hartnell”. I wonder how much of tiredness and weakness is actually The Doctor or the old man playing the role.
- “No, no, they won’t be suspicious at all!” says The Doctor to Ian as he is climbing into a Dalek’s casing! Oh the simplicity of television of old. I love how blatantly this statement is made.
Quick bit on the TARDIS:
- Bring back the automatic food dispenser! This is one area where British television did things right, they were able to offer a bit of fluff and fun WITHOUT using a corporate sponsor (like Cadbury or some other food/drink company wishing to push their product). I guess that’s due to how the BBC is a publicly owned entity and cannot sponsor privately held corporations… Good on you!
Two cents on Barbara:
- Barbara seems like she is the go-to person for Susan, almost like Susan is reaching out for a mother or at the very least another female with which to relate. Barbara is caring, but either it is the times or the fact that she is only Susan’s teacher, not her mother, that keep her from really owning that role as a full on mentor or guardian.
- Barbara, when she does assume the care-taking role, does so because she sees just how inept and cold The Doctor can be.
…And now my thoughts on the unsung hero of early Who, Ian:
- Ian is much more the hero in this show for many reasons, the first of which is that he is easily relatable since he is human.
- Ian can also be a hero because he is also a science teacher, so he isn’t always totally overshadowed by The Doctor’s reasoning or understanding (like future companions sometimes are).
- Age is on Ian’s side. it’s true, he is the typical male role, since he is relatively young and in shape. The Doctor cannot compete with Ian when it comes to anything physical.
- Ian is also forced to be the level-headed one more often than not. With the writers making the women in this show sound like banshees (is this not accurate given the screams of Susan and even Barbara at times?), Ian has to stay focused and keep everyone on track. The Doctor is often cold and careless, Susan and Barbara are damsels in distress, so Ian is the glue.
- “Why don’t we separate…?” says Ian. This statement, meant to be a plot-driver, is one that is often followed in Doctor Who, but rarely said out-loud especially in such a direct way. Anyone who has ever watched a horror, action, or drama film/show can tell you that this idea NEVER works.
As a story, this is where the long history of cheapness in Classic Who really gets its start. The thrift of design on the costumes and monsters, the cheesiness of the sets, and the exquisitely bad model shots all make for terribly out-of-date and yet close to the heart television. The model-shots of Skaro, though bad by many people’s standards, are not a complete failure… the black and white hid what could have been excruciating in color. Another classic piece of the puzzle is the separation of companions and The Doctor, as described above. I hope you enjoy this formula, because you have 25 more years of this in the Classic Who catalog.
“What about the Daleks, Tony?!”
Yes, yes, dear reader, I am getting there. To see your first Dalek is magical, and the way they were teased at the end of the first episode was great… they only show a plunger at the end of a camera while it is threatening a companion. **SLOW CLAPS** Now THAT’S iconic, BBC!! Another piece of classic Doctor Who would be corridors, and thanks to the Dalek city, there are plenty of corridors to get lost in.
The Daleks themselves appear nearly identical to future versions (slight updates are made here and there, but a classic monster needs little revision), and speaking of identical, how about their voices? Yes, we have two people voicing the Daleks, but the trouble is that between the shouting and numerous Daleks on camera at one time, it’s hard to keep them straight. Now, you could argue that you don’t have to keep them straight, which is true, but merely relying on blinking lights on a black and white story is a tough task for those who seek clarity.
Lastly, we come to the Thals. The Thals are a race of alien that had fought against the Daleks for 500 years and become pacifists because of they tired of the constant fighting. Though i do enjoy the Thals, and like my wife said above, they have a certain aura of peace and humanity about them, the second plot, which drove this story to 7 parts, was a bit unnecessary. Seven episodes is LONG! Either revise the script and make it more compact, or eliminate the number of plots that need solving.
I often wonder what the Thals would be like if they were reintroduced to New Who. I think that they would still be peaceful, but there is still much that we do not know about the Thal people and their history (or what they would become, or who they evolve to be).
- Story Grade: C
- While the magic of revealing such a historic nemesis makes this story a delight, the 7 episodes make this way too long for its own good. If condensed into a 4 part episode, easily in the B range or higher.
This post’s thanks go out to Verity Lambert, Terry Nation, Raymond Cusick, and everyone else involved in the creation of these storied adversaries of The Doctor. Please do yourself a favor and watch the special features on the DVDs. The story about the creation of the Daleks at the BBC and subsequent rousing make for a fun, yet educational, watch.