Monday, March 28, 2011

"The Dalek Invasion of Earth"

Aired Nov 21 - Dec 26, 1964

Episode 1 – World's End
Episode 2 – The Daleks
Episode 3 – Day of Reckoning
Episode 4 – The End of Tomorrow
Episode 5 – The Waking Ally
Episode 6 - Flashpoint

Story 10

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin

Synopsis

The TARDIS materializes in London, on the banks of the Thames. While Ian and Barbara are initially thrilled to return home, it soon becomes apparent that the city appears deserted, and there are foreboding signs that some sort of calamity has occurred. 

They discover it is sometime after the year 2164 and Dalek invaders are now ruling the Earth with the aid of humans converted into zombie-like Robomen, but they are opposed by a group of resistance fighters led by the wheelchair-bound Dortmun, and aided by Tyler and David Campbell.

Through numerous perilious turns, the travelers become separated and have to avoid death from Daleks, Robomen and human collaborators while striving to find a way to defate the Daleks and uncover their plans for Earth.

The travelers discover that the Daleks have established a huge mine in Bedfordshire. Making their way there, they discover the aim of the Daleks is to remove the Earth's core using a huge bomb and replace it with a powerful drive system so that they can pilot the planet around the galaxy. Ian manages to create a barrier in the shaft in order to intercept the bomb. The resulting explosion destroys the Daleks and their mine and creates a huge volcanic eruption. 


Susan has fallen in love with resistance fighter David Campbell, and the Doctor decides to leave her on Earth with Campbell to start a new life.

In the end, the Doctor locks the TARDIS doors and sadly tells her:


Believe me, my dear, your future lies with David and not with a silly old buffer like me. 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, Susan. Goodbye, my dear.

The TARDIS departs, leaving Susan to start a new life with David.




Analysis

The first season of Doctor Who was largely an experiment in tone and purpose. The production team was still finding its footing in terms of what types of stories they wanted to tell. Up until this story, things were still very much in flux. The success of The Daleks not only cemented the immediate future of the series, the massive popularity of the monsters pretty much dictated their return.

In bringing them back, and upping their status to galactic conquerors, a huge piece of the series mythos finally crystallizes. Prior to this, the Doctor and his crew were wanderers that happened to stumble across conflict, and often only got involved out of self-preservation or because they were cut off from a means of escape. True, there is an obstruction to the TARDIS in this story, but the action here primarily results from the Doctor's conviction to defeat the Daleks. From this point on, the Doctor begins to take on an overtly heroic persona, and this serves to elevate him from a wandering, self-interested explorer to a force for good throughout his travels. As a result, the Doctor's journey to a full-fledged hero is completed in this story.

The story is the most epic the series had ever attempted to this point, a tone helped through the use of a larger studio to record in, and the invaluable use of copious location filming. The location material especially impresses; the eerily empty London streets, with Daleks trundling past familiar landmarks, is unsettling and would become an indelible image of 1960s Doctor Who. The numerous settings and larger sets give scope to the story, and the direction is top notch, with solid pacing and well-choreographed set-pieces. The Slyther and the flying saucer sequences are really the only let-downs of any consequence, but otherwise Richard Martin does a great job in his best outing as a director for the series.

The story itself may be the most archetypal Terry Nation Doctor Who script. As such, it features all of his strengths as well as his weaknesses. There is the shoddy science and sprained ankles, etc. But his strengths are at their most effective here. The bleak tone. The evocation of the war years to create a familiar audience touchstone within the fantastic setting (occupation, resistance, traitors, black markets). The resistance members are all interesting and well-drawn, and the splitting of the companions amongst numerous supporting characters gives them all something interesting to do while providing enough story material to fill its six episode allotment. The decision to have the Doctor arrive once the Earth has already been subjugated is a brilliant one, and arguably never better explored.

Finally, the story features another first; the first departure of a companion. I always felt for Carole Ann Ford. She was brought onto the series with the promise of playing a wonderfully odd and mysterious character, but was quickly reduced to playing an hysterical teenager. Susan never truly fulfilled the promise she initially had, except for brief flashes in The Edge of Destruction and The Sensorites. No one can blame her for wanting to move on. And indeed, her struggles prepared actresses who followed her as to what kind of role they could expect to take on within the TARDIS. Her leaving must have been genuinely shocking to viewers of the time, and it's done well. Her relationship with David makes sense, and is given enough time to develop. Not every companion would get so well thought out an exit.

From here, the series is ready to take more chances than it ever had before, and now had the popularity to truly stretch its wings. The Dalek Invasion of Earth, for all these reasons, must be considered one of the most momentous stories, and certainly one of the best of the Hartnell era.

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