Sunday, June 2, 2013

Interlude - "Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D."

Released August 5, 1966


Written by Milton Subotsky

Additional Material by David Whitaker

From the Story by Terry Nation

Directed by Gordon Flemyng


Synopsis

London Constable Tom Campbell is on patrol one evening when he attempts to stop the burglary of a London jewelry store. He is given a knock on the head by the getaway driver, which allows the thieves to flee. Tom runs to what he thinks to be an ordinary police box to call for assistance, but instead enters TARDIS. Inside the ship he finds Dr. Who, his granddaughter Susan and his niece Louise.

TARDIS is just about to depart, and it whisks the travelers to London of 2150. The city appears to have been largely demolished in some great catastrophe. Some rubble falls on TARDIS, stranding the travelers and causing Susan to hurt her ankle. While Louise looks after the girl, Tom and Dr. Who explore the nearby area. When they return to TARDIS, they find the girls gone, and they are captured by mind-controlled human troops whose masters are revealed to by the Daleks.

Louise and Susan have been taken in by a resistance group, led by three men; Wyler, David and wheelchair-bound scientist Dortmun. The Daleks have apparently invaded Earth and destroyed whole continents, turning some humans into Robomen to act as soldiers, while others have been taken to Bedfordshire to work in a huge mining operation. What the Daleks' purpose is with the mine is unknown.


Meanwhile, Dr. Who and Tom have been taken aboard a Dalek saucer that has landed in London. While inside a cell, Dr. Who realises that the door is sealed through a magnetic lock, and he uses Tom's plastic comb to break the connection and open the door. They are immediately met by Daleks, who reveal the cells are an intelligence test to determine suitable candidates for conversion to Robomen. Tom and Dr. who are about to undergo the conversion process when the rebels launch an attack using grenades developed by Dortmun. During the battle, Louise boards the ship looking for her uncle. In the confusion, Dr. Who manages to escape with David, but Tom and Louise remain hidden aboard as the ship takes off.

Wyler returns to the hideout, where Dortmun and Susan wait. The trio decide to make way for Watford to rendezvous with any survivors from the attack. On the way, they stop to commandeer a van, but are set upon by a Dalek patrol. Dortmun sacrifices himself to allow Wyler and Susan to escape. However, they are pursued by a Dalek saucer. Eventually, they are forced to abandon their van and make their way on foot, Susan surmising that her grandfather would go to Bedfordshire to uncover the Dalek plan rather than Watford.

Susan is correct, as Dr. Who and David are doing just that. They have reached the outskirts of the mine, and encounter a black marketeer named Brockley. He offers to sneak them into the complex.

Meanwhile, the Dalek saucer has arrived at the mine and Tom and Louise have snuck off and are hiding in a tool shed. Wyler and Susan take shelter at a home owned by two women who repair the work clothes of the miners. The women offer them shelter and food, but they in turn betray Wyler and Susan to the Daleks, who capture them.

The next morning, Brockley sneaks David and Dr. Who into the mine complex, where they are reunited with Tom and Louise. A miner, Conway, tells them that the Daleks are planning to drop a powerful bomb down their mineshaft which will punch up the core of the planet. The Daleks will then replace the core with an engine that will allow them to pilot Earth like a giant ship. Dr. Who deduces that the reason the Daleks are using human slaves is that the mine shaft is near a point of magnetic convergence, which could affect the Daleks.

Tom and Conway go into the mine shaft to try and alter the trajectory of the bomb. Dr. who asks David and Louise to create a diversion while he remains with Brockley in the shed. After all are gone, Brockley sells out Dr. Who to the Daleks who capture the scientist and exterminate Brockley.

Dr. Who is reunited with Susan and Wyler and they are taken to the Dalek command centre to be exterminated. Dr. Who manages to take control of the Robomen command controls and orders the troops to rise up and destroy the Daleks. In the confusion, Wyler, Susan and Dr. Who manage to escape, while the salve workers revolt and flee the mine as well. Tom has successfully managed to block the mine shaft using timbers, diverting the path down a different shaft. He heads back up to the surface, where David and Louise are aiding the Robomen and the slave miners in rising against the Daleks.

The Daleks manage to release their bomb down the shaft, but the it is successfully diverted down the older shaft, releasing the magnetic force that the Daleks were afraid of. The Daleks are pulled into the Earth's core and destroyed, while their saucer crashes into the mine complex. The Dalek invasion is thwarted.

Dr. Who, Louise, Susan and Tom return to the past, just before the jewellery store heist. Tom gets the jump on the thieves, knocking them all out and driving them to the station in their own car. He waves to the travelers as he drives off.


Analysis

A vast improvement over its predecessor, Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 AD manages to stand on its own as an exciting B-movie that actually does demonstrate that there could be a place for a simplified big screen version of Doctor Who.

It does have similar problems when you compare it to its source material. While the TV series was clearly less polished and forced to deal with a much smaller scale to work with, those rough edges gave the stories an electricity and darkness that is missing from this more kid-friendly, bright approach. The central character of Dr. Who continues to be a big problem, as he is given none of the mystery or eccentricities that Hartnell infused the television version with. Peter Cushing was a talented actor, and Dr. Who is given a far more active role in the plot of this film as compared to the first one, but it's still a shame that a little more consideration couldn't have been given to make the hero of your tale more interesting.

Oddly, the film chooses to eschew the very component that gave the original TV story a lot of its power, namely showing Daleks zooming through London landmarks. They opt for showing a post-apocalyptic London instead, and I'd argue it's far less effective.

These caveats aside, the film is still a lot of fun, and the streamlined version of the TV story zooms along with hardly any lags in the action. It's structured very well, and shot beautifully. The Daleks all look great, their bright colours never lessening their essential creepiness. The Dalek saucer stuff holds up very well, and it’s a very cool-looking spaceship. Once again, the matte paintings and miniature work is great, and the action sequences are well directed, with particular kudos going to Susan and Wyler's escape from Watford in their van. There's a quick cut of Wyler knocking a hole in the windshield that is just so cool. The final conflagration at the Dalek mine is well done too.

The comedy, which was so awkwardly inserted in the previous film, fits in much better here. That's a little odd, honestly, since I'd argue this is a far grimmer story, but there's a scene where Bernard Cribbins' Tom is posing as a Roboman and tries to eat with the other Robomen. They all act in perfect synchronisation, and watching Tom try to keep up works very well. Cribbins on the whole is great all the way through, managing to create a character that is charming and funny but still capable of acting heroically.

All in all, Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 AD may be an awkward title, but the film it's attached to is surprisingly enjoyable.

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