Thursday, May 18, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The Dalek Invasion Of Earth"

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin

Susan: “Oh Grandfather I belong with you.”
The Doctor: “Not any longer Susan. You're still my grandchild and always will be, but now you're a woman too. I want you to belong somewhere, to have roots of your own. With David you'll be able to find those roots, and live normally like any woman should do. Believe me my dear, your future lies with David and not with a silly old buffer like me.”

With the show now in its second season, it was time for the writers to capitalise on one of the biggest successes and that of course meant that The Doctor and company had a rematch with the Daleks coming. And as rematches goes, this was certainly not a disappointment.

Landing on Earth in 2164, The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara don’t exactly avoid trouble. No sooner are they there than Susan’s klutziness results in a bridge collapsing on the TARDIS. It’s a clever way of getting rid of a certain set for this six parter but of course, it’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of disasters.

Early in the serial, Susan and Barbara fall in with a rebel group while The Doctor and Ian do some routine investigating. The problem is that for them, they also run into Robomen and when that doesn’t prove to be disastrous enough, a Dalek re-emerges from underwater and decides to take the two of them prisoners.

It seems since the TARDIS crew have been gone, the Daleks have taken over the Earth (something that will be an ongoing thing with them) and when people aren’t being converted into Robomen slaves, they’re also being killed. The Doctor’s intelligence is played to his disadvantage when he’s nearly converted himself.

Elsewhere Susan and Barbara are well in with the rebel crowd who seem determined to blow up the Daleks once and for all. The most noteworthy characters in this group are Dortmun, Jenny, David and Tyler as they all seem to have detrimental impact/interactions with certain characters.

Jenny for instance is largely paired up with Barbara and her cynicism provides a nice foil to the latter’s determination not to be beaten. I know there are many female companions who are cited for their intelligence and plain brilliance (Leela, Sarah Jane, Ace and Donna to name four) but Barbara continues to prove just well companions could written under certain writers.

Terry Nation is clearly a writer who values the companions as people as opposed to ciphers which is something that not every writer on this show can be attributed. Barbara is placed with Dortmun’s notes when he ends up sacrificing himself to the Daleks and there’s a seriously wonderful moment when she runs over several Daleks in a lorry.

Of course throughout the story, Barbara’s convinced that if she can get to the Dalek base she’ll be able to stop them herself. When she’s asked about The Doctor’s likelihood of survival she doesn’t doubt it for a second but at the same time, it is her who makes the conscious decision to help rather than wait for The Doctor.

Even when her and Jenny are later betrayed by two woods women and captured by the Daleks, she tries t get the upper hand. Using Dortmun’s notes were a handy distraction to try and turn the Robomen against the Daleks. This is of course, a tactic that succeeds on a later basis with The Doctor’s presence.

Ian on the other hand isn’t given quite as much to do in this serial but he’s not surplus to requirements either. In fact one of the great things about this story is the friendship between him and The Doctor, which is far preferable to the frosty dynamic they originally had. However for the most part, Ian does seem to be paired with different characters such as Craddock, Ashton and Larry.

On top of that, Ian also gets a few fighting moments such as his many altercations with the Robomen (it felt like he was fighting one every five minutes at one point) and there’s also a nasty encounter with a creature called a Slyther, which is probably one of the least necessary elements of the entire story.

However it’s The Doctor and Susan who are probably at heart with this story. On one hand, The Doctor’s grouchiness and authoritarian hold on Susan can be quite bad (his disdain for answering him back) but at the end of the day, there’s no viewer who would doubt that he loves his granddaughter, annoying as she can be.

If Barbara’s the wonder woman at times during this TARDIS dynamic, then Susan definitely takes the less flattering damsel in distress role, given the amount of times she seems to yell here. Her relationship with David is sweet and while it’s not as rushed as Leela’s, it doesn’t completely fill me with confidence either.

Still The Doctor must think that David is good enough of a catch that he would be so willing to leave Susan in this time so she grow roots of her own. This was the first ever departure of a companion and it’s definitely one of the best ones too. Although I’m glad to see Susan go, I was still a little sad for her and The Doctor no less and dropping her TARDIS was definitely another symbolism of her life moving forward.

With all the character driven stuff going on in this serial, I almost forgot about the Daleks. To simply put it, they’re still scary, the upgrades look good but their plan to blow up the core of the Earth just seemed silly in the same way that Davros’ reality bomb plot was. Isn’t enslavement and the odd ‘extermination’ enough for this lot?

Also in “The Dalek Invasion Of Earth”

It’s quite funny that this episode opened with “The Dalek Invasion” title. I don’t mean funny in a bad way though.

Ian: “Where are we now?”
Barbara: “Somewhere nice and quiet I hope.”
Susan: “I could do with a holiday.”

The six episodes that made up this serial are “World’s End”, “The Daleks”, “Day Of Reckoning”, “The End Of Tomorrow”, “The Waking Ally” and “Flashpoint”.

David: “And what do you do?”
Susan: “I eat.”

The Doctor: “I think you'd better let us go.”
Dalek: “We do not release prisoners. We are the masters of the Earth.”
The Doctor: “Not for long.”
Dalek: “Obey us or die!”
The Doctor: “Die? And just who are you to condemn us to death?”

This is the first time we ever got a Black Dalek and most of the Daleks here had satellite dishes on their backs.

Ian: “Pretty impressive and escape proof.”
The Doctor: “Only on the surface, my dear boy.”

Barbara: “What’s the point in running away all the time?”
Jenny: “I’m not running away, I’m surviving, that’s all.”

Jenny was originally supposed to Susan’s replacement but to be honest, I didn’t really get a potential companion vibe from her.

Susan: “I hope I’m never like that. Pretending to care.”
David: “One day this’ll all be over.”

Ian: “I want to go to London.”
Ashton: “Why die there?”
Ian: “I don’t intend to die anywhere.”

The story went by the working titles “The Daleks”, “The Return of the Daleks”, and “The Invaders”. It’s a good job they didn’t use the former title.

The Doctor: “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.”

This came out on DVD in 2003 with commentary from William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, Richard Martin and Verity Lambert.

“The Dalek Invasion Of Earth” is definitely a superb serial and sequel to the first Dalek tale and this version is far more satisfying than the Peter Cushing one we got a year later. Overall, the Daleks continued to show in their second outing why they would go on to one of the most enduring TV villains ever and that this show does have depth to it, not that I ever doubted it.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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