Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin
Attempting to count the number of times the Daleks have found their way onto our television screens would just be daft. You would have a better chance attempting to fart your way to the moon. Which would be a far better use of your time, because you’d end up on the fucking moon, which is awesome, rather than knowing how often the Daleks have turned up, which is lame. The point I’m trying to make is that they’ve been around a lot over the last 50 years. If you were to watch only one Dalek story, I’d recommend it be this one.
Sure, it has a lot of the flaws of early Doctor Who: cheap production, rushed filming and the occasional actor fluff, but the core of the story, the acting and of course the villains, are all top notch. For my money, this is Terry Nation’s best work. Audiences seemed to agree, with ratings climbing to over twelve million. That’s about a quarter of the country at the time.
Its easy to see why. Although this story was set some 200 years in the future, London is still very much the same as it was in 1964. probably because this was the first Who to be deemed worthy of location filming. In retrospect, the Daleks, with their flying saucers and and ray guns lend the production a rather 1950’s B-movie, Ed Wood type of feel when seen in a familiar setting*. Within the context of Doctor Who, however, the idea of an alien invasion just round the corner was brand new, and bound to take viewers by surprise.
This story also marks the first departure of a regular cast member. Carole Ann Ford, promised an awesome character in Susan, but ended up spending most of her time screaming, moaning or falling over and twisting her ankle, had finally had enough. The Doctor makes an odd choice here, leaving his fifteen year old granddaughter stranded on a war-torn waste rock that even at the height of its civilization might as well have been in the neolithic compared to her home planet, in the care of a randy bloke who wants to marry her. At least he’s Scottish**.
The ability to loose key members of the cast would ultimately prove to be Who’s greatest asset, leading to its extraordinarily long running time. Later in the series it would sometimes feel as though every other story had a new companion arriving , or an old one leaving, but of all of them Susan was, I imagine, the hardest to replace. A human companion can be anyone, but as Verity Lambert pointed out you can’t just whip out a new granddaughter for the Doctor. The producers, however, did feel that they needed a youngster in the TARDIS. What form would that role take? Find out next time as the Doctor meets his next traveling buddy.
*I’m pretty sure that taking control of the earth men and using them as an army to conquer the rest of them was the Dalek’s 9th plan.
**Paul McGann fans would eventually find out that his decision was not all bad, and it kind of worked out for Susan.