Episodes 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77 & 78: The Executioners, The Death of Time, Flight Through Eternity, Journey into Terror, The Death of Doctor Who, The Planet of Decision

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 7) & Douglas Camfield (6)

When you’re a kid everything is scary. Dogs, clowns, adults, other children, everything. You lie in bed staring at all the shapes in the darkness, all of which resemble daemons or monsters or dinosaurs. And then you turn the lights on and discover that what you thought was Peter Sutcliffe was actually just a t-shirt draped over the back of a chair.

The Chase is to the Daleks what the light was to that shirt. Before it the Daleks retained a real sense of menace, but after seeing them taken out by a fucking plant, its hard to find them anything other than laughable.

And what the fuck was Journey into Terror all about. Don’t get me wrong, I totaly love it, but the Daleks being taken out by a badly dubbed dracula wannabe? Seriously, Nation, I used to like you. And to make it even worse, its then implied that these aren’t some creations of a collective unconscious, which was just about plausible, but just carnival performers. I repeat, what the fuck?

Not that the chase lacks good points. Nation employs a similar device to The Keys of Marinus, using a thin central plot to allow for a series of smaller adventures, each of which are a fun story in their own right. Flight Through Eternity is a particular highlight, and one of the few Who stories to ever pack that much time travel into a single episode. Even by today’s standards there’s a lot of back and forth through time and space. It is somewhat diminished in quality, however, by the Daleks engaging in some lowest common denominator pratfalls. In Ian’s words “Really? I haven’t seen the joke yet, I must say.”

The Chase marks the end of an era, in many respects, with the departure of Ian and Barbara. I was particularly sad to see Barbara go, as it was extremely rare in coming years to have the Doctor travel with any woman over about 30. In fact, I can’t think of an obvious one until Catherine Tate took up with the 10th Doctor more than 40 years later. They were probably the only companions to lack the complete awe of the Doctor later ones would develop, and consequently the only ones who would ever get quite so grumpy with him.

Vicki got a whole story dedicated to her introduction. Poor Steven simply stumbled aboard the TARDIS at the end of The Planet of Decision. His first adventure would, as the alternating nature of Doctor Who’s schedule dictated, be a historical story. But is all that it seems? Find out next time in The Time Meddler.

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