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“Dr. Who and the Daleks” Remastered Review

Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull gives his verdict on the upcoming remastered edition of the Peter Cushing movie.

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Film review

There is a large division in the Whoniverse of Doctors that aren’t considered ‘canonical’. These are the ‘Other Doctors’, a range of Time Lords (or not) that were invented on a different platform that branches from the official television programme. They vary from the zany bunch in The Curse of Fatal Death to the Great Intelligence himself, Richard E. Grant’s ‘Shalka’ Doctor. Whether you choose to count these, and others, as part of the show’s canon, is down to you.

cushing-dr-who-and-daleks-dvd-cover-remasteredThe Doctor (or Dr.) in this case is Peter Cushing’s Dr. Who, a character birthed by Amicus Productions, and not by the BBC. They toyed with the mythos of Doctor Who and made the eponymous man human unlike William Hartnell’s extraterrestrial First Doctor. I consider Cushing as my favourite non-canonical Doctor because of the charm and grace he brought to the role. In time for the release of the digitally restored Cushing films, I look back at the first: Dr. Who and the Daleks.

Along with making the Doctor an earthling, Dr. Who and the Daleks reinvented the famous TARDIS as Tardis: a rather crude-looking time and space machine created by the Dr. in his back-garden. It’s a very controversial change but as the film (and its sequel) were made in the mid-sixties, it isn’t as maligned. The palaver last year where David Yates announced he would be making a Doctor Who movie never emerged to anything but my guess is Yates would have made something similar to the Amicus Productions features.

The official First Doctor’s companions, Ian, Barbara and Susan were given a slight twist. Ian was Barbara’s lover (curiously a romance was often subtly hinted in the TV show) juxtaposed to the workmate relationship they shared in the television series. Ian is incredibly clumsy here, and the producers went overboard with emphasizing William Russell’s bumbling-idiot side (TV’s Ian is a multifaceted and character, not at all like Roy Castle’s interpretation). Susan was the Dr.’s granddaughter and her age had been lowered from the televisual version, one change I thoroughly approve of. Carol Ann Ford’s Susan Foreman had some appeal but Roberta Tovey’s was more likeable, in my view.

Plot-wise, Dr. Who and the Daleks is basically a simplified and more constrained model of the second ever episode, The Daleks. Ian accidently sends the gang in Tardis to a distant planet (named Skaro in the sequel and the TV show) where they encounter the deadly Daleks. From that point onwards it’s a fairly jaunty adventure (with an equally jaunty theme-tune) with bubbling swamps, petrified jungles, gaping chasms and gassy (now, now) Daleks. The aforementioned menaces are not quite as terrifying as they are in the official series but certain moments (e.g. when the Daleks ambush the Thals outside their imperial city) pack a punch.

I had already seen the movies before doing this review, and then I wasn’t impressed by the visuals. Now that it has been remastered, the vivid colours light up, from the lurid coral leggings sported by Barbara to the chocolate-coloured suit jacket worn by Peter Cushing’s Dr. Who. The Daleks are also more attractive and are reminiscent of the new paradigm creations of Victory of the Daleks.

Dr. Who and the Daleks doesn’t encompass the creativeness and audacity of the original television show but there is enough charisma and fun to last the running-time.

Verdict: 8/10

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Extras review

Dalekmania.

In 1995, Lumiere Films commissioned a documentary scrutinizing the country’s past love for Terry Nation’s marvellous creations, the Daleks. It looked towards Amicus Productions’ Dalek films, Dr. Who and the Daleks and the sequel, Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. and featured interviews with the cast of both movies.

Roberta Tovey is the predominant interviewee and guides us through the creative process on the two films. She is supported by Barrie Ingham and Yvonne Antrobus, who starred as Thal sweethearts in the first movie. What Tovey has to say is enlightening – especially after viewing Dr. Who and the Daleks – and it is nice to hear her recount tales of how Peter Cushing and director, Gordon Flemyng assisted and encouraged a younger her. Moving onto Dr. Who and the Daleks’ successor, Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. we are ushered further into the alternative universe of Dr. Who with talks from Jill Curzon, who played Louise, a character used as a proxy for Jennie Linden’s Barbara, and Eddie Powell, stuntman/co-ordinator for the sequel.

Its insightful viewing but grows rather weary, and you feel like you could have been halved in length. This is acceptable, however, as it was produced in the dark time when Doctor Who wasn’t airing and audiences were hungry for more Who.

Verdict: 7/10

Restoring Dr. Who and the Daleks.

Due to Dr. Who and the Daleks being a remastered edition, then a video showcasing the technical procedure was inevitable. Here we have a rather dull and insipid eight-minute feature with interviews from a BFI curator, a television and film historian and multiple blokes from Deluxe Digital Studios. The rest is basically over-the-shoulder shots of men working away at computers, showing viewers how they reinvigorated Dr. Who and the Daleks.

Restoring Dr. Who and the Daleks is utterly humdrum for non-techies but those interested in the advanced practical methods will fall in love; it’s entirely esoteric.

Verdict: 4/10

Interview with Gareth Owen.

When I saw in the ‘extras’ menu, the name Gareth Owen, I expected an interesting interview with a producer, or writer of Dr. Who and the Daleks. Instead we received an archive video of man behind The Shepperton Story. Yes, you heard me. Viewers are treated to an extraneous interview with a man who wrote a book about the studios in which Dr. Who and the Daleks were filmed.

Its only seven minutes long but I was still left asking, what was the point in that?

Verdict: 5/10

“Dr Who and the Daleks” is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 27 May 2013.

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