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On First View: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

Guest contributor Antti Björklund begins a new series offering a first time view on a Classic story.

dalek-invasion-of-earth-hartnell

Many fans think of 1964′s The Dalek Invasion of Earth as a classic. This is evident by the fact that in Doctor Who Magazine’s “Mighty 200” poll it peaked relatively high, at number 44. But exactly how good is it?

In this series of articles I will try and look at episodes I have not generally seen before and evaluate exactly how good they are from the viewpoint of someone watching the episodes for the first time. I will try and make note what are the episode’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Characters

In the beginning Doctor Who was a show about the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara. But, like all good things, this had to come to an end. For Doctor Who, this was in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Carole Ann Ford, the actress playing Susan, had grown weary of the lack of progress for her character. On July 30th, 1964, Susan’s final scene was written into episode 6 of what was to become The Dalek Invasion of Earth. With the broadcast of the final episode on December 26th of the same year an era came to a close.

The Doctor

hartnell-ian-dalek-invasionHartnell’s portrayal of the Doctor is one of knowledge. He seems forgetful in some scenes – a trademark of this incarnation, and one quite well documented and noted on by Hartnell’s co-actors – but at the same time he shows signs of heroism, such as in a scene where he saves Ian from falling.

Hartnell portrays the Doctor as, in my opinion, a somewhat arrogant character, a trait handed down later to some of the Doctor’s other incarnations. I can’t help but feel that he sees himself as the wisest of the group. That said he sometimes does give other characters the opportunity to show their knowledge.

As someone watching the serial for the first time it was clear to me already from episode one that the role of the Doctor is one of scientific knowledge. I know from before that in the early years, the show was about teaching children about history and science. The latter becomes clear in a discussion between the Doctor and Ian where the Doctor warns against drinking water that bodies might be in.

The Companions

hartnell-companions-dalek-invasionSusan quickly gets into a role that I have come to understand was quite usual for her: the screamer and the one who gets into trouble. She has her moments of humor too, such as when one of the resistance members asks her what she does and she answer’s “I eat”. Throughout the serial, in my opinion, she doesn’t really have that much to do. Her falling in love with David, one of the rebels against the Daleks, is subtly but still quite clearly shown. Susan does, however, have the role of the assistant. As do Ian, Barbara and the rebels. She also aids in the reaching of the ultimate goal.

Ian is clearly the action character. If I were to show this serial to someone who has seen only post-2005 Doctor Who, I would class Ian as the “modern companion” character, as I feel he acts like the companions the modern show has.

I would class Barbara as the mother figure of the TARDIS crew. She clearly, to me, is someone many mothers watching could possibly relate to. As someone watching the serial for the first time, I found Barbara relatable, especially in the scene where she bandages Susan’s twisted ankle. She also suggests she could cook for the rebels. On the other hand, she also has her moments of action, such as in the scenes running away from the Daleks in which she commandeers a fire truck and drives it away, and in another, in which she assists the rebels by throwing bombs on the Daleks. Barbara also provides some comic relief. There is a scene where she tries to use her knowledge of history to confuse and distract the Daleks by mish-mashing pieces of history. On first view I found it very funny.

The Monsters

dalek-water-invasionThe first monsters of the serial are the Robomen, humans who the Daleks have turned into robots. In the first episode they feel to me rather useless. They could have been easily swapped with the Daleks themselves. That isn’t to say that they are bad as such – they truly have a few moments in which at least this viewer felt a little scared – but I personally could’ve seen the serial also happen without them. I can’t help but make a comparison between them and the original Cybermen, especially in the way they walk. This view is also strengthened in my eyes by the way they talk.

The Daleks make their first appearance flying over London. It is not until the climax of episode one that the audience first sees them. Their appearance here is done in an ingenious way – a way that most definitely must’ve been a stroke of genius: the Dalek emerges from the water. It is an image I would like to be replicated in the modern series, as it clearly makes the viewer think, “how did they do that?”

The Daleks of The Dalek Invasion of Earth are menacing. I would even consider them mad. Mad like the 21st century portrayal of Davros – with the benefit of hindsight it’s clear where from the Daleks got their attitudes.

There is also a third, smaller, monster in the serial. At the end of episode four a monster attacks Ian and a rebel. To be honest, I’m not sure where that monster came from or what it’s purpose was other than to keep the story moving on.

The Overall Story

When reviewing the serial, the phrase “an awful lot of running” springs to mind. In my humble opinion the serial feels, at times, a little padded. It could well have worked as a four-parter ­– or to put it another way, it would work as a modern two-parter.

The serial is, at times, rather predictable. That said it does have its moments. The cliffhanger to episode one, which I mentioned earlier, is one such ingenious moment. The ending of the last episode is such a poignant scene that it just left me amazed.

As someone using a wheelchair, I found one character especially interesting. I am talking about the rebels’ scientific master, Dortmun, who uses a wheelchair and is portrayed as a wise hero.

Conclusion

So there you have it: my honest opinion on the First Doctor serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. I can certainly see why it was used, as part of the 1960s “Dalekmania” fad, as the basis of the second Peter Cushing Dalek film.

I leave you with the First Doctor’s farewell to Susan, one of the most poignant scenes in all of Who. May they guide you in your travels through life:

Step back in time...

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53 comments
MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

Maybe you could do an article on The gunfighters. I consider it to be a shockingly underrated story. In fact it's one of my favorite Hartnell stories.

Rani Nose
Rani Nose

Great start to the series!  The "awful lot of running" problem is an interesting issue.  The running about does slow down the story when we watch with our current sensibilities, but I think it helps to consider how the producers and audience viewed the show 50 years ago. In 1964 people would have been watching once a week with no chance of repeat viewing.   

From the producer's standpoint, the repetition would pad the stories as they needed to make 40 episodes per year.  It was probably easier to come up with six or seven stories with a bit of filler than it was to make ten taut stories.  It was definitely a lot cheaper as fewer stories meant fewer sets and fewer actors.   


From the audience viewpoint, they only watched once per week.  Miss any part of a 22-minute episode and  you might miss an important element of the story.  Intentionally building in repetition and recapitulation would have helped the viewers connect to the story from week to week.  One run through a corridor per week isn't distracting the way that six runs through corridors in a two-hour viewing would be.


TheElusiveWhovian
TheElusiveWhovian

I saw this on Friday. Although not all scenes have dated well, it is certainly one of my favourite stories. It is improved by the black-and-white, with some superb location shooting - the first the series ever did. Add to that the menace of the Daleks, you get something I can watch time-and-time again.

yoshfiction
yoshfiction

Oh my giddy aunt! Finn wrote an article! =D

The Finn
The Finn

Geez, I was not expecting this to go up now, keeping in mind I'm still writing some of the articles. Thank you for your kind words, everyone. Just to let you know, this series is (at least for now) only one story per Classic Doctor. I originally came up with this series as a countdown to the 50th, but univeristy work and life in general has meant a delay.

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

Spot-on. I've always thought that The dalek invasion of Earth is overrated. It's almost as if they decided to have the daleks return...IN LONDON!!! and then just thought of a plot afterwards. For me, it is the weakest dalek story of the 60's, and yet I still enjoy it- 6.5/10

Gustaff
Gustaff

Been a while Antti. Looks like this is going to be another whopper of a series. What's next? 

Richy Woo
Richy Woo

I have a request, Could you let us know which show you are going to watch in advance from now on, I think this format of article is a great idea that would benefit greatly if you got the community involved with watching in advance. Kinda like a book club with classic TV.

Americanwhovian
Americanwhovian

I struggle to like this one each time I watch it. Somthing was off that I cant quite grasp. I think it was the dalek voices that werent quite right

Polyphase
Polyphase

Well done, A joy to read and I'm going get the DVD out tonight :)

Baker Street is excited for Series 8!
Baker Street is excited for Series 8!

Brilliant article that is very well written, and I look forward to the next installments in the series! I haven't actually seen this serial (although I've seen the movie version), and I do desperately want to see it. The farewell scene is beautiful.

Whovian
Whovian

Great article! I loved this story, it is definitely one of my favourites from Hartnell's era. The 'It is forbidden to dump bodies into the river' sign set the tone as dark and mysterious, but the most iconic image of the episode is the Daleks emerging from the Thames, which is a simply incredible moment. The farewell to Susan was beautiful. I agree that the Slyther was not needed, and that the story was far longer than it needed to be, but a brilliant story all the same :)

awkward912
awkward912

Very nice article, I coincidentally finished my second watch of this story just last week. I agree that it seems a little padded at points - this time round I realised that NOTHING happens in episode four, which is always frustrating. But the location work is stunning and the characters well-played (mostly). Plus the hurried shout of "the Slyther Ian!" at the start of ep 5 makes me think Raxacoricofallapatorius has found its way into the Whoniverse 40 years early!


As some friendly advice for the rest of this series, I assume you were a slave to the wordcount but I really would have spent more time on the "overall story" section. What was predictable? What was padding? How specifically did you respond to Dortmun as a wheelchair user yourself? Give us more! Other than that this is a very nice article, and I look forward to seeing more in the same vein. I may even join in the fun when I pick up season 19 for a debut viewing...

cyberbrayde
cyberbrayde

I love that idea of seeing the Daleks come from the water in the new series.s

cyberbrayde
cyberbrayde

Ace! That was a great article. That emotional scene hit Bill... hard. One of the highlights of that era.

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

I really need to watch this, but it's the oldest classic series DVD not to have yet been rereleased as a special edition, which I know they'll announce the second I buy this. Meh, screw it. I'll just buy it. See you all. I'm off to the DVD store.

BazHood
BazHood

Nice. Enjoyed reading your views. Seen this many times and it's one of my top 50 for sure but I've always thought the acting of David to be pretty weak and the growing love between him and Susan ham fistedly done. But hey, it was the 60's and this was a childrens show. Agree it's a bit padded but I still watch it at least once or twice a year.

Antee991166
Antee991166

I really like the idea for this series! Haven't seen Dalek Invasion of Earth in ages, but I do remember it being a bit padded. Still a great story, my 3 favourite scenes being; the Dalek emerging from the Thames, the sequence of the Daleks moving around London and the farewell speech. It always brings a tear to my eye. I can't wait to find out what episode you'll review next!

Trenzalore
Trenzalore

This is a actually a really good idea as a series of articles. I myself have been collecting since last year and it's really great hearing about how good/bad it is then seeing it for yourself. This is my favourite Hartnell story, with Keys of Marinus (shockingly underrated) and The Chase not far behind.

Liana21
Liana21

I haven't see this one yet, but I've seen the arewell scene and it's so touching, I love how The Doctor decides leave Susan out because he knows she'll be happy with David.

PS: But just few hours ago I've been watching The Romans. I love it, it has few awesome scenes, like the private party of Ian and Barbara, Nero chasing Barbara or the mute concert of The Doctor. Top Notch

JFrance
JFrance

The monster in episode 4 is called a Slyther. It came from Skaro, the Daleks used it to guard the mine at night and it would kill and eat anyone that would escape the mine. Great article.   

ClassicWhovian
ClassicWhovian

Glad to see you finally got this published-well done! :-)


SonicTheHedgehogRules
SonicTheHedgehogRules

Excellent article! The Dalek Invasion of Earth was one of my first Classics, and it's a great comeback story for the Daleks. A bigger scope, a bigger threat, and a much bigger area to work with. Also, it features one of the BEST quotes in all Doctor Who history! "One Day, I Shall Come Back..." To answer your question about the monster that attacks Ian, it's called a Slyther, and was the Supreme Controller Dalek's personal pet. He would let it roam around at night, killing anything it found. Quite terrifying, actually.









Antee991166
Antee991166

@RobertLythgoe I've recently watch it and its definitely no masterpiece but its also no travesty either. I'd give it a 5/10, simply because it tries to be something different and it did make me smile a lot.

The Finn
The Finn

@RobertLythgoe  Maybe in the next round. I'm doing one for each Classic Doctor in this round, so One is already "used up".

calliarcale
calliarcale

@RobertLythgoe I agree; it's nowhere near as bad as it's made out to be.  Well, as long as you can overlook the fact that it has almost no relationship to the actual gunfight at the OK Corral (which actually was a historical event and not just something made up for Westerns).

The Finn
The Finn

@Rani Nose  That's the problem, isn't it? I'm not living in the 1960s. But I see your point there.

The Finn
The Finn

@yoshfiction  Save your giddy aunting for next time when it's the Second Doctor's turn ;)

The Finn
The Finn

@Richy Woo  For the Second Doctor it's The Mind Robber, for the 

Third it's Inferno, 

for the Fourth it's Genesis of the Daleks, 

for the Fifth it's Caves of Androzani, 

for the Sixth it's Revelation of the Daleks 

and for the Seventh it's Battlefield. 


I've written and sent in the articles for the Second and Third Doctors, so it might be a little bit late for those, but I'll keep the idea in mind for the future installments. I've just to watch Genesis of the Daleks with thought and then I can write that up and send it in.

Antee991166
Antee991166

@awkward912 Season 19 is great IMO. There are some very creative stories and classics. The only bad story is Time-Flight, but the rest are all enjoyable.

Antee991166
Antee991166

I just remembered this is also the first story where Daleks actually say "Exterminate", although it didn't become a catchphrase until their next appearance The Chase.

Trenzalore
Trenzalore

To improve maybe a little less about the characters because much of it we've heard before. But still a great job nonetheless :)

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

@Antee991166 @RobertLythgoe I think it is a masterpiece (although I'm in the minority). I can overlook the awful American accents and the repetitiveness of the ballad because the story is both gut-bustlingly funny and cleverly written. Seriously. It's so cleverly written I wanted to applaud.

Whovian
Whovian

@Antee991166  Sorry to correct, but the Daleks first say "Exterminate!" in the second serial, The Daleks, in episode 4 :)

calliarcale
calliarcale

@RobertLythgoe @Antee991166@awkward912I've found that Time Flight improves greatly on repeat viewings, as you stop paying attention to the horrible FX and shots that could've been staged better if they'd had a bit more time.  The thing is, they'd blown their budget on Earthshock, so Time Flight suffered.

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

@Antee991166 @awkward912 The Romans is an absolute classic. Very well written and hugely enjoyable. As for The web planet...It has a good first 3 episodes and then an extremely boring next three episodes. Pretty average. It looks good, though.

Liana21
Liana21

I've watching The Romans today and I love it. It's funny, little crazy and lovely.