Bluffer’s Guide to Doctor Who: Eps 5–11: The Daleks

The Daleks are space Nazis. But their enemies are a race of beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed people: the Aryan ideal. So you have what Nazis wanted to look like, doing battle with what Nazis wanted to do.

I don’t know how to interpret this.

This is… the first Dalek story.

Broadcast: (21 December 1963–1 February 1964)
Also known as: The Mutants, Beyond the Sun, The Dead Planet
Writer Terry Nation. Story Editor David Whitaker. Producer Verity Lambert. Director Christopher Barry (1–2, 4–5) and Richard Martin (3, 6–7)

What Happens:

Exposition: The TARDIS lands in a petrified jungle, clearly after some atomic war.
Rising Action: In seeing a city, the Doctor wants to investigate.
Climax: In a fight against the Daleks, the Thals enter the city.
Denouement: The Daleks are defeated, the Thals have hope, and the travellers leave.

The Daleks (Note, the numbers on their domes so they could be distinguished during rehearsals)

Observations / Things to Say:

  • The thing is, it’s not “The Daleks” because they’re not the Daleks…
    They will be. Just not yet
  • History of the Daleks: Called Dals, they were teachers and philosophers. No Davros (but then, this is all from the Thals. How would they know?) Simple weaknesses of one-shot monsters: they run on static electricity and their city has one power source. Cannot leave their city.
  • What Daleks do do: introduce the word “companions”, Nazi salutes. Interrogation of the Doctor clearly scripted prior to working out how the voices were going to be done. Lots of emphasis on what’s inside the machine, clearly Nation worried that people would assume it’s a person.
  • Susan the planner and adventurer works. Would have loved to see the Daleks scanning her for the drugs rather than just been told about it: Could have been a great tense scene.
  • Episode 2 cliffhanger is genius: Susan’s horrific run through the jungle, into the sanctuary of the TARDIS, looks out of the doors knowing she’s having to make the journey back. Ep 4 cliffhanger a similar conceit: We’ve lost the fluid link, we’re going to have to go back and face the Daleks. Ep 6 cliffhanger is a literal cliffhanger: Would bemoan it if it wasn’t for the fact that there’s clearly been set up to Antodus not making the jump, forcing Ian to cling to the rock face.
  • Barbara and Galantus a sweet, meaningful subplot (and leads to the first kiss we see). The reverse situation will happen in The Reign of Terror. Crushes, fancying people enriches the world, stops adventures feeling business as usual.
  • Interesting things about the TARDIS locks: In “An Unearthly Child”, Ian couldn’t see it despite a close-up. Now, it has 21 holes and will jam itself. The Doctor tells Susan he “Can always make another” key (So, where does that put Clara’s threat in “Dark Water”?)
  • While exploring the alien world, Ian and Barbara have a private conversation: a Hartnell trope throughout Season One. Ian says that the Doctor “Has a knack for getting himself into trouble,” which is unfair character judgment, but also the show establishing itself.
  • Other Who tropes establishing themselves: The deduction scene in the cell (and pleasingly, all of the team have something to contribute). The Doctor being righteous at the villains (“Into the Dalek” moment, right there). The heroes winning but regretting the need to fight.

Don’t Say:

  • “Why do the Daleks stock toilet paper?”
    They just do. Who knows? Perhaps it’s a clue to their villiany; I certain don’t like people that stock massive amounts of toilet paper…

Hot Takes:

  • The last few eps are more action-y than my memory of them. Although, these episodes were padded when Nation’s commission for six episodes became seven episodes. The next four Nation stories all feature our travellers exploring distinct locations, encountering issues related to those environments (e.g. frostbite in “The Snows of Terror” or crocodiles in London sewers). My conjecture is that he was a bit thrown by his commission doing that (You don’t have to spread a Hancock Half-Hour over two episodes) which is why he leant into his pulp sci-fi repertoire more often: so if The Keys of Marinus or The Dalek Invasion of Earth needed to be extended, he could expand it.
  • One thing that does date it, in terms of execution, lack of music. Especially notable in fight scenes. Instead of optional CGI Effects, an optional rescore of episodes done in the style of the original composer could be better to “enliven” stories for 21st century audiences. (Music was played live in studio as the episode was being recorded).

Tomas lives on the proper side of the planet: Australia. He dabbles in education while building defences against spiders, snakes, and spider-snakes.