Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ten Statements About....DOCTOR WHO STORY TWO: THE DALEKS (1963)

Barbara is a little upset at the prospect of her pipes
being plunged....
"He appealed very sensibly to them. Any responsible human beings would have responded. The Daleks didn't. They obviously think and act and feel in an entirely different way. They just aren't human."

1) It's nice to see that this second story carries forward the tension between Ian and The Doctor, as William Russell and William Hartnell effectively play a game of one-upsmanship with each other that actually interferes with their stated intention of leaving Skaro.

2) And it's also nice to see that Verity Lambert and story writer Terry Nation seem to be gleefully not backing away from the idea that The Doctor is Something Of A Sinister Sort. The fact that he consciously lies about the Tardis being broken just so he could get the opportunity to explore the city is kinda creepy. And he doesn't stop trying to manipulate everyone, even down to the last scene! That kind of uneasy feeling he's always playing his own game gives Hartnell at this point a refreshing edginess we won't see again until McCoy's later stories.

3) Especially given that each episode of the series was budgeted at an ungodly low amount of money, you have to give them a hand at how thoughtfully the sets are designed. Little things like the lower ceilings in the Dalek chambers and the strange ovoid shape to the doors gives the setting an alien air to it.

4) Boy--watching this now (I don't think I've seen this story since it ran once on WLIW in the early 90's), with my knowledge of what the Daleks become in the era of Pertwee and beyond, I'm somewhat taken aback by how....laid back these Daleks are. They only utter their signature phrase once, shoot Ian only to paralyze his legs, and discuss their plans like borough representatives. The moments where they're the paranoid, single-minded Space Nazis are still there, but much a little on the few and far between side. It's not until we see them again (which we will on DYE! DYE! in a short while) in 'The Dalek Invasion Of Earth' that the psychotic Dalek mentality surfaces.

"All due respects, young lady...I live on a planet
with the Daleks, and you creep me out more..."
5) And's rather a shock to see this first portrayal of the Thals as these white-haired hippie types in soundproof quilting vests. It takes a long time to get used to them talking about growing food and the like when you want to see them be ass-kickers. Of course, it doesn't help that the outfits of the female Thals are, ummmmm, silly as all hell....

6) It's obvious to me that the production team is feeling around in the dark at this point trying to find their ideal groove, because this story might be a touch long at seven episodes. To be fair, it keeps it pace pretty well for the first four episodes...and then everyone plans an assault on the Daleks that involves an episode and a half tromp through a swamp with a killer whirlpool and a whole lot of nuttin' that slows the story to a crawl. When it's time for the climax, everything shoots back in double time in an effort to wrap everything up.

7) There's something really weird about Philip Bond's Ganatus pursuing Barbara. I know it's not the first time a character wants Barbara to be his wubbie (I'm looking at you, 'The Romans'), but given the continuing evidence that Ian and Barbara are involved (when she pulls him up from the elevator, she embraces him; they're seen sleeping next to each other when they rest in The Mutant Swamp) it makes her prissy self come off a bit like a player.

Yeah, the Daleks are forcing our heroes to have tea against
their wills...but it's really bad tea...
8) You gotta give directors Richard Martin and Christopher Barry for trying some unique and unusual shots, particularly those that are from the Daleks' point of view. They're obviously done with filters and cut-outs, but given the rather staid three-camera set up it's refreshing to see them trying new solutions for the problems of their budgets.

9) I am becoming more and more creeped out by Susan. Not only is she still disquietingly odd looking, she now chooses to break out this strange, braying laugh at the most inopportune times. There's one moment when the others stare at her after she does this donkey-like whinny, and you get the impression they're just as shocked as we are.

10) I'm also still not used to the way each episode only shows the last few minutes of the episode previous, then there's a fade out, and then the story starts. It's a slight disruption in the show's flow that distracted me every time. interesting as this episode is, it's still something of a shock to see a different interpretation of the Doctor's greatest foe. Still, another essential episode for aspiring Whovians.

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