Monday, May 12, 2014

Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth

Being as the version I watched featured a 'Dalek Invasion of Earth' title card complete with appearing text and wobbly flying saucers that looked straight out of a b-movie I figured this might just be the hokey type of 60s sci-fi I promised myself I wouldn't let bother me. The Daleks flying saucers see their introduction here, and to say they're hokey is an understatement. Obviously I'm used to the design now, having seen numerous redesigns to make them look better. But here they are at their worst. The first shot of them is bobbing along on a string, and it brings to mind every joke about old science fiction ever made.

However, apart from the spaceships and a monster that appears for ten minutes in the closing parts, this isn't that hokey a story at all. In fact it's fairly horrific, with a pretty damn high body count and tension filled street chases. Not to mention the rather strong imagery of Daleks patrolling around London. I mean the opening shot of the entire serial is a man staggering alone, screaming, and then drowning himself in a river in front of a sign that says body dumping isn't allowed. Doctor Who isn't holding back on the darkness here.

The use of a rather zealous and close minded scientist who's stuck in a wheelchair is rather clever too. His bloodlust gets majority of his resistance killed in a foolhardy attack, and even then he just wonders how to wipe out the Daleks rather than worrying about his dead comrades. He's a human Dalek. This serial has some absolutely fantastic visualisation. Not to mention the incredibly British moment of Barbara, having just escaped the Daleks, immediately start making a cup of tea. Of course, he then heroically sacrifices himself to ensure Barbara can get away and get his plans to the Doctor.

The robomen, the Daleks remote controlled human minions, remind me a lot of Cybermen, like their look was an obvious precursor to the other. I can't help but wonder if the original plan of the Cybermen was the return of Robomen, but instead the Producers decided to go with something unconnected to the Daleks. Either way, they are a cool concept, and one that remains today with humans being Dalekised. Their appearance isn't fantastic, but more than any other serial so far, Dalek Invasion of Earth is Doctor Who hitting up against the problems with the budget/special effects. The second half, when we finally reach the mines the Daleks have rounded up the humans too things get a bit traditional and formuliac, but the start makes up for it.

Of course the other big thing from this serial is the departure of Susan. In the four serials I've watched before this, the idea of Susan leaving the Doctor is unthinkable. She's completely and utterly relies on him for everything. I was surprised that Carole Ann Ford was the first to leave of the original four on that basis. On a character level anyway, on an actress one I can only assume she was as sick of screaming as I was of hearing it. Thankfully, Invasion of the Daleks sells it quite well. Not just that she falls for resistance fighter David fairly quickly, but that she starts listening to him instead of the Doctor. Here's another strong male who has plans and knows what to do and she's finally able to take another side in an argument. It even feels like she's becoming a woman herself, standing up to her grandfather when he makes a decision she disagrees with, instead of the whining we've seen to date.

In some ways David's more of a man than the Doctor as he refuses to leave, and he needs to stand and fight, rather than the Doctor's habitual running away. It's no wonder that Susan fell for him. And this is even before we've hit the halfway point.

Yet when the time to actually make a decision comes, Susan can't. She's torn. She loves both men, but she either keeps caring for the Doctor, or starts a new life with David. Obviously it's the Doctor who makes the final decision. He closes the door to the TARDIS and says goodbye with that famous speech. It sort of ruins Susan's growing up that she can't make the choice herself. What's makes this more important is that I think this might be him finally becoming The Doctor. The man we met in an Unearthly Child is very different to the one we know today. The five serials of Hartnell I've watched hav seen that man change a fair bit. With the departure of his grand daughter I think we're getting into incredibly familiar ground now.

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