Friday, June 19, 2015

The Doctor Who 50 Years 50 Stories Project: #2 The Dalek Invasion of Earth

The Dalek Invasion of Earth
First Doctor, Barbara, Ian, Susan

This is my second viewing of this story, and I have to say I didn’t much like it first time round. My opinion’s slightly improved this time round though.

It’s an odd one. In some ways it’s awesome. I love all the location filming. Doctor Who Magazine rightly points out that it must have took incredible courage, considering their only previous experience of location shooting were a few scenes featuring non-regular actors, and in this one they’re putting Daleks on Westminster Bridge. The real thing, not some model in a studio somewhere. Heck, I’d be impressed if they did that today. So that whole scene is glorious. Daleks taking over London, it didn’t just happen to David Tennant. It all feels like a movie and you’ve got the whole resistance movement which is kind of cool.

I forgot all about the random ‘VETOED’ signs on everything, including an elephant. I think it works, it’s just so weird.

Actually, the music (bongos!) didn’t annoy me as much as it did on my first viewing of this. I actually rather liked it this time around. It sort of seems to fit with the episode. Somehow.

It’s the plot and the pacing that lets the story down, which is a shame since the premise is awesome. Terry Nation is a funny one. Normally I quite like his ‘making it up as he goes along’ storytelling- where you’ve got bits cropping up out of nowhere and piling on top of each other. But sometimes… this story is a prime example. It’s just- “We need to command the robo-men to destroy the Daleks!” and then they do it and DONE. It’s just all so anti-climatic.

About the robo-men- I kind of like the idea, Daleks programming human slaves. It could be a proper scary thing if they did it today. And I think it’s kind of inevitable to look back at them and compare them to Cybermen- if just for the shape of their heads. I mean, obviously they’re not the same thing at all, but I wonder if the Cybermen idea came out of the robo-men.

The silhouette's similar. Ish.

This is also the story where Barbara reaches her peak of BAMF-ness and runs over some Daleks in lorry. Dear god, I love Barbara.

Can we talk about the Slyther for a second? I kind of love it, in an endearingly awful kind of way. It’s like it could have been a proper menace in the story and then it just… isn’t. Typical Terry Nation.

This is the only picture of the Slyther I could find. It's even worse in black and white.

Let’s talk about the other big thing in this story: Susan. I make no secret of the fact that I’m actually a big fan of Susan. I think a lot of her ‘screaming woman’ behaviour can really be put down to her being fifteen, quite sensitive and probably pretty sheltered. Granted, they take it a bit too far and I think in many ways waste what was potentially a great character, but weighing it all up… I like Susan.

Susan’s exit is interesting in a lot of ways. From the start of the show she’s treated like she’s much younger than she is, basically a child. This story starts with her grandfather telling her that what she needs is a smacked bottom, something you’d normally say to a much younger child… and yet, it ends with her getting engaged, and being told by the Doctor that she’s a woman. How do you reconcile these two sides?

Random thoughts on Susan’s age: I know lots of people favour the interpretation that Susan’s real age is much older than fifteen, and probably older than Barbara or Ian, but I’m not so sure. I think a lot of the reason that she’s treated like such a child by the Doctor (and by consequence, everyone around her) is because she really is, in the eyes of timelords, very very young- maybe even as young as actually fifteen. Compare her to Vicki, who is apparently also about sixteen at the oldest. And the Doctor does refer to a big age difference between him and Susan, after all- and it must be big for a timelord.

Also, how long have Susan and the Doctor been travelling together? Susan says in this story that she can’t remember a time when she felt like she had a place she belonged. So, it seems like she’s perhaps been with the Doctor since she was very young- possibly a baby. (That’s my headcanon, anyway. That goddamn cot in “A Good Man Goes to War”...) Also… Susan’s parents, do we…? But I’ll leave that to my own imagination.

So by the time she goes to Earth in the 22nd century, she’s say, sixteenish, or pretending to be at least, and while probably not a lot of sixteen year old humans from London get engaged (though in the 22nd century, who knows), it’s still a human thing to do. I think that’s why she does it. She’s always loved Earth, ever since we first met her with her radio in “An Unearthly Child”. It makes sense that she’d eventually choose it as her home.

One’s speech after he leaves Susan is rightfully famous. My god. Sometimes Hartnell really pulls out all the stops and delivers proper genius. I can't watch it without welling up; it's devastating. Here it is if you haven't seen it for some reason


I haven’t seen “The Five Doctors” but I understand Susan’s in it… so at least he does see her again, somehow, somewhere. That makes it a bit better I guess.

I just have this really heartbreaking image of some companion finding a shoe with a hole in it in the TARDIS one day and asking the Doctor why it’s there. Or maybe it’s the Doctor himself who finds it and it takes him just a second to remember whose it is. Or he keeps it, secret and safe, after all this years.

Right, I’m done making myself sad now.

So, yes. I think this is an averagey sort of story which is made much better by selected awesome parts. Maybe it’s one of those stories where the perception of it is better than its actual content. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We all need myths.

Next time: More Daleks! And this time they have a master plan! Yes, it’s The Daleks’ Master Plan, all 12 episodes of it. There will be recons! And gratuitous character death! And a Christmas special we all like to pretend didn’t happen! So stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment