The Escape opens with Susan meeting Alydon (John Lee). Born in Tasmania, Australia, Lee didn’t have a trace of an Australian accent and instead spoke in the RP tones that were so prevalent during this era of British television. Every line he intones is spoken with deadly seriousness (and note how, in his initial scene with Susan, he stays remarkably still). It’s the sort of performance that can so easily seem wooden and unnatural, but Lee manages, just about, to give Alydon a spark of life.
Much more naturalistic is Philip Bond as Ganatus. Bond (father of Samantha) has more to play with in the script, since Ganatus has a mocking sense of humour as well as a questioning nature. If their leader Temmosus (Alan Wheatley) is inclined to think the best then Ganatus is a more reflective character.
Temmosus might well have had cannon fodder written on his forehead. He’s no fool, but it seems clear that the Daleks have no intention of helping the Thals – and that he’s ill-suited to lead them in the struggle that will follow.
TEMMOSUS: I believe the Daleks hold the key to our future. Whatever that future may be, we must accept it gracefully and without regret.
ALYDON: I wish I could be as objective as you. We’ve lived for so long a time.
TEMMOSUS: Perhaps we have lived too long. I’ve never struggled against the inevitable. It’s a vain occupation. But I should always advise you to examine very closely what you think to be inevitable. It’s surprising how often apparent defeat can be turned to victory.
Ganatus’ brother Antodus in mentioned, but we don’t see him in this episode (although he’ll play a key part later on in the story). The suggestion that he’s a flawed character is established when Dyoni (Virginia Wetherell) wonders if he’s still afraid of the dark. A small point, but it helps to sow a seed of doubt about his ability to deal with stressful situations.
Terry Nation never really excelled when writing for female characters (except, maybe, for Servalan in Blakes 7 – and that was probably only because she was originally written as a man) and Dyoni is no exception. Wetherell spends most of her time in this episode pouting and reacting jealously to any mention of Susan. Dyoni’s comment that Alydon should have given the drugs to a man, not Susan, are slightly wince-inducing. As we’ll see, Dyoni’s only value to the plot seems to be her relationship to Alydon (she’s the lever that Ian later uses to persuade the Thals to fight the Daleks). Apart from this, she’s very much a cipher.
And what of our four heroes? They remain prisoners, but they work together to devise a plan to escape. These scenes are particularly interesting because all four characters contribute to the debate. In years to come it’ll mainly be the Doctor who has the solution – with everybody else relegated to sitting on the sidelines. But the Doctor doesn’t have all the answers here, and it’s only after they pool their resources that a workable plan is produced.
DOCTOR: Let’s concentrate on the Daleks. Have you noticed, for example, that when they move about there’s a sort of acrid smell?
SUSAN: Yes, yes, I’ve noticed that.
BARBARA: I know. A fairground.
IAN: That’s it. Dodgems.
DOCTOR: It’s electricity. I think they’re powered that way.
IAN: Yes. But just a minute. They have no pick-up or anything. And only the base of the machine touches the floor. How do they complete the circuit?
DOCTOR: No, no. I believe the Daleks have discovered a way to exploit static electricity. Very ingenious, if I’m right.
BARBARA: What, drawing power from the floor?
DOCTOR: Precisely. If I’m right, of course.
This is a good episode for Carole Ann Ford. She’s typically wide-eyed and appealing in her initial meeting with Alydon and later has an excellent scene with the Daleks when they dictate a letter promising to help the Thals. It’s plain that they don’t intend to keep their promise though, reinforced by the push one of them gives to Susan with their sucker arm once the letter is written. It’s just a throwaway moment (possibly worked out in rehearsal) but it helps to give the Daleks more of a human touch.
The scene where the Doctor and the others disable a Dalek and remove the creature (in fact, nothing more than a joke-shop gorilla hand) is a memorable one and it leads into a strong-cliffhanger as Ian (inside the Dalek) leads the others out into the corridors as they attempt to make their escape.