Doctor Who – Day of the Daleks (a question of time and distance)


This isn’t – you’ll probably be grateful to hear – an attempt to unpick the temporal paradox at the heart of the story. I’ll leave that for another time ….

Rather, it’s simply a quick post about a few elements from episode one which caught my attention during my latest rewatch (and following on from my series of tweets about the story).

UNIT HQ always seemed to be on the move during the Pertwee era. In story terms you could argue that it made sense for a top secret organisation (despite what the The Three Doctors might suggest!) to be somewhat mobile. On a practical production level it’s a little harder to understand.

Especially given that the Pertwee era (following on from the somewhat shambolic production and scripting travails of the later Troughton years) had a much more efficient production base. You’d have assumed that by keeping certain sets – like the Doctor’s lab – in storage they’d have saved themselves a little bit of money. But no, in every new story it seems that the Doctor has moved his base of operations to a new room.

The Day lab is especially interesting. Although it’s never directly stated on-screen, it would appear that the Doctor has (for the first time since Inferno) removed the console from the TARDIS. Otherwise it would be perfectly possible to accept that what we see here is just a very strange console room. Two things count against that – one is that there’s a working telephone and the other is that the Brigadier doesn’t seem in the least put out when he ambles in to chat to the Doctor. Whereas in The Three Doctors he had a nervous breakdown when entering the TARDIS.

I still like to think that what we see here is a secondary control room though, even though the facts doesn’t really bear this out ….

The main oddity of the first episode is the very strange timeline. We’re told that Auderly House is a Government owned country house about fifty miles north of London. Given this, the current UNIT HQ can only be – at best – a few minutes away.

Otherwise, there’s no way to explain how the Doctor, Jo and the Brig (having travelled to Auderly in order to give Sir Reginald a hard time) can, once they’ve returned to the lab, discuss the strange apparitions the Doctor and Jo witnessed prior to their visit to Auderly (which only occurred a few “moments ago”).

So they travelled to Auderly, chatted to Sir Reginald and combed the grounds for any stray guerrillas, but all this only took a few moments. You’d swear the Doctor had a working time machine.

Following on from this point, Benton escorts the wounded guerrilla to the hospital. As the ambulance sets off, there’s still time for the Doctor to return from Auderly to the lab, run a metallurgical analysis on the guerrilla’s gun and then start footling around with his portable time machine. When he does this, the guerrilla vanishes from the ambulance, with an amazed Benton watching on. Again, how does this timescale work? If the hospital’s not several hours drive away, it makes no sense.

Maybe the original intention was to record the scene with the Doctor and the time machine on location? If so, that would have fitted nicely, since at that point only a few minutes would have elapsed between the guerrilla being bundled into the ambulance and the time machine springing into life.

If not, it appears that Terrance’s script editing was a little hit and miss that week ….

4 thoughts on “Doctor Who – Day of the Daleks (a question of time and distance)

  1. I’ve just reached this story in my (re)watch of the Pertwee era. Actually, I stopped watching Who for the remainder of the Pertwee era during its original broadcast. At the time, I didn’t like the “Quatermass plus James Bond” formula adopted by producer Barry Letts. Now I can see that it worked quite well. There is an undeniable “Quatermass” influence on some of the stories, and I guess the “James Bond” elements (Venusian aikido etc) were of their time. The next story up – “The Curse of Peladon” was an allegory of Britain’s attempts to join the EEC after 12 years of negotiations – I wonder if the new series will be bold enough to have a “Brexit” themed story…?


    • I always enjoyed the Quatermass homages (which were at their peak during S7) although I’ve a suspicion that Kneale (who famously never thought much of Who) would have been less than impressed had he discovered the way some of his story concepts had been borrowed lock, stock and barrel!

      The Kneale effect continued after the Pertwee era of course. Robert Holmes (already responsible for Spearhead/Quatermass II) pinched a bit of Quatermass and the Pit (the scene where the Doctor tunes into the Wirrn’s race memory) for the Ark in Space whilst Chris Boucher’s Image of the Fendhal seemed to be paying something of a debt to The Stone Tape.

      If the new series did a Brexit storyline I’ve a feeling it would be a rather heavy-handed satire, so they’d possibly be well advised to leave alone. But it’s possible that we may be entering a new era of subtle scripting, so you never know ….


      • I don’t remember Ark in Space and Image of the Fendhal, although I probably watched them at the time (I started watching again during the Tom Baker era), so I’ll look out for those when I get to them. I’ve just finished watching the French SF series “Missions”, which also looks as though it was influenced by Quatermass and the Pit (no spoilers)…

        Liked by 1 person

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