Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode One – World’s End

The Dalek Invasion of Earth was where everything changed.  It’s the first time that an element from a previous story returned, so it can be said to be the beginning of Doctor Who continuity.  Whether you call it “continuity” or “kisses to the past” or something else, it’s a dirty word for some people.  Many considered 1980’s Doctor Who to be far too obsessed with its own past (and just to show that nothing changes, the modern series is the same for some people).

Maybe one of the reasons why I love 1960’s Doctor Who is because it’s fairly light on continuity.  There are returning monsters (Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti, Ice Warriors) but they’re the exceptions rather than the norm – a returning baddy was more of an event then, as it didn’t happen all the time.  The Doctor’s place in the universe is another reason why I like 1960’s Who.  He’s able to travel around in almost complete anonymity – compare this to the series from the 1970’s onwards, where he increasingly became someone that everyone in the universe seemed to know (and if they didn’t know him personally, they’d probably have heard of the Time Lords at least).  The trend continues to this very day, and modern Who feels even more constricted than the original series ever did.

True, we see a few examples of the Doctor’s fame during the Hartnell and Troughton eras (for example, there’s the frankly bizarre notion that the Doctor’s travels have been monitored in The Savages, making Jano and his friends the very first Doctor Who fansbut they’re rather an exception.  Hartnell’s Doctor never arrives somewhere and announces that he’s a Time Lord, or the most powerful being in the universe, or the thing that monsters are afraid of, etc, etc.  He has to gain people’s trust by his actions rather than simply relying on his reputation.

Turning back to DIOE,  Terry Nation had to do some frantic re-tooling in order to present the Daleks as a galactic force.  In The Daleks they seemed to have no ambition for conquest – they merely wanted to survive.  Later in this story we see the Doctor blithly tell Ian that the Daleks they encounter on Earth come from an earlier period, which suggests that Skaro’s Daleks had devolved (the Skaro Daleks couldn’t move outside of their city, whilst the Earth Daleks have no such trouble).  This might lead us into the murky world of Dalek continuity, so I think it’s best to leave it there.

As will be traditional with most Dalek stories, they only pop up right at the end of episode one.  It’s an obvious trick – hook the viewer in and then reward them with just a taste, thereby forcing the audience to return next week.  So if we don’t have the Daleks here, what do we have?

For starters, it’s the series’ first major location shoot and also the first time that the regulars were seen on location.  Having spent nine stories confined in the studio it’s a considerable novelty to see Billy and co. out in the open.  As with most stories to this point, Nation elects to block the entry to the TARDIS – this time via a collapsing girder – which forces the Doctor and his friends to venture further afield.  Given that the raison-d’etre of the series had subtly changed (the Doctor was now becoming more proactive in his desire to combat evil) it probably wasn’t required, but it’s always nice to see old plot favourites (Susan’s sprained ankle is another).

It slowly becomes clear that they haven’t returned to Ian and Barbara’s time (notices which state “It is forbidden to dump bodies in the river” are something of a giveaway).  The mystery is settled when Ian finds a calendar for 2164 (Doctor Who often liked to set stories exactly a few hundred years in the future).  Quite why 2164 looks a lot like 1964 is a mystery that’s never explained on screen (although in Terry Nation’s original drafts it was revealed that the Daleks had invaded in the 1970’s – so any technological or architectural progress would have been drastically curtailed from that point onwards).

The paper plate Dalek spaceship is priceless!  The CGI replacement on the DVD is very nice, but as with all the replacement effects I rarely use them – and if you’re the sort of person to be worried by the original effect you probably shouldn’t be watching the series anyway.  It’s not a case of being blind to the series’ numerous production faults and missteps, rather you just have to accept the production for what it was (true, sometimes you have to be very accepting!)

As we get further into the story, I’m sure we’ll find time to discuss the Daleks’ bizarre reasons for invading Earth, but for now let’s restrict ourselves to the underwater Dalek.  Why was it underwater?  Apart from providing a decent cliffhanger I can’t think of any other credible reason.  But that’s been a good enough reason for many Doctor Who cliffhangers down the ages, so let’s not carp too much.

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