We see a little more of the Slyther at the start of The Waking Ally, but not for long as Ian bashes it with a rock and sends it plummeting to its death down the mineshaft. As it falls, it makes a rather pitiful cry. Am I the only one to have a tinge of regret at the Slyther’s passing?
After spending the early episodes as exterminating baddies, the Daleks we see at the mines are slightly less exciting. They come across as a group of middle-managers, worrying about work parties and the like. It’s interesting that eight years later, in Day of the Daleks, they’re very similar. Had Day been written by Nation it would have been an obvious retread, but that one was scripted by Louis Marks. Possibly Marks had been influenced by these episodes or maybe he was just drawing on a similar theme. After all, you can only exterminate so many people – if you kill them all then you’ll have no labour force left to carry out your nefarious plans.
Hartnell’s back and he’s in fine form – we see the Doctor give one of the Robomen a damn good thrashing. For those who believe the Doctor is a pacifist it might be somewhat unexpected, but in reality he’s never been averse to using force. It’s rarer that he actually gets physical (unless he’s being played by Jon Pertwee) but there’s countless occasions when the Doctor is shown to be quite happy to wipe out large numbers of whoever he considers to be the enemy that week.
Barbara and Jenny, whilst looking for shelter, find a tumbledown house in the middle of the woods. The original plan had been for the house to contain three old women who would have resembled the witches from Macbeth (was it budget problems that ensured only two made it to screen?!)
One of the women reacts with polite pity to the news that London is no more. “Destroyed? Well I never. Oh, when I went it was beautiful. There was the moving pavements and the shops and the astronaut fair.” This sort of world-building via dialogue would later be a hallmark of Robert Holmes and although Nation’s brief effort is somewhat cruder it does give us a brief glimpse of 22nd Century life. The women betray Barbara and Jenny to the Daleks. In Nation’s first draft, one of them tells Barbara that “we’re old, child. Times are difficult. There’s only one law now – survive.”
Larry injures himself after he and Ian reach the bottom of the mine. This is a sure sign that he won’t be around much longer, which is a shame as I’ve enjoyed Graham Rigby’s performance. He manages to deliver lines like “who knows what the Daleks are up to? I told you what my brother Phil said – all they want is the magnetic core of Earth” with aplomb. I like the contradiction inherent in this statement – who knows what they want? Oh, it’s the magnetic core of Earth that they want …
His death is so bleak. He finds his brother, but discovers that he’s been turned into a Roboman. Larry’s efforts to find some spark of humanity still remaining in his sibling (“Phil…it’s Larry, your brother Larry. Think Phil! Remember me! Angela…Your wife, Angela! I’ll take you to her”) comes to nothing and Robo Phil kills him. As Larry dies, so does Robo Phil and the final (unscripted) recognition of Larry by Robo Phil just before he draws his final breath simply adds another level of tragedy to this scene.
How does the Doctor work out that the Daleks’ mine-works in Bedfordshire are the centre of their operations? For all we know there could be similar Dalek mines dotted all around the globe. The others ask the Doctor what the Daleks’ intention could be. He’s not sure, but the cat’s already been let out of the bag by Larry – his assertion that the Daleks are keen to extract the Earth’s core turns out to be 100% accurate. Perhaps it would have been better to snip this earlier line out, that way the mystery would have lasted a little longer.
Later on, the Black Dalek helpfully explains exactly what their ultimate plan is via the intercom. “This is the Supreme Controller. Our mission to Earth is nearly completed. We were sent here to remove the core of this planet. Once the core is removed, we can replace it with a power system that will enable us to pilot the planet anywhere in the universe.” This is breathtakingly bonkers.
The scene with the Black Dalek is a good example of the chaos that can occur when you choose to pre-record Dalek dialogue. This didn’t happen that often – probably for the reasons you see here. Mid-way through the scene, the cues begin to go hopelessly out of sync which gives us a bizarre moment when three Daleks are all taking at once and making very little sense!