Flashpoint is an episode of two halves – the Daleks are defeated and the Doctor bids farewell to Susan.
After five episodes (and countless unseen years prior to the events of World’s End) it’s undeniable that the Daleks are dealt with rather quickly. But the major niggle I have is how the destruction of the mine is assumed to signify the end of the Daleks’ rule. This was an invasion of Earth, remember, nor just Britain. So are there no Daleks in any other country?
It’s hard to be too critical of Nation though, since this would be a problem the series would encounter again and again over the years. Subsequent invaders, be they Cybermen, Autons, etc would (for all their meticulous planning and strength in numbers) always have to be vanquished totally just before the end of the final episode.
When done badly it can feel like the Doctor’s simply flicked a switch to turn the story off. Perhaps DIOE would have felt more satisfying had the Doctor left Earth with the humans holding the upper hand but still facing a long struggle to completely irradiate the Dalek menace. But due to the way that stories tended to be neatly wrapped up by the concluding episode it’s not a surprise this option wasn’t taken.
There are a few bright spots during the first half though. I love Barbara’s attempt to bamboozle the Black Dalek with news of a non-existent rebellion led by numerous famous figures from history! She’s been rather sidelined during the last few episodes, so this was a nice moment.
A realistic touch is how shabby Ian’s clothes have become. We’ve seen this before, An Unearthly Child for example, but it’s not something that would happen very often – later Doctors and companions would tend to look spotless, irrespective of the traumas they’d been through.
The Doctor’s in a proactive mood which is best demonstrated when he penetrates Dalek control. His stand-off with a Dalek – seen from the eye-stalk of the metal meanie – is an impressive directorial flourish. Hartnell, clutching his lapels, strikes a typically iconic pose.
The Dalek voices are rather inconsistent throughout the serial – at times it sounds like there’s little ring modulation used at all. Most bizarrely, several times in this episode we hear Dalek voices over the tannoy and they sound for all the world like Peter Hawkins and David Graham have simply clamped a hand over their mouths!
The destruction of the mine is shown via stock footage, which is as convincing as stock footage usually is. But the shot of Jenny, Tyler and the Doctor looking down on the devastation does almost makes up for this. Both Ann Davies and Bernard Kay are immobile and expressionless as Jenny and Tyler begin to process the news that the war is over. The joy of victory can come later, for now there’s just a weariness as they reflect how many lives have been lost over the years.
This still leaves ten minutes, which is a generous chunk of time to devote to Susan’s departure. It’s interesting that neither Susan or David featured in the attack on the Dalek mine (was this an intentional sidelining of Susan?). Given Ford’s unhappiness with the way Susan had been underused since the start of the series it’s ironic she wasn’t given a chance to shine against the Daleks in her last episode.
But at least she’s given a decent send-off (something that several future companions will be denied). Grubby and tear-stained, we come to see that Susan loves David but can’t bear the thought of leaving her grandfather. So the Doctor makes the decision for her and locks her out of the TARDIS. Hartnell’s close relationship with Ford was well known (he’d come to look on her almost as his real granddaughter) and it’s plain that Hartnell, just as much as the Doctor, feels the pain of their separation. Fifty plus years later it’s still touching stuff.
One day I shall come back. Yes I shall come back. Until then there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I’m not mistaken in mine.