Doctor Who – Day of Reckoning (5th December 1964)

I’ve recently been treating myself to another watch of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Despite owning the story for 31 years (this was one that I didn’t have a pirate copy of, so first saw it when the official VHS came out in 1990) it’s still hard not to compare and contrast it with the movie. Clearly those childhood screenings buried themselves very deep.

Even for a story like this, where I’m very familiar with the material (having watched it far too many times through the decades) I still find myself ruminating over various points. Such as ….

After the unsuccessful attack on the saucer, David tells Jenny to take Barbara and Susan back to the underground base. Susan goes with Jenny, but Barbara remains behind, briefly catching sight of Ian. We’re obviously missing a later scene as within a few minutes Jenny and Barbara are now together and Susan and David have teamed up.

It’s been said before, but Richard Martin really wasn’t suited to directing action sequences in the studio. Given the lack of time and resources I’m sure most would have struggled (although you suspect Douglas Camfield would have made something of it) but the attack on the saucer is a remarkably sedate affair. Or maybe I’m just subconsciously expecting it to have the thrills that it did in the movie.

I know that everybody criticises the Day of the Daleks Dalek voices, but I find them preferable to some of the strangled efforts in this story (although it was still early days here).

The flight of Barbara, Jenny and Dortmun across London doesn’t achieve anything in story terms, but the sight of the Daleks lounging by various London landmarks does help to create the impression that they really are the masters of Earth (Francis Chagrin’s drum heavy incidentals help to add a touch of urgency).

Dortmun’s death is an interesting moment. Given that he leaves his notes behind, presumably he knew he was going to his death. In story terms, death is a quick way of removing a character who’s fulfilled his usefulness (a favourite trick of Eric Saward) but there’s still something slightly affecting about this moment. Possibly it’s got something to do with the fact he was convinced he’d now perfected the bomb (or was he lying about this to Barbara?).

It’s always irritated me that Richard Martin chooses simply to move the camera up from Ian and Larry’s hiding place in the Dalek saucer to the next level as it clearly reveals that the floor above just stops (it’s a wonder that the Daleks and Robomen didn’t keep falling over the edge). Maybe they felt they could get away with it as happened so quickly, but a cutaway (a Dalek cutaway maybe) would have been a wiser choice.

4 thoughts on “Doctor Who – Day of Reckoning (5th December 1964)

  1. Dalek Invasion of Earth, along with The Silurians, The Invisble Enemy, The Visitation, and The Crimson, Terror, is one of the stories I’ve avoided watching during the pandemic because it’s too topical.


  2. Funnily, I’ve just started reading the novelisation by Terence Dicks, to celebrate the 57th anniversary of its first broadcast, which was, almost to the day, the first anniversary of Doctor Who itself. The vision of a dystopian London made a strong impression when I first saw it. A combination of John Wyndham and World War II, it was instantly recognisable to young SciFi fans in the early 1960’s. My suspension of disbelief even extended to my rewatch of the serial a few years ago – I never noticed that the Dalek saucer was made from a paper plate until I read your blog (spoilsport)!


  3. Hi, that upward camera movement you mentioned, which shows the edge of the set inside the Dalek craft: I’ve seen similar in many high-budget movies. It is surely an intentionally slick way for the director to say “Meanwhile, upstairs …”
    I watched this episode again yesterday, after your prompting, and I was seriously impressed by the direction – especially for a low-budget kids’ show in 1964.


    • I’ve never been overly keen on Richard Martin’s studio work, although it’s worth saying that he was often given the most demanding scripts (this one, The Web Planet) so it’s not surprising if sometimes the rough edges show.


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