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 ….

Hitting the Target.  Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks 


My New Year’s resolution is to re-read all the Target novelisations.  And from time to time I’ll blog about the more interesting ones.

In the pre-VHS era they were incredibly important to me – every paperback was a window into the inaccessible past – but once it became possible to actually view the stories, the Targets were relegated to an increasingly dusty bookshelf.

Some I’ve re-read during the last few decades, but many have remained untouched since the early nineties. So, my non-chronological journey begins with an all-time favourite …. The Day of the Daleks.

Day is packed with extra value – the whole of chapter one (Moni’s flight through the workcamp and his tussle with the Ogrons) for example. I also love the many incidental touches added by Dicks which don’t alter the narrative, but help to broaden characters or generate more atmosphere. Jo’s dummy making skills (preparing an object for the Doctor to test the ray gun on) is a lovely example. It was very disappointing to later learn that on television the Doctor simply used a basic cardboard cut out (I wanted to see Jo’s lipstick smeared mannequin!).

The Doctor’s first encounter with the Daleks – in the railway tunnel – is another of those moments which works terribly well in print, but turned out to be something of a damp squib on screen. In the book, the Doctor is horrified to see the slowly advancing Dalek. On television, he hot-foots it the other way as soon as he claps eyes on it!

When the Doctor and Jo are rescued from the clutches of the Controller by Anat and the others, Dicks cleverly names the various characters who were anonymous extras on screen. By giving them identities and very brief back-stories, their deaths resonate just a little bit more.

Dicks also took the opportunity to restore a “deleted scene” (a second encounter between the present Doctor and Jo and their future selves). On television, the loss of this scene wasn’t really a problem (the story concludes very effectively with a close-up of the Doctor) but it’s a nice book-ending moment that enhances the print version.