Friday, September 09, 2005

'The Dalek Invasion of Earth'

THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH
6 episodes

In comparison with its surrounding adventures, and indeed with most of Doctor Who, this is an epic, an astoundingly involving and well made story. The Doctor's greatest enemies make their first of many returns to the programme, in what remains a classic. That it brought the terror of the Daleks from outer space practically to the viewers' doorsteps was an audacious move in 1964, and the idea of the monsters terrorising a recognisably contemporary London (albeit two centuries in the future) must have had an amazing effect on the public then. This is, after all, the story that led to that iconic shot of the Daleks lined up on Westminster Bridge in front of the Houses of Parliament, and in the course of the story we get to see them gliding along the bridge, observing from the Albert Memorial and gathering in Trafalgar Square with a sort of casual menace. Lovely little touches abound - the placing of Dalek marks on various monuments and the frequent, unnerving VETOED signs make the occupation seem that much more thorough, and the 'It is forbidden to dump bodies into the river' notice where the TARDIS lands under a Thames bridge speaks volumes about the state of the country/planet following the Daleks' germ warfare.

Of course, the central plot device - the Daleks are planning to drill down to the Earth's core, remove it and replace it with a giant propulsion unit - is pure bunkum, but the surrounding details are so well crafted it scarcely matters...I'll ignore the flying saucer and the Slyther in this respect! The sets are very good (the bridge, the warehouses, the tunnels) and supporting characters like the two women who sell out Barbara and Jenny for food, Dortmun, Tyler and the like are well-drawn. The oft-mentioned use of Nazi ideology in Dalek comments and actions makes the efforts of the resistance groups more resonant somehow, and the character of David Campbell is nicely transitioned from just another freedom fighter to someone the Doctor could entrust his granddaughter to. This is exemplified by the scene where Campbell interrupts Susan's culinary preparations with a fresh fish and some play-fighting that ends in a brief kiss - abruptly curtailed when the Doctor appears. The old man's knowing line about "something cooking" says everything necessary to demonstrate his awareness that Susan is growing up and needs real roots, and from here on he is resigned towards letting her go.

There are a bevy of great moments, too - the Dalek rising from the river for the episode 1 cliffhanger, the squadron of Daleks rolling out of their ship, the Doctor's high-concept escape from their prison cell, or the high-angle shot of people fleeing from the mines, tossing the beaten Daleks aside as they go. The final scene where the Doctor shuts Susan out of the TARDIS, knowing she could never choose between him and David, is heart-wrenching stuff - as is his farewell to her over the speakers, promising to come back and check up on her someday. Great stuff.

9/10

Episodes watched: 42
Episodes still to watch: 680


Can I just say that the number of episodes still to go is terrifying, considering I seem to have watched rather a lot of 'Doctor Who' lately...?! Housemate Tony's amazed how much I've watched in the last week, but that's not even been the bare minimum necessary - the problem is, this set of six felt like a small marathon, yet that is the number I need to get through every single day in order to complete the lot by the end of December. I'm already 12 behind schedule, based on that rate!

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