The Daleks *****

The Doctor's archenemies make their electrifying debut in Terry Nation's instant classic...

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Doctor Who story guide
Patrick Mulkern
Patrick Mulkern
The Daleks *****

Season 1 – Story 2


"The on-ly inter-est we have in the Thals is their to-tal ex-ter-min-ation" - Dalek

Storyline
The Tardis lands on the planet Skaro, five centuries after it has been laid waste by a neutronic war. The few survivors are mutations – the blond humanoid Thals who now favour pacifism; and the hideously atrophied Daleks who have retreated into armoured casings and espouse extermination. The Doctor's party strives to retrieve the fluid link (a vital component from the Tardis mislaid in the Dalek city) and help the Thals fight for their own existence…


First transmissions
1. The Dead Planet - Saturday 21 December 1963
2. The Survivors - Saturday 28 December 1963
3. The Escape - Saturday 4 January 1964
4. The Ambush – Saturday 11 January 1964
5. The Expedition - Saturday 18 January 1964
6. The Ordeal - Saturday 25 January 1964
7. The Rescue - Saturday 1 February 1964

Production
Filming: October–December 1963 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: November 1963–January 1964 at Lime Grove D

Cast
Doctor Who - William Hartnell
Barbara Wright - Jacqueline Hill
Ian Chesterton - William Russell
Susan Foreman - Carole Ann Ford
Alydon - John Lee
Ganatus - Philip Bond
Dyoni - Virginia Wetherell
Temmosus - Alan Wheatley
Elyon - Gerald Curtis
Kristas - Jonathan Crane
Antodus - Marcus Hammond
Dalek voices - Peter Hawkins, David Graham
Dalek operators - Robert Jewell, Kevin Manser,
Michael Summerton, Gerald Taylor, Peter Murphy

Crew
Writer - Terry Nation
Incidental music - Tristram Cary
Story editor - David Whitaker
Designers - Raymond Cusick (1-5, 7); Jeremy Davies (6)
Producer - Verity Lambert
Directors - Christopher Barry (1,2,4,5); Richard Martin (3,6,7)

RT Review by Patrick Mulkern 
What to call it? "The Dead Planet", said Radio Times. "The Mutants", insist fan bibles. "The Daleks", reads the spine of the BBC DVD. Back in 1963, the production team was too busy getting individual episodes on air to finalise over-arching titles for each serial. Me? I refer to this seven-parter as "the first Dalek story", which is hardly catchy but tells you exactly what's in the film can.

Yes! The Daleks debuted in the second Doctor Who story and propelled the series into the ratings stratosphere, with the last four episodes hovering around the ten million mark. But, of course, no-one at the BBC had foreseen the impact the Daleks would have.

Press coverage was subdued. RT's feature made no mention of Daleks and it wasn't until the final episode – in a few regions only – that RT published its first photograph of a Dalek (see below). Those original props may look bargain-basement by 21st-century standards, but Raymond Cusick's design was an instant classic and, coupled with the strangulated voices, a hit with the viewing public.

It's easy to forget now the strength of Terry Nation's scripts. Drawing on the atrocities of Nazism, his fired-up imagination pours into the drama, which explores the fallout from cataclysmic war, racial intolerance ("a dislike for the unlike" as Ian puts it) and, ultimately, the choice between pacifism and extermination.

His first three cliffhangers are outstanding. Barbara is trapped in the claustrophobic alien city; a sucker probe (attached to what?) edges closer; she flattens against a wall and screams… Aware that "disgustingly mutated" creatures lurk in the forest, Susan steels herself to leave the Tardis in a storm; lightning flashes dramatically across the Ship's hull… The travellers escape their cell with Ian inside a Dalek casing; on the floor, the displaced mutant is hidden under a cloak; then a claw emerges, twitching…

Directing honours were divided between Christopher Barry (who went on to shoot many later top-drawer adventures) and the less experienced Richard Martin. They succeed in maintaining a coherent style, even if the urgency and claustrophobia dissipate towards the end. The climactic battle is a disappointingly limp affair.

Hartnell's Doctor develops interestingly. In episode one, he's impatient and selfish but seven weeks later he's taking a moral stance and enjoys showing off his scientific prowess. When the Thals beg him for advice, he delivers a lovely parting shot: "Always search for truth. My truth is in the stars."

Things to note: the Daleks are not the first Doctor Who monster. That honour goes to the magnadon, a metallic lizard Barbara finds in the petrified forest. Though the Daleks speak of "extermination", their notorious cry "Exterminate!" is not heard this early in the series.

- - -  

Radio Times archive material  

Introductory feature  

First Dalek photo  

RT billings
1. The Dead Planet
2. The Survivors
3. The Escape
4. The Ambush
5. The Expedition
6. The Ordeal
7. The Rescue   ---

[Available as part of the BBC DVD boxed set Doctor Who: The Beginning]  

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