Sunday, 28 June 2009

Doctor Who: Planet of the Daleks

Part One

“I’m qualified in space medicine.”

Terry Nation is back! Oh, the nostalgia…

It’s a very odd beginning. It seems the last episode did indeed end in a cliffhanger, but it seems very disjointed. It’s also a very bad idea to have Jo speak into a tape recorder, extremely awkward in practice.

We get a jungle, hostile plants, and it all sounds a bit like Kembel. Yep, this is a Terry Nation story, all right. It’s impossible to take seriously. All the lines are functional and lacking in any sparkle whatsoever, especially Jo’s, but are as well acted as they can be. Plus, we get invisible creatures. And Space Thals. And Bernard Horsfall! Plus a jaw-droppingly gratuitous continuity reference which not only references The Daleks but mentions Barbara, Ian and Susan.

Shocking cliffhanger, the very last thing I was expecting…

Part Two

“I’ll dismantle the circuitry, reverse the polarity…”

I’ve just realised where I’ve seen Tim Preece before- he’s Tom from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin!

More old Terry Nation tropes are dusted off: the Thals' commander was killed in the landing; there’s a nasty tentacled thing in the jungle; Jo is stalked by a menacing and mysterious figure who turns out to be a goodie. But better than that, there are loads and loads of Daleks, not one of them cardboard. Have we ever seen so many? Plus their voices are much better, they have a cool looking city, and we get to hear that pulsating sound again. 

There’s a rather good scene with the Doctor and Codal discussing courage in the cave. And you really feel for the Doctor and Jo, each thinking the other dead. There’s also some very effective use of CSO as the invisible Wester pours some medicine into a bowl for the infected Jo.

This is very by-the-numbers, but fun nonetheless. And the Daleks, with their talk of Mengele-style genetic experiments on their prisoners, are suitably evil. 

The episode ends with some more Thals arriving. And the Doctor deciding to use an ordinary screwdriver mere seconds after brandishing his sonic one.

Part Three

“You know, for a man who abhors violence, I took great satisfaction in doing that.”

This is almost certainly the last time I’ll ever watch this episode in black and white.

This story shouldn’t have been called Planet of the Daleks- Terry Nation’s Greatest Hits would have been a much better title. Even the original bits, like the water which stays molten at below zero, just feel like the sort of thing we’ve seen before. And when we get to the bit with the lifts… well.

It doesn’t all make sense, of course. The Doctor tells Codal while planning their escape that once they’ve put the Dalek out of action they might just have enough time to escape. But as soon as they’ve done it they just stand around chatting for a bit. And it’s also clear that, in this Dalek city, all roads lead to one particular corridor for some reason.

It’s such fun though. I had to laugh out loud once the Dalek started cutting through the door. This is a blatant remake of a story that was actually directly referenced a couple of episodes ago- you have to admire the sheer cheek of the blatant self-plagiarism on display here. I love the Doctor’s mad escape plan. And just when it can’t get any sillier, 10,000 Rolykin Daleks turn up.

Part Four

“Should be a long slow haul”

Er, is the cliffhanger quite the same in the reprise? Never mind, it’s forgivable in this story, even more of a 1930s movie serial than The Daleks, as seen in the way the plot stops for several episodes while our heroes encounter a series of perilous situations. It’s all very silly, but fun.

We briefly get a bit of attempted characterisation as Taron whinges at Rebec for being in love with him- what a git! Still, this being a Terry Nation script, we never again get any reference to their being a couple.

The Daleks are preparing a virus to kill all their foes with, which is a surprise- it’s usually radiation. Bet you it takes several whole episodes before it’s ready.

At last, in a highly visible display of script editing, we get some dialogue linking this, more or less plausibly, to Frontier in Space. Interesting that the Doctor needs Time Lord help to steer the TARDIS properly at this point.

I’ve just noticed in the end credits- the middle eight’s not there any more. When did that happen?

Part Five

“We can never leave here. Never. Never. Never.”

More of the same, really. Not much to say about it. And it’s damned difficult coming up with quotes for each episode in a story with such bland dialogue as this.

The only notable moments are Rebec doing her best Ian impression inside the Dalek casing, and the impressively acted distress of the Daleks trapped in a room with the virus. One of the Dalek voice actors has been particularly excellent this story, and it’s noticeable how many long scenes of Daleks talking actually seem to work well.

Part Six

“We are abandoning! We are abandoning! We are abandoning!

Ooh, the Dalek Supreme is coming! And he’s a movie Dalek. And the invasion’s set to start right now, just in time for the last episode! With a countdown! Never have I been so bludgeoned with such Terry Nation-ness.
This is fun and well enough handled, with the tiresome, half-hearted obligatory love interest stuff between Jo and Latep kept to a minimum. I like the Doctor’s speech about not glorifying war, and better still the Dalek Supreme’s speech about the Daleks never being defeated.

Of course, the best scene is where the Dalek Supreme exterminates an underling for failure. I love it when they do that.

Overall I enjoyed that, load of old rubbish that it was. Nothing happened, but nothing happened in an exciting way, and it was very good of Terry to play us all of his hits again. 3/5.

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