If you are going to watch Doctor Who And The Daleks then you will need to unlearn everything you know about Doctor Who. The story is only very loosely based on the TV series of the same name. It may well share some characters and names but it truly is a standalone movie.
Dalekmania was sweeping Great Britain throughout the early sixties thanks to the TV series Doctor Who and the Doctors greatest enemies the Daleks. Created by writer Terry Nation the evil Daleks captured the imagination of children throughout the country. There were Daleks on TV, cereal boxes and sweet wrappers. You could buy Dalek toys, comics and t-shirts. It was a natural progression that eventually they would end up making their way into the cinema. In 1965 Doctor Who and the Daleks was released at cinemas and the crowds flocked to see it.
The main story revolves around the Doctor and his two grandchildren (Barbara and Susan) who, for no adequately explored reason, live in a little suburban house. Ian Chesterton arrives to take Barbara out on a date and is introduced to the Doctor’s latest invention – TARDIS. A time and space travelling machine. After a small accident TARDIS winds up setting off on a journey through time and space ending up on a planet petrified by nuclear wars. They discover that the planet is being occupied by the Daleks who are trying to destroy all the life there. That life is the mutated Thals who look like a group of New Romantics wearing far too much blue eye shadow. When the power source for TARDIS is stolen by the Daleks the Doctor, his companions and the Trals join forces in order to defeat the Daleks.
The trouble with Doctor Who and the Daleks is that there isn’t much pace and the story drags along like a Dalek with rusty wheels. It may well be that the story itself was directly lifted from the TV serial The Daleks and worked pretty well as four 25 minute chunks but loses all momentum when transferred to a 90 minute movie format. The speech pattern of the Daleks while well known and familiar to anyone who has ever seen or heard them before begins to become a little grating and annoying when they have long discussions.
Whilst the actors from the TV show would easily have been able to play the same roles in the movie due to the filming of the show the BBC refused to give the cast the time to go a make a movie so they recast the roles. Peter Cushing, whilst at the time a highly regarded and bankable actor, is just trying to play a bad interpretation of William Hartnell (the TV Doctor of the time). What makes his role all the stranger is that he quite clearly isn’t all that old yet here he is hobbling along on a walking stick like a 90 year old man. Roy Castle provides a perfectly serviceable Ian Chesterton and plays his part with a delicate balance of dramatic and comical styles. Sometimes playing one where the other would probably have been better. The roles of the two granddaughters are ably played by Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey. Roberta Tovey steals the show at times and it is a wonder why she never went on to have a bigger career. One problem with the supporting actors playing the Trals is that they seem to be overacting completely almost to the extent of camping it up like they’re in a Pantomime.
Colour used throughout is muted gold and silver colours for the inside of the Dalek base and burnt greys for the petrified forest. Look out for a couple of particularly well done glass shots as the heroes climb a huge mountain to get to the Dalek base which are particularly impressive, especially when you consider that shots like that are achieved these days by pressing a button on a computer programme.
One particularly convincing set is that of the petrified forest, right down to the petrified trees and plants that snap whenever anyone touches one. The sets themselves look so much more expensive and realistic than that of anything seen on the TV show at that time of the 1960’s. The budget for the movie was more than the TV show got for a whole season so you can see how the TV show could have looked with a much bigger budget. Add to that the Daleks are very brightly coloured which uses the colour format to its advantage.
The HD transfer shows up various little things that may well have not been noticed for years. For instance see if you can spot the layer of dust on the blue Dalek. It’s even more highlighted by the fact that there are several hand marks in it.
All in all Doctor Who and the Daleks is an interesting testament to its era. An odd reimagining of the story of Doctor Who years before the word “reimagined” was even thought of. Just don’t watch it expecting to see the characters from the TV show, they may well have their names but they are totally different people.