Doctor Who Reviews – The Dalek Invasion Of Earth
At 50 years its inevitable of course that 60s Doctor Who shows its age and miniscule budget. I’ve read that the budget for some episodes was as little as 2,000 UK pounds, which translates to about $25,000 per episode today. Think about that for a moment.
What sort of alien invasion do you think a US production today could manage on say $150,000?
The reason I bring this up now is that in many ways The Dalek Invasion of Earth both transcends and is hampered by its tiny budget.
The first episode, which is quite frankly one of the best the series has managed (and I’m not just talking 60s Who here) turns the limitations to strengths using mostly the regular cast and a single location for large amounts of the running time and creating a real feeling of menace and fear.
The scene of the Dalek coming out of the water must have been particularly impressive for viewers at the time who would not have known (since the episode was simply called Worlds End) that the Daleks were about to show up.
The story also benefits from the first location shooting to be done for Doctor Who and there’s no doubt that the site of Daleks patrolling familiar locations in London packs some punch. Although unfortunately the move back and forward between film and video is quite jarring in places.
On the other hand at times the scope of the script clearly exceeds to grasp of the set designers and we have a Dalek saucer that is just far to small and cramped inside and a monster that is blatantly just a rubber suit.
There’s also the inevitable problem of 6 part Doctor Who stories. It’s just too long. And there’s some blatant padding in here as people go back and forward. Turning this into a 4 parter would have sharpened it up significantly
But there’s also a lot of good stuff. Susan finally get some strong character moments (after her usual turn of hurting her ankle and being a nuisance). Her departure is easily the most emotional of any companion (nu or Classic) and the Doctor’s speech to her stands up well. Indeed his final interactions with Susan are some of the best bits of acting that Hartnell did on the show.
We get a lot of surprisingly adult elements in this outing too. Traitors, self sacrifice and more.
The Daleks are in a curious position here. It’s only their second appearance and it’s supposed to be earlier in their timeline. They’re notably tougher than in their first appearance, but still a long way from the unstoppable killing machines that we are presented with in nu-Who. They’re also remarkably stupid at times and they don’t say Exterminate! very much.
On the other hand the scenes of them gunning down people are quite chilling.
I’m actually curious now to watch Dalek Invasion of Earth 2150 movie to see what effect the shorter running time and higher budget have on the story as a whole.
On the other hand if you remove Susan and Hartnell’s Doctor I think you’re taking a big emotional punch away from the story.
The bottom line is that The Dalek Invasion of Earth fully earned it’s classic reputation. It’s easily one of the best Hartnell stories, one of the best 60s stories and one of the best Dalek stories. Not bad huh?