“ Genre: Television - Doctor Who / Theatrical Release: 1966 / Director: Gordon Flemyng / Actors: Peter Cushing, Roy Castle ... / DVD released 20 November, 2001 at Anchor Bay / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Colour, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen „
* Prices may differ from that shown
A film only review. This is available as part of the Dalek Collection boxset (along with its sequel), which costs around £4.
Back in the 60s, Doctor Who was enjoying its first flush of success. The key ingredient of its popularity was the show's main monster, the Daleks. The first two Dalek adventures from the TV show were adapted into films, and a third was planned but never happened. They're perfectly decent kiddie's adventure films, but inevitably the 'Dr Who' brand name makes them difficult to enjoy completely on their own terms, comparisons with the TV show being irresistible.
Doddery old scientist Dr Who has invented a time machine that looks like a police box. He and his granddaughters, Susan and Barbara, along with Barbara's clumsy boyfriend Ian, accidentally travel through time to the planet of the Daleks. Devastated by a nuclear war, the planet is all but dead, with only the Daleks, trapped in a metal city, and the Thals, eking out a meagre existence in the surrounding forest, left alive. Dr Who and his companions must brave radiation poisoning, swamp monsters and the fearsome Daleks themselves if they're to get home.
The original TV serial is a black and white, low-budget piece, full of nuclear paranoia, which makes a few simple points about xenophobia and pacifism. The movie is still low-budget (but higher budget than the TV version). There the similarity ends. It's in delightfully lurid colour, and is an adventure pure and simple, with no preachy bits. The character of Dr Who has none of the faintly sinister ambiguity the TV version has - here he's just an overgrown schoolboy, albeit one who can invent time travel and who doesn't seem bothered about endangering his grandchildren. ('Who' is definitely his surname here, too - he's not 'The Doctor', he's 'Dr Who'.)
He's played by Peter Cushing, best known for his Hammer horror roles. Cushing slips into his default old man performance, and it is profoundly annoying. He walks bent almost double, and adopts an irritating shrill voice, which seems to be about the full extent of his performance. I've a lot of affection for Cushing, but the part needed a bit of the darkness William Hartnell, the TV Doctor, brought to it.
The granddaughters are fine. Jennie Linden as Barbara has enormous hair and tight pink trousers. Roberta Tovey is about ten years old (as opposed to the teenage Susan of the TV version) and is reasonable enough for a child actor. Roy Castle gets to provide the comic relief as Ian. Like Cushing, he's someone I like a lot normally, but here he is just tiresome. It's more the lame sight gags he's been lumbered with than any fault with his performance. The Thals' performances don't make much impact, but their astounding blond wigs and eyeliner certainly do. They remind me of Mick Ronson in the Ziggy Stardust era.
With its loungey opening theme and the dayglo colours, this is like a Martin Denny version of the TV show. The Daleks' city is full of coloured transparent plastic (and is notably less good than the dirt-cheap BBC version). They even have lava lamps, which is pretty cool. No joss sticks or Persian rugs were visible, but I'd love to think of them kicking back and listening to Piper At The Gates of Dawn after Dr Who finally goes home. The Tardis itself feels very out of place - there's no context for it, and having it look like a police box is a little irrelevant.
The main attraction is the Daleks, of course. They look and sound magnificent, and although they were more menacing in monochrome, the red and black shiny Daleks are something I have incredibly strong childhood memories of. If the film wasn't as important as the TV show (in my childhood mind), it had a glamour that the BBC could obviously not match. Unfortunately, the Daleks are mainly used to repeat plot exposition endlessly, and hardly get to exterminate anyone. The film does have a couple of surprisingly good suspense sequences, but lacks the legendary 'behind the sofa' feel of the series. All in all, it's not terrible, but not really very good.
DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS is a 1965 movie based on the classic television series DOCTOR WHO - it is in fact based on the second ever story, 'The Daleks' which was a 4 episode story originally broadcast in 1963.
The film stars Peter Cushing as Dr. Who who, in this case, is a human inventor based on the planet Earth who builds TARDIS (not 'the' TARDIS as it is known in the television show). TARDIS is a space- and time-ship which takes Dr. Who and his granddaughters, Susan and Barbara, along with Barbara's boyfriend Ian, to the planet Skaro where they come upon a civil war between the Thals and the evil Daleks.
The film is very different from the television show, where 'Dr. Who' is not actually the character's name as instead he is always referred to as 'The Doctor'. In the TV show he is not from the planet Earth, although at this early point in the series his actual origin was unknown. In the TV show only Susan is his granddaughter, and Barbara and Ian are her teachers, whereas here Susan and Barbara are both his granddaughters. Also the characters are played by different actors - for example The Doctor was played at this point in the television show by William Hartnell, who originated the role, and not Cushing, as in the film.
It is quite odd to see Peter Cushing playing the role of 'Dr. Who' - he is a much more eccentric, doddering-old-fool than he ever was in the TV show. However this does not matter too much as viewers are so used to seeing The Doctor played by a variety of different actors (the TV show is currently on the 10th actor, David Tennant). What is more strange is believing the character as being from Earth, and also the very different design of the interior of the TARDIS.
Roy Castle is the other famous name in the film, playing Ian, who is very much a character who is provided for comic relief, although to me in 2008 he comes across as a very annoying character, although I remember finding him amusing when I was a child.
The film is worth watching if you are Doctor Who fan, in order to see such a different interpretation of the character. I would not recommend it to anyone who isn't already a fan though as it is very dated and will possibly bore you quite quickly.
A sequel followed in 1966, known as DALEKS - INVASION EARTH 2150AD.
DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS (1965)
Starring Peter Cushing as Dr. Who, Roy Castle as Ian, Jennie Linden as Barbara, and Roberta Tovey as Susan
Screenplay by Milton Subotsky
Based on the BBC television serial by Terry Nation
Produced by Milton Subotsky & Max. J. Rosenberg
Directed by Gordon Flemyng
This review will shortly be posted to ciao using my username phurren2006.
The two Dalek films of the 1960s starring Peter Cushing as Dr. Who are early oddities in of the legendary sci-fi franchise, standing distinctly apart from the established canon of the long-running television series despite being based entirely on the plots and characters from serials in the early William Hartnell years. Milton Subotsky adapted Terry Nation's television script for 'The Daleks' largely as an attempt to popularise the series in the American market, replacing Hartnell's aloof Doctor with a slightly sillier version played by the more internationally recognisable Cushing, and although the slight but jarring differences between the two mediums make it impossible to reconcile this adventure into the franchise, now experiencing a second wave of popularity through the resurrected series, 'Dr. Who and the Daleks' still stands strong as an entertaining if simplistic take on the classic theme of good versus evil, made more appealing by making the enemies xenophobic, armoured mutants.
Watching this first Dalek film with the slightly unfair hindsight of the later television episodes, the pepper-pot villains come off as a little disappointing. Even ignoring the trifling inconsistencies with the later revisions of the Tom Baker era, the Daleks don't seem as intimidating or downright chilling here as they were on the television, and even in the subsequent film sequel 'Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.' in which the battle is brought to home soil. Their death gas attack is only used very sparingly (replacing the originally scripted flamethrowers visible on the theatrical poster, deemed unsuitable for the young viewers this film is primarily aimed at), and despite spending the second half of the film plotting the obliteration of their neighbouring race the Thals, they are shown to be fairly incapable and awkward when faced with an assault even in their own custom-built city. Other slight disappointments come in the complete absence of their trademark phrase "exterminate!" and the less refined approach to Dalek dialogue, carried out in a more detached, staccato manner than the manic distorted yells they are more famous for, and making some of the longer scene of Dalek intercourse pretty tedious to sit through.
Now, I know what you're thinking: firstly, you're probably still dwelling on the phrase "Dalek intercourse" and trying to deduce how that would physically work, but you may also be shaking your head at my rather petty nitpicks with a film made in the early days of the series by which point many of its trademarks had yet to be established. But if I want to indulge in a film promising simply 'Dr. Who and the Daleks,' Daleks is what I bally well want. It's not all bad of course, and many of the villains' established traits are already firmly in place: the suits come in a variety of technicolour variants showing off for the luxury of colour film, inevitably leading young viewers to pick their favourite (I think mine was the gold one with black knobs seen in the sequel. My brother liked the red one, but I found that a bit garish), and their interior is controlled by a diminutive and fairly disgusting green mutant, glimpsed only briefly when a human tries the suit on for size. The Dalek background explained is the film is satisfyingly simple, casting them in a necessarily evil light for their treacherous ways compared to the peaceful Thals, though it may leave more thoughtful viewers pondering whether this outcome would have been the same if the Daleks had been the ones to develop an antidote to their planet's radiation, and the Thals mutated beyond recognition. The answer is, yes it would. The Daleks will always be Nazis, which has saved generations of writers from the burden on having to approach their story from a sympathetic angle that they clearly don't deserve.
The arrival at the Daleks' planet comes about entirely by accident, as the excited and slightly eccentric Dr. Who eagerly shows off his Tardis to his granddaughter's new boyfriend. The device resembles a police box, but appears deceptively small when viewed from the outside, and Dr. Who proudly claims it has the ability to traverse time and space (for the purposes of this story, it's not clear whether time travel played a role at all, apart from in the brief comedy finale). Due to general clumsy buffoonery on the part of Ian (Roy Castle from 'Carry On'), the group of hapless adventurers find themselves transported to a barren woodland, unable to return home without finding a source of mercury for Tardis; as fortune would have it, a technologically advanced city sits just over the hill, and Dr. Who is hopeful that whatever scientists they bump into there will be willing to help them. Can you guess what happens next?
This classic Doctor Who tale features the series' successful mix of science fiction, suspense and action, roughly in that order, as the exploration of the Daleks' pink city is made increasingly eerie as it's slowly revealed that Dr. Who and his companions are being monitored and lured into a trap. The Daleks, despite their occasional stupidity, seize the opportunity to send one of the humans as an ambassador to their old enemies the Thals, offering them essential food in return for the Thals' antidote to the planet's radiation poisoning, but a number of tediously overlong scenes with two characters I can only dub the Plot Exposition Daleks keep viewers informed of their real duplicitous goals. They are also presumably unable to leave the city themselves due to the lack of ramp access (ha ha, I am funny - actually, it's because they require magnetism), and one of the best scenes of the film sees young Susan (eleven-year-old Roberta Tovey) taking it upon herself to make the perilous journey, recognising her comparative fitness over that of her older companions, themselves starting to succumb to the radiation sickness, and at the same time realising that she can no longer rely on these powerless adults to protect her. Roberta Tovery is great in the role, never over-acting or slipping up as a less proficient child actor would tend to, and most importantly of all, providing a familiar role model for young audiences rather than alienating them by being annoying.
The rest of the cast is equally skilled, and with the exception of the rather generic, transvestite Thals, above the usual television quality standard of the series. Roy Castle successfully manages both the comic relief and action hero roles, Jennie Linden remains confident and practical and avoids screaming as Susan's oddly older sister Barbara, and main star Peter Cushing brings to life a notably different Doctor to his contemporary Hartnell, pulling off the silly early scenes in which Dr. Who is shown to be a little senile, forgetful and to enjoy reading a child's action comic a little too much, to his more passionate role later on when forced to bring ideas of violence back to a peaceful people. Dr. Who's relationship with Susan provides some nice warmth to their scenes, and never comes across as creepy in the way it sometimes threatened to in the early TV years as the old man travelled with his teenage granddaughter under careful scrutiny of her school teachers. There are other slight tweaks from the television series too, most notably the Doctor's apparently human background and use of the specific name "Dr. Who" being used for the character, but perhaps most disappointing of all is the replacement of the famous opening music with a generic piece from Malcolm Lockyer, whose score is reminiscent of other sixties production such as 'Thunderbirds' (alright, I'm not familiar with many others).
A slightly higher budget and lack of major special effects scenes keep this film from dating too badly, though the Daleks' colourful collection of lava lamps in their control room seems rather questionable in hindsight, and as long as the viewer is prepared to ignore the fact that the forest is an obvious set illuminated by equally unconvincing green lighting. It caused me to think that this would make quite a good children's play (a Dalek pantomime perhaps?), though with the recent series continuing to capture the youth's imaginations, much to the delight of parents who have to shell out for Dalek hybrid masks, such a venture would only prove confusing. The final half-hour of this film becomes a little long-winded, despite attempting to be action-packed, but on the whole this is a fun and viable alternative to watching the more in-depth William Hartnell serial on which it is based. This version is shorter, coloured-in, and has Peter Cushing playing a silly old man, but the following year's sequel was a lot better.