Once again, I trick Sue into believing that this is going to be a run-of-the-mill adventure.
Large chunks of the first episode are taken up with an exasperated Sue moaning about how the TARDIS crew haven’t noticed a huge, ominous sign that warns the public against throwing dead bodies into the river. It’s the oddest thing in the episode by far, and yet it isn’t remarked upon by the characters for ages. It’s ridiculous but it could be worse. It could be a poster advertising Sugar Puffs.
Sue: You’d have to be blind not to notice that sign! It’s moments like this that make me despair. Ian is practically staring at the bloody thing!
By the time they do notice the poster, Sue’s patience has been exhausted and it takes an anachronistic looking spaceship to shake her out of her mood.
Sue: That’s a pretty good special effect, for its time.
Shit. Shit. Shit. I’ve accidentally engaged the CGI replacement option on the DVD and she’s looking at a swanky flying saucer hovering over London instead of a pie-dish dangling from a piece of string. Shit!
Sue: It reminds me of something.
Bollocks! She’s going to guess it’s a Dalek saucer!
Sue: I know what it is! Are they Cybermen? Is that why you’re trying to hide the DVD box from me? Is this their first story? I’ve got to say, they look a bit rubbish, lumbering around in their stupid helmets. Actually, do you know what this really reminds me of? The Survivors, that’s what.
I’m guessing that she’s referring to the 1975 post-apocalyptic BBC drama and not episode two of The Daleks.
Sue: You know, where there’s a plague and a handful of survivors are left on Earth. It has the same vibe as that.
Me: Well, it’s funny you should say that -
Sue: I don’t know what these survivors have against the elephants, though.
Thankfully, and brilliantly, when a Dalek suddenly appears from beneath the Thames, Sue is taken completely by surprise.
Sue: Is that a Dalek? What the hell is a Dalek doing in the river?
Me: Striking, isn’t it?
Sue: Just a bit. So, would audiences back in 1964 have been shocked by that cliffhanger?
Me: No. Not really. Everyone knew that the Daleks were going to turn up. The press was full of them and the BBC ran trailers with Daleks in them too. They were massive. Here, take a look at the cover to the Radio Times for the week this episode aired. In fact, you are probably the only human being in existence to have seen this episode without the foreknowledge that they were going to be involved.
Sue: Wow. I feel honoured. Am I supposed to have something startling original to say about it, then?
Me: If you like.
Sue: Well, I’m not sure if anyone has ever asked this question before, but what the hell is a Dalek doing under the water?top
Before we begin the next episode, I suggest that we watch some television from 1964, just so we can compare how it looks and feels to Doctor Who. Coincidentally, I have just bought the Likely Lads/Whatever Happened to… box set for a ridiculously low price, and the very first episode, Entente Cordiale, was broadcast on December 16th, just a few weeks after the The Dalek Invasion of Earth started.
Brilliantly, and entirely unexpectedly, while we were watching the episode, this exchange occurred…
Me: That just goes to show you how popular Doctor Who had become in such a short space of time.
Sue: Yes, you can mention it for a quick laugh. Is that the very first joke about an obsessed Doctor Who fan?
When the second episode of The Dalek Invasion of Earth begins, Sue immediately picks up on the Daleks’ new look (“Why have they got satellite dishes on their backs?”) and she is impressed when the episode goes to great lengths to tell her.
Sue: The Doctor is very clever in the scene where he breaks out of the cell but he ruins it completely by running straight into a bunch of Daleks. He doesn’t take more than two steps. What a complete waste of time. They should remake these stories at half the length, they’d be so much better.
One chink of light in the gloom is Tyler. Sue sees him as the Greg Preston of the group, and since we both were obsessed with the character for a while (“What would Greg do?”), she’s suddenly engaging with the rebels. I ask her what she makes of David.
Sue: He’s a bit wet. Not a great actor. Looks a bit like David Tennant crossed with Midge Ure. Why? Am I supposed to be impressed?
Sadly, the battle against the Daleks at the heliport doesn’t fare much better.
Sue: The direction is appalling. It’s a complete mess. Whoever it is, they are biting off more than they can chew.top
Day of Reckoning
I know I shouldn’t attempt to guide Sue’s responses to these episodes, but on this occasion I simply can’t help myself.
Me: This is probably my favourite moment in the Hartnell era, bar none. I just love it.
Sue: It’s alright, I suppose.
Me: Alright? Alright? It’s the Daleks on Westminster Bridge! What more do you want?
Sue: Less bongos would be nice.
Me: Is that all you have to say? BONGOS?!
Sue: Calm down, calm down. It’s pretty good. But what’s with all the graffiti scrawled all over the monuments? Are they like an intergalactic Bansky or something?
Me: Surely you must be impressed by the scenes of the Daleks patrolling a deserted London? When the new series did this they had to be content with Daleks gliding up and down the suburbs of Cardiff. They didn’t go anywhere near Nelson’s Column.
Sue: Yes, but did they use bongos?
Me: Don’t you think it’s very WWII? Look, the Daleks are giving a Nazi salute. You have to remember that a lot of the production crew, not to mention the audience, would have lived through the War. It’s been less than twenty years. The parallels are entirely intentional. It’s a classic “what if the Nazis won” parable.
Sue: Steady on, it’s not exactly Schindler’s List.top
The End of Tomorrow
As “Hartnell” faints, I ask Sue if she notices anything odd.
Sue: Yes, the dials on the bomb are suddenly the other way around.
Blimey, she’s right, you know. I’d never noticed that before. I was probably too busy noticing that William Hartnell isn’t really William Hartnell.
Sue: He’s gone on holiday again? We’re only a few weeks into the second series, couldn’t he have waited a bit longer before going to Spain? And are you sure that pouring acid over a bomb is a good idea? Really?
Meanwhile, Barbara and Jenny (“what’s with the balaclava, love?”) have taken refuge in a transport museum (?) and the Daleks are torturing loads of extras to death.
Sue: It certainly feels expensive. The outdoor location work and all those extras can’t have been cheap. But it’s just not doing anything for me. The Robot Men are rubbish. By the time he gets his gun out, you would be miles away.
It’s not all bad news: Sue adores Barbara in full-on action mode as she mows down a Dalek whilst driving a bus, and she also admits that the thought of escaped zoo animals breeding in the sewers is a horrific one.
Sue: Here comes the cliffhanger. Hang on a minute, that’s a baby crocodile! That couldn’t bite your little toe off!
It’s not even the cliffhanger. It’s as if they didn’t have the balls to go through with it. Instead, we are subjected to a full-on close-up of the Slyther.
Sue: I take it all back. Bring back the baby crocodile.top
The Waking Ally
Ian continues his fight against the Slyther, which Sue describes as a hoover bag with warts, and he and Larry successfully manage to send it plummeting to its death.
Sue: Ahhhhhh, bless.
Sue: The poor thing sounded very sad when he died. He gave a little whine.
Me: It was a mutated guard dog!
Sue: It’s not his fault. He was just doing his job. He looked ****ing awful, though.
Sue is happy when Larry nobbles his ankle (“So it’s not just the women, then”), but she is horrified when he is repeatedly shot at point-blank range by his robotised brother, Phil. Larry goes down fighting by strangling his poor sibling to death.
Sue: Bloody hell! That was horrible!
When Barbara and Jenny end up in an old shack with some very odd women (“It’s turned into Lost“), I can tell that her boredom levels are being tested because she’s started to notice the furnishings.
Sue: I’m sure my mother had a stove like that…
When it is revealed that the weird women are actually collaborators, Sue can’t wait for them to get their inevitable comeuppance.
Sue: Look at them scoffing that sugar down! They are soooooo dead.
Light relief is provided by David waving a dead fish in front of Susan’s face. This clearly passes for foreplay in the 22nd century because a few moments later they are snogging each other’s faces off. Sue is amused by the Doctor’s reaction to this burgeoning romance (“Don’t stop to pick daisies!” gets a big laugh), but she’s still reading it as a tragedy and she is utterly convinced that a teary-eyed David will be left behind come the story’s end.
Me: I must have watched this episode half a dozen times and yet I still have no idea who or what the Waking Ally of the title is supposed to be. Is it the Slyther? The slaves? It makes no sense. Do you have any ideas with your fresh perspective, my love?
Sue: It’s obviously the Doctor, you idiot. He slept through the last episode (on a beach in Spain, probably). Do keep up.top
Sue: Best shot of the series so far. Lovely.
However, unlike Ian’s crotch, the Daleks’ ultimate plan for planet Earth is given shorter shrift.
Sue: What the ****? Did I hear that right? They are going to fly the planet around after replacing the Earth’s core with an engine? Why? How would that be any better than a spaceship?
Me: I totally agree. The Daleks trying to fly Earth through space is a preposterous notion. It would never happen today. Ahem.
Suddenly, it’s all over. One minute the Daleks are the masters of India, the next thing you know, a volcano has gone off in Bedfordshire (“How did they all manage to get hundreds of miles away to safety like that?”) and then it’s all over. Eh?
Or as Sue so eloquently puts it:
Sue: Is that it? Did Terry Nation hit his word count and just stop? Come back Derrick Spoonman, all is forgiven.
Me: Yes, it is a bit rushed.
Sue: And yet they had plenty of time to show Ian propping open a door, for, what was it, two whole minutes? It’s pathetic. Why the **** am I watching this?
Our first bump in the road, ladies and gentlemen. If there ever was ever a time when I needed Hartnell to pull out all the stops and deliver something special, this is it.
He doesn’t let us down.
Sue: Wow. That was great.
Sadly, the episode doesn’t end there. Instead, Susan is left to wander around in what appears to be a catatonic state for a very long time. Long enough for Sue to start questioning the whole arrangement.
Sue: Of all the places to leave her. What a dump! Couldn’t he have dropped them off on a nice planet somewhere? You know, somewhere with some nice infrastructure. In fact, why doesn’t David just hop aboard the TARDIS with them? What’s the big deal about staying on Earth to grow carrots? They may not be right for each other. All they managed was a quick fumble over some trout. I just hope he’s good in bed.
Me: Well, the Doctor does promise to come back for her.
Sue: Well, does he?
Me: Wait and see.
Sue: He better bloody had.top
The Final Score
Sue: This is really difficult. If it wasn’t for the very last scene I’d give this story 3/10, no question. The plot was rubbish. Absolute rubbish. But that last scene, damn it was good. I’m really torn over this one.
Me: And they had Daleks on Westminster Bridge. Don’t forget them.
Sue: As long as the Doctor goes back for Susan, the last scene was perfect. And for that scene alone, I’ll give this story -
Me: Well, there you go – the first person to leave the adventure is called Susan.
Sue: Just make sure that the first person who leaves this experiment isn’t called Susan. Now rub my feet.
The experiment continues…top
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