Large chunks of this 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 a river. It could be a lot worse. It could be a poster for 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!
It takes an anachronistic looking spaceship to shake my wife 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, streamlined 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!
Sue: Are they Cybermen? Is this why you’re trying to hide the DVD from me? Is this their first story? I’ve got to say, they look a bit rubbish, lumbering around in those stupid helmets. Actually, do you know what this really reminds me of? The Survivors (sic). 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 the survivors have against the elephants, though.
Thankfully, and rather brilliantly, when a Dalek rises out of the Thames, Sue can hardly believe her eyes.
Sue: Is that a Dalek? What the hell is a Dalek doing in the river?
Me: Striking, isn’t it?
Sue: Just a bit. Would audiences in 1964 have been shocked by that cliffhanger?
Me: No. Not really. Everybody knew that the Daleks were coming back. The papers were 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 the episode aired. In fact, you’re probably the only person on the planet who’s seen this episode and didn’t know they were going to turn up.
Sue: Wow. I feel honoured. Am I supposed to say something startlingly original 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 that Dalek doing under the water?
Sue immediately questions the Daleks’ new look – “Why have they got satellite dishes on their backs?” – and she’s chuffed to bits when the episode goes to great lengths to explain this to her.
Sue: The Doctor is very clever in the scene where he breaks out of his cell, but he ruins it completely by running straight into a bunch of Daleks. He didn’t take more than two steps before he was caught. 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 were both obsessed with this character for a while (“What would Greg do?”), my wife is suddenly engaging with the rebels.
Me: What do you think of David?
Sue: He’s a bit wet. He’s not a great actor, and he looks 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’s responsible for this is biting off more than they can chew.
Day of Reckoning
I know I shouldn’t attempt to guide Sue’s responses to these episodes, but on this occasion I just can’t help myself.
Me: This is probably my favourite moment in the Hartnell era, bar none. I just love it.
Sue: It’s all right, I suppose.
Me: All right? All right? 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? Less bongos?!
Sue: Calm down, calm down. It’s pretty good. But what’s with the graffiti scrawled on the monuments? Are the Daleks an intergalactic Banksy or something?
Me: Surely you must be impressed by these 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 World War II? 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 that war. It’s been less than 20 years. The parallels are entirely intentional. It’s a classic ‘what if the Nazis won’ parable.
Sue: Steady on, love, it isn’t exactly Schindler’s List.
The End of Tomorrow
When ‘Hartnell’ faints, I ask Sue if she notices anything odd.
Sue: Yes, the dials on the bomb are suddenly the wrong way round.
Blimey, she’s right, you know. I’ve never noticed that before. I’ve probably been too busy spotting 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 little bit longer before flying off to Spain? And are you sure pouring acid over a bomb is a good idea? Really?
The Daleks torture some extras to death.
Sue: It certainly feels expensive. The outdoor location work and all these extras can’t have been cheap. But it’s not doing anything for me. The Robot Men are rubbish. By the time they get their guns out, you could be miles away.
It’s not all bad news. Sue adores Barbara when she mows down a Dalek with a bus, and she admits that the idea of escaped zoo animals breeding in the sewers is pretty horrific, too.
Sue: Here comes the cliffhanger. Hang on a minute, that’s a baby crocodile! That couldn’t bite your little toe off!
It isn’t even the cliffhanger. It’s as if they didn’t have the balls to go through with it, so we’re subjected to a full-on close-up of the Slyther instead.
Sue: I take it all back. Bring back the baby crocodile.
The Waking Ally
Ian fights the Slyther, which Sue describes as a hoover bag with warts, to the death.
Sue: Aww, bless.
Sue: The poor thing sounded sad when he died. He gave a little whine.
Me: It was a mutated guard dog!
Sue: That wasn’t his fault. He was just doing his job. He looked ****ing awful, though.
Sue is overjoyed when Larry nobbles his ankle (“So it isn’t just the women, then”), but she’s horrified when he is repeatedly shot at point-blank range by his robotised brother, Phil. Larry goes down fighting, strangling his sibling to death.
Sue: Bloody hell! That was horrible!
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’re 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 huge laugh), but she’s still reading it as a tragedy, believing that a teary-eyed David will be left behind come the end of the story, if he survives at all.
Me: I must have watched this episode half-a-dozen times and I still have no idea who or what the Waking Ally is supposed to be. Is it the Slyther? The slaves? It makes no sense. Do you have any ideas with your fresh perspective, love?
Sue: It’s obviously the Doctor, you idiot. He slept through the last episode (on a beach in Spain, probably). Do keep up.
The episode begins with a close-up of Ian Chesterton’s crotch.
Sue: Best shot of the series so far. Lovely.
The Daleks’ plan for planet Earth doesn’t fare so well.
Sue: What the ****? Did I hear that right? They’re going to fly the planet around after they’ve replaced the Earth’s core with an engine? But why? How would that be any better than a spaceship?
Me: I totally agree. The Daleks flying the Earth through space is a preposterous notion. It would never happen today. Ahem.
Then, suddenly, it’s all over. One minute the Daleks are the masters of India, the next thing we know, a volcano has gone off in Bedfordshire (“How did they all manage to get hundreds of miles away to safety like that?”) and everything’s fine and dandy again.
Sue: Eh? Is that it? Did Terry Nation hit his word count and just stop? Come back Derrick Spoonman, all is forgiven.
Me: Yes, it was 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?
We’ve reached our first bump in the road, ladies and gentlemen. If there was ever a time when I needed Hartnell to pull out all the stops and deliver something special, this is it. Thankfully, he doesn’t let me down.
Sue: Wow. That was great.
Sadly, the episode doesn’t stop there. Instead, Susan is left to wander around in a catatonic state for what feels like an eternity.
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. Why stay on Earth to grow carrots? And they may not be right for each other. All they managed was a quick fumble over some trout. I just hope David is good in bed.
Me: Well, the Doctor promises to come back for her later.
Sue: Well, does he?
Me: Wait and see.
Sue: He better bloody had.
Sue: This is really difficult. If it wasn’t for the last scene I’d give it 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 that.
Sue: As long as the Doctor goes back for Susan, the last scene was perfect. And for that scene alone, I’ll give it:
Me: The first person who leaves the series is called Susan.
Sue: Just make sure the first person who leaves this experiment isn’t called Susan too. Now rub my feet.