Blurb: Radiation nil, oxygen normal, pressure normal... yet London is deserted, with no sign of life and no sense of normality. Exploring the decaying city sometime after 2164AD, the Doctor and his companions soon learn that it is not as empty as it seems. The Daleks - far from having been destroyed on Skaro - have conquered the world.
Nearly wiped out by storm and plague, the Earth's population has been commandeered by the Daleks into huge mining operations. Some humans have suffered the further indignity of being transformed into Robomen to serve the Daleks in their diabolical plans. Humanity's only hope for survival lies with a small band of resistance fighters who need all the help they can get.
Format: Television drama transmitted from November 21, 1964 - December 26, 1964. Released on DVD on October 7, 2003.
Setting: Earth: England sometime after the year 2164. Dating on this story varies, but almost all sources agree that it is either 2167 or 2174. Cradock mentions that the Daleks invaded 10 years ago. Some assume that the 2164 date found in the factory indicates the year that the Daleks invaded, so this must be 2174. Yet in the Daleks Masterplan the Doctor mentions that the Daleks invaded the Earth in 2157, which would place this story in 2167. It's interesting to note that although most guides say that the Doctor picks up a calendar that states that the year is 2164 that he never calls it that in the story. He picks up a pad of several pieces of paper and the top one is stamped with 2164 on it and nothing else. He simply says "this tells us the century". It's quite possible that this pad has another use, perhaps marking expiration labels and whatever product was housed in this warehouse would have kept until 2164. Therefore I lean towards the 2167 dating as the Doctor explicitly mentions 2157 as the date of invasion. To muddy the waters further, however, in the expanded universe, the New Adventures favored the 2167 date, but the Eighth Doctor Adventures for BBC books favored the 2174 date.
Continuity: Ian mentions that they destroyed the Daleks on Skaro and the Doctor surmises that this is an earlier point in their history stating that what happened on Skaro was "millions" of years in the future (see The Daleks). This is an obvious case of the Doctor not being able to admit to his ignorance as even in the Daleks it is stated that the whole recorded history of the planet Skaro only goes back half a million years. It also doesn't seem likely that those Daleks ever had a space program or they would have known that the Thals survived and likely exterminated them. Susan says that she's never felt like she belongs to any single time or place (see Marco Polo and The Sensorites). Susan says that her grandfather is old "now" as if this is a recent development. Does this mean that she's been traveling with him for several years or that he grandfather has recently undergone a significant change in the recent past (see Lungbarrow)? The Doctor states that he never takes life unless his own is directly threatened, which seems odd considering the last season (see An Unearthly Child and The Reign of Terror). The scanner is working now. The Doctor's problem with seeing what's outside in the beginning is due to the fact that it's just showing a picture of the river, so it seems like some time must have passed between Planet of Giants and this story. The seventh Doctor would create a retrovirus to counteract the Dalek plague and ensure that the key players in this story survive to take part in its events (see Lucifer Rising). The seventh Doctor also returned to retrieve Susan's TARDIS key (see GodEngine). The Eighth Doctor returns to a post-invasion Earth in two mutually exclusive stories for BBC Books (see Legacy of the Daleks) and Big Finish (see An Earthly Child).
DVD: This was a great set that included a separate DVD just for extras. There's a featurette with designer Spencer Chapman as he discusses his inspiration for this story. There's one on the making of this story that includes the memories of the various members of the cast and crew. Then there's a separate one with the two voice actors for the Daleks in this story. There's also a nice feature from the 1960's on how to make Dalek-shaped swiss cake rolls and a 1993 radio play on Whatever happened to...Susan? There's also a really nice silent video reel that was recorded by Carole Ann Ford on her last day of rehearsal. It shows several behind the scenes moments with the cast and crew and is really nice.
Discussion: This is it, the Daleks had taken England by storm but the Dalek Invasion of Earth had clinched it. It's kind of hard for us so far removed in the streams of time to really appreciate how powerful this story must have been. These days shows like Falling Skies, Jericho, or Revolution are common. We see the post-apocalyptic all the time. Yet here it's a combination of War of the Worlds and a What If... scenario where the Nazis took over England. This wasn't the kind of thing that you saw a lot back then and certainly with the war being less than two decades old the iconography of it must have been fresh in the minds of those viewing the story. The Daleks and Nazis now had a much clearer relationship drawn between them and the Daleks would soon become shorthand for "evil" in the same way that Nazis are.
It helps a lot that suddenly the whole world seems to open up for the show. Those who have watched the first season know how confined everything always appeared in Season one. Often this was cleverly hidden by expert designers who knew how to obscure that the scenery out in the distance was a painted backdrop but sometimes it was all to clear that they were in a studio and very close the walls. In the Dalek Invasion of Earth suddenly we're on location and for more than just watching the Doctor stroll towards Paris. Now we've got action going on on location and there's a lot of location shots. For the British watching this, seeing all of this occur in familiar locations must give it a whole level of meaning greater than those of us watching on the other side of the pond. The other thing is that even when they're in the studio, suddenly they have a whole lot more room since the show moved to Riverside studios. Now we get nice perspective shots with some aerial views of what's going on from above or some low shots shooting up. We never had these kinds of dynamic views in the earlier stories and while a modern viewer going back to watch this story in isolation would never notice it, if you've been watching from An Unearthly Child onwards the difference is astounding. There's a lot more action going on here and there's a lot more going on with the camera, which makes it feel like there's even more action. There is one point that's somewhat of a letdown. The heliport in Chelsea has a painted backdrop with painted Daleks on it. Thankfully it's done much better than the painted Daleks at the end of The Daleks and for most of the shots where they're seen in the distance it's easy to buy that these are other Daleks. Yet in a few shots they're close enough and at an angle where its impossible to hide that these aren't 2D images and that hurts what are otherwise some really good scenes in that location and far larger than anything that could have been done previously.
This story also understands that less is more. In modern times you'd probably get huge expressive shots showing the entire city of London. Here you just get a few locations, but the rotten riverside, the abandoned warehouse, and the shots of industrial buildings overgrown with grass and weeds really help to sell that this is a city that has collapsed. Add that to the lack of people in locations that were well known and you have an eerie, deserted London that must have been a bit creepy to watch and speaks volumes about what has been going on even before you get the info dump. Let's not forget the sign at the riverfront that says "It is forbidden to dump bodies in the river", which tells you what's been going on during the plague. Then there's the sequence where Susan and David hear the man in the distance yelling that the Daleks have killed his wife and family before you hear him scream. We never see the scene but it all plays out in their reactions. I also want to give a shout out for the extra at the resistance headquarters in the scene where Tyler comes back to warn Dortmun that the bombs didn't work. He's just under a table rocking back and forth after everyone else has abandoned the base except for Dortmun, Barbara, and Jenny. What a wonderfully simple way of conveying the horrors of the Dalek occupation. He displays the post traumatic stress and our minds summon up images of what it is that must have traumatized him. I think that's really well done. I also like David warning Susan that not all humans are automatically allies hinting at the scavengers and collaborators that would work with the Daleks because they're just that desperate. We see something of that later but the stark comment in the sewer after having found bullets on the ground really conveys a sense of menace and the lack of trust that must exist in this future time.
The regulars are all in fine form here. I really like how they've grown as a group. Even though they can see that they're in London their first order of business is to clear a path back to the Ship in case there's any trouble before exploring further. It shows that they've learned from their travels and are acting very sensibly. Yet most of the regulars get to shine individually as well. If anything even though Ian gets a lot of the action he doesn't really get whole lot of the drama here. But there's wonderful stuff going on with William Hartnell and Carole Ann Ford. Whenever the series utilized Susan they utilized her well and it seems strange to me that they wouldn't develop her character more since there are so many things that they could have done with it. The real affection that the two actors felt for each other comes across in their onscreen bond. There's a lot of hugging that feels genuine and you can tell that the Doctor is devastated that Susan wants to leave and by all accounts Hartnell was devastated that Carole Ann Ford wanted to leave as well. Hartnell just sells the Doctor's whole reaction to this beautifully. I love how he portrays the Doctor first being offended that Susan would listen to David over him but then listening to her logic and sounding like it was his idea all along. Then there's the part where he comes up on where Susan was supposed to be cooking a meal but she and David had been making out and says something about "I can see that something's cooking". I also like how the relationship between Susan and David develops. It's a continuation of the Susan storyline from Marco Polo and The Sensorites and it seems interesting that the Susan plotlines have often revolved around marriage and its ramifications. She also stands up to her grandfather in support of David continuing her assertion of her independence. That final scene where the Doctor knows that she wants to stay but won't leave him because she thinks that he needs her to take care of him and he locks the TARDIS so that she can't get in chokes me up every time. The speech that he gives is wonderful and the incredibly sad music that plays afterwards as Susan tries to take in the reality of what has happened while David is explaining to her why the Doctor did it is a testament to the skill of composer Francis Chagrin. A lot of people make light of the fact that the Doctor leaves her here with a man that she barely knows but remember that we've only seen a portion of the travelers time here. At the very least there must have been at least a few days of clean up and celebration after the defeat of the Daleks and the Doctor has probably seen more of Susan and David's interaction. I will also note that the fact that the Doctor believes that Susan can be happy here and that she can "put down roots" tells me that not only does he think that she'll have an equal lifespan to David's but he believes that they are biologically compatible. What this means for Gallifreyans in general and Susan in particular we'll address again in the future, but given that her apparent age appears to be the same as her biological age would make me think that Susan is closer to a human being than the Doctor is and I don't believe for a second that if she were a full on Time Lord that the Doctor would leave her on Earth to watch her husband wither and die while she'd have to live our 13 incarnations with such ephemeral beings.
The Barbara and Jenny interaction is also great. Jenny plays a person who's basically a giant callous. She's lost so much because of the Daleks that she's short and to the point with everyone. Her dialog with Barbara makes it seem like she doesn't even really believe in a resistance movement at all. Barbara's optimism in the face of this and Jenny's slow thaw is really well done and the longer running time of the story allows that relationship to develop organically. It's interesting to note that in early versions of the script that Jenny was the replacement for Susan. I don't know how different that would have been since they were looking for a younger actress but I think that the idea of a jaded freedom fighter from a post-apocalyptic future would have been an awesome dynamic to include in the series. It certainly would have meant a little friction with the other members of the TARDIS crew, which I think would have been nice.
This story has a fairly epic size cast but many of them are forgettable. We've already mentioned Jenny. David is good enough for what the part requires but isn't a very interesting character and you can tell that Peter Fraser isn't really giving it his all, which is probably because he felt that he was to good for all of this as his DVD comments hint at. Dortmun is a very interesting character. He's a scientist forced into a wheel chair but he's also the leader of a resistance cell and he's been working on a bomb to destroy the Dalek casings. He seems to have great charisma and knows how to lead people - show that he doesn't feel himself to good to do the ordinary chores and the need to inspire with hope. Yet it also seems that he may have a bit of a reckless streak putting himself in unnecessary danger, likely because he feels the need to prove himself despite his injury. He also declares his bomb to be a success twice even though he has made no test on a Dalek, which would have been the smart move before doing a major assault, and both times it's a failure. It's not clear if he's become mad or if he really is that arrogant as to think that he can formulate a bomb to destroy something when he doesn't have a portion of the substance to test it on. Still, his sacrifice at the end makes him a tragic figure and he's one of the more interesting people to watch. Finally, there's Tyler. Bernard Kay makes his first appearance on Doctor Who and he is amazing. Tyler is always the most interesting thing in any scene that he's in. This is likely because Kay really thought through the character's motivation and backstory. Tyler's a pragmatist but also one of Dortmun's two lieutenants yet he has no problems with leaving as soon as the battle at the saucer fails. Yet even there he takes the time to go tell Dortmun before leaving. You're never sure about his motivations. The scene where Tyler and Susan run into him in the sewer seems chilling. He insists that he wasn't firing his gun at a man but he says it a little quickly as if trying to cover something up. Until the end, I was never sure if he was going to turn out to be one of the scavengers that turns on their friends for food, and any show that can have you guessing is one that has succeeded in creating an interesting character and story.
Speaking of the collaborators and scavengers. The two women that Barbara and Jenny run into are also well played. Their greed and fear is palpable. You're not surprised when they sell out Barbara and Jenny but like Barbara you can almost understand why they'd do it after living in those conditions. Ashton is also played as a really menacing figure. He's a scavenger and has been able to thrive in this environment, trading the things that he has so that he can get whatever he wants. He seems to be insane since what he wants most are gems and valuables, things that are meaningless in a Dalek controlled world. Still, Patrick O'Connell conveys menace and he seems like the kind of person that would kill his grandmother if it got him something. The other supporting characters really don't bare any note. They all do well enough for their parts but they really aren't interesting. The one thing that this story really does though is use all of these characters to convey to you just how bad everything is and how everyone has lost something in the Dalek invasion. As others have noted, this is almost unique in Doctor Who that the Doctor arrives after the invasion has already happened and we're now dealing with the aftermath. Now it's damage control with a broken populace and that gives this story a dark tone that is kind of rare in this series.
We've already mentioned the Daleks as Nazis and a lot of the imagery here lends itself to that. The Daleks hold up their plungers in something akin to a Nazi salute. This is the first story where Daleks say "Exterminate!" as a command for any execution. In The Daleks they used the term "exterminate" but I believe that it was only one time and they truly meant to wipe out all Thals, so the term was used in its most common sense. The Daleks also refer to the destruction of all life as "the final solution" and that it will "clean up the planet". The idea of racial purity and Nazism was at least somewhat subtle in the Daleks but now it is inextricably linked to the Dalek pscyhe. I also like that the Daleks are showing some psychological understanding of humans - taking their smartest people and turning them into zombie slaves, known as robomen is a way of both crippling them by taking away their brainpower but also humiliating them by giving them overlords who were once friends and family. We rarely see that much of a sense of understand from the Daleks, but here that sort of vicious, demoralizing cruelty is shown front and center. It's even shown in the way that they put their writing over the street signs, the clothing of the robomen, and even the monuments giving a visible demonstration that they own everything. I also find it interesting that when the Doctor tries to tell the one Dalek that they'll never succeed in conquering the Earth that it feels the need to recite over and over again "we are the masters of Earth" as if to convince and comfort itself. It really hits home the idea that these are claustrophobic little creatures buried inside shells that make them half-mad and constantly requiring the assurance that they are the masters over what happens beyond the confines of their prison-vehicle. A lot of that nuance to the Daleks will be lost in later years as well and I think that it's a really great testament to this story that its able to convey so much about the Daleks and make them almost three dimensional.
There are some problems with the story though. Despite some wonderful sets and some great scripting there's also some bizarre stuff going on. Even though the story is set in the 22nd century, nothing looks like it's later than the 20th. Sure we hear about moving pavements (that's British for sidewalks, Americans) and astronaut fairs but all the sidewalks that we see are the regular concrete kind. I understand the the Daleks most likely took out a lot of technology and after 10 years of fighting maybe all the ray guns are out of power, but even the Daleks are using incredibly primitive technology for their mining operations. It gets so bad that Ian even comments on why the Daleks are using such primitive methods for mining. While I understand that labor isn't an issue for them as they enjoy enslaving populations, it'd seem that if they wanted things to get done more quickly, so that they could get their final solution that they'd use some equipment to make the slaves' work go quicker. There's never really any satisfactory answer given to Ian either and we're supposed to be satisfied that at least someone in the show brought it up, but it just doesn't work for me. This show also seems riddled with technical issues. We have a scene change at one point in episode two but one of the Daleks says a few words afterwards, probably from his next set of lines. We cut to the ramp from the saucer half extended and the scene goes for about 3 seconds before the ramp lowers, as if someone on set was given the cue late to start lowering the ramp. There's also a hilarious moment when David tries to defuse one of the firebombs that the Daleks have riddled London with and he asks Susan to stand back as if that would help if the thing goes off. Ian kills a roboman on the saucer and an alarm goes off as the Daleks realize that one of their servants has been killed. Ian and Larry dispose of the body out the disposal chute but it seems strange that the Daleks when they can't find the body don't suspect foul play. I get that robomen break down from time to time but they apparently aren't subtle when they do it. The lack of a body would seem to indicate that someone else is at work here. Another weird thing is when the Doctor and later Barbara and Jenny talk about their secret plans with a Dalek standing right next to them. In fact, the Dalek even addresses the Doctor to let him know that it heard what he said, which shows how silly it was for him to say it from three feet away. Yet Barbara and Jenny when they're pulling off their subterfuge do the same thing. It's no wonder that the Daleks don't buy Barbara's story and why don't they just exterminate her and Jenny? It seems weird that they'd tie them up to die instead of just killing them like anyone else. The alligator that terrorizes Susan in the sewer is obviously a baby with the camera doing an extreme closeup. I think stock footage would have looked better. At the end, the Daleks are broken way to easily. Why did Dortmun need to formulate a special bomb? It looks like if you hit one with a rock two or three times it'll just start coming apart. Then we're also supposed to believe that every Dalek saucer had converged at that one point so that they were all destroyed when the mine blew? That seems...really far fetched and indeed Legacy of the Daleks doesn't believe a word of it and shows that mopping up Dalek opposition takes some time after the end of the invasion.
There are a few things that are normally seen as problems with this story that I'm going to defend. First, people always mention that while it's neat to see the Dalek come out of the river that there's no reason for this. Yet, we're told in the story that robomen who start failing near the river often throw themselves in. That Dalek could be part of a salvage operation to either recycle the components or keep them out of the hands of the resistance or both. The Dalek could also be using the concealment of the river to look for resistance activity in the area. A second issue is that Cradock mentions that South America, Africa, and Asia were "wiped out" by the plague. There's two problems here one that it's all the places where white people don't predominate that get wiped out and that later there's talk of an African resistance group. That part I think is easy to rationalize since I assume that by "wiped out" Craddock doesn't mean that every living person died. It's just that those were the places hardest hit by the plague. As for the racial issues, while I can't speak for Terry Nation or David Whitaker the New Adventures do explain that at this point in time it's actually the Middle East and Africa that dominate the politics of the world. It's quite possible that the Daleks knowing this decided to concentrate their attacks on those areas to create the greatest damage to the world's political order.
The third issue is the Daleks' ultimate objective. There are some things that I can't defend. The fact that they want to mine in Bedfordshire doesn't make any sense as you'd think they'd want to go somewhere where the Earth's crust is thin. It also doesn't make sense that they chose the Earth because it's the "only world" with a magnetic core. Of course, it's the Doctor that says that the Daleks must have invaded for something that only the Earth has so it's very likely that once again he's making a false assumption. I think it's far more likely that the Daleks are taking out a potential threat and possibly the Earth isn't to far away from Skaro in galactic terms, which is implied by the TV movie. It could be that the Earth is the nearest suitable planet that would easily be conquered. I also don't think that the plan itself is that bad. Sure it's B-movie fair but no one says that the Tenth Planet doesn't hold up because Mondas is piloted by the Cybermen. If anything the idea of the Daleks having their own Death Star is kind of an interesting one and somewhat ahead of its time. I think that the implication if you read between the lines of the story is that they have some way of harnessing the power of Earth's magnetic core to turn it into a spaceship. When you consider the kind of forces at work within the core this doesn't seem that incredibly far fetched and they would have a huge mobile weapons platform to assail any other solar system in the galaxy that they wished to conquer.
Final Rating: 8/10
Recommendation: Doctor Who starts showing what it can do. This is the last story made with the original production team and the original cast of regulars and it's clear that everyone has learned from their experience and is at the top of their game. This story has a scope that we haven't seen since Marco Polo but the amazing thing is that this is a sci-fi story, which tend to age more poorly yet this one maintains the test of time. It's dark and intelligent, showing us something of the fantastic but also showing us a grim reality that could have been. It all hits home at the end when we have our first cast change and if you've been watching since the beginning the full impact of the enormity of that hits in. I guarantee that you'll get choked up. There are some mistakes and at a few points the plot doesn't make sense but the the whole is much better than the sum of its parts. I highly recommend this one.