Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth

By Sophie Iles

It’s that time of year. Here in Britain it’s a sign of mad Christmas shopping, families fighting to not have the heating turned on by wearing an overload of Christmas jumpers, and preparing for their disastrous Christmas work parties. That means it’s almost time for the Doctor Who Christmas Special, almost time for most to sit around a tv screen and watch things that make them feel childlike.

So I think it’s a good time to review a wicked serial of the classic series, The Dalek Invasion of Earth and sadly say goodbye to the wonderful Carole Ann Ford as she moves on to pastures new. Let’s have a look shall we?

What happens exactly?:

After Planet of the Giants it seems as though the Doctor has tried very hard to get the team back to 20th Century London. Alas, not is all what it seems. The imagery of London is very different. There are dead bodies in the river, the streets are empty and Big Ben isn’t ringing out. Turns out it’s 22nd Century London, a world where the Daleks have invaded Earth with the hope of using Earth for their own diabolical ends. Humans are put to work, and the streets are bare.

And of course our TARDIS team are separated from each other and have no choice but to get involved in the cause.

Barbara making a suggestion to the rebels.

Ian ends up captured on the heliport along with the Doctor. Susan ends up with David, one of the dashing revolutionaries, Barbara and Jenny, another of the rebels end up assisting a scientist trying to get a bomb to work that will go through the Dalek casing. It’s a mess, and everyone is in terrible danger all the time, with humans being transformed into Robomen, the Dalek slaves, and firebombs being set off. That’s not to mention humans who are so desperate for food they’ll turn in their own race to the Daleks for some peace.

Eventually however, the three separate parties end up helping each other to succeed in the defeat of the Daleks as they end up in Bedfordshire, where the Daleks have been mining to replace the earth’s core so they can use the planet and pilot it around the universe. Luckily, with Ian making sure the penetrative capsule doesn’t land in the right place, The Doctor turning off the warning on the control room, David and Susan disrupting the aerial that will immobilise the Daleks and then Barbara and the Doctor use the microphone to tell the Robo-Men to turn against the Daleks they’re all a massive helping hand. 

So finally, there’s a massive Victory! The Daleks have been defeated, as the human slaves rebel against the daleks who can now no longer move, and the RoboMen join in. It means that they can start again and rebuild the earth.

David, who has grown very close to Susan throughout the episode asks her to stay with him, but she insists that she has to be with her grandfather he needs her. The Doctor, very aware of this decides to lock Susan out of the ship, and tell her that he is letting her go so she can find roots of her own, and the episode ends, with Susan and David walking away in the rubble hand in hand after the TARDIS has disappeared, leaving her behind.

What didn’t work:

There’s only a few moments in this serial that don’t work for me, and most of the time that’s to do with camera work. The first fight with the rebels against the Daleks is a bit muddled. You’re almost not sure what’s going on and if the Dalek bombs worked. It’s only until later, that the results of the battle are really truly explained.

The ending as well, with Susan is the most heartbreaking thing. I list it in what didn’t work only because it felt so out of place to end a story that way after all that misery. For Susan to not get to say goodbye to Ian and Barbara, for her to have that choice made for her is so horrible. I had watched this scene again with my husband recently, to make sure I still felt as furious today as I had the first time I had seen it, and his look of horror was one easily registered. “What was that all about? The use of the drums sounds more like a funeral. That was so sad.”

Ultimately for me, they sold it in such a way, that they basically just abandoned her. It’s a harsh exit, and made the ending very sad indeed.

Susan looks up once the TARDIS disappears.

What worked:

Despite my sadness at Susan’s unfair ending, there was a lot to be happy about when it comes to the serial. Including seeing the Daleks on Earth for the first time. (That water scene in the first episode is fantastic!) The large world threat is the first of its kind when it comes to Doctor Who, something that we are used to now. The Doctor saving the day with a dash of luck and good support around him and quite a good brain to boot. Back in the day, that was a new concept. Our team torn apart by circumstance still end up working together to save the day.

Susan is wonderfully resourceful in this, as is Barbara as they both have to deal with situations out of their control. Susan’s still struggling with an injured ankle travelling around London and trying to keep her grandfather safe.

Actually, one of my favourite seasons with Susan, David and the Doctor when they’re deciding what to do next. Excuse the long quote, but it’s a marvellous moment of subtext.

DOCTOR: I don’t care what that young man says. I make the decisions here, my dear, and I think we should make our way back to the Tardis.
SUSAN: What’s the good of that, Grandfather? We need someone to help us blast all that rubble. Besides, London’s crawling with Daleks. We must go north.
DOCTOR: Do you question my authority, child?
SUSAN: No, Grandfather, it’s not that at all. It’s just that David says
DOCTOR: You seem to place more reliance on that young man’s word than mine, don’t you.
SUSAN: Oh, Grandfather, it’s not that. It’s simply that he lives in this time. He understands the situation.
DAVID: I’ve been down as far as the river, but they’ve got patrols on every bridge.
SUSAN: So what’s our next move?
DAVID: Oh, I don’t know. What would you suggest, sir?
DOCTOR: Ah. Hmm. Me?
DAVID: Well, you’re the senior member of the party, sir, and I would be grateful for you help.
DOCTOR: Yes, well, er, yes, yes, of course, young man. Yes, well, I suggest that as soon as I’m able to walk again, we should travel north. Then we might be able to join up with the resistance party. Mark you, it’s only a suggestion. I really should leave it to you, you know. Think it out for yourself.
SUSAN: It’s a very good idea, Grandfather.
DOCTOR: What?
SUSAN: I said, it’s a very good idea.
DOCTOR: Yes, I think it’s a very good idea.

What I love about this is it’s The Doctor trying to judge what sort of character David is, only really just getting to meet him. Susan wanting to keep both parties happy as at this point clearly both her and David have undeniably good chemistry, and David is doing everything to be in support of the Doctor as the senior member of the party and someone very dear to Susan. Much like in the way comedies deal with a boyfriend meeting their girlfriend’s father for the first time and it works incredibly well and is pulled off without it detracting from the main issue at hand.

Barbara gets some fantastic moments in this as well. Driving into a Dalek and crushing it with her own companion. It’s moments like this which show just how strong a character she is, and why we’ve been able to gain strong female companions as we’ve gone on. Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith were both following the same road as this wonderful beehived lady, make no mistake about that. This is even without touching on the fact she then forced the Daleks to take her to control room so she can see the Black Dalek so she can see if she can find her friends, and doing so smoothly whilst keeping her nerve in such a horrible situation.

Ian and The Doctor have their moments too. When Ian gets stuck in the penetrative capsule at the end of the fifth episode, he’s the one to not only break it but then use physics to make sure it doesn’t succeed in penetrating the Earth; Whilst, without The Doctor, the Daleks would have never been immobilised. That and as a fan of him and Barbara, the way they greet each other again is magical, and it’s such a sweet thing to see them all reunited. Barbara also pulling Ian away back to the TARDIS.

“One day, I shall come back….”

I can’t not mention the Doctor’s final speech to Susan either. With all my problems with how this resolved for Susan to leave. I cannot fault the beautiful speech that William Hartnell hands with such care. Whether this is because he also didn’t want Carole to leave I cannot say for sure. What I can say, is that I will always watch that moment with a lot of pride that he really has come a long way as the Doctor in this time.

To let Susan go, even if he was going about the wrong way, as a piece of character development is something he couldn’t have achieved before Ian and Barbara stepped into the TARDIS and disrupted their lives. Whilst for me, it’s still up there with how the Tenth Doctor handled Donna, I still see a reforming and changing Doctor, that will go on to save the Earth many more times, in the future and in the past, and one of the reasons I will carry on loving this show.

Sadly, there’s no drawing today, but hopefully, next week’s will as it features the first appearance of Vicki Pallister, the Doctor’s newest companion!

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