30/9/12 “DR WHO and the Daleks”
“What the hell is this movie?!?!” –underworld101 on IMDB.com
I have to admit I had been avoiding the Peter Cushing films for a long time. Call me a Doctor Who snob; I do try to fit everything into canon but I just can’t make these films fit. Doctor Who: Dalek Invasion of Earth 2150 AD I saw on TV a few years ago and nominally enjoyed, mostly due to Bernard Cribbins’ performance. I like Peter Cushing, but as DR Who I kind of wanted to slap him.
As someone reflected, this film is really a product of its time and has aged much worse, in my opinion, than many of the black-and-white TV stories. It’s short on plot and character. If Verity Lambert saw the TV series being made for intelligent children and their family members, then I expect the producers of this film saw it being made for average children and their family members who were unlucky enough to be forced to watch with them. Maybe it was okay under the influence of alcohol or drugs. I just don’t understand the point of much of it.
The Hartnell Doctor’s mystery has been completely exploded. Cushing is just a slightly, daft, doddering, eccentric Earth scientist whose name is probably Dr. Alexander Ketchworth-Who, or something like that. He could easily be an H.G. Wells creation. He is not in the least mysterious or threatening. He admits that he lied about “Tardis” running out of mercury after its first time/space travel so that Ian and Barbara would go explore Skaro, but it is a much different confrontation than the one in “The Daleks.” His only other vaguely interesting moment is when he goads Alydon into violence, which, again, is from “The Daleks.” I guess I should be grateful that the most salient points of “The Daleks” were recycled. In fact, it is sort of “The Daleks” lite.
However, it isn’t all bad. Susie, DR Who’s young granddaughter, is at first the epitome of childishness and annoyance, but actually is one of the most heroic characters. The film has to be applauded for making both Susie and Barbara proactive, not unintelligent, and science-minded (after all, they first appear in the story sitting in DR Who’s LOUNGE reading books about science). Susie in particular I thought could have developed into quite an interesting character, especially given her apparent precocity. Most of the opportunities for this were subsumed by comic relief moments. Who, after all, did they think the prime audience was? Little girls? If so, that’s quite interesting.
Ian is a real disappointment. The charming bumble and roundabout heroism of Bernard Cribbins’ Tom Campbell from the next film is a welcome antidote to Roy Castle’s cowardly, stultifyingly stupid Ian here. I was beside myself with boredom as he was established as a complete fool during the first five minutes, and really, I could see no reason Barbara would want to go out with him (to be awesomely frank, he is not nearly as handsome as William Russell). He is doubtlessly there for laughs and to provide some male heroics, but those are mostly provided by the Thals.
The first series of Doctor Who on TV was highly informed by kitchen sink, whereas DR Who and the Daleks lovingly embraces the beginnings of the Swinging, post-Bond Sixties with its production values, music, and special effects. The Daleks themselves are largely unchanged but much less frightening in color. I can’t get the 82 minutes of my life back from this, but I wish I could.