(With “Dalek Invasion of Earth”, we reach Part 10 of our Name Dropping journey through the First Doctor’s character arc as represented by his changing ways of addressing Ian: in which we see how Doctor Who works for all age levels and Barbara is unusually tactless towards the hungry.)
For many years, my only experience of watching this story had been seeing the Dalekmania movie “Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD” at the cinema over and over again. Whereas with the first of the movies “Doctor Who and the Daleks” the original TV version from 1963 bears up very well and has its own separate magic, with the TV version of “Dalek Invasion of Earth”, one finds oneself mostly comparing it unfavourably to its big screen version. Except perhaps for the first episode where scale of action and reality of effects hardly come into consideration.
The first episode gives us what’s possibly the most exciting opening to a Doctor Who story so far as the Roboman, frantically clawing at his headpiece (matron!), throws himself into the River Thames. And, as anyone familiar with the pollution level in the Thames of the 1960s would know, you’d have a better chance surviving being shot by the Daleks.
Of course, at this time, Doctor Who stories didn’t have collective titles and so the nation’s (Nation’s?) viewers, having presumably only seen the episode title “World’s End”, would not have been pre-spoiled as to the return of the Daleks. Instead the episode is largely spent stuck under a bridge and is none the worse for it. The background poster warning “It Is Forbidden To Dump Bodies In The River” is very effective, all the more so in that the TARDIS crew don’t notice it for a while.
The eerie loneliness of the bridge setting makes a great build-up for one of the most iconic shots in the history of the show, the Dalek emerging from the river – what an unspoiled moment that must have been for the kids of 1964. However much they may have enjoyed this story, however, for anyone who saw the movie first it’s downhill from then on. Mind you, I’m not sure if the design of the Robomen would have been effective even without the movie version as a comparison.
Even the scenes which could have been iconic of the Daleks in Trafalgar Square and at the Albert Memorial merely have them wandering around purposelessly like tourists. The shots of the flying saucers don’t need the rival of the sexy movie saucer to make them look bobbins.
However, we do get an early example of Doctor Who’s genius for appealing to all ages on different levels when Barbara (for what must be the umpteenth time) is tending Susan’s sprained ankle. When the Doctor stands over them wagging his finger and saying: “You bathe that ankle. What you need is a jolly good smacked bottom”, it’s not 100% clear whether he’s addressing Susan or Barbara. So the children can laugh at a child being given a ticking off and those approaching middle age can fantasise wistfully about the Doctor putting Barbara over his knee.
I did laugh out loud at two points surrounding Barbara being taken on as the caterer for the resistance group. Firstly, David’s very 1960s reaction upon first being introduced to Barbara: “Can you cook?” Secondly, Barbara’s supreme tactlessness on distributing cups of tea to these starving wretches: “There’s no sugar I’m afraid.” It’s reassuring to see good values being kept up even under pressure. A bit like in the mines when Ian has a rip right down the back of his jacket but is still wearing his tie.
Two points of note before we get to the naming issue. There’s a delicious moment when Barbara and the Doctor do a Dalek voice telling the Robomen to turn on the Daleks – that must have struck a chord in playgrounds across the country. Mind you, it seems that “Pick up the Daleks” might have been better advice.
Lastly, of course, there’s Susan’s departure which began to be foreshadowed in “The Sensorites” and which we see again here as she tells David: “I never felt there was any time or place that I belonged to. I’ve never had any real identity.” It’s only a pity that she never got to make the choice for herself as Leela did at the end of “Invasion of Time”. Imagine if the Fourth Doctor had just decided for her that Andred was Mr Right. It’s also never really made clear what Ian and Barbara’s reaction is to abandoning Susan.
Now to the issue of the Doctor’s means of addressing Ian during this story. He calls him: my boy x 3, dear boy x 7, my dear boy x 3 and young man x 1. Not much at all when you think about it although I suppose that he was separated from the Doctor a lot.
(select NAME DROPPING from the list of Categories in the left hand menu to catch the rest of this series)