The Daleks, aka "The Mutants"
Originally aired 21 Dec 1963 through 01 Feb 1964

Episode 1 reviewed 21 Aug 09
Episode 2 reviewed 22 Aug 09
Episode 3 reviewed 24 Aug 09
Episode 4 reviewed 25 Aug 09
Episode 5 reviewed 26 Aug 09
Episode 6 reviewed 27 Aug 09
Episode 7 reviewed 28 Aug 09

Episode 1
Episode 1 - "The Dead Planet"
Writer - Terry Nation
Director - Christopher Barry

Following immediately from the previous story, the crew leave the Tardis to explore the world outside. It is a petrified jungle full of fascinating things to discover.

On the edge of the forest is a beautiful city. As it is getting dark, they decide to head back to the Tardis to sleep before exploring further.

Susan is convinced that, on the way back, someone or something touches her shoulder, freaking her out big time.

While eating, they hear something knocking on the outside of the ship, but there is nothing on the scanner.

The next morning, on their way to the city, they discover a small metal box, confirming that someone has been there.

They continue on their way, quickly arriving at their destination. They go in separate directions, exploring. Unbeknownst to them, cameras are following their every move.

Barbara gets trapped in a funhouse-style building which continuously changes shape, doorways and hallways reconfiguring. She's trapped, panicked, when a doorway opens, allowing entry to ...

* * *

OK, we know it's a Dalek. And it's awesome. Subscribing to the "less is more" school, the director - Christopher Barry - gives us just the slightest hint of a Dalek, and other beings we come to know as the Thals.

It's only the beginning of the second story, and we're already exploring the Tardis with two new rooms, plus a kitchen area. Oh, and that is a neat little device. Anything you want, like Star Trek's replicators, years before Trek ever tried it.

Ian and Barbara are much closer to the awesome companions I remember, and the Doctor is ... well, I'll say mischievous.

He sabotages the Tardis so he can get his way, going to explore this alien city. Ian and Barbara have no idea, but the smirk on the Doctor's face tells us everything. Hilarious, it had me in stitches.

After the let down of the previous three episodes, this one is MUCH better. Were I rating these - and I'm not! - I would give it a ten out of ten.

Major kudos to the writer, Terry Nation, and director.

Episode 2
The Daleks, episode 2 - The Survivors
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin

Ian, Susan, and the Doctor search for Barbara. They discover a laboratory with scanning equipment. Among them is a Geiger counter, which tells the Doctor they are in immediate danger. He wants to go back to the Tardis for radiation medicine, but before they are able to movie, they are surrounded by Daleks.

The three are taken to the room where Barbara is being held. Some time later, the Doctor strikes a deal with their captors. One person will go to the ship and get the medicine, but the others will remain behind as prisoners.

Susan goes, while the remaining three show signs of radiation sickness. They are dying, and they know Susan is their only hope.

She makes it to the ship, finds the medicine, and hears Ian in her mind (a flashback from earlier in the episode) telling her to hurry back. She opens the door to go back outside, and we fade to black.

* * *

I know this is rather rare for the series. It didn't end on a perilous cliffhanger as usual. It simply fades to black. Which, really, could be even more ominous for what it doesn't show.

Have I mentioned before just how awesome Terry Nation is? He's fantastic, truly making these characters live and breathe. Along with both directors (Barry and Martin, depending on the episode) and the actors, of course, this story is leaps and bounds better than the previous serial, and each part seems to get progressively better. Granted, there's only been two parts, but still.

I think this episode contains some of William Hartnell's best acting as the Doctor, from any of his available stories. He's showing the Doctor vulnerable, dying, and while still alien, he has a Human side as well. Ian and Barbara are part of the team now, whether they want to admit it or not, and are much more ... adult/mature .. in their attitudes.

About the Geiger counter ... There is a gentleman named J. L. Cassingham. He was a scientific adviser on a variety of Hollywood SF and monster movies. He may best be known for his work in the serial called Zombies of the Stratosphere, which starred a young Leonard Nimoy - in pointed ears, years before Star Trek.

There is a website here which will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Geiger counters, and it's run by Mr. Cassingham's son, Curt.

While not an official tie-in to Doctor Who, I enjoy the connection and am passing it along for those who may be interested in learning the science behind the fiction. (oh, I like that phrase)

This ends the first week of Project: Who. Thanks for following along, and if you've missed any of the previous entries, just click the little tag at the end of this and it'll show you the entries made so far.

Episode 3
The Daleks, episode 3 - The Escape
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin

Walking outside the ship, Susan meets the Thals. She is rather impressed with how physically "perfect" they seem to be. She discovers how to use the medicine - left for them in the metal case - and brings this knowledge back to the city.

She has three supplies. One for the Daleks, one for her group, and a third, hidden supply.

After she leaves, other Thals surround the Tardis, calling it a "weird" ship.

She saves her group and helps the Daleks send a message of peace to the Thals. The Thals believe it to be true.

The Doctor and company capture a Dalek, scrape out its insides, and Ian climbs inside, ready to escape. They leave their room, ready to depart.

* * *

For the first time, we partially see what's inside the Dalek casing ... and whatever it is, it's small, kind of basketball-sized, and has claws. Because all we see of it, sticking outside the coat it's in, is three claws.

I am continually impressed with Terry Nation's writing, and with how well the cast is coming together. They are obviously having fun, and they're working as a team. While the Doctor is without question in charge, they all are contributing to the cause. Whatever that cause might be.

It's funny watching this, having so recently watched the two Peter Cushing / Dalek movies. I can see scenes taken right from this and put into the movies, sometimes the dialog being word for word. It is this story, The Daleks, which was remade for the first of the two movies.

I believe - though I would love to be proven wrong - Bernard Cribbins (Wilf) is the only person who appeared on screen in both the Peter Cushing version and the tv series Doctor Who. Are there any others?

7 down

Episode 4
The Daleks, episode 4 - "The Ambush"
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Christopher Barry

Barbara, Susan, the Doctor, and Dalek-Ian narrowly escape through an elevator shaft, where they look down to the city below ... seeing the Thals walking into a trap.

The elder Thal gives a great speech that Yoda would have been proud of, about how hatred and war lead to the dark side.

The group makes it downstairs, where they warn the Thals about the Dalek trap, but to do this, they split up. Ian goes one way, the others head another.

Ian arrives in time, but not all of the Thals listen. One of the men killed is the elder.

They all meet together again around the Tardis, talk a bit, then prepare to leave. Except Ian has lost the crucial piece of the Tardis given to him by the Doctor in episode 1. They must return to the city to get it, or they can never leave.

* * *

First, the video is amazing. It's shot on film, and holds up in such pristine condition after almost 50 years, it's just unbelievable.

There are a few unintentionally funny parts, such as when the Doctor's group tries to warn the Thals - from several stories up, by pounding on glass that isn't really there ... but they more than make up for it with a cracking good story.

I don't know how the heck they pulled off the fx work in this. It truly looks like they're stepping into an elevator and going off into the sky, but in reality, the actors aren't moving at all, nor is the floor.

I'm starting to get bored with the Thals. I dunno what it is. They seem to be too "goody goody" like the whole universe is peaceful, despite their own history. I remember what they're like later on, but even as I think that, I remember that later on is actually before this. This is thousands of years after Davros and the Kaleds do their business.

Episode 5
The Daleks, episode 5 - "The Expedition"
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Christopher Barry

The Doctor and Ian fight each other over ideals. The Doctor wants to use the Thals to fight the Daleks. Ian says to leave them alone, to fight one's own battles.

Until they move the argument over to the Thals, when Ian just wants to argue with them.

Back to the Daleks - They are freaking out. They've tried the anti-radiation drug Susan had with her, and it's killing them. They are discovering that they need radiation to survive now, and they prepare to set off a bomb to create more radiation.

During their trek through the forest, they encounter a variety of strange, alien creatures - possibly mutated due to the radiation.

At the local watering hole, one of the Thals fills up a water bag, when he suddenly screams. There's something in the water.

* * *

I really don't have a lot to say about this episode. It sort of feels like filler, like there's enough story for about 6 episodes, and the producers came through at the last minute and said "we need another episode, so stretch it."

The only thing that seems to move the plot forward is the Daleks realizing they need radiation, and deciding to make the whole planet radioactive.

Beyond that, it's a whole lot of walking in place, and most of the character development we've had with Ian is forgotten about, along with any sense of motivation. Is he pro-war or pro-peace? Apparently, it depends on which direction he's facing.

Episode 6
The Daleks, episode 6 - "The Ordeal"
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin

The Thal who screamed is dead. They decide to move on without mourning (or even acknowledging) him.

It will take the Daleks 23 days to construct their bomb, and it will cover five hundred miles. It will take too long, they decide, so they're going to do it another way.

Ian, Barbara, and some Thals go spelunking (cave exploring) while Susan, the Doctor, and other Thals explore the city.

The Doctor, using his keen scientific mind, short circuits one of the city's power junctions, but their happiness is short-lived. They look back to see he and Susan are surrounded by Daleks. While captured, the Daleks reveal their ultimate plan.

Back in the caves, one of the Thals falls down and goes boom, taking Ian with him. As we end, Ian is hanging to the edge with all his might, the Thal hanging below him on a rope.

* * *

Returning to the idea that this show was for children, teaching them history and whatnot, the Doctor goes into scientist mode and teaches about electricity, in a way that doesn't talk down to kids, but shows practical uses for science.

It's hard to watch the cave scenes. Not because they're bad, but because it's so dark, it's hard to see anything. I get more from the audio than anything else.

The model for the city is used again, close-up, and the director does a pretty god job making it look detailed and life-like.

Now that the good stuff is there, let's talk about the bad stuff. stretch is the name of the game. Continuing with last episode's stretching, there's an abundance of it here. There is no point to the cave scenes. That entire side plot could be eliminated and no one would notice. It seems to have been inserted only to take up time, as it doesn't connect with the overall plotline.

The dialog is good, though, and the actors are more obviously comfortable in their parts.

Episode 7
The Daleks, episode 7 - "The Rescue"
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin

Despite Ian and another Thal trying to pull him up, the hanging guy cuts the rope and falls to the bottom.

But it's ok, because when they walk just a few feet, they find themselves suddenly in the city.

The Doctor, a prisoner, tries to bargain for his life. He finds out where the missing part is, but mistakenly lets the Daleks know that with the Tardis, they can travel anywhere.

Ian is able to free Susan and the Doctor, while the Thals ride on the backs of Daleks. They shut the power off and the Daleks seemingly die.

After a brief good-bye, and Barbara's first on-screen kiss!, they take off in the Tardis. But there is something wrong, and they are all knocked out.

* * *

Hartnell is just slightly over the top here. "This senseless evil killing" line just has me in stitches. He is beyond serious, and it's comical.

The Doctor was once a pioneer among his own people, he tells the Thals. This is something we learn more about in later incarnations of the character ... nice to see its origin here.

Overall, it's a very strong story, and with about one and a half episodes being exceptions, it's absolutely re-watchable again and again.

The Daleks were created in 1963. It's now 2009, 46 years later, and the one-shot bad guys who were only created for this one story are still being featured in new Doctor Who stories. I think that's pretty amazing.

Another thing that's amazing is that I'm able to watch this story at all. Back in the 70s, the episodes were destroyed by the BBC, and it was only years later that the episodes were found in various stages of viewability. 2entertain has put in some very hard work cleaning up and restoring the audio and video, and their efforts have paid off extremely well.