Monday, 11 July 2022

Doctor Who - Planet Of The Daleks

Me And My Thal

Doctor Who
Planet Of The Daleks

Airdate: 7th April - 12th May 1973
BBC 1 - Region 0 Blu Ray Six Episodes

So this isn’t a bad story in the Series Ten Doctor Who Blu Ray boxed edition. Following on from the last episode of Frontier In Space (reviewed here), Jo Grant (played by Katy Manning) has dragged The Doctor (played by Jon Pertwee) back into the TARDIS as he had been shot by The Master (in Roger Delgado’s swan song in that role). After instructing the Timelords to pilot the TARDIS to ‘follow the Daleks’, who were at the periphery of the last dastardly plot, he slips into a coma and the TARDIS lands on the planet Spiridon. Jo goes out to find help and gets embroiled with a group of Thals who have come on a suicide mission from Skaro (planet of the Thals and Dals... as they once were, although the Dals were later revised to being Kaleds) to try and find the new Dalek base on Spiridon and... well, do something to stop them. Meanwhile the TARDIS is covered in fungus but The Doctor recovers (due presumably to his Timelord biology) and, when he goes looking for Jo, he also gets embroiled with another part of the same group of Thals.

Jo, who is near death due to being sprayed with fungus, is rescued by one of the natives of Spiridon called... um... a Spiridon... and nursed back to health. The Spiridons are completely invisible, by the way, except when they are wearing their trademark, huge purple fur coat thingies. The Spiridon who rescues Jo is, naturally, the only Spiridon on the planet who is not helping the Daleks, who are keeping a huge army in cold storage, ready to unleash on that part of the galaxy. It’s soon up to Jo and The Doctor (who has been a legendary and mythical figure in Thal history, since the impression he made on them in the very first 1963 Dalek story) to infiltrate and stop the Dalek’s master plan... which also involves releasing a bacteria onto the planet to kill all life there before unleashing their army.

And, although it feels like it’s been padded just like an old 1930s - 1950s theatrical serial, the story is entertaining enough and, while not as good as the previous one, certainly doesn’t get boring at all.

One of the nice things which seems to be endemic in the DNA of the writing of the show at this time is that the story never feels hampered by the special effects. Occasionally those effects are very good but, for quite a lot of the time, they do also look characteristically cheap and awful, it has to be said. But, the writers never really let that get in the way. There seems to be a real ‘make do and mend’ attitude to the way in which the stories are crafted to the final visual production and, it never fails to amaze me how many things the special effects team try and tackle, knowing that it won’t look too great a lot of the time. For instance, there’s one scene where The Doctor and some Thals are trapped by the Daleks in a room with a big ventilation shaft leading to the surface. The Doctor organises a big bit of cloth and they heat up the air under it and the whole lot of them hold onto the corners and float up to the surface of the planet through the vent. To say this looks convincing would be less than the truth but, you know, it’s a fun solution and they did their best with the materials and budgets they had, for sure.

There are a couple of silly plot points that bother me though. For instance, the ‘weird science’ of the planet is such that water doesn’t freeze and turn into ice but, when it gets well below zero, instead turns into molten ice water. So, of course the way The Doctor and the Thals kill a couple of Daleks is to drag them into one of these natural, extreme cold molten ice pools. The Daleks die instantly because, we are told, they are extremely susceptible to cold.  However, The Doctor’s big plan is to flood the sleeping Dalek army with the icy water flow to kill them all. Ahem... this is the same Dalek army which have been frozen and placed into suspended animation to wake up later. So... they didn’t automatically die like the others when they were chilled out then? Kinda makes no sense, does it? Also, I’m pretty sure the miniatures used for the sequences where the army starts to thaw out before being flooded with thick, icy water are repainted versions of those old, little Dalek rollykins you used to be able to buy in the shops, mounted on magnets... or possibly even the old Marx branded miniature Daleks. Either way, they look noticeably different from their full size counterparts.

The other thing that bothers me is the part of the Dalek plan to kill everything on the surface. Honestly, the Spiridons are already a slave labour force for them and the only other people on the planet are a few Thals. Why in heck would you need to destroy all life there? This really doesn’t make much sense for a race who are supposed to be amongst the most intelligent, albeit evil and diabolically deadly, species in the galaxy. Mind you, constantly repeating phrases like “You will be exterminated!” and “We are defeated.” at the top of their Stephen Hawking-like voices doesn’t sound much like a highly evolved race of creatures to me either, truth be told.

Once again, the insides of a Dalek are scooped out so a human can fit in and masquerade as one. This is something which was not new to the show, in fact William Hartnell and Peter Cushing’s versions of The Doctor were encouraging that right from the very first Dalek story and its big screen adaptation but... bearing in mind the amount of blue prints and diagrams which have been published over the decades showing you just what is inside a Dalek (in the fictional Whoniverse), I still am amazed that there is any room left to fit a person inside it. With all that inner machinery there really is only room for the very small Kaled creature inside it, it seems to me.

Anyway, Planet Of The Daleks is not a great story but, even as perhaps the least interesting story of 1973, it’s still pretty entertaining and never really gets dull, as some of the modern variations of the show sometimes do. The next story in the box is the classic story The Green Death, which was the final story in the main show of Jo Grant and which I reviewed in its DVD incarnation here. The whole series has six discs loaded with extras and, on the last disc, the full two part story The Death Of The Doctor from the spin off show The Sarah Jane Adventures is included, which would, decades later, return Katy Manning back to the role of Jo Grant, for which she was best known. That story also includes Matt Smith as The Doctor and, of course, Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. If you are a lover of Pertwee’s much loved stab at The Doctor, then I would, in conclusion, highly recommend this Series 10 box set.

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