Season 1 – Episode 2 – (1963 – 1964)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Susan, Ian, Barbara
Taking a wander with our foursome we land in a strange landscape – a forest that is completely petrified – everything is dead. The travellers find a city, which is too much of an intriguing prospect for The Doctor. He fakes a problem with the TARDIS, where the only solution is to find Mercury in the city (naturally assumed to be common-place). Upon trespassing, they are captured by the Daleks in their first appearance and they are realising that the background radiation is killing them.
The Daleks feign a hospitable caution… Susan is allowed to leave to retrieve a mysterious package that was left, now assumed to contain an anti-radiation drug. She meets another race – the Thals – a race of David Bowie-esque pacifists who have an ancient phobia, though curiosity of the Daleks. Our travellers escape and the Thals attempt an alliance with the Daleks.
We learn some history – The Daleks are confined to the city, moving like dodgems with electricity in the floor providing their power. The two races are ancient enemies that used to be at war. The planet is Skaro – the war ended with the detonation of a nuclear weapon and the survivors on both sides went two different ways.
Of course, in the course of the ruse, the actual Mercury source was lost and the group have to invade the city to be sure of leaving, hoping that the pacifists will help them.
So with the plot out of the way we have some thoughts. The Daleks are more or less how they have come to be known – they actually never say “exterminate” though – they do yell “fire”! There is something fairly magical about this appearance and it’s really easy to see why the concept swept people away.
A fine moment shows Ian and The Doctor’s reaction to opening a Dalek. We never see the creature inside and this is a very powerful writing tool. Don’t show the true horror!
I also question whether we saw one of the first “Billy Fluffs” – William Hartnell was already suffering from a condition that addled his ability to work – his memory for lines was not perfect and the work schedule was gruelling. At this point, the shows were filmed like plays, retaking was not an option and so often actors had to improvise a line back on track. It’s certain The Doctor doesn’t seem to remember Ian Chesterton’s last name.
I also really enjoy the sheer number of Daleks sometimes present. The production only had four available – in some shots though, we see many more that are merely painted or photographed onto the background. Black and White conceals many sins and is very much a friend for this series, especially as the budget grows! Colour kills a lot of suspension of disbelief. Dear reader, suspend your disbelief if you can. Otherwise you will laugh yourself for 26 years of this show.
Next time: Well we leave immediately but there is a fault with the ship. It’s a problem with the TARDIS and we’re not leaving for the entire story.