Friday, 20 July 2012

Story 2 - The Daleks

In which the TARDIS materialises in a petrified forest on the plant Skaro. The time travellers haven't noticed the radiation meter warning from the end of the previous episode. Exploring, they first come upon the body of a strange metallic creature, then see a huge futuristic city on a barren plain. The Doctor is determined to explore it, but the school teachers are against this - wanting to be returned to Earth.
Though apparently a dead planet, Susan is sure someone had tried to touch her in the forest. The Doctor sabotages the TARDIS fluid link in order to make sure they will have to visit the city, to find some mercury.
Someone is heard prowling outside the ship that night, and in the morning a box of glass phials is found - possibly dropped by the nocturnal visitor.
Once in the city, the group is split up. The Doctor, Ian and Susan find a laboratory where a Geiger Counter reveals they have been exposed to high levels of radiation. They are then captured by the city's mechanical inhabitants - the Daleks. Ian is temporarily paralysed by their weaponry when he tries to flee, and they soon find themselves reunited in a cell with Barbara.
The Daleks eavesdrop and learn about the phials - which they realise are Thal anti-radiation drugs. The Doctor learns that there were 2 races on this world - Daleks and Thals - and they almost destroyed each other in a terrible neutronic war many years ago. Whilst the Thals developed drugs to survive, the Daleks retreated into their protective metal shells.
Someone has to go and collect the drugs - and only Susan is fit enough. Back at the TARDIS she meets a tall blond humanoid - Alydon of the Thals. He explains that his people are peaceful farmers whose crops have failed, and they have come here to seek help from the Daleks. Susan agrees to help arrange this.

The Thals are invited into the city, but it proves to be a trap. The time travellers must escape from their cell to warn them. In doing so, they discover that that the Daleks are hideously mutated creatures.
Everyone flees back to the TARDIS where the Thals have set up camp. Before they can leave, the Doctor learns that his fluid link has been left in the city - confiscated from Ian by the Daleks. They have to break back in.
A plan is devised whereby Ian and Barbara will accompany a group of Thals, led by Ganatus, on a hazardous trek through a mutation-filled swamp. The Doctor and Alydon will create a diversion at the front of the city.
The Doctor and Susan are recaptured, and learn that the Daleks cannot use the Thal drugs, so are intent on further irradiating the planet.
After their trek through the swamp, Ganatus' group must traverse a lethal cave system to break into the city. Both Thal groups attack, and the Dalek power supply is damaged in the fighting. They need static electricity to survive, and without it, die.
The Thals can make use of the Dalek food supplies, and the time travellers retrieve the fluid link.

This 7 part story, broadcast between December 21st 1963 and February 1st 1964, was written by Terry Nation.
It is most significant, obviously, for the introduction of the Daleks (though the metallic Magneton creature becomes the programme's first ever monster). Their first appearance was supposed to be a month or two later, but the proposed second story (Anthony Coburn's The Robots, aka Masters of Luxor) fell through. The Daleks should have followed Marco Polo in story order. Luckily, Nation had submitted his script early and so it could be brought forward.
The history of Doctor Who might have been entirely different if an earlier draft had been produced. In this, the Daleks and Thals blamed each other for starting the war. The Doctor investigated and discovered that when combined, their records showed that it was an unknown third party hidden in space who had launched the first attack. These other aliens turn up and decide to make amends for what their ancestors had done - and the story ends with the Daleks and Thals becoming friends...

Terry Nation was famous for the brevity of his scripts. He did not spend  much time with detail, and so designer Raymond P. Cusick had a blank canvas when it came to the Dalek props and their city. Associate producer Mervyn Pinfield suggested simply using a man covered in cardboard tubes painted silver. Cusick did not want to use a humanoid shape, and Nation had spoken of the strange gliding movements of the Georgian State Dancers. The first designs for the Daleks were of cylindrical robots without arms or legs.

Realising the operators would have to stand inside for long periods, he amended the design to give it a squatter base that would allow for a seat for the operator. (An early thought was for it to contain a tricycle frame). The arms of the first design would have been operated puppet-like with strings. 4 props were built by specialist model-making firm Shawcraft of Uxbridge, West London.
Famously - or rather infamously - Nation made a great deal of money out of the Daleks, whereas Cusick only got a belated ex gratia payment of £100.
The intention was that the public would not know there was someone inside, that they were fully mechanical props. Actors were chosen to operate them, as they needed to synch the dome lights with the dialogue - fed into studio by actors Peter Hawkins and David Graham.
Directors Richard Martin and Christopher Barry wanted the voices to emphasise the creatures' claustrophobia - trapped inside their shells.

The regulars get a lot to do in this story. The Doctor is still not someone we can wholly trust - sabotaging the ship and putting everyone in jeopardy to get his own way for instance. There are moments of charm - such as the scene with the food machine (bacon & egg flavoured Mars Bars). The scene where he sabotages the Dalek antenna is also a joy.
Susan has to venture into the storm-lashed  forest at night on her own - believing the Thals to be monsters. Ian and Barbara get the bulk of episodes 5 - 7, as they embark on their trek through swamp and cavern.
The story was supposed to be 6 episodes long and the addition of a seventh is noticeable with some padding in these later episodes.
Barbara even acquires an admirer in Ganatus. (He won't be the last).

The story's main theme is Xenophobia - the dislike for the unlike. The Daleks are basically Nazis, intent on exterminating the Thals just because they are not like them - not just because of previous history. Other themes explored include pacifism in wartime and the instinct for survival.
Sydney Newman had specified from day one that Doctor Who should not include any BEMs (Bug Eyed Monsters) and was initially horrified by the Daleks. He relented only when Verity Lambert explained these underlying themes, and that they were complex, tragic creatures, desperate to survive at any cost, rather than the generic motiveless monsters of 50's Sci-Fi.

The cliffhangers for this story are:

  1. The Dead Planet - trapped alone in the lower levels of the city, Barbara is menaced by a sucker-tipped arm.
  2. The Survivors - having made it safely to the TARDIS, Susan must now make the return journey.
  3. The Escape - the claw-like hand of a Dalek creature emerges from beneath the cloak it has been wrapped in.
  4. The Ambush - the time travellers realise the vital fluid link has been left in the city.
  5. The Expedition - Thal Elyon is attacked in the swamp. Barbara wonders what they've let themselves in for.
  6. The Ordeal - Ganatus' brother, Antodus, has fallen into a ravine - and is threatening to drag Ian in after him.
  7. The Rescue - in flight once more, the TARDIS is plunged into darkness and everyone thrown to the floor.
A very good introduction for the Daleks, the story overall does have a couple of flaws. One is the obvious padding of the trek sequences, and the other is the somewhat anti-climactic climax. Unfortunately for fans of a certain age, we had read the novelisation (with its glass leader Dalek) or seen the Peter Cushing movie - so the final battle in the Dalek city can appear a wee bit underwhelming. 

Things you might not be aware of:

  • Above is the second version of the cityscape. Episode 1 had to be remounted during the later episodes due to sound problems (talk-back from the studio gallery). Cusick was unhappy with the original Shawcraft city model, as they had simply copied his scribbled ideas literally. The remount gave him the chance to improve it.
  • Both the hand that taps Susan on the shoulder in Episode 1, and the Dalek claw at the end of part 3, belong to AFM Michael Ferguson - who would go on to direct Doctor Who - beginning with The War Machines. (It was a gorilla claw from a joke shop, covered in vaseline).
  • Early artwork depicting the Daleks - such as the 1964 Dalek Book - show a number on the dome and a circular speaker grill between the gun and sucker arm. This is because the artists were given reference photos taken during rehearsals. The domes were numbered so the director knew which Dalek was which, and the circle was actually a roll of tape - needed to soften rough edges of the mid-section after William Hartnell cut his hand. The crew would leave their tape roll in the mid-section for convenience, removing it before filming started.

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