Scientist Dr Who takes his niece Louise, granddaughter Susan and uninvited guest PC Tom Campbell to London in the year 2150 (AD), only to find that the dreaded Daleks have attacked the Earth and are forcing the remaining humans to serve them in their dastardly schemes. Joining forces with a ragtag band of freedom fighters, Dr Who and his friends must travel to the darkest heart of Bedfordshire and foil the Daleks’ terrible plan.
While the first cinematic outing for Peter Cushing’s Dr Who is a bit of a misfire, visually bland and suffering in comparison to its televisual counterpart, this second film is a far more assured affair. This might be because the 1964 television story upon which this film is based, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, always felt like a wasted opportunity. The plot was stretched too thin and, beyond a few neat shots in familiar locations, it didn’t take advantage of the visual possibilities of a blitzed-out London packed with Daleks. Fortunately, no opportunity is wasted here, director Gordon Flemyng doing wonders with some brilliant Shepperton Studios soundstage sets and well-chosen locations. There are also some great action sequences (in particular an attack on the Daleks’ flying saucer) and special effects (aforementioned saucer is a really lovely creation) with which the TV series couldn’t possibly compete.
Part of the success of this instalment is that, one or two incongruous bits of slapstick aside, it doesn’t feel like a children’s film. Nobody here is playing it for laughs, with the exception of Bernard Cribbins, but even his gently comic PC Campbell fits in much better than Roy Castle’s slapstick Ian did in the first film. With the presence of Cushing in the lead and support from imposing Hammer regular Andrew Keir, matched with the downbeat tone of much of the film, this does at times feel like Doctor Who if it were being made by Hammer Studios. Pairing Roberta Tovey’s annoying kid Susan with Keir as the gruff Wyler is a masterstroke, levelling her saccharine with his steel.
Special mention must go to Philip Madoc’s immoral spiv, Brockley. Madoc would go on to play several memorable roles in the Doctor Who television series in later years, but his performance here might just be his best, a magnificently oleaginous creature who gets a very satisfying comeuppance.
This release showcases an HD version of the film, and it certainly looks spiffy. On a slightly churlish note, however, I am disappointed that this clean-up job seems to have exposed the wires on the Daleks’ saucer – this was the first time I had ever noticed them.
Sadly, in terms of extras, this release is annoyingly poor (though other things are available on the concurrent release of Dr Who and the Daleks). Given how many of the cast are still alive, it is sad that we only get a short interview with Bernard Cribbins, while an interview with the author of The Shepperton Story is informative but quite dull. Finally, a documentary about the restoration of the film, while interesting, is not as welcome as a full and comprehensive making-of would have been.