Dr. Who and the Daleks marks the first cinematic outing of the time-travelling adventurer, portrayed by British icon Peter Cushing. Retelling the Dalek origin from the show’s second serial, The Daleks, has been disregarded as a simple cash-in on the ‘Dalekmania’ that swept Britain in the mid ’60s. Sadly, what Dr. Who and the Daleks does to differentiate itself from its television counterpart, is in all the wrong places.
Eccentric inventor, Dr. Who and granddaughters, Susan and Barbara, show Barbara’s bumbling boyfriend Ian, The Doctors latest invention, a time machine called the TARDIS (inexplicably in the shape of a 1960’s police box). When Ian accidentally activates the machine, the group finds themselves on the planet Skaro, where the war between Daleks and Thals has raged for centuries.
The serial on which Doctor Who and the Daleks is based is by no means a masterpiece, the story is thin and uninvolving. The sets, while evoking nostalgia for a simpler time, had much room for improvement. Despite the greater budget, Doctor Who and the Daleks fails to live up to the original. The plot remains bland and motionless, although it somewhat picks up in the closing act. The interior sets, while an improvement, are plagued by the typical 60s colour palette and aesthetic.
Doctor Who and the Daleks shifts the tone from horror and suspense to one of fun. It’s more family-friendly than the original serial, Roy Castle’s blundering Ian brings slapstick to the proceedings, whilst Roberta Tovey’s adventurous Susan provides a relatable heroine for children. And of course, the Daleks continue to be as chilling and menacing as ever. It may be showing signs of its age, but Doctor Who and the Daleks is still good fun. Sadly, for Who fanatics, Doctor Who and the Daleks may serve no more than a curiosity as the story makes some fundamental changes to the Doctors’ backstory, ridding him of his otherworldly origins.
The latest release boasts a new digitally restored print, and it looks grand. The picture is clearer and more crisp than ever before, and is certainly the definite way to see this picture. In terms of extras, the release is sadly lacking, but thankfully the included 1995 documentary Dalekmania saves it. Dalekmania chronicles the film’s production and features interviews from cast members and Who fanatics, a particular highlight of the documentary being Tovey’s fun anecdotes about her time on set.
However, it may be worth checking Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. before viewing this doc, as much of running time focuses on the sequel’s production to the point where it’s baffling it wasn’t released as part of that release instead. Besides Dalekmania, there’s a short documentary looking at the restoration process, which, while slightly interesting, would appeal more to technophiles than Who enthusiasts.