I’ve just finished watching the second adventure of the first Dr. Who (William Hartnell) and his three companions, Ian (William Russell), Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), and Susan (Carole Ann Ford). This was the first appearance of the Daleks, and it was a fun collection of episodes.
The Doctor and his companions land the TARDIS on the home world of the Daleks and the Thals – two races that were engaged in a long war that ended with neutron bombs wiping out nearly all life on the planet. Forests are petrified, lakes are full of mutated creatures, and the Dalek city is abandoned… Or is it?
The Doctor, of course, wants to explore it, but Barbara and Ian just want to go back to Earth. Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter, is fine with either option. The Doctor tells his companions that a crucial piece of the TARDIS engine needs to be refueled with mercury, and they have none on board and can perhaps find it in the city. Ian suspects the Doctor is faking this, but what choice do they have? “What choice do we have?” becomes a common theme in these early episodes. This phrase is often spoke with pragmatism rather than defeatism, however, and I like that. The characters, especially Ian, tend to make do with what they have. Before they leave for the Dalek city, they discover a small box outside the TARDIS full of vials of an unknown fluid. The Doctor decides to study it after he’s explored the city.
They’re captured by the Daleks once they enter the city, and it is soon learned that the Daleks are horribly mutated from radiation (which has made the Doctor and his companions ill as well). The Daleks have to live in their “salt shaker” pods to survive and move. The Daleks make a deal with the Doctor – their lives for radiation drugs. The Doctor realizes that the vials left outside the TARDIS must be the drugs the Daleks want. Susan, the healthiest of the four, goes back to the TARDIS and meets the Thals – beautiful humanoids who adapted to the irradiated climate thanks to the drugs they created (and left outside the TARDIS).
Susan returns with the drugs and tells everyone about the Thals. The Daleks watch and listen to their conversation and are determined to wipe the Thals off the face of the planet. The Doctor tries to reason with them, but the Daleks are bloodthirsty and won’t hear it. The Doctor and the companions manage to escape by overpowering one of the Daleks and hiding Ian inside the creature’s pod. There’s a great moment when Ian and the Doctor open the pod and first see the Dalek inside. They quickly shut the pod in horror and before Barbara and Susan see the creature within it. They share a look that conveys a shared horrible knowledge and then ask Barbara and Susan to watch outside the room. Once the ladies leave, Ian and the Doctor bundle up the small creature in a blanket and leave it in the room. The Doctor and the companions flee to the forest and meet the Thals. Before they can escape in the TARDIS, however, Ian realizes the Daleks have the crucial TARDIS engine component and they can’t leave without it.
The Doctor and his companions convince the Thals to fight back against the Daleks, especially after the Thal leader is killed in an ambush in the Dalek city after the promise of food and peace among the two races. The Daleks also plan to explode a neutron bomb and lace the atmosphere with even more radiation (which they need to survive as the Thal drug is, ironically, poisonous to them), killing the rest of the Thals in the process. Everyone goes back to the city and fights the Daleks, stopping them by destroying their power source.
What I liked about this adventure was the cliffhanger serial feel to it. New conundrums and threats popped up all the time. The Doctor was once again a cantankerous man who is not unlike a spoiled brat, but always admits his mistakes and apologizes in time – either verbally or through his actions of saving the companions. Ian and the Doctor butt heads a lot over their logic, but both realize they need the other to survive. Susan has a brief love interest with one of the Thals, which was a nice touch, and Susan found new courage she didn’t have before.
There is a nice moment at the end where the Thals ask the Doctor to stay and teach them how to use the Dalek machinery. The Doctor tells them they’ll figure it out and that he might return to visit the grandchildren of his new friends. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was foreshadowing for a future episode (probably with another Doctor).
The series so far leaves a lot of things unanswered, which I like. The first adventure mentioned a “forbidden zone” on the other side of a mountain and the ritual of killing people on the “Black Orb,” but none of these things were even seen or further explored. This adventure showed the mutated, clawed hand of a Dalek, but nothing else. These things may have been the result of lazy writing and low budgets, but they plant nice seeds (intentionally or not) for down the road.
Have you seen “The Daleks”? What do you make of it? Let us know in the comments section below or send us a tweet!