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31 December 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 365: Planet of the Daleks, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Is it just me, or is the Daleks’ way of storing their frozen army horribly inefficient? Somewhere on this planet, they need to tuck away 10,000 Daleks, but there’s so much space between all of them! Surely there must be a more practical way of storing Daleks than this? Obviously they didn’t bother to check in with Davros (or anyone who’s had to package up a multitude of Dalek action figures when moving house).

More and more, this feels like typical Terry Nation stuff, and I’m still really enjoying it. I don’t think there’s anything in this episode that would feel out of place in one of the Hartnell Dalek stories. The crawl through the tunnels is reminiscent of The Daleks, as is a sequence in which the creatures disable the lift with the Doctor and his companions inside. There’s even a sequence of a Dalek cutting through a door while the Doctor searches desperately for an escape which is similar to that very first story, too. Add in a sequence where the Doctor and his (temporary) companion ambush a Dalek when it comes into their cell… actually, this is just a ‘best of’ package from The Daleks, isn’t it?

And yet, despite seeing it all before, I can’t help but really enjoy it. I knew where the story was going at every turn (I’ve been watching today on the train, so I’ve refrained from narrating it out-loud as I usually would were I watching alone), but that added to the fun of it all. There’s something really pleasant about having a story that’s so rooted in the older episodes. It feels somewhat like greeting old friends. I’m just surprised that the Thals - who’ve had that first Dalek serial handed down through the generations as legend - aren’t recognising the similarities!

The only downside is the Daleks themselves. I’ve always felt that they just don’t look right in colour during the classic series. In the 1960s, they’re sleek, and shiny. We can tell that they’re supposed to be made of metal, and the quality of the video hides a few of the imperfections. By the time you reach the colour era of the programme, it’s all too obvious to see the paint lines on the casings, and the places where they’ve been knocked around a bit being loaded on and off BBC props lorries.

It’s a pity, because the way they’re being directed in this story is very good. There’s been some fantastic shots - two Daleks flanking the Doctor as they escort him to the prison in yesterday’s episode. Standing guard at the city gates today, and later heading out into the jungle to dispose of the Thals explosives - and they’re only let down by the quality of the props. I know they couldn’t really stretch the budget to new props in every appearance (though I think I’m right in saying that this story was the first to have new Daleks constructed purely for TV use - as opposed to repurposing ones from the Peter Cushing films - since the very first one. Another connection to The Daleks!), but surely they could have performed a bit of routine Dalek maintenance?

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