Doctor Who: The Daleks, Part Three: The Escape

Well, don’t you know about the Daleks? – Susan

Three episodes into The Daleks and we finally get some action! This episode also gives us the Thals for the first time, a perfect race of beautiful people that make inappropriate comments about sixteen-year old girls. Doctor Who is finding its feet still in these early stories, but I do not believe that you have to be a mature show to know that insinuating that a 35-year old man has the hots for a 16-year old woman is a bad idea.

That transgression aside, this is a nice episode that finally moves the plot forward while establishing several new characters.  On to the recap.

"The Escape", Season 1, Episode 7. First aired January 4, 1964.
“The Escape”, Season 1, Episode 7. First aired January 4, 1964.

Where we left off, Susan was just leaving the TARDIS with the radiation drugs, on her way back to the Dalek city and her companions. She walked almost right into her stalker, a handsome man named Alydon who provides Susan with a second set of drugs (in case the Daleks take the first), his cloak, and offers to escort her to the city. Susan is initially scared and suspicious, but since you can always trust beautiful people, she soon comes to trust him completely.

Fast forward and Susan is back in the city and back in her cell, having given the medication to each of the companions. The Daleks are aware that she has made contact with the Thals, and even allow her to keep the second set of drugs that she brought, but the group are still prisoners and may not leave. She explains that the Thals have survived through subsistence farming, relying on a great rainfall every several years, but they are running out of food and had to leave their plateau in order to find more. They will slowly starve unless they find some other source of food, and the chance to make peace with the Daleks may be the best way to save their people.

In the control room, a group of Daleks is spying on the group. One asks another why she was allowed to keep the second set of drugs, and why they are providing the prisoners with food and water, but he reveals that he is just trying to give them a false sense of security.

In the morning, a Dalek arrives bearing food and water, but also takes Susan. They tell the group that they will help the Thals. Ian realizes as they take Susan away that they have been spied on.

It would have been better if you had given it to a man instead of a girl. – Dyoni

Meanwhile in the jungle, a group of under-dressed Thals have decided that right next to the strange blue box is the best place to build camp. Several new Thals are introduced: Ganadus; Temmosus, who may be their leader; and Dyoni, a young girl who shows jealousy about Alydon’s affection for Susan. They discuss that they were once a warrior race, but now they are peaceful farmers. Temmosus admires the architecture of the Dalek city and hopes to be able to exchange ideas and goods with them. They also reveal that they have been traveling for four years and will need a resupply of food soon. Alydon reveals that if they receive a message, they will know whether the Daleks are hostile or not by whether it is signed with Susan’s name.

Back in the Dalek’s city, Susan is transcribing a note. The Daleks reveal that they grow vegetables in artificial sunlight and will exchange with the Thals if they help cultivate the land around the city. Susan writes it all out and signs her name at the bottom. She wants to take the message, but the Daleks insist on doing it themselves. Suddenly, Ian’s voice can be heard asking how long the Daleks will keep Susan: they left their spying machine on! How clumsy of them. The Daleks immediately take a more hostile posture and escort Susan back to the cell.

Some time later, the companions start a ruse. The Doctor pretends that he wants to cooperate with the Daleks, Ian accuses him of treason, they fight, Susan and Barbara get in on the action, and in all of that Susan manages to get on Ian’s shoulders to pull the security camera out of the wall. Despite their cleverness, the Daleks see straight through the act but decide not to fix the camera anyway. But finally, they have privacy and can plan their escape. Ian and the Doctor start piecing together all the evidence: the metal floors, the the spell, the way they move. The Daleks are powered by electricity through the floor! (The Doctor says static electricity, but of course he meant futuristic static electricity and not what we know of as static electricity because that wold be dumb.) Fortunately, the Thals have provided Susan with a plastic cloak, the perfect insulator.

Meanwhile, back in the land of handsome people, they have received Susan’s note with signature and prepare to meet the Daleks to claim the offered vegetables.

The companions wait in the cell until the next meal-time. When a Dalek arrives with another tray of food, Ian jams the door open with a piece of metal. Barbara gets the jump on the surprised Dalek by covering its eye stalk with mud (dirt collected from Susan’s shoes mixed with water). Ian and the Doctor try to control the creature from the outside, to keep it from shooting anyone, while Susan lays out the cloak. With a strenuous effort, Ian and the Doctor are able to maneuver the Dalek onto the insulated surface and it immediately powers down. Ian opens the Dalek casing and looks inside, telling Susan and Barbara to move away so they do not need to. He wraps the creature inside in the cloak and puts it aside. Ian is able to fit inside– there are controls and a screen, so the creature must have been controlling it directly. Barbara clears off the mud, but Ian cannot figure out the controls. They decide they need to push the Dalek casing containing Ian and hope no one notices.

Susan leads them out into the hallway. Under the cloak, the now separated Dalek moves. To be continued!

Thoughts

I tell you, the Daleks are brilliant people. I think we ought to cooperate with them. – The Doctor

After two episodes of set up, it is disappointing that so much of this episodes relies on coincidence and stupidity. Time and time again, the Daleks subvert expectation by seeing through every ruse (they find the hidden second set of radiation drugs, they figure out that the fight in the cell was staged), but then being utterly stupid. They let the group use the drugs, do not move their cell or fix the broken camera, and allow Susan to discover their spying. Are they supposed to be clever or stupid? I cannot tell.

The Thals are also introduced for the first time, but do not come off that well. They are beautiful people, but Alydon is a borderline stalker who might be skirt-chasing a woman less than half his age, while another woman also half his age pines for him. The relationship triangle is unnecessary and icky.

The end of this episode sets up some great opportunities in the next episode, as long as the group does not get caught immediately and thrown back into their cell.

The Good:

  • The Daleks here are presented a little creatures in tanks, rather than BEING the tank. This is different than how they will be portrayed in the future, but a nice sci-fi touch.
  • Dalek paper is hard and can be carried by Daleks! Nice bit of world-building, but then why don’t they write the note themselves?
  • The plastic cloak is both a terrible costuming choice, and one lampshaded to fit the needs of the episode. Or in 1964 was plastic considered rare and valuable?
  • The Thals name the strange metal animal from the first episode, a Magneton. It is implied that they are a source of food, presumably requiring a can-opener.

The Bad:

  • The Daleks are clever and stupid at the same time, and having Susan write the note in the same room that they use to spy on the others is terribly stupid.
  • The Thals are too perfectly pacifistic, and I am not sure I buy that they have wandered for four years only to stumble on the TARDIS and her crew by accident. The TARDIS does have a way of dropping her passengers in the right places, but at this point in the story it feels too coincidental.

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