There are days when you want to write a 1,500 word essay about a Doctor Who serial, a Disney short, or a video game. And there are other days where you just want to show off the crayons that your wife is making for your birthday. This is one of the those days!
“As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.” – The Doctor
As the third serial of Doctor Who comes to an end, the show finally reaches something of an equilibrium. No longer are Ian and Barbara prisoners, but rather full-fledged “companions” in the modern sense of the word. If the show had not been picked up for a full season, it would have ended here: as a fun little science fiction adventure told in thirteen parts. But, as we know, what they really did with these early episodes was launch a sensation.
As the strange happenings continue on the TARDIS, our companions argue with each other until the true danger is discovered. With their collective lives in the balance, only then do they come together to save themselves. It’s a deep dive into the nature of our key relationships, both with the Doctor and with each other. The tension is high, but the ultimate resolution is surprisingly low tech. We are also left with a key but enduring mystery: is the TARDIS alive? More thoughts on this after our recap.
“You can’t blame us for this, Doctor.” – Ian
After fighting off cavemen and nightmare pepper-pots, Doctor Who‘s third serial features our companions facing their most insidious enemy yet: themselves. As the back two episodes of a 13-episode initial series order, The Edge of Destruction could serve either as an ending or a transition point. By the end of the serial, the companions would come to trust each other, we’d learn a few more tantalizing clues about the Doctor and Susan’s journey, and we would be left aching for more. But, I am getting ahead of myself. This first episode offers us no obvious villains or planets to explore: just four travelers who have to figure out how to work together to solve a problem that none of them understand. It’s fantastic.
There is tons to say here, but as usual, we’ll start with a recap after the break.
For all that An Unearthly Child launched Doctor Who, it was The Daleks that guaranteed the show a place in history. The pepper-pot aliens introduced in this serial would become Doctor Who‘s most iconic villains, spawn two theatrical films, and send legions of little children to hide behind the couch every time their cry of “Exterminate!” was heard. In seven parts, The Daleks plays out slowly by modern standards, but gradually escalates the tension between the curious Doctor, the xenophobic Daleks, and the peaceful Thals. It is a masterful introduction to Doctor Who‘s signature villain.
More after the break.
When An Unearthly Child was written, more than 50 years ago, it is doubtful that anyone expected that we would still be talking about this serial today. Doctor Who has transcended time and generations, and appeals to many whose parents were not yet alive when the first episode was broadcast. With that in mind, it is difficult to look at these early episodes with anything less than awe at what they accomplished. Without serials such as this one, there would never have been a “revived” Doctor Who for me to fall in love with.
More after the break.
“I have a ship capable of crossing the barriers of space and time. Surely this would be invaluable to you?” – The Doctor
Finally, we reach the end of the first Dalek story of Doctor Who! “The Rescue” is a fitting title for the end of the serial as the Thals, Ian, and Barbara break into the Dalek city to rescue the captured Doctor and Susan. But this is also a particularly bloody episode, as Antodus sacrifices himself and several other Thals die in the resulting battle. In the end, the Daleks fall, seemingly forever, the Thals have peace, and the Doctor and his companions prepare to depart.
There is so much to say, both about how the serial wraps up and on the direction of the show as a whole, but more on that after the recap.
“We must presume they don’t leave anything to chance.” – The Doctor
“The Ordeal”, the sixth of seven episodes featuring the first appearance of the Daleks, places both the Doctor and his companions through two different types of wringers. For the Doctor and Susan, their ordeal is nothing less than to wage a battle against the Dalek city with meager resources, trying to destroy key infrastructure before the Daleks can turn the tables on them. For Ian and Barbara, their ordeal is a labyrinth of caves far beneath the Dalek city– and by episodes’s end, they had still not discovered a way back to the surface. There is a ton of good in this episode, including good character moments for both Susan and Barbara, establishing them as more than just an adjunct to their male counterparts. But the episode drags on, particularly the parts with Ian and Barbara in the caves. But there is a nice feeling of tension as we build toward a climax in the next episode.
More thoughts after the break and the recap. Continue reading Doctor Who: The Daleks, Part Six: The Ordeal
You all realize, of course, we cannot succeed against the Daleks alone? – The Doctor
After an action-packed outing last time, Doctor Who switches into a different gear for “The Expedition.” This episode does a great job closing up plot threads and setting the table for the conclusion of this serial. At times, that makes this episode more like “The Exposition” than an “Expedition”, but it is fine. These classic episodes of Doctor Who do like to breathe, but I am not finding the pacing to be too far off at all. Not “modern” Doctor Who, of course– but it does not need to be.
We have some fantastic interaction between the main cast as they debate how far they should go to get home, some sensible strategizing, and closure on a Dalek subplot. On to the recap!
“Make no attempt to capture them. They are to be exterminated. You understand? Exterminated.” – The Daleks
This episode was fantastic. We had two great action scenes, the Daleks did not act particularly stupid this time, and the plot came full circle with the re-introduction of the TARDIS’s “fluid link”. Better yet, this episode finally sees the Daleks getting scary. I suspect the challenge will be keeping up the tension as we have three episodes left in this arc, but I try to keep remembering that the original viewers did not know how many episodes were left.
Even more important to the history of the show, this episode marks the very first use of the Dalek catch-phrase, “Exterminate!” On to the recap.
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.