“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!
Continue reading Doctor Who: The Daleks, Part Five: The Expedition
“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.
Continue reading Doctor Who: The Daleks, Part Four: The Ambush
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.
Continue reading Doctor Who: The Daleks, Part Three: The Escape
It’s time you faced up to your responsibilities. You got us here. Now I’m going to make sure that you get us back. – Ian
I can see already that one of the challenges facing “classic” Doctor Who will be the pacing of the serials. The adventure with the cave-people completed in a brisk three-episodes, but The Daleks will be seven when it is done. While the first episode did a great job setting the status quo of the series, the second episode tries to include the key exposition to get us hooked on this serial– and it mostly succeeds– but we realize in the end that we have not made it very far.
After a brief cameo at the end of the last episode, the Daleks are introduced here properly. They are not quite the Daleks that we know from the later series, but the introduction is done well enough. They are a deadly foe, but perhaps one that is somewhat more devious than their blunt-instrument counterparts later. On to the recap.
Continue reading Doctor Who: The Daleks, Part Two: The Survivors
“We’d better keep an eye on him. He seems to have a knack of getting himself into trouble.” – Ian
The Daleks: the Doctor’s most famous set of foes debuted in the second-ever serial of the series: 1963’s “The Daleks”. Far from a “Christmas special” (the first episode aired on December 21), the moody and tense first episode established a world far removed from the campier caveman serial that had just ended. They were no longer on Earth, and the possibilities of the series were endless.
Much has been written about the Daleks becoming the signature enemy of the series and the “Dalekmania” that spread throughout the UK as the series progressed. But what Terry Nation brought in this first episode at least was just as valuable: he set a tone and a status quo for the series, established “scientific facts” (to steal a term from MST3K) about how the passengers ate and slept on board the TARDIS, and generally laid the groundwork for the whole series in a tense, but not scary, 22 minutes. The final scene with Barbara being menaced by an unseen beast (with a plunger attachment) is rightfully one of the most famous of the show.
Continue reading Doctor Who: The Daleks, Part One: The Dead Planet
“Are you saying you don’t know how to work this thing.” – Barbara
And so the first serial of Doctor Who ends with a whimper rather than a bang. This episode felt extraneous, the careful build-up of tension over the previous episodes was tossed aside quickly. Much of the intelligence of the script and characters are gone here, although the Doctor’s speech to the tribesmen stands out as the first time in the series that the Doctor talked himself out of a mess.
More after the recap.
Continue reading Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child, Part Four: The Firemaker
“Fear makes companions of all of us.” – The Doctor
This second caveman-focused episode is an improvement over the first, in large part because the first had to spend so much time setting up the conflict and the story. This episode flows quickly, establishes a clear villain, and is overall fun to watch. We also get some running!
More after the recap.
Continue reading Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child, Part Three: The Forest of Fear
“If we knew his name, we might have a clue to all this.” – Ian
After a fantastic first episode, the second has a reputation for being terrible. It is not, but it is also not the classic that the first was. The script is poor and the acting is worse. That said, the premise is decent and the episode is mature fiction: there is no clear antagonist and the relationships between the characters are complex, as are what drives the plot forward. But even so, the script isn’t as tight as the first episode, the direction and costuming not as well done. The guest stars here are simply unable to build the gravitas they need while covered in fake dirt and furs. It is worth watching, but just.
Continue reading Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child, Part Two: The Cave of Skulls
“You’ve discovered television, haven’t you?” – The Doctor
“An Unearthly Child”, the first episode of the serial now given that name, is a science fiction classic. How could it not be? First airing on November 23, 1963 (the day after the assassination of John F. Kennedy), the episode has held up surprisingly well over time – but only as an introduction to the characters, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan. There is no villain of this episode, except perhaps the Doctor, and most of the 22 minutes are spent establishing the characters. As a result, Ian, Barbara, and Susan are better painted than most of the later companions of the classic series. It does not hurt that this entire episode is told through their eyes as they perceive the alienness of the Doctor and Susan.
Continue reading Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child, Part One