The Dalek Invasion of Earth

Region 1

Region 2
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 10, starring William Hartnell)
  • written by Terry Nation
  • directed by Richard Martin
  • produced by Verity Lambert
  • music by Francis Chagrin
  • 6 episodes @ 25 minutes each, BW
    1. World's End
    2. The Daleks
    3. Day of Reckoning
    4. The End of Tomorrow
    5. The Waking Ally
    6. Flashpoint
Story: The TARDIS lands in London, 2164. The city has been devastated by bombs, and the Daleks are enslaving mankind. What is their real purpose in coming to planet Earth? And what secret project are they undertaking in the mines of Bedfordshire? It soon becomes apparent to the Doctor that life will never be the same again for his granddaughter Susan....

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio Commentary by William Russell (Ian, 4 episodes), Carole Ann Ford (Susan, 4 episodes), producer Verity Lambert (5 episodes),
    director Richard Martin (all episodes) and moderator Gary Russell.
  • "Future Memories" retrospective featurette (45 min.) with actors Bernard Kay (Carl Tyler), Peter Fraser (David Campbell),
    David Graham (Dalek Voice), and Nick Evans (Dalek/Slyther Operator).
  • "Future Visions" interview of designer Spencer Chapman.
  • Optional new CGI effects shots
  • "Now and Then" Locations Revisited featurette
  • Dalek voices featurette
  • Camera blocking featurette
  • Rehearsal Footage
  • "Whatever Happened to Susan?" spoof radio documentary (27 minutes)
  • Blue Peter: how to make edible Daleks (6 minutes)
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

As with the previous Dalek story, two versions exist of this tale thanks to yet another bigger budget feature film, and one version generally works while the other generally doesn't. This indicates that the story itself has great potential, but requires good dialogue, a strong cast, a fair standard of production values, and most importantly a competent and creative director. In terms of the writing, like "The Chase" (story no. 16) and "The Dalek Masterplan" (story no. 21) which follow, and "The Keys of Marinus" (story no. 5) which preceded it, the story is a bit of a collection of separate little tales and scenes, however there is greater unity among them here because they are tied together in theme and in situational origin: humanity is suffering global hardship and subjugation, and there are as many ways of dealing with that as there are people on the planet. Writer Terry Nation then shows us some of the characters that he finds most interesting, all the while stringing them into a cohesive plot concerning our four time travellers and their first returning enemies. How well does this work in a cinematic format? Let's compare the two versions:

The BBC Television version: - directed by Richard Martin

Richard Martin is back, sinking his teeth into his first full story as a director, and leaving it dying if not dead. It's basically a hit-and-miss luck-of-the-draw as to which elements manage to work and which ones don't, giving the final product the overall feeling that it was created by amateurs. The pseudo-live recording techniques used to make this program are certainly difficult to work under at the best of times, and even more so when action and pioneering special effects are attempted in a sci-fi blockbuster story such as this. While I believe the valiant efforts by experienced actors, cameramen, and other production personnel still gave us many good bits here, it seems to be the overarching guidance from the director, in terms of performances, timing, and camera blocking, that fails to stay on story and lets the show down.

Technically, the TARDIS is mostly done right. After the still disappointingly silent on-screen visual materialization, we get a short interior scene immediately followed by the characters coming out of the police box. Artistically, it's a bit dodgy - the superimposed titles draw attention away from the police box's appearing act, the interior scene is shot from the stupidest, most ineffective camera angle I have ever witnessed (highlighting the backs of our characters heads and being a mile away from the scanner, the controls, or even an interesting section of the console room wall), and when we do step outside the police box, we see that the impenetrable TARDIS Real World Interface has had both windows on one side dented in. Sloppy!

In fact, most of the directing in this story lacks any sense of realism or dramatic quality. The Robomen are so brain-dead, clumsy, and martial art-less that there is absolutely no sense of menace about them. There is only one threat, in that they move and talk so slowly that the audience is in grave danger of falling asleep or changing the channel. The Daleks' voices are modulated, yet somehow rather quiet and subdued, and the voice performances are completely uninspired, sounding tired, bored, and high-pitched like little old grannies. Hardly the conquerors of an entire planet.

The series regulars do a mostly good job, since they figured out what they were doing on the series long before, but Richard Martin still gets them to stare long, hard and woodenly at a dangling paper plate that jiggles its way across a photo of London. At least CGI can fix one side of this dysfunctional scene. The sound effect of the pathetically silly Slyther creature, while already super-hammy all on its own, is made to interrupt Ian's dialogue and compete with it, while a long, dead silence precedes and follows said struggle. In this way, otherwise solid performances are being unnecessarily weakened by poor directing.

As for the `action' sequences, these are pretty bad. Confusion reigns, as the cameras are not able to follow the sequences properly to show viewers what the characters do, what happens to them, what motivates them to react a certain way, why they don't do the obvious, etc. The raid on the saucer at the heliport is the worst example of this. Instead of fighting the Daleks, Barbara and Susan fight each other. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Neither the dialogue nor the acting is well-motivated here. A lot of effort must have been spent in designing an effects shot where the lower portion of the screen dissolves to a second input showing a melting effect, to show what happens to a section of wall when our friends hide behind it and the Daleks hit it with their rays. This effect is actually quite unnoticeable, because the characters moving in the background naturally draw attention to themselves, and neither a visible ray from the Daleks nor a significant change of lighting on the wall itself will draw the viewers' eyes to it, nor is there any dialogue about it or reaction to it. These are the things that the director wastes his efforts on: instead of figuring out how to tell the story with dramatic power, he strives in vain for the artsy camera angle and a host of mislaid visual effects.

Francis Chagrin's music is nothing to write home about. Mostly, it's just too simple and non-inspiring, a collection of long-note organ chords rather aimlessly going nowhere in slow motion, later on with a light bit of percussion thrown in. This works to an extent for the first episode, lending a bit of a creepy atmosphere for the travellers' investigation of their ordinary but abandoned surroundings and indicating that something just isn't right. (My own experiments prove that Delia Derbyshire's stock tracks, used in "Inferno" [story no. 54], would work much better at achieving the same effect in these sequences). In later episodes though, the repetitive inappropriateness of Chagrin's organ chord music becomes too much to bear, doing nothing for the action scenes or the quiet expressions of human emotion and philosophy which the remainder of the story spends most of its time alternating between. The one scene where the music is truly of note is the filmed sequence of Daleks in the centre of London's most famous landmarks, which is one of the highlights that this version of the story offers.

Saved by the Outdoors

This is one of the few areas where the television version seems to offer something worthwhile - in its outdoor filmed sequences. These work in most cases, and save the episodes from being a complete and utter waste of viewers' time. The exterior mining sequences also work well, with Daleks on hand to supervise their human slaves working the mining cart and track, plus a few stock shots of miners drilling away - all this has a great sound montage, but begs for a good musical track to be complete. Episode One's exterior scenes are also satisfactory, but not brilliant. The driving sequences in episode four gain a sense of realism from the film of the truck, but while we get spectacle and plot movement, we are still denied the sense of character and menace that would make such sequences work better.

The television version is also unique in featuring a romance between Susan and David, and the two have many emotional scenes which are fairly well done for the most part - unlike the infamous exploits of Star Trek's Captain Kirk, or Blake's 7's Servalan, these scenes work for me because they actually lead somewhere in terms of series' development. Peter Fraser, playing David, often displays the exaggerated gestures and movements of an actor who is well-trained for the theatre, but who hasn't learned to restrain himself and underplay scenes with a subtlety that the zooming-in cinematic camera will naturally amplify. His entrance is way over the top, but he makes improvements later on as the story progresses and he gets some better written scenes.

The science lesson today, boys and girls, is magnetism. The television version offers such educational jewels as: "X equals gamma, which gives us about .... 80 degrees!" Say what? William Hartnell's excellent screen presence is regularly wasted in this story, either on fabricated nonsense like the above, or on unsatisfying encounters with Daleks (insert bad dialogue and lame Dalek voices here), or mostly by simply giving the Doctor very little to do throughout most of the story, relying on others to be rescued, carried, looked after, humoured, and fussed over. He is reduced to virtually a bystander in his one speaking scene in episode three and his two scenes in episode five.

And worst of all, he is absent from episode four altogether, in which a double faints for him at the beginning, David takes over the tasks that were originally scripted for him, and excuses are made for the Doctor's absence with minor alterations to dialogue which make the plot even more ridiculous than before. Doctor-less episodes are a sin, and a major one is committed here.

Thankfully, the final episode improves a bit. We finally hear one of the Daleks at least put some grit and menace into his voice as he advances on his adversaries. William Hartnell puts all his aces into this half-hour, first by coming to grips with the main plot of the story, and later with his very emotional personal sub-plot, which amounts to a fair quantity of quality screen time (at last). I'll save the detailed discussion of the conclusion for the In-depth Analysis version of this review, but suffice it to say that the heroics one usually comes to expect of the Doctor during later years of the show remain spread out amongst most of the regular and guest characters, with Barbara threatening to steal the show by using some of the traits of Tom Baker's Doctor!

This is a growing problem with the William Hartnell era, and in Terry Nation scripts in particular: The Doctor's companions often talk about him as though he was a great hero, yet when it comes to taking action and solving problems, it seems that they are doing most of the work, while the Doctor learns from them and takes more of the credit than is his due. William Hartnell's Doctor's presence and guidance is of importance in this story though, and he is thankfully right in there with the others making his own contributions.

William Hartnell saves his very best for last, and quite rightly too. There are the odd hammy and wooden moments in the final scenes, but most of it is actually quite excellent, particularly William Hartnell's portrayal. The camera angles covering the drama all work for a change, and the TARDIS's dematerialization is done with full technical excellence and glory.

And so this rather less than mediocre story ends on a more dramatic and emotional note, and one that is unique to this version of the tale. However, it is a gross injustice to limit our views of this narrative without also appreciating the big budget feature film version of it, where the main story could finally be done justice....

This story has become available on DVD and VHS video:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC in the U.S.
NTSC in Canada
PAL for the U.K.

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The comparison continues with the feature film version: "Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D."

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