On this episode of Daleks Aren’t Robots!? we return to Hartnell and to the Daleks as we also say goodbye to a companion who has been with us from the beginning.
Daleks Aren’t Robots!? is a podcast in which two Whovian friends take two non-Whovians on a deep dive through the show from the very beginning.
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Theme: Garage – Monplaisir
Podcast Contents Include
Editor’s Note: The following are my original notes for the podcast, slightly edited for readability. They’re very far from the full contents of the pod, though. – Kari
The Tardis FINALLY reaches London but it’s not the London Ian and Barbara came from. We know this because there’s a sign that says “Emergency Regulations: It is forbidden to dump bodies into the river.” Despite this a guy immediately dumps himself into the river.
Susan gets hurt trying to figure out when they are, the Tardis’s door gets blocked by rubble and the men go off to look for a way to remove the rubble. Some rebels show up and there is a flying saucer that is adorable. The boys find a whip and a guy packed into a box, which like… no comment.
Then a Dalek comes OUT OF THE WATER. There are aquatic Daleks now? WHAT.
It is the future, 2164. The Daleks are “masters of the planet,” are digging under Bedfordshire, and are able to turn humans into robots, but there’s still human resistance. The boys get taken onto the saucer, the girls meet more resistance people and the rebels plan to attack the Daleks. There’s a LOT of stuff with the rebels, a lot of whom die, and/or become robo-men. Eventually they go to Bedfordshire and find out the Daleks utterly absurd plan, which is to replace the planet’s core with an engine and turn the whole thing into a spaceship, which is not how any of this works, but whatever.
Barbara runs some Daleks over with a truck, a tiny alligator in a sewer menaces Susan, and a Dalek keeps a hilariously adorable monster called a Slyther as a pet. Everyone is reminded that the Daleks ARE the Nazis, actually, right down to firebombing London and being very fashy.
Eventually they manage to use the Daleks’ system to tell the robo-men to turn on the Daleks, there’s a massive rebellion and the Daleks are either killed or chased away, exploding into stock footage.
One of the rebels asks Susan to stay and she doesn’t want to have to choose between him and her grandfather, so the Doctor chooses for her and locks her out of the Tardis. She doesn’t object, though, and Susan leaves the show.
THEY STOPPED SPLITTING UP ON PURPOSE.
- Susan leaves the show in this episode, which kinda sucks. While I can totally buy that she falls for the rebel David, there’s not enough of this relationship shown to make it plausible. Also, she’s given a few lines about how she doesn’t really have an identity, which is bull, and that they always just leave planets when there are problems. The thing is Susan HAS an identity and a pretty great character… when the writers bother with her at all. If only she’d stayed as smart and cool as she was in the first serial!
- The Doctor has some great moments in this one. His speech at the end to Susan is really touching, and he doesn’t ACTUALLY take the decision wholly out of her hands–had she said anything to stop him he probably wouldn’t have left her. He says some condescending stuff to her earlier on but in a way that makes it clear that he doesn’t really believe it, about how she needs to be “taken in hand” and stuff. There’s also a great series of scenes where he solves a Dalek puzzle and brags about how smart he is, only to be dragged away by the Daleks because he just proved he’s smart enough to be a robo-man. Oops.
- Barbara is a boss here, as usual. She bravely escapes from the Daleks, helps the rebels out regardless of what that entails, and bowls for Daleks while driving a massive freaking truck, which was awesome. She’s paired with a rebel woman for a lot of this episode and she’s by far the more active and decisive of the two. She even bullshits the Dalek leaders to try to get to the transmitter so she can tell the Robo-Men to rebel, but this doesn’t work. Eventually this plan IS used to win, though!
- Ian is also pretty great in this episode. He has come a LONG way, and not only does he use his Action Physicist powers to good effect, evading Daleks and the Slyther, but he ALSO is responsible for the ultimate failure of their plan, because he puts some sticks in the way of their “destroy the core” capsule thingy.
- The Tardis. Is mostly under the rubble in this episode, probably because no one has fed her. Why do they keep parking the Tardis in the worst possible places?
THE GUEST STARS
Honestly there are a lot of rebels and most of them aren’t that memorable but at least do have a couple character traits.
- Not Churchill Guy: Is a “smart” rebel and makes bombs to use against the Daleks, but ends up killing himself when he thinks he’d stop Barb and Blondie from escaping. His bombs don’t really work–are they meant to be an analogy for what if we didn’t have the atomic bomb?
- Blondie: The most prominent female rebel, she has been resisting the Daleks a long time and is kind of worn down from it, but she’s still doing it and she’s still brave and smart.
- David: The guy Susan stays behind with. He’s brave and seems nice but like… we don’t know him that well. They have a couple good moments together but it’s not enough and he’s not compelling enough to make it work because the actor just doesn’t have the time to do it.
- There are a couple other rebels that get nice vignettes, like the guy who is just looking for his brother, who finds that he has been turned into a robo-man and then is killed by said robo-man brother. Then there’s a greedy war profiteer black marketer who is killed by the Slyther. And a couple others.
There are two women living in the woods who betray Barb and Blondie to the Daleks and receive food from it. While the show clearly doesn’t approve of this action they aren’t portrayed as negatively as they could have been.
- Clearly my comments about the Daleks from the previous episode went back in time and Terry Nation heard them because this episode really hammers it home: THE DALEKS ARE THE NAZIS. They firebomb London. They have a leader called a Commandant. The Daleks make a Selection from their prisoners to decide who becomes robo-men. They enslave and brainwash people and use them against their fellows, like the sonderkommandos. Some of the imagery looks like it could have been taken directly from the actual Blitz and I think this would have hit home MUCH HARDER with audiences that fresh from World War II and the Nazi bombings they would have experienced or heard their parents talk about.
- I feel like Nation really asked himself “what would a British resistance have looked like?” and just made that. Everyone has a stiff upper lip, even those who are exhausted by all the fighting and only one guy seems to be genuinely villainous. Even the women who betray Barb and Blondie are mostly just desperate.
- The Daleks now have air power and can submerse themselves in the river. They are no longer bound to roll only on metal and seem significantly faster too. They also come in multiple colors now, including black and striped, though it’s still black and white so it’s kind of hard to tell what other colors they are.
- There is now a Dalek leader with a voice slightly different than those of the others. Is this where Trek got the Borg Queen from?
- Well, we’re back in London. The scenes of the group sneaking around London and evading Daleks and robo-men are amazing and wonderful and I love them.
- It’s also a decayed London. Some places look pretty decayed, others don’t, it just kind of depends, but overall they did a great job. The “It is forbidden to dump bodies into the river” sign is kind of iconic.
- What were the connections with World War II in this movie?
- There was some stock footage in this movie and I wondered if they actually used any real footage from World War II?
- Why did Carole Ann Ford leave? What was her career like afterward, and how did she feel about being part of the Who phenomenon?
- Why did they write Susan leaving as they did?
- How many Daleks did they have for this serial? I can tell there are more but are there more than 4? What color WERE they IRL?
- What locations did they shoot at and what was done on set?
- Were there toys? What about soap? Dalek soap? Is there Dalek soap?
This episode drags a bit, and honestly there are too many characters. They should have cut some of the rebels and given more time to David to make Susan’s departure more plausible. Overall, though, it’s pretty well paced and beautifully filmed, especially given the budget they were probably working with, and so I’d say 4/4 Daleks for this one. It’s everything I want from a Doctor Who so even though it sometimes drags a bit things are still HAPPENING during the dragging parts.
- DVD text Commentary
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