Planet of the Daleks (1973)

Planet of the Daleks follows on immediately from Frontier in Space, except there are no Ogrons, no Draconians and most notably, No Master. What we do have as the title suggests are Daleks. Written by Terry Nation (creator of the Daleks), this is the first time that Nation had written for Doctor Who since The Daleks Master Plan in 1965/66. A lot of people have commented on how it’s basically a remake of the very first Dalek story back in 1963. They have a point up to a certain point, the Dalek does encounter a group of Thals who are battling against the Daleks and they become infected with a fungus (in the 1963 story they get radiation poisoning) and one of them climbs inside a Dalek to take the rest into the city to pose as prisoners. But I think that there is a lot more to this story than most people give it credit for.

There are some fantastic scenes in this story. The first being the scenes in the ice tunnels. They were a great creation of Nation’s and they didn’t appear in any previous stories (to my knowledge). Then there were the scenes set in that room with the shaft that leads to the surface. The actual floating on the characters was well directed and very enjoyable. I like the final scene between the Doctor, Jo and the Thals where the Doctor tells the Thals not to glamorise the events on Spiridon. This was a lovely moment which could be used in today’s stories where people are often portrayed as action heroes. This is typical of the Letts era where morals would be woven into a story, even as late as the end of Episode Six they manage to slip one in.

Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning put in great performances in this story. With the Doctor out for the early part of Episode 1, this allowed Katy Manning to lead the story and actually be quite smart in a weird way. That is until she gets covered with the fungus. Jon Pertwee spends most of his time with the Thals but his sadness when he thought Jo had been killed was just as impressive as his relief when he discovers that she is alive. The friendship between these two is more than just on screen and it’s one of the reasons why this era of Doctor Who is so strong. Even the Thals cast is good which is an improvement on the 1963 Thals. The Thals we meet in this story are people who don’t want to be there but will fight to survive and escape. Prentis Hancock (Vaber) was good as someone who seemed to do anything to escape even if it were doomed to fail. His constant rows with Taron were important to both characters. Bernard Horsfall (Taron) is an actor I think is great in every Doctor Who story he appears in. Taron is the opposite of Vaber and likes to be cautious. Horsfall is believable as someone who has become leader by default and doesn’t particularly like being in command. Jane How (Rebec) was a late cast inclusion as she appeared in Episode 3 but her involvement is just as important as everyone’s else. This was a time where female characters were starting to become more like the male characters. She loves Taron and this adds another element to the story. Credit for Terry Nation who seems to have given every character a purpose and more importantly the actors used were great. David Maloney is one of the best directors in Doctor Who history and this is another well directed and well cast story.

The release of this story on DVD in 2009 was memorable because for the first time since it was transmitted, Episode 3 could be seen in colour. This was done and when I was watching episodes one and two I was wondering whether it would match the other five episodes and I am relieved to say that it does. If I didn’t know any better I would say it was the original version. Whenever I watch Planet of the Daleks, I am impressed with just how good it is. Ok some of the things in it are taken from previous Dalek stories but that doesn’t matter. If something’s not broke, don’t fix it. It’s just sad that this is the penultimate story for Jo Grant.

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