Sunday, December 13, 2009

"The Dalek Invasion of Earth" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here. A little under a year ago, I wrote about how the Daleks' first story "changed everything" for the then-brand new Doctor Who. Just under a year later, the Daleks returned to the show in a story that has just as much significance as their first.

In fact, "first" is a key word when discussing this story. The first cast change, as Carole Ann Ford left the show. The first major production change as David Whitaker departed as story editor. The first returning monster. The first time significant location filming was done using the principal cast. The end of the series' first production block, when a second season was at first in doubt, and then assured. Heck, this story was the first time Doctor Who filmed in a quarry!

But let's leave all of that aside for the moment and talk about the story itself. From the first moments of the first episode, the story grips us and keeps our attention through the following weeks...although I have to admit, it dips a bit during the fourth episode. Nation's script, with Whitaker's contributions, is about the triumph of the human spirit over incredible odds. A theme the show will come back to again and again, yes, but I'm not sure if Doctor Who ever again brought us such a stark illustration of those odds. Over the six episodes, we see the incredible devastation, both physical and (far more importantly) spiritual that the Dalek invasion has brought to humanity. We're introduced to rebels, struggling ineffectually against a foe they plainly don't fully understand (when the Daleks' plan is revealed, it takes everyone by surprise); they range from the adventuresome (David) to the crusader (Dortmun) to the cynic infected by despair (Jenny) to the pragmatic (Tyler). And yet, even the most optimistic of them are ultimately overcome by the scope of the destruction of humanity...until our friends, who are not of that time and have not been infected by despair, come to rally them, to investigate and to help the humans of the twenty-second century free themselves from the Daleks.

All right, I'll stop. I promise. Let's just say that this story wasn't merely groundbreaking, but possibly exceeded some of the similar stories that would follow it.

I'd be remiss in not talking about the departure of Susan. Despite the occasional bursts of character in stories like "Marco Polo" and "The Sensorites," I don't think anyone wouldn't be able to understand Carole Ann Ford's frustration at Susan's lack of development. Especially given how much Barbara and Ian received. Apparently, she made plenty of suggestions to the production team which were ignored (though what little I've heard of them has me grateful about that). Taking all of that into account, Ford still managed to portray a character who we've cared about (Ketina's annoyance with her screaming aside) and who it is believable that the Doctor, Barbara and Ian would care about. Indeed, the bond between the Doctor and Susan especially feels real; it's no surprise that William Hartnell was reportedly very upset at Ford's decision to leave the show. And, of course, Susan manages to leave on a high note, with one of the most believable romances in Doctor Who history. I'm pretty sure I mentioned how realistic the young love between Susan and David feels, youthful exuberance in the face of armageddon. We couldn't help but compare it to other "companion gets married off" stories to come and the Susan/David romance is leaps and bounds above almost all of them. Some fine writing from Nation and Whitaker.

And that gives us a good transition to talking about David Whitaker's departure as story editor. He had worked on the show for the first year of production, but as the production block ended, Whitaker decided to move on. He'd be replaced by a familiar name, Dennis Spooner, who had written the earlier story, "The Reign of Terror." Whitaker deserves a lot of credit for the show's success, having commissioned and, in some cases, done doctoring on many of the scripts as well as writing the character development filled "Inside the Spaceship." Although he would return to write scripts for the series (indeed, he wrote the story we'll begin next week), this story ends Whitaker's formal relationship as a member of the Doctor Who office. For more production information, check out Shannon Sullivan's page for this story.

And, after all these preliminaries, here are the links to our episode posts:
"World's End"
"The Daleks"
"Day of Reckoning"
"The End of Tomorrow"
"The Waking Ally"

And, as always, here is the official BBC episode guide page for this story.

Coming up next, a new companion and a new adventure! Until then, I remain


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