Terry Nation’s Dalek Invasion of Earth is probably (in fact almost certainly) my favourite First Doctor tale. Although old enough I don’t in fact remember any First Doctor stories being broadcast and have actually not seen many since so maybe this is a dubious accolade though I suspect I may be right and although this (historically) can not contend with the first Dalek story for setting the agenda for the show, I suggest that on many levels this is a better story. The picture I have chosen is from near the beginning – the temporal adventurers have landed in what appears to be home for Barbara and Ian, as yet they know now what is to come. The TARDIS is amusingly shown with windows open! Stay with us as we explore the future or the year 2174 (or 2150 if you go with the film version, or 2157 according to later stories)!
London in the future is all but deserted; we find out that the Daleks have invaded the Earth and taken over with the aid of their slaves the Robomen. They are digging a hole in Bedfordshire to allow a mighty engine to be inserted into the Earth’s core making the whole planet into a massive space travelling vehicle!
There follows encounters with resistance, capture, escape and eventual flight to Bedfordshire. Life in a Dalek mine is shown in all its grim reality and most disturbing of all is that on the way Barbara is actually betrayed by an old woman and her daughter all for some food. This suggests that maybe the Daleks are not the most despicable alien faced by the Doctor over the years after all.
Eventually the mine shaft is sabotaged, humanity saved and Daleks defeated. The story ends with Susan being left behind to make a new life in the ruins with a man she has fallen in love with.
The acting and writing is for the most part strong. The lack of CGI means that story telling didn’t rely on effects but on the quality of the performance. There is something very powerful about the simple Dalek emergence from the Thames and the casual way they dominate the streets of London.
At six-parts it feels stretched and the whole episode with the monster around the mine camp adds little of any value. Put that to one side and this is a tremendous second outing for the Daleks!
The Importance to canon
Three main reasons in order (I think) of significance:
- The Daleks are now established, evil in the extreme and throw the word exterminate around as though they invented it
- The whole stealing the Earth concept would be repeated for the Tenth Doctor in The Stolen Earth and also re-visited in the end of the Ballad of Lucie Miller by Big Finish the last season of Eighth Doctor Adventures (see here)
- This is the story where the Doctor leaves Susan behind as he knows she should stay and be with David Campbell. This is a pivotal re-shaping of the core crew and an event that (Big Finish and dodgy Eastenders specials apart) hangs long over the whole show.
Why else is this remarkable?
For me the passage of time has helped make the 60s East London Docks seem more strange then they could ever have seen at the time and I find myself moved by the discontinuity of the unreachable past posing as the future yet to be. Attempting also to reflect on how this would have played at the time to a public familiar with very little in the way of sci-fi and inevitably seeing a version of H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds perhaps though here salvation is won through human endeavour and not through the intervention of microbes!