Dr Who: Daleks Invasion Earth 2150. A .D (1966 UK)

dr-who-and-the-daleks-1965-003-long-shot-with-daleks-fear-00m-n0t-3x4-cropThose colourful pepperpots are at it again…Although William Hartnell was the television Doctor at the time, for some reason he was not asked to play the role in the films, even though both were based upon television episodes which he had appeared in. The films make no mention of the Doctor being an alien timelord; he is presumed to be a human scientist / inventor, and this deviation from the TV series is the reason for Peter Cushing’s banishment from the official canon. Something else missing from the film is the television version’s very distinctive electronic theme tune. Not that I give a jot about that.

Yet in many ways the films remain faithful to the original concept. As in the original the Doctor has the ability to travel through space and time in his Tardis, a time machine which from the outside appears to be a police box. (In the sixties police boxes were a common sight on the streets of British cities; since 1969 they have largely been phased out, but the Tardis has always retained its original design). As in the original the Doctor is accompanied on his travels by female companions, in this case his niece Louise and his granddaughter Susan. (Susan also appeared in the early Hartnell episodes, although there she was played by Carole Anne Ford as a young woman in her early twenties; here she is played by Roberta Tovey as a young girl). Both films feature the Doctor’s most iconic enemies, the Daleks.

In some ways, in fact, the films look forward to the future of the franchise. In 1965 when the first film, “Dr. Who and the Daleks”, came out, only one actor had played the Doctor on television. Cushing’s interpretation of the role is quite different to Hartnell’s. Both Doctors are elderly, but whereas Hartnell’s was impatient and testy, Cushing’s is eccentric but kindly, a well-spoken English gentleman. Cushing may have influenced the development of the television series; after Hartnell was replaced by Patrick Troughton it became a feature of the franchise that whenever the Doctor “regenerated” himself his new incarnation was quite different, in both looks and personality, to the previous one. In his personality Cushing seems to prefigure Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor and in his dress Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor.

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The title, “Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.”, effectively summarizes the plot. The Doctor, Louise and Susan, accompanied by a London policeman named Tom Campbell, travel forward in time to the year 2150. They find that the Daleks have invaded Earth and imposed their rule on the human population. London has been reduced to ruins and its surviving inhabitants forced underground, where resistance to Dalek rule is forming. The Doctor assists these movements to liberate the planet from the Daleks. Although the story ostensibly takes place nearly two hundred years into the future, the recently-ruined city bears a much closer resemblance to the London of 1966 than to anything futuristic. Perhaps the film should have been titled “Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 1966 A.D.”

We even see an advertisement for Sugar Puffs, a popular breakfast cereal of the time. This was apparently a piece of product placement as the manufacturers were sponsoring the film. They obviously liked the idea that their products would still be popular in the 2100s. Objectively speaking, this is not a very good film. The acting is generally undistinguished, although Peter Cushing’s interpretation of the Doctor is as good as any, and in my view better than Hartnell’s. The attempts at comic relief, mostly involving Bernard Cribbins’s Tom, are never really successful. Like a number of science-fiction films, the “science” involved is pure fiction; the Daleks’ master-plan, apparently, is to remove the Earth’s core and replace it with a giant motor, thus turning the planet into a gigantic spaceship which the Daleks will use to return to their home planet. (It’s easy when you know how).

There are some curious permutations of geography; Bedfordshire, one of England’s least spectacular counties, has suddenly acquired mountains far more spectacular than the Dunstable Downs, and Wren’s famous spire of St-Dunstan-in-the-East seems to have relocated itself from the north bank of the Thames to the South. And the film suffers from that frequent curse of sixties sci-fi; cheap, dodgy-looking special effects. In 1963 Beatlemania erupted, lasting two to three years. In 1964 Dalekmania came into being, lasting less than two years. Such are the fate of these ‘manias’. This was not a success at the box office and a planned third Doctor Who film was cancelled. It was all too much for this chap below.

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