Thursday, 18 June 2015

Doctor Who: Other Dimensions - Dr Who And The Daleks

Everyone knows it's the Doctor, not Doctor Who! Well, everyone except the makers of this cinematic version of our favourite show...

With it being a constant rumour nowadays that there might be a Doctor Who film in the works, it is often forgotten that there already have been two motion pictures based on Doctor Who. Produced at the height of 'Dalekmania', the two movies, titled Dr Who And The Daleks and Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD adapt the two first Dalek serials to the big-screen. With one important exception. Our hero is called Dr Who! Now, now, put down that sucker arm and let me explain why And The Daleks is actually a charming film.

Firstly, Peter Cushing - a great actor who played nearly as many iconic roles as his good friend Christopher Lee e.g. Dr Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Van Helsing, a Star Wars villain - is very endearing in the role. In a time before regeneration was invented (which makes Cushing the first second Doctor, if you see what I mean), he gives his own impression of Hartnell's incarnation but with less of the crotchety and more of the cuddly. He might not have the depth of our Time Lord hero but his absent-minded professor is a perfect fit for the film's tone. Likewise, his granddaughter Susan, who is much younger than Carole Ann Ford's version, is likeably played. Both - no disrespect to either Hartnell or Ford who grew into their roles - are perhaps more immediately appealing than their TV counterparts.

In terms of storytelling, the film retains the best ideas of the serial (the Eloi-Morlock rivalry of the Daleks and the Thals, the petrified jungle...) and improves on it, cutting out much of the padding from the 7-part original story. It also dares to correct history by making the Doctor's (sorry, Dr Who's) first journey in time and space be to face the Daleks, rather than cavemen.

But, of course, the true stars here are those pesky pepperpots. A joy to behold in all their technicolour glory, these are probably the most beautiful Daleks ever. That said, the Skarosians somewhat lack the intelligence of the TV versions - and some of the key features. Instead of death rays they shoot incapacitating gas and, unbelievably, they never utter the word 'exterminate!'

Which leads nicely on to what stops this and its (superior) sequel being beloved byWho fans - the many minor but significant changes to the source material. Rather than a mysterious alien, Dr Who is a human inventor whose time machine is Tardis, (no the) which doesn't make the iconic 'vworrp vworp' when it lands. Whereas the original Ian is the true hero of the show's early years, the film version is sadly played for comic relief. And let's not forget the dated, jazzy music in place of the show's greatest theme tune ever.

Yet despite the films' blasphemy, I can't help but smile when watching them. They're simply harmless, good old-fashioned fun. So contrary to popular opinion, as long as you are not expecting the Doctor Who we all know and love, the Daleks films really aren't a bad way to exterminate an evening.

The Daleks corner Dr Who, Susan and Ian - probably to ask them about all the odd continuity changes.

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