With iconic imagery of London that would remain unmatched until the classic emergence of the Cybermen from St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1968’s The Invasion, The Dalek Invasion of Earth was a ground breaking serial in Doctor Who’s history. The story was the subject of a number of significant firsts and lasts, including the earliest shots of the English capital’s tourist hotspots which are so celebrated that at least one has been reenacted for the forthcoming docudrama to celebrate Who’s 50th anniversary, An Adventure in Space and Time. The story was also the first to see the departure of a companion, Susan, and the first on screen kiss, between Susan and her fiancé, David. The Daleks made their only appearance with parabolic discs on their backs and the serial was also the second, and last, to be made into a feature film.
In the best tradition of Doctor Who, The Dalek Invasion of Earth involved the wild and improbable premise that Daleks invaded earth on or about 2164. Six months prior to arriving in their now stereotypical looking flying saucers, the Daleks had sent meteors bearing the plague to the earth which had decimated the continents of Africa, South America and Asia. Countries were destroyed and the world became fragmented into small, independent communities. Although considering themselves “masters of Earth”, the Daleks interest in earth was not the domination of its human population, but rather to use it as a spacecraft. Drilling to the core of the earth in Bedfordshire, the Daleks planned to remove its magnetic core, de-gravitize it, and then replace the core with a power system of their own making. The Daleks then intended to steer the earth throughout the universe. One would have thought it easier for the Daleks just to make more of their flying saucers, but alas, a rollicking good yarn that would not have been!
Given the Daleks’ anatomical disability, namely, their unfortunate endowment of a sucker and a mix-master like gun in lieu of hands, they naturally needed human help in their quest to drill to the earth’s centre. Having dominated the decimated human population, the Daleks robotized the intelligent males into drone like soldiers who responded to their orders. Almost everyone else was a slave in the Daleks’ mine in Bedfordshire. The few remaining “free” humans formed a resistance movement to fight the Daleks’ evil plan. The Doctor and his companions meet up with one such resistance group which was under the leadership of Dortmun, an incapacitated scientist confined to a wheel chair. One of these resistance members, David Campbell, was to become Susan’s fiancée, whilst another, Jenny, assisted Barbara in getting to Bedfordshire. Along the way Barbara has the glorious achievement of plowing down a group of Daleks whilst driving a truck.
In the course of the Doctor and his companions’ adventures, the Doctor is a captive in the Daleks’ spaceship and is almost robotized, Ian contends with a mutated creature called The Slyther and finds himself inside the bomb which will blow out the earth’s core, and Susan is almost eaten by alligators which now inhabit London’s sewers. Barbara and her companion Jenny are betrayed to the Daleks by two women from whom they seek refuge, and are then held captive with metal neck braces. After their ultimate victory over the Daleks, the Doctor, Barbara and Ian depart in the Tardis sans Susan. In the tear jerking conclusion, the Doctor locks his grand-daughter out of the ship and speaks to her through an intercom. As she is now a woman, she needs roots somewhere and David is the person who can give her those roots, “not a silly old duffer like me”, said the Doctor. Despite Susan’s protestations the Doctor leaves, but not before promising that one day he will be back. It is this oration which opens Who’s 20th anniversary special, The Five Doctors, which is the next occasion when the Doctor and Susan are seen together.
Akin to the first Dalek story, The Daleks, the writer, Terry Nation, drew upon Second World War imagery. Post Dalek invasion London has its genesis in the London Blitz. The Daleks are again a representation of the Nazis and are even seen to do Nazi salutes. They are the “masters of the Earth”. The Daleks make use of slave labour and communicate to the resistance by radio transmissions. Whilst most of the population is in grave fear of them, some self-interested individuals are prepared to co-operate with them for economic gain. Such is the case of the two women in the wood and the black market racketeer, Ashton.
Barbara, as always, is fabulous and puts on a particularly good show when attempting to outwit the Dalek leadership by muddling history. As stated previously, she plows through Daleks, unscathed, in a truck and it is Barbara who realizes that the Robomen are given orders by a central command. Taking over that microphone, she and the Doctor order the Robomen to turn on the Daleks. Unfortunately she is oblivious to the sexism of the resistance men when she is asked whether she can cook. Her reply of “I can get by” results in her being assigned to cooking duties because the resistance “need cooks”. If this serial was produced five years later then perhaps she would have baulked at the gendered stereotype. Clearly these urban guerillas had underestimated the resourcefulness of Barbara.
The character of Jenny is particularly strong for a woman in the early 1960s. Dortmun assures Barbara that Jenny isn’t callous, although the years of battling the Daleks has certainly left her hardened. When Barbara asks why she is constantly running from the Daleks her reply is that “I’m not running, I’m surviving”. Her rather arrogant nature doesn’t make for a particularly endearing personality and one is left wondering if this is a reflection of an underlying belief by Terry Nation that powerful women cannot also be “nice”.
Susan transforms from a girl to a woman in the course of this story as her relationship with David blossoms. She initially reject’s David’s proposal of marriage as her grandfather is old and now needs her. She didn’t want to have to make the choice between the stability that David offered, and the Doctor. The Doctor, from inside the Tardis, ultimately makes the decision for Susan which on the face of it appears harsh and unloving. David, however, reassures Susan that the Doctor knew that she could never leave him (David). That a relationship of such intensity could develop in the space of but a few days is indeed intriguing. It became a precedent, nonetheless, for romance linked companion departures in the future, such as the Fourth Doctor’s companion Leela, who remains on Gallifrey with her newly acquired love, Andred.
The Dalek Invasion of Earth marked the end of companion stability and the beginning of an almost revolving door of companions for the First Doctor. It is in the next serial, The Rescue, that we are introduced to the Doctor’s “grand-daughter substitute”, orphan Vicki. A new era will begin.
©Vivien Fleming, 2013.