Friday, 13 May 2011

Dr Who at the Movies

Dr. Who and the Daleks
Since their introduction early in the first series of the BBC's Doctor Who(1963-89; 2005-), the Daleks - warlike, metal-cased inhabitants of the planet Skaro - had captured the imagination of a public fascinated by new technology and the burgeoning space age. Dr. Who and the Daleks saw them transferred to the big screen, in colour, for the first time.

The Daleks were a merchandiser's dream. Their inhuman likeness was ubiquitous by the mid-1960s, appearing in books, comics, and newspaper cartoons; on pencils, toys, masks and bedroom slippers. Selfridges even designed a Dalek cake for Christmas 1965. Spotting a sure-fire money-spinner, producer Milton Subotsky acted quickly to secure screen rights toDoctor Who for his Amicus company. According to Amicus historian Allan Bryce, Subotsky, a shrewd negotiator, persuaded the BBC and Dalek creator Terry Nation to let his company make a film version of the first televised Dalek serial, The Daleks, with options for two projected sequels, for the knockdown price of £500. To secure funding and distribution, this family-orientated film was to be deliberately distanced from the horrific fare Amicus was generally known for, and was released under the newly created AARU production banner.
Dr. Who and the Daleks
William Hartnell, the Doctor in the television series, but unknown in America, was replaced with the internationally bankable Peter Cushing. As always, Cushing approached his role with conviction, but his character, though still eccentric, was transformed from Hartnell's cantankerous, rootless, mysterious alien time traveller into a twinkle-eyed, kiddie-friendly suburban family man. The result is that Cushing's Who is distinctly sicklier and soppier than his abrasive television counterpart, and his adventures sometimes resemble a foolhardy and awkwardly protracted family outing. Terry Nation, for one, was unhappy with this dilution of the character. "He was a little too gentle... too kindly and too warm. The thing that Bill (Hartnell) had was this irascibility... he was a bad tempered, old, curmudgeonly figure... I'd like to have seen more of that in the character."

Dr. Who and the Daleks



Published by


Volume 32, No.379, August 1965, page 123


Dr. Who is showing off his latest invention, a time machine, to his granddaughters Barbara and Susan, and Barbara's boy-friend Ian, when Ian accidentally sets it in motion. They land in a petrified forest on another planet, where they discover a strange city in which they are trapped by the Daleks - mobile metal cones which apparently shield some form of life. They learn that, after the planet was ravaged by a neutron war, the Daleks built their city and cones as protection against the polluted air; another tribe, the Thals, are able to live in the forest as they possess a drug which immunises them against radioactivity. Holding the others as hostages, the Daleks send Susan to the Thals for a sample of the drug, offering food in exchange if they will come to the city. Returning with the drug (which the Daleks find has no effect on them), Susan tells her friends that the Thals are a peaceful race whom the Daleks obviously intend to destroy; they manage to escape, warn off the Thals, and persuade them to take the initiative against the Daleks, who are planning to explode a huge bomb which will make the planet uninhabitable to all outside the city. Led by their four Earth friends, the Thals successfully attack and destroy the Daleks and their city before the bomb goes off. Regretfully, Dr. Who, Barbara, Susan and Ian say goodbye to their new friends and climb aboard the time machine.

A patchy piece of juvenile science fiction. The settings are quite effective in a Christmas pantomime way, while the Daleks themselves - mobile pillar-boxes with flickering lights on top, weaving proboscises, and hesitantly guttural voices - make admirable villains. Against this, however, must be set some crude slapstick from Roy Castle, and absent-minded bumbling from Peter Cushing: these flabby attempts at humour only succeed in slowing down the action. And the Thals, looking and sounding like ballet dancers with their golden hair-dos, heavy eye-shadow and camp speech, must be the wettest tribe on record.

The Monthly Film Bulletin was published by the British Film Institute between 1934 and 1991. Initially aimed at distributors and exhibitors as well as filmgoers, it carried reviews and details of all UK film releases. In 1991, the Bulletin was absorbed by Sight and Sound magazine.

No comments:

Post a Comment