Friday, 17 October 2014

006 The Daleks Episode 2: The Survivors

EPISODE: The Daleks Episode 2: The Survivors
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 28 December 1963
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 6.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: DVD - The Beginning Boxset

"You will move ahead of us and follow my directions. This way. Immediately."

This is the episode that changed everything for Doctor Who.

The Doctor, Ian & Susan hunt for the missing Barbara. Following a ticking noise they discover a room containing instrumentation and a Geiger Counter that reveals the radiation level is dangerously high. They realise they are suffering from Radiation Sickness. The Doctor deduces a Neutron Bomb has been used, destroying tissue but leaving the city intact. The Doctor reveals that he deceived them by saying the fluid link was faulty. The Doctor wants to return to the ship but Ian insist they stay and find Barbara. They leave the room and find themselves surrounded by machine creatures.


The machine creatures demand the travellers come with them but when Ian tries to run away he is shot and finds his legs paralysed. Susan & The Doctor carry him to a sealed room where they are reunited with Barbara. She tells them how she was captured and Ian tells her that she has radiation sickness. Their captors observe them, noticing the radiation levels have fallen in the last 200 days. They question the Doctor, accusing him of being one of the Thal people and that his supply of drugs has failed. The Doctor denies they are Thals and say they have no drugs. He recalls the phials they found at the Tardis, realising that they must be the Thal drugs, and suggests that one of them goes to fetch them under guard. His captor reveals that they cannot move outside the city so the Doctor says one of them will go with the rest remaining behind. He asks about the Thals and his captors reveal that they, the Daleks, fought a Neutronic War 500 years ago. The Dalek survivors stayed in the city inside their machines while what little Thals remained outside are believed to have become hideously mutated. Their survival tells the Daleks that the Thals must have had a drug to survive. Ian is still having trouble standing and walking and both Barbara and the Doctor are too weak so Susan elects to make the journey back to the Tardis for the drugs. The Daleks monitor Susan's progress until she disappears from their instruments when she enters the jungle. They reveal that they plan to take the drugs away from her when she returns and let the prisoners die. As Susan struggles on through her journey a cloaked being stalks her close behind. In the cell the Doctor & Barbara are deteriorating, burning up in a fever while the Daleks monitor their condition. Susan reaches the safety of the Tardis and locates the drugs. Remembering Ian's words to go straight there and straight back she prepares to start back to the city as Thunder and Lightening rage outside the ship.


If you approach this episode expecting to see mass exterminations on the Daleks TV d├ębut then you're in for a bit of a shock: nobody dies this week and we don't even hear the Daleks famous catchphrase: we'll get close later on in the story but the word Exterminate doesn't appear in any of these 7 episodes. We do get to see the Daleks' guns fired, using the now famous negative effect, but here it to paralyse Ian rather than to kill him. No the main thrust of this episode is Who and What are the Daleks. Barbara asks the crucial question early on:

"Ian, do you think they really are just machines? Do you think there's someone inside them?"
which gains a giggle from Susan as if to say "Oh what a silly suggestion".


By the end of the episode we'll have an answer as the Daleks question the Doctor and he in turn asks questions of them:

"Over five hundred years ago there were two races on this planet. We, the Daleks, and the Thals. After the neutronic war, our Dalek forefathers retired into the city, protected by our machines."
With a little variation in the detail that remains the basis for the Daleks to this day. Eleven and a bit years later Genesis of the Daleks will show us the climax of that war and the emergence of the Daleks but really all you need to know is encapsulated in those sentences. The Dalek tells us more though:
"We cannot move outside the city."
The reason why will be revealed next episode. Needless to say this weakness will be swiftly dealt with on later appearances and (largely) forgotten afterwards. You do wonder quite how the Daleks in this city came to be confined there..... We also discover a lot about their foes in that war, the Thals:
"Most of them perished in the war, but we know that there are survivors. They must be disgustingly mutated, but the fact that they have survived tells us they must have a drug that preserves the life force. "
which allows the Doctor to deduce that the phials left at the Tardis are the Thals drug. Throughout the episode there's a sense of menace from the Daleks, but a lack of outright actual evil. These are creatures who have been in their city for 500 years. The Time Travellers are likely the first visitors they've had in a long long time so a little bit of caution against those they find inside their city isn't too surprising. It's only toward the end of the episode, after Susan has been dispatched to fetch the drugs, that a darker edge starts to emerge
"If she returns with the drugs, am I to allow the prisoners to use it?"
"No. They will die in time. There only value is in bringing us enough of the Thal drug to duplicate it for our own use."
"Yes, at last we have a chance."

"The Old Man is dying"
"Then he must die. There is no help we can give him"


Present in the control room scenes is a sound that's still used in the series to this day: the heart beat of the Dalek Control Room noise. My copy of Doctor Who - The 50th Anniversary Collection (CD) credits this to the story's composer Tristram Cary rather than as a special effects piece of music. It's a very evocative sound: you feel like you that you are in a Dalek base you hear it. It's on YouTube at if you need a reminder of what it sounds like.

Unfortunately there's a statement, made by Barbara, in this episode that will haunt the Daleks for years to come:

"they moved me from floor to floor, always in lifts."
There, on their very first appearance, is the origin of the myth that the Daleks can't climb stairs! We'll come back to this point next episode.

As well as designing the sets for the story Raymond Cusick also came up with the Dalek design based on a brief description from writer Terry Nation:

"Hideous machine-like creatures, they are legless, moving on a round base. They have no human features. A lens on a flexible shaft acts as an eye. Arms with mechanical grips for hands."
Construction of the design was outsourced to a firm called Shawcraft models who produced the finished props. A testament to the design is that it was barely altered over the original series of Doctor Who. In the first two stories they look a little different with rings around their middle instead of the more familiar upright slats that are introduced in the Chase. For more on the Dalek design visit Dalek 6388: The Dead Planet

This episode was recorded the night that president Kennedy was shot, November 22nd 1963 and was the last episode of Doctor Who to be filmed before the series started on television. I saw the first few minutes of it, right up until they were leaving the instrument room when I was at secondary school (See The Daleks: The Dead Planet for more details) and had to stop just as the Daleks were about to appear! I had to wait till 1992 to see it all the way through when it was bought for me for Christmas..... and I got two copies,one from my parents and one from my friends. The parents copy went back in exchange for something else, I remember not what!

Sydney Newman, one of the television executives instrumental inn the creation of Doctor Who - see the Origins documentary on Doctor Who - The Beginning DVD Boxset - famously said he wanted no "bug eyed monsters" in his television show. When he saw the Daleks he exploded, but the Producer, Verity Lambert, convinced him that these were different and he allowed himself to be over-ruled. Interviewed on the subject he said he didn't want to do the Daleks and didn't want to do the Forsythe saga which shows how good a television producer he was! Many years later Newman & Lambert would donate their first names to the fictional parents of the human Doctor in Human Nature.

Daleks writer Terry Nation would later use the title of this episode for his 1975 TV Series Survivors.

This episode was broadcast between Christmas 1963 and New Year 1964 and is the last episode of Doctor Who broadcast in 1963.

No comments:

Post a Comment