OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 010
STORY NUMBER: 002
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 25 January 1964
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Richard Martin
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 10.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: The Beginning Boxset
"Tomorrow, we will be the masters of planet Skaro!"
When the Thals get to the Water they find Elyon gone. Susan and the Doctor are mapping the city from a distance looking for a way in to avoid the Daleks' surveillance devices. The Daleks discover the Neutron Bomb will take too long to prepare and consider another plan. In the cave system Ian, Barbara and the Thals find themselves confronted by dead end until Ganatus falls down a shaft discovering tunnels branching off from it. The Daleks detect the Thals activity outside the city but their rangerscopes are blinded by light that the Thals are reflecting using metals allowing the Doctor & Susan to sneak into the city unobserved. Antodus tells his brother Ganatus that he can go no further but Ganatus forces him to continue. The Daleks detect vibrations within the city and conclude that the Thals have entered it. The Doctor disables the power to the Daleks antennae but is so busy celebrating his own ingenuity that he fails to see Daleks advancing who capture him and Susan. The party in the tunnels find a wide chasm between them and the small ledge they must get to to continue their journey. The Daleks interrogate The Doctor and Susan. The Daleks tell them that they now plan to bombard the atmosphere with radiation from their nuclear reactors. Ian, Ganatus, Barbara and Kristas successfully make the jump across the chasm but when Antodus attempts to jump his falls off the ledge pulling Ganatus and Ian in with him via the rope connecting them.....
You can make a good argument that there has never been a more appropriately named Doctor Who episode! I find this an ordeal every time I watch it! When I watched this in 2010 I said:
My memory of these last three episodes is that they were long, boring and had very little of the Daleks in it. Well there's more Daleks than I thought but still not a lot. The problem is I can't work up any enthusiasm or distinguish between these Thals. A bunch of identically dressed similar looking blondes. Apparently two of the party in the tunnel are brothers, one of whom has just fallen down the shaft.I'm doing slightly better this time:
Ganatus & Antodus are the brothers, seen above - Antodus is on the right. He didn't want to come on this part of the expedition having seen what happened to the three other Thals in the original scouting party to the swamp but he and Ganatus are the only one with knowledge of the area. I've always had Antodus down as cowardly but watching his again I'm starting to think he's more traumatised by he's earlier experiences. Elyon is the one that disappeared at the swamp. Good trick there: we see the whirlpool disturbance in the water but we never see what actually drags Elyon from the bank. An unseen threat is always a decent trick to pull as it adds a sense of mystery and menace. Unfortunately it's then wasted because the next time we see this party they're trekking through the tunnels which is where they spend the rest of the episode. Walk through tunnels, fall down shaft, walk through tunnels, fall down chasm. I want more Dalek action. Actually my initial thoughts on the episode - not enough Daleks and not enough Dalek action - might be correct after all!
(for the record the final member of the party is Kristas. Apart from guard the camp at night last episode he's not done much!)
Then there's the Daleks. Whenever they do appear in this episode I get annoyed somehow or other! Firstly they only capture the Doctor because he's stupid enough to stand around congratulating himself on his own ingenuity sabotaging the Daleks systems. If he'd got a move on quicker they might have been safely away..... A pursuit down corridors would have been more dramatic than what we do get here!
Then we have the Daleks changing their plan. Again. OK I can cope with the idea of building another Neutron Bomb because the circumstances have changed and they now realise that they're dependant on the radiation (I can't cope with them never having realised that before in the preceding 500 years!) Now they can't get the Neutron Bomb ready soon enough so they decided to contaminate the atmosphere direct from the reactor instead. Why? Why introduce the "we can't get the bomb ready in time" plot element? I can't see the sense in it and, having seen episode 7, can't see any function that keeping the bomb in wouldn't serve. Yes it gives the Daleks some screen time earlier in the episode but that could have been done equally well by reporting that preparations on the bomb are proceeding as planned!
This episode makes clear that the Daleks can detect movement in their city via vibrations and monitor the approaches to the city. So how did the Doctor and co manage to wander around unchallenged for so so long?
It's a mess this episode. It's an episode of the 40s Flash Gordon series that Terry Nation would have seen in his younger days with the serial numbers filed off. I want to see more Daleks and more of their city. Instead we go for a trek through some caves. I've always thought the Daleks is a game of two halves: the first four episodes and the last three and this just confirms it.