The travellers venture out on to the surface of a new world. Everything is dead, but beyond a petrified jungle they see a huge metal city which the Doctor is determined to explore…
Susan Foreman, and, to be fair, the Doctor, Ian and Barbara, don’t know that a preliminary look at a VITAL READING shouldn’t be the only check that you do. If I had a TARDIS and I knew there was a radiation detector, I’d do more than give it the cautionary glance. Just think, if the Doctor had done this at the end of An Unearthly Child, or at the beginning of The Daleks, then maybe the Time War would never have happened. Who knows? Anyway, I think I’ve talked enough about the first four seconds of the episode, and I should move on into the realm of certainty from the realm of the possibility.
The TARDIS gang explore their new location and they find themselves in a jungle. I’ve never noticed it before, but it’s probably reused from the forest in the previous episode. Even in 1963, the BBC knew how to maximise it’s assets.
I don’t like picking faults with the classic episodes, or any episode of Doctor Who for that matter; because, and this may shock a few of you, but I love Doctor Who. However. When Ian and Barbara realise that they’re not on Earth any more, their reaction is… less than expected. They’ve had a journey in the TARDIS, sure; they’ve understood that it’s bigger on the inside and it can travel through time and space, but when they finally find themselves on an alien world that they know supports some form of life? They look so disinterested. It’s odd.
Barbara is such a tragically misused character in these first two stories, and there’s a moment in the first episode of The Daleks that just seemed to highlight it for me. Once the Doctor discovers the city on Skaro, he wants to go and have a look, and Barbara, quite rightly, doesn’t want to go. In later episodes, this kind of request would have been discussed, weighing up the pros and cons for each outcome, but nope. The Doctor does let everyone go back to the TARDIS as it’s getting dark, but he’s still adamant that he wants to explore the city. Yet again,
Considering in the previous paragraph I criticise the lack of character development that Barbara gets, there is a small moment where the Doctor asks her to talk to Susan as she’s upset; and it may well be one of my favourite moments in the entire episode. If you read my reviews of Big Finish or the Initial Thoughts articles of Series 10 (I’ve just realised that writing that is almost like a little time capsule as where the site is as writing this), then you’ll know that I’m a sucker for the smaller moments. They matter too. This conversation between Susan and Barbara really does highlight that for me.
Since you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already seen The Daleks, and you’re just curious as to what my opinion is, so let me just talk about the scene where the Fluid Link leaks. Don’t you think that the Doctor acts like a child who’s hatched a cunning plan so he can do what he wants? From Hartnell’s performance, I genuinely wondered if the Doctor needed that mercury to fix the link, or whether it was just an excuse to go into the city. He’s such a kid at hearts.
Once the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara arrive in the city, it seems that they begin to succumb to the effects of the radiation; and then Ian has the bright idea of doing a Scooby-Doo and splitting up. Hasn’t he learned anything since he was nearly killed by cavemen? Strength in numbers!
The direction when Barbara is exploring the city on her own is some of the most creative and experimental that the show has used up to this point (yes, I know there’s only been five episodes so far) and I for one, loved it. You really got that sense of being in the unknown and a sense of foreboding; Christopher Barry did a really good job.
Now we can talk about that cliffhanger; and boy what a cliffhanger it is. I genuinely think that the first cliffhanger from The Daleks is one of the most iconic in the shows history. It leaves so many questions unanswered, and I wish I was around in 1963 to see what the public reaction was like. If only I had a TARDIS…