Looking for Barbara, the Doctor, Ian and Susan discover that they have been exposed to lethal doses of radiation. The travellers are confronted by the city’s inhabitants – the Daleks!
So, in the first episode of The Daleks, we got very little Dalek; we got a plunger and that’s it. Thankfully, in this instalment of the story, we might get a bit more. Like maybe an eyestalk or, if we’re lucky, an entire Dalek!
We start the episode with the Doctor, Susan and Ian looking for Barbara, as she’s gone missing. Even though it’s Ian and Susan leading the search, it’s nice that the Doctor too is at least attempting to try to find her. Whilst searching for the missing schoolteacher, the TARDIS gang discover some form of lab; which was the intention in the first place. The Doctor quickly learns about the radiation and Ian is rightly miffed.
As the Doctor is not only the central character of the episode, but the central character of a show that has run for over half a century, I find it fascinating to see the character develop as he matures and ages. I know that regeneration (“What’s that?” asks a viewer in 1963 watching this episode for the first time) rewrites a lot of the Doctor’s mannerisms as well as his looks, but any character arc that can last over fifty years interests me. Within the first five minutes of the second episode, I believe that we get a great insight to the First Doctor’s character, as he admits to Ian and Susan that he lied about the Fluid Link. Whilst some might see this as just a maguffin, the fact that the Doctor’s curiosity alone, and not necessity, got the four leads in danger is something of note in my opinion. What’s more, the fact that the Doctor admits that he’s made a mistake in his curiosity also shows this relatively new audience that the Doctor will admit when he makes mistakes.
Now’s the point in the review where I gush about the Daleks. From the first moment we get a good and proper look at them, they’re undoubtedly the merciless machines from Skaro. It’s a true testament to the design in the Daleks that these pepper pots with plungers as a design has lasted longer than most other aspects of the show. Everything from their aesthetic to their voices to the way they glide is almost the same today as it was in 1963. If you’ve only been a fan of the show since the revival in 2005 and have never seen a classic episode, watch the Daleks to jump on board. They’re familiar and they’re in a strange way comforting. The Daleks are timeless. Long live the Daleks!
There’s a sense of familiarity too with the format of The Daleks compared to An Unearthly Child; the first episode we’re introduced to the location somewhat and then, in the second, the TARDIS gang find themselves as prisoners to whoever they’ve impeded. Last story it was the Tribe of Gum, this time it’s the Daleks. Barbara is quite rightly dejected too, if I were in her position, I’d be fed up.
Whilst Ian, Barbara and Susan are kept in their cell, the Doctor’s negotiations with the Daleks go about as well as you can expect. We get some nice exposition too, about the war between the Daleks and the Thals. (I wonder if the show will ever revisit that at all?)
If there’s one thing I love about this second episode is the fact that the writers made it so that Susan, the youngest and arguably the most vulnerable of this TARDIS gang, has to go through the wilderness of the jungle and back towards the TARDIS alone; as it really gave Carole Ann Ford the chance to show her acting prowess. Up until now, Susan has mainly been asking questions, being slightly odd and screaming; but now, this is her moment.
Compared to the last episodes cliffhanger, the conclusion of the second episode of The Daleks is nowhere near as strong or as memorable; Susan stumbling though a forest, the Daleks are plotting, and the Doctor, Ian and Barbara are getting dangerously sweaty. Then Susan gets into the TARDIS and has a breather, despite Ian telling her that she has to hurry. Then it just kinda ends, which is a shame because this was a much meatier episode compared to the previous one. Oh well.