The Doctor, along with his granddaughter Susan and her two schoolteachers Ian and Barbara, arrive in 22nd century London, only to find it deserted and in ruins. It soon transpires that the Daleks have invaded the planet and the people of earth who survived the Dalek’s initial attack now live in slavery.
An eerie, atmospheric opening episode is capped off with an amazing shot of a lone Dalek rising from beneath the River Thames. Its one of ‘60s Doctor Who’s finest special effects, and its scary as heck. One can just imagine the kids watching in 1964 scuttling for the back of the sofa.
The Doctor, realizing that Susan has developed strong feelings for resistance fighter David Campbell, locks the doors to the TARDIS, leaving his granddaughter to start a new life for herself in 2164AD. Before he departs, he delivers a beautiful, emotional speech, telling Susan to go forward and make a perfect life for herself.
A series regular makes its first appearance here. Yes, ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ is the first Doctor Who story to feature a quarry as a major location (though here it’s actually meant to be a quarry, not an alien planet). It’s John’s Hole Quarry in Dartford, in case you were eager to visit.
Episode 6 also marks the first cry of the word ‘Exterminate’ by the Daleks. They had previously used phrases like ‘exterminated’ or ‘extermination’, but it’s here that their catchphrase is properly spoken for the first time. Playgrounds were never the same again.
The events of this episode are revisited in Big Finish Production’s 2009 audio drama ‘An Earthly Child’, featuring Paul McGann as the Doctor, wherein he encounters Susan, many years later, to find her rebuilding the earth along with her son (and the Doctor’s great grandson), Alex. The Daleks returned to retake the planet in the 2011 audio dramas ‘Lucie Miller’/’To the Death’.
Dalek: “We are the masters of Earth! We are the masters of Earth! We are the masters of Earth!”
The Doctor: “One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. Goodbye, my dear. Goodbye, Susan.”
If the first Dalek serial helped Doctor Who gain in popularity, then it was ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ that cemented that popularity for many years to come. It’s Doctor Who’s first ever epic – the sense of scale here is incredibly impressive for ‘60s television; the sight of Daleks whizzing past major London landmarks alone is enough to give proceedings that epic feel.
The story also enforces the Daleks as the most evil creatures in the universe, never resorting to cheap do-overs, instead finding new and interesting ways for them to be utterly nasty!
The main plot is thin (Daleks want to mine the core of the earth) but it matters not. Writer Terry Nation constructs some truly interesting characters and situations for the regulars to interact with, with characters like the crippled but determined Dortmun, his trusted ally Jenny, and Susan’s revolutionary love interest David getting some strong development across the six episodes.
With great performances from the four regulars (especially from Hartnell and Carole Ann Ford), a strong, unrelenting story, and some truly ambitious apocalyptic imagery, there’s no doubt that ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ is the story that ensured the show’s longevity for many years to come. Watching it back now, it’s not hard to see why.
What’s your favourite First Doctor story? Let us know below…