The first outing, Dr. Who & the Daleks (released at the height of Dalekmania in 1965), takes William Hartnell’s original seven-part televised Doctor Who story, ‘The Daleks’, edits the story down into a manageable 80 minutes or so but still, incredibly, manages to outstay its welcome.
Cushing’s portrayal is rather too comical in this debut (a trait that he would rein in for the sequel) and Roy Castle as Ian is also playing it for laughs – so the feel is light-hearted, despite the evil of the foe they encounter. The Daleks are impressive, however, as is their sumptuous city and these are the moments that work best.
Sadly their Skaro-sharing adversaries, The Thals, are a rather bland lot though striking in appearance. Their sympathetic and helpful nature is all very well, but one cannot really blame the Daleks for wanting to exterminate this wet rag of a race.
Faring much better, though not at the box office, is the 1966 sequel, Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.. Like its predecessor, it would take an already existing story, the classic six-parter ‘The Dalek Invasion Of Earth’ (also starring William Hartnell) and transform it to the big screen.
And what a transformation. The levity is still present, thanks to lovely Bernard Cribbins, but the malevolence of the Daleks and the repercussions of their invasion is perfectly realised.
London is starkly and almost brutally realised as Dr. Who and his chums are split up. Cushing puts in a much more considered role here, much more so, in fact, than some of his televisual counterparts. Popping up as the shady character Brockley (a man who takes sides with whoever can pay him the most) is television Who legend, Philip Madoc, giving a complexity and liveability to a dark and murky role.
Again it’s the Daleks who are the most impressive beasts on display and their spaceship is still a thing to behold, all these years on. The set-pieces involving them (robomen attacks and high speed van chases to name two) are terrific, showing them off to be a much more formidable force than we saw in their cinematic debut.
It’s an absolutely thrilling and hugely enjoyable film; a pity as it seems the filmmakers just got going with the sequel. We’re sure a big screen version of ‘The Chase’ would have been an intergalactic smash!
Extras: There’s not too many special features here, but it’s hard to grumble after you watch the two films in tantalising Blu-ray HD quality. Best of the bunch is the imaginative, not to mention fun, documentary concentrating on the intergalactic pepperpots, Dalekmania (first released on VHS in 1995).
From the wonderful Kevin Davies, who produced the excellent Doctor Who 30th Anniversary feature More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS, this little beauty takes on the Daleks and looks at their huge popularity during the mid-Sixties (at times, more popular than Doctor Who itself). Included are some neat specially filmed scenes, starring Michael Wisher (the original Davros), which add to the weekend matinée feel of the piece – utterly joyous.
Fact fans, and collectors, may want to note that the Blu-ray features the entirety of Dalekmania including the opening sequences which were omitted, due to a technical error, on its DVD presentation.
Accompanying these are also some informative (and extremely detailed) featurettes on the restoration of the films and a couple of interviews (with author Gareth Owen and the incomparable Bernard Cribbins).
In essence, though, this Blu-ray set is purely worth purchasing for the gorgeous remastering on the two movies – you’ve never seen Dr. Who & the Daleks or Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. look just so bloody wonderful, so gloriously technicolor and so magnificently of their time.
Despite the variable quality of the films’ content, you can’t help but enjoy a wonderful Saturday afternoon with these two beautiful pieces of Doctor Who history.
Released on Blu-ray on Monday 27 May 2013 by StudioCanal.
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