This MOVIE takes
place SOME TIME
AFTER THE MOVIE
"DR WHO AND THE
BASED ON A STORY BY
Milton Subotsky &
'THE DALEK COLLECTION'
DVD BOX SET RELEASED
IN SEPTEMBER 2006.
DR WHO MUST BATTLE
TO SAVE THE HUMAN
RACE OF THE FUTURE
FROM BEING ENSLAVED
AS ROBOMEN - DOOMED
TO SERVE THE DREADED
Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD
The second of Aaru’s Dalek movies is generally regarded as superior to the first, although in my opinion it’s actually a slightly weaker effort. Peter Cushing and Roberta Tovey return as Dr Who and his granddaughter Susan, however, Ian and Barbara are replaced by new characters. Foxy posh bird Jill Curzon plays Dr Who’s niece Louise, who is basically the same as the first film’s Barbara with less to do. Bernard Cribbins, who’s now back in the fold in the current series, plays Tom Campbell (a vague recollection of the original serial’s David Campbell). Tom is a bumbling but well-meaning police officer, fulfilling the comic relief / hero role that Ian has left vacant. Cribbins performs very well given the fairly limited part; Curzon, however, is pretty wooden – not that she has a great deal to work with either. The returning Whos are more impressive - Peter Cushing actually gives a superior performance to his first, toning down the old man whimsy and making the character a good deal more intense (he’s still not a patch on Hartnell, though), and Tovey remains impressive and likeable as young Susan, despite spending much of this film being carried around with a twisted ankle.
Starting in an unusual but very effective manner, the film introduces Tom as our viewpoint character, failing to stop a jeweller’s shop heist. The moment when he spots a police box
on the corner supplies the tingle that we need, knowing that the adventure is about to begin. Stumbling into the apparent police box, he is confronted by the Who family. TARDIS now boasts a redesigned interior, far more plausible and practical than the mish-mash of the
first film, but still nowhere near as effective as the original control room.
After a bland title sequence (with at least an attempt at the swirling visuals of the television series, even if they fail miserably), we’re straight into the main adventure, materialising in
the desolate London of 2150. Disappointingly, the images of a derelict city seen here are
no match for those of the original television serial. It looks like a set, and not a particularly impressive one, either – a shame after the excellent sets of the first movie. Whereas The Dalek Invasion of Earth television serial could make its viewers believe that this really was
a ruined London, despite its painted backdrops, Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD fails to convince at all, in spite of the greatly increased budget. The numerous billboards promoting Sugar Puffs don’t help – they intrude appallingly upon the atmosphere in a dreadful example of early product placement.
Where the design does work, however, is in the portrayal of both the Dalek spacecraft and their Robomen servants. The former, the “flying saucer” as Tom describes it, is a wonderfully retro bit of space hardware and, while it doesn’t look menacing in any way, it does at least look like a spaceship – a far cry from the pie tins of the original! The Robomen are similarly improved, both in design and the actors’ delivery of the robotised lines. They actually come across as a potential threat, not as a bunch of somnambulistic no-hopers – no doubt their impressive guns help.
Like the first film, this production tries to use its original blueprint as a source of impressive set pieces. Sadly though, they don’t all come out particularly well. The first of note, the Dalek emerging from the Thames, is over with so quickly there’s barely time to notice it; whereas the original was an effective, tense cliffhanger, this version is simply a prop in a pond.
The plot develops much as expected; a streamlined version of the televised original. While Louise and Suzie are taken in by the resistance (including movie Quatermass Andrew Keir as an impressively gruff and hardened Wyler), Dr Who and Tom are captured by Daleks and sent for robotisation. We are quickly at the resistance’s attack of the Dalek ship, but this is undermined both by the design of the ship’s interior – again, too clearly a rather small set – and the terribly naff attempt at ‘exciting’ music that dogs the soundtrack. Nevertheless, the Daleks are damnably impressive when they finally arrive en masse, massacring the majority of the rebel army.
We then get an interminable chase scene, in which the survivors of the massacre, Wyler, David, Tom and Dr Who, flee in their separate ways. Wyler’s struggle across London, hiding from Daleks in darkened alleys, is effective, but as for Tom’s attempt to hide in the saucer… one asks ‘why?’ We then get a drawn-out scene in which Tom pretends to be a Roboman. Whereas the original serial showed the true horror of robotisation, when a rebel fighter was forced to take down his own processed brother, here we have a comedy skit with plenty of slapstick, silly music and crap robot acting, which is far too long and, crucially, not funny.
David and the Doctor escape into the sewers. David’s a pretty shallow characterisation in this version, and it seems odd that a movie version would scrap the romantic subplot – it’s usually the reverse in an adaptation of this kind. Naturally, Susan is far too young to be the recipient of his affections in this version, but Louise could have been substituted. It would have been a chance to give both characters some much-needed depth.
Things improve greatly in the film’s second half. Without dwelling too much on an already well-known plot, we’re given a far faster-paced, grittier portrayal of life under the Daleks,
with some highly-effective location filming taking place of the endless set work. Keir and Tovey are particularly good together as they make their way over countryside (had a third movie been made, when Patrick Troughton had taken over the television series, Keir, in
more of a Quatermassy style, would have been an excellent movie Doctor). Philip Madoc,
a familiar face from 1960s and 1970s Doctor Who, makes an appearance as a sinister smuggler, and events move quickly on, with the leads reunited in time for the final incursion into the Daleks’ mothership.
Keeping the television serial’s wonderfully batty idea that the Daleks plan to remove the Earth’s core and to replace it with a motor, in order to turn the planet into a vast spaceship, the movie takes this a step further, using the magnetic properties of the Earth to defeat the Daleks. The sequence of Tom going down the mine shaft is much more impressive and convincing than Ian’s turn on television, and the sight of Daleks being pulled backwards up ramps and crashing through walls is one of the few genuinely amusing images in the film. Altogether, the film just about succeeds, with the second half considerably more involving than the first, although the final moments do feature an act by Dr Who that his Time Lord counterpart would never approve of, as he drops Tom back a few moments early to foil
the opening minutes’ heist.
The movie’s DVD release gives us one bonus feature, an interesting documentary entitled Dalekmania which features as many surviving actors from the films as possible, as well as many movie and Who experts, although Bernard Cribbins is a notable absentee. We learn the trials and tribulations of having your chest hair removed to play a Thal; just how many of the Daleks were supposed to catch fire and explode (not as many as actually did, it seems); the respectivemerits of BBC and Amicus Daleks; the precise relationship between the film companies Amicus and Aaru, both of which claim the movies as their own; and the shocking link between Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD and Alien.
There’s a quick examination
of Dalek memorabilia from
the time (I want some Dalek
slippers!), and both movies’
trailers are played in all their
glory (“BEWARE those men of
STEEL!”) – we even get the
Italian and French versions of
Invasion. Both films get equal
analysis, with Roberta Tovey the
main voice of the first, while Jill Curzon heads the second. Tovey is still charming, and gives some nice insights to the production, although a fair few were already covered in the feature commentary. Curzon mainly focuses on her, admittedly gorgeous, costume. We get hints as to why the third film was never made, which was basically because the second didn’t make enough money. One imagines that the recent twelve-part Daleks’ Master Plan serial must have used up a lot of the public’s Dalekmania. There’s also discussion of the US comic strip adaptation of the first film, and we even get a look at a fan-produced third film. While some of the information on offer is old hat, we do get a few fascinating trinkets – I’d never heard of the Doctor Who’s Greatest Adventure, a proposed 1980s movie described here as “Doctor Who meets Jurassic Park.”
Ultimately a few more features would have been nice, but the Dalekmania documentary covers so much that it would be a little churlish to quibble. The Dalek Collection is a slim
but effective double-disc set, and well worth a fiver.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2008
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
The second of Milton Subotsky’s mid-1960s Dalek movies is a bigger, louder and much shinier offering than its predecessor. With the benefit of an increased budget and a superior script to plunder, as you might expect Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD (or is that Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD? Or Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD?) turned out a hell
of a lot better than its predecessor. Nevertheless, when it is measured against the six-part television serial that spawned it, its lack of substance is glaring.
Whereas Subtosky and his uncredited screenwriter, David Whitaker, managed to improve upon Nation’s original script in Dr Who and the Daleks, this time around their chopping and changing has precisely the opposite effect. There’s no disputing that Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD is a much faster and glossier affair than television’s Dalek Invasion of Earth, but beneath its sheen there are far fewer character moments; so much less for us to care about. The television serial’s whirlwind romance is nowhere to be seen, robbing us not only of a big screen kiss, but that immortal Doctor / Susan adieu. Worse still, scenes of human anguish as people see their families turned into soulless Robomen are binned in favour of slapstick sequences that see Bernard Cribbins’ character try to infiltrate the Robomen’s mealtimes.
Similarly, many of the story’s
defining moments feel a little
frivolous here. The image of
a lone Dalek rising from the
depths of the Thames should
look better in colour than it did
in black and white, yet without
the crescendo of a cliffhanger,
it feels like a non-event. Worst
of all, the whole production is
sold on its “2150 AD” setting,
yet the “fantastic future” de-
picted looks more like 1950
AD! Were it not for Dr Who’s frequent reminders that “this is the year 2150 AD”, one would assume that this world of flat caps and automobiles was some bygone age, not a scorched future. Whereas the cut-price, studio-bound television serial convincingly portrayed a hellish vision of a monochrome future, this movie must have looked dated even back in 1966.
Of course, this movie trounces the television serial when it comes to spectacle. The Dalek saucer is a resplendent retro feast, and dynamic sequences such as the solitary prisoner’s escape attempt are infinitely more impressive than anything that Richard Martin could have shot in the studio. More importantly though, the Daleks themselves are powerfully portrayed once again. As colourful as they are malevolent, these screeching pepper pots thoroughly deserve to steal the film’s title, even if they can’t decide whether it needs an apostrophe, a dash or a colon.
Furthermore, the movie’s portrayal of the Doctor isn’t quite as offensive as its forerunner’s. Peter Cushing’s Dr Who may still be lumbered with a preposterous (and, as both Lawrence Miles and Robert Shearman would imply in their works, audibly oriental) surname, but hardly anybody uses it here, most of the story’s characters simply calling him ‘Doctor’, in line with the television series. More importantly though, Cushing invests the part with more weight this time around, not so much as to quell his genteel professorial gimmick, but sufficiently so as to be able to carry the story’s heavier aspects. Dr Who also has an infectious recklessness about him here, as illustrated by the movie’s bespoke bookends which are abounding with all manner of naughtiness - both temporal and criminal. It’s one thing to kidnap a couple of school teachers, but a police officer…?
When I first started watching Doctor Who as a child, one of the first questions that I asked about the format was “what if policemen walk into the TARDIS by mistake?” Clearly I hadn’t grasped the concept of locks at that point, and even when the notion of keys was explained to me, I still remember being terribly concerned about what I felt was a patently foreseeable risk. You can imagine my amusement then when, many years later on Channel 4, I watched Bernard Cribbins’ affable bobby Tom Campbell stumble over the threshold looking to call
for some backup, and instead being whisked away to the year 2150 AD to fight Daleks and Robomen. From there, good old Tom could do no wrong for me, and to this day he remains one of the best things about Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD. Unlike Roy Castle’s Ian, Tom convinces as a hero, and a noble one at that, yet he’s equally adept when it comes to farce.
Sadly Dr Who and Tom’s companions fare far less well. Jill Curzon’s Louise is nice to look at, but she’s every bit as feeble as Jennie Linden’s Barbara was in the first movie. Worse still, Roberta Tovey’s Susan Who is really short-changed here, burdened with a script that requires little of her beyond the odd shriek and ankle twist. Whilst her romance with David obviously had to be dispensed with here, given her age, Subotsky and Whitaker could have at least given her a few “science heroine” moments comparable to those that she enjoyed the first time around.
Surprisingly though, many of the story’s supporting characters are much more effective here than they were on television. Jenny might have been lost altogether, but in exchange Andrew Keir’s Wyler (Tyler in the television version) and Philip Madoc’s black marketeer are both brought to life with considerably more aplomb. Even Ray Brooks’ David – “the boy with the knack”, as they say in the trailer – is much more compelling than Peter Fraser’s television version, Brooks portraying him as cold and damaged, instead of youthful and gooey-eyed.
Ultimately, it’s no great surprise that Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD is often remembered more fondly than Dr Who and the Daleks. Changing a few names and losing a Slyther was never going to irk as much as vandalising the basic tenets of the television series’ principal characters, and even those radical departures aren’t emphasised here in the way that they were in the first movie. As you’d probably expect though, I much prefer the six-part television serial, not only for its emotional maturity but for its gritty depiction of the bleakest of futures. Sometimes colour and sheen aren’t necessarily a good thing.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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