Spoiler Alert: This series of posts will contain spoilers about classic and possibly current episodes of Doctor Who.
The Daleks is the second Doctor Who storyline to ever broadcast. It consisted of seven episodes, airing weekly, starting on February 8th, 1964.http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xmq945
Doctor Who Hits the Big Time
What happens in this story, which is overlong and frequently drags, is not nearly as important as what happened because of these episodes. For various reasons, Doctor Who‘s initial outing received less than stellar ratings. Hopes for the series was fading and it faced an early cancellation.
Then the serial The Daleks aired and captured the public imagination in a way very few things ever do. Over the seven weeks it took to air the entire story the show’s ratings grew rapidly. Soon Doctor Who was among BBC’s most popular series. The show was saved and would remain on the air for the next 26 years. During that phenomenal run, and since the 2005 revival, the Daleks would return to threaten the Doctor and his companions many times.
A Simple Story
The TARDIS lands on a planet we eventually learn is called Skaro. The planet is dead, the soil turned to ash and sand, and the plant life petrified into sandstone. In addition, the world is heavily irradiated due to a long ago atomic war, though the Doctor and his companions don’t discover this until much later.
They see an sprawling alien city in the distance; a very impressive miniature for a television series at that time. The Doctor is curious. He lies about needing mercury for the TARDIS in order to force the others to investigate the strange metropolis.
Soon everyone is captured by the inhuman Daleks; mutated, nearly insane monsters who ride around in personal armored vehicles equipped with deadly weapons. In this serial the Daleks are restricted to the city. Their armor requires power from the floors to be able to move about.
A lengthy and complicated series of adventures follows. The travellers become involved with a pacifist humanoid species called the Thals. Ian convinces the Thals they must fight the Daleks or face extinction. More drawn out adventures follow, leading to a climatic battle and the apparent destruction of the Daleks forever.
It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of this serial in the history of Doctor Who. Beyond saving the show from cancellation, Daleks became the villain for all incarnations of the Doctor. Two Doctor Who theatrical movies were made in the 1960’s, both featuring Daleks as the antagonist. In later years, Daleks were established as the race which fought the Time Lords and nearly won the Time War.
Many details about the Daleks were changed in later serials. Their appearance was altered in subtle ways, the nature of the war with the Thals was changed, they were no longer restricted to a single city but could go anywhere, eventually they could fly, they developed time travel on their own, and so forth.
But certain elements never changed, like their overall appearance, their famous cry of ‘EXTERMINATE’, their hatred of all life, and the fact that every Dalek was actually a mini-Cthulhu inside a tank.
I mean, seriously, what does an elder god need with a tank?
A Repeatable Storyline is Born
This serial also established a type of story which became a common trope within the show: The Doctor and his companions land on a planet where a group of “nice people” are being threatened/subjugated by “mean aliens” and they help the “nice people” overthrow the “mean aliens”; the side the Doctor et al. are helping suffer significant casualties over multiple battles. Usually, like in the case of the Daleks, the “mean aliens” are militaristic and frequently reminiscent of Nazis.
This basic dynamic would be used throughout the series right up to present day stories.
The item of note on the DVD I watched was the appropriately titled featurette, The Creation of The Daleks. An interesting, though not exceptional, summary of how the Daleks came to be, including the cost cutting design decisions which affected their final appearance. (i.e. They explain why one of the Daleks arms is a plunger.)
There was also a photo gallery. Meh.
The next storyline is the completely forgettable two part serial, The Edge of Destruction.