The Season 10 Blu-Ray… came out a couple of months ago, but now after several changes in my life, from job upgrades to moving, I’m back and settled, so I finally stuck on the restored version of a story from arguably my favourite Doctor Who period. Hooray! Planet of the Daleks, unlike the other ones I’ve reviewed, is actually the “centrepiece” of this set, and while I didn’t bother with the updated effects, I did enjoy the re-colourised Episode 3 and the general clean up. So let’s look at the story that inspired quite a few direct sequels, though none on TV, funnily enough!
Arriving on Spiridon, the Doctor is in a critical state, leaving Jo to wander off on her own for help. She soon encounters a groups of Thals, and soon their mortal enemies The Daleks!
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“Quiet! … Your talking too loud.”
I think the first thing I think of when I think of Planet of the Daleks are the Thals, blonde-haired human-like people who shared the planet Skaro with the Kaleds, who later became the Daleks (shock spoiler!). By this point this was their second appearance after the very first Dalek story, and they actually refer back to it, with The Doctor being some heroic legend told to younger generations of Thals, despite it being a lot further down the timeline. The Thals are leaving Skaro in droves, fighting their old nemeses the Daleks and trying their best to stop them from harming others, as if they know that in some way their race was partly responsible for their creation. Not too far a cry from the peaceful pacifists we saw in “The Daleks”, and a fun evolution to follow.
The Thals themselves include brave (and admittedly one note) leader Taron (Bernard Horsfall), hothead and antagonistic Vaber (Prentis Hancock) and Rebec (Jane How)… the female one. Plus a scientist type and another one. The bickering and later full-on fighting between Taron, who wasn’t the leader when the expedition started, and Vaber does add some good bits of drama in amongst all the Daleks and Spiridons.
The Doctor starts the story off unconscious, but is his usual self by the end of Episode 1, so it seems it was just a way to separate them for half the story. The core storyline is that the Daleks are on Spiridon because the local intelligent species have developed natural invisibility, and the Daleks want that ability for themselves. Invisible Daleks would be bad enough, but soon an army totalling in the thousands is found in suspended animation beneath the main Dalek base, giving even more urgency for the Thals to complete their mission and stop the Daleks before they leave the planet. We also see the debut of the black and gold Supreme Dalek (or Dalek Supreme, which ever way round it is this time…) here, which adds a fun dynamic, especially when it destroys another Dalek for failing, showing that this Daleks was somehow even more ruthless than usual.
Overall it’s a fun run around in a forest, with a few drab corridors thrown in. The standout scene is probably the Dalek exploding and being dumped in the “molten ice” lake, but for me it has to be a scene with The Doctor and a Thal captive, who admits he was scared and therefore was no hero. The Doctor assures him that being heroic was being scared to do something but doing it anyway, and that no “hero” is even free from fear. It was a really nice exchange. The scenes of the ice flow freezing the Dalek army “for the foreseeable future” is still a good ending, too.
A local Spiridon doing his best to be seen by his evil overlords.
Not a lot of bad, beyond the six parter being padded out a bit (surprise surprise!) by a few capture-escape sequences, plus a night spend sleeping in the mountains with loads of cartoony yellow eyes staring at them.
Wasn’t a fan of the Spiridons themselves, actually. I always say that an invisible enemy is lazy in the effects sense, but here there are a few good uses of floating bowls and such, but they spend most of the serial wearing blue furs! I guess Terry Nation liked the idea of Daleks potentially gaining invisibility being a threat, but didn’t like the idea of constantly writing ways to signify an invisible person was around…
“Jo Grant here, there seems to be a green studio light shining down in me, even though I’m in an alien forest. Weird! End recording.”
The planet Spiridon is revisited by The Doctor in the 7th Doctor Comic “Emperor of the Daleks” and the 7th Doctor audio “Return of the Daleks”. Both feature the frozen army of Daleks from this story as a plot point, so if looked too deeply, they contradict each other…
The Thals first appeared on Skaro with the first Doctor and the original Daleks in… “The Daleks”. They also appear in the Fourth Doctor Dalek origin story “Genesis of the Daleks”, as you’d imagine.
Some of the Dalek survivors here were later imprisoned in the Dalek Asylum in the Eleventh Doctor TV episode “Asylum of the Daleks”. The gold and black Dalek Supreme has reappeared a few times, including audios like “The Genocide Machine” and the recently released and reviewed on this very blog “Emissary of the Daleks”, coincidentally enough!
“Off you go, there’s a good chap.”
Planet of the Daleks may still have some old tropes (the Daleks threaten to release a plague that would wipe out all non-Dalek life on the planet at one point…) but it has some fun Thal characters bouncing off of an on-form Third Doctor and Jo pairing, so there is plenty to like. It has some great dialogue and set pieces to keep the flow going throughout the six episodes, too. Not perfect, but a damn fun two and a half-ish hours.