Tuesday, 20 October 2015
Doctor Who and the Daleks (4 Stars)
This film is hated by most Doctor Who fans. I'd like to make an attempt to defend it. It's a well made film which succeeds in what it sets out to accomplish.
In December 1963 the Daleks first appeared in the Doctor Who TV series. They returned in a second adventure in November 1964. This resulted in a phenomenon referred to as Dalekmania. Although the Doctor was the hero of the series, the Daleks themselves were the ones who received the highest acclaim. Something about them won the public's attention. They were feared and loved at the same time.
Back in the 1960's there were only three television channels in England, none of which were active for 24 hours. Television time was limited, and repeats of already broadcast programs were rare. Of course, there were no home video players in those days. This means that the original TV episodes with the Daleks were shown once, and that was it. Gone. If you watched them you were lucky, you could sit and remember them, but if you missed them you had to rely on what others told you.
That's where the film steps in. It was decided to remake the first Dalek adventure for the big screen, so that people would have another chance to watch it. The budget would be bigger, the actors would be better, and most of all it would be in colour. Instead of William Hartnell, who nobody seriously considered a good actor, Peter Cushing was picked to play the Doctor. An actor of his stature gave the Doctor a strength and credibility that none of the other actors had until Christopher Eccleston finally took over in 2005.
The main problem of making a film was that it was a standalone item. It had to appeal not just to Doctor Who fans, but to those who had never watched the series. It had to be easy to understand. In a TV series there can be mysteries that are slowly unravelled over the course of months or even years. In a film everything has to be wrapped up within 90 minutes. This meant that the Doctor couldn't be an alien. He was an inventor who lived in London and built a time machine. He was the eccentric old man who lives next to you and me.
Once you accept that the Doctor in the film isn't the same Doctor that we know and love from the TV series, everything makes sense. Think of it as another Doctor from a parallel universe. After the introduction of the characters is out of the way and the Doctor arrives on Skaro it's a very good story that mirrors the original TV episodes. Okay, I admit that it's amusing that the Daleks have lava lamps to decorate their control room, but maybe they have a sense of aesthetics as well.