It’s August 1966, and the second Dr. Who film has arrived in cinemas, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. or according to the trailer and film poster Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. Either way, it an odd clumsifying of the original title The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the television story on which this is based. August ’66 puts us once again bang slap in the middle of two seasons of Doctor Who, between The War Machines, which ended on 16th July and The Smugglers, which begins on 10th September. In an astute move to avoid some of that out-of-date feeling we got with the first film (which featured Ian and Barbara after they had departed the television series), the original companions are dropped, with the exception of Susie, who is very different to her television counterpart and was just about the best thing about the Dr. Who & the Daleks. She’s even better here. Roberta Tovey was that rare thing in Britain: a child actress who could act.
Instead of Ian and Barbara we get two new companions, created specially for the film: Louise and Tom. Louise adds to Dr. Who’s ever-growing family, and although his niece has a bit more going for her than his daughter Movie/Barbara, she is still a watered down version of TV/Barbara, with Wyler getting most of her big moments instead. Tom is of course magnificent. Of course he is: he’s played by Bernard Cribbins. His little subplot tops and tails the film beautifully, complete with some fabulous music, although it’s best not to think too hard about the paradox that he creates at the end, stopping the burglars whose actions led to him stumbling into Tardis at the start of the film.
It’s one of the few creative rewrites in the film. Most of the changes from the television version are to edit it down to a manageable length, including the tragic loss of the Slyther. There is also the addition of a happy dose of comedy, including the joyous highlight of the whole film, when Tom pretends to be a Roboman. I adore that sequence.
The whole film is so much more entertaining than its predecessor that it is a cruel irony that it was far less successful. Whereas Dr. Who & the Daleks premiered at the height of Dalekmania, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. appeared at a time when the television series was past its heyday in terms of viewing figures (and a long way off its second wave of popularity). The novelty of seeing Daleks in colour was also never going to have the same impact the second time round. However, it found a new life in the form of television screenings, and was repeated so frequently during my childhood (one of those that seemed to turn up every bank holiday, like Mary Poppins), that I was more familiar with this than any other Doctor Who story. When I eventually saw The Dalek Invasion of Earth, it couldn’t fail to be a bit of a disappointment in comparison. Had this proved popular we would have had a third film, based on The Chase. Imagine how out-of-place that would have felt, premiering presumably between The Evil of the Daleks and The Tomb of the Cybermen, with the television series virtually unrecognisable from the one that spawned the original storyline. What might have been…
That’s a fan-produced bit of fun by the way. Some bonus random thoughts:
- Under a bridge is an exceptionally strange place for an advertisement for Sugar Puffs.
- Tom has trouble with the concept of time travel: ‘Course it’s not Sunday – I’m playing football Sunday!’
- The door to nowhere stunt is brilliantly achieved.
- The music when the spaceship lands is particularly clever, in a descending scale.
- There seems to be a resurgence in 1960s fashions in the year 2150.
- When a Dalek is pushed down a ramp it topples over at the bottom and explodes for no apparent reason.
- ‘The bombs are no good.’ Maybe that’s because they all explode on the ground in front of the Daleks instead of actually hitting them!
- If it is 2150, why are the only vehicles we see 1960s ones?
- When Tom and Louise exit the spaceship we see just one leg of the ship, an effective way of getting around the problem of not being able to show a full sized version.
- The Dalek base sets are magnificent, with that spiral ramp, but it does look horrendously dangerous for the Dalek operators – the ramp is only just wider than the Daleks and there are no barriers at the top level.
- Why are eight Daleks needed to capture one man?
- Which Dalek took the trouble to paint the bomb bright red? The gaudy age of (not so) glorious Technicolor.
- The Daleks just watch and do nothing as Dr Who gives the order to attack the Daleks. Why not just exterminate him?
- The planks Tom lays down do not match the ones in the otherwise-excellent model shot.
- ‘The end of all the Daleks who invaded Earth…’ Really? In one ship?
The view from across the pond:
If you’ve started watching Doctor Who with the 2005 reboot, you probably love David Tennant. He was an incredible Doctor and had an amazingly emotional departure. His final story is unusual in that he doesn’t have a typical companion. Donna Noble is on the outskirts the whole time and in her place, her grandfather, Wilfred Mott is helping the Doctor. Wilf, played by Bernard Cribbins, gets to be on the front lines of one of the Doctor’s adventures for a change and he’s as great a companion as many of his predecessors. But it wasn’t the first trip in the TARDIS for Bernard Cribbins. Or perhaps I should drop a certain article and restate that: it wasn’t the first trip in TARDIS for Bernard Cribbins… 41 years earlier, Cribbins was traveling with Dr. Who to fight the DALEKS in technocolor as police officer Tom Campbell in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.
My fondest memory of this story was at the start, TARDIS takes off, and a hobo runs to the door and falls down as TARDIS vanishes. It’s a silly scene but sets the stage: Dr. Who as big screen action/horror with a hint of comedy. As I said of the previous theatrical release, the problem with this story is again: “been there, done that”. Had this been a wholly new story, it might be different, but being a remake of the Hartnell classic, all it can do is throw money into special effects to make it look better. If the TV show had this kind of budget, how much more amazing could it have been? But even with the advanced budget, Dalek spaceships are not powered by rocket, but strings, visible throughout the production. Destroyed Daleks are still empty shells like in that video for The Timelords, Doctorin’ the Tardis. (Seriously, give this a watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdTELokKfCk). For all that extra money, the model work is shoddy at best. It is little more than a shadow of its earlier self. Where Dr. Who and the Daleks succeeded that this fails is that the first one takes place on Skaro, so the budget could go towards making an alien world look truly alien. They missed the mark by going back to Earth for the Invasion.
Considering how fantastic the classic crew really was, it’s hard to watch this without Ian and Barbara. I realize we could not expect William Russell and Jacqueline Hill to take their rightful roles with television filming obligations, but at the least, return the crew from the last movie, Dr. Who and the Daleks. On top of that, Susan doesn’t leave at the end of this because she’s too young to fall in love, but the only Campbell is Tom, the police officer played by Cribbins anyway. David doesn’t exist in this, evidently-parallel, universe. And what, no Slyther? Probably for the best, because even in the original, the Daleks keeping a pet didn’t make much sense anyway! Most of the story is a retread of old ground with minor changes. The bomb used in the TV version is absent here, instead relying on the Earth’s magnetic properties in some odd way to save the day. (It’s been too long since I’ve viewed it, but I recall thinking at the time: wasn’t that the very thing they were drilling for? Did they not account for something? It’s like the aliens in Signs invading a planet that is 2/3rd water when water is deadly to them… Don’t get me started!)
As noted about the first one, it has a special place in the hearts of Doctor Who fans. But I’m quick to note, Dr. Who is not Doctor Who. Dr. Who is a human inventor with a mustache, played by Horror great, Peter Cushing. I admit, I should watch them again with my kids. Maybe as an adult, I’ll have different appreciation of them. One day, I shall go back… Yes, I shall go back and give them a closer look… Cushing deserves it! ML
Want some more 60s Dalek action? Take a look at… The Dalek Book