Dr Who and the Daleks Review

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Dr Who, an eccentric inventor, travels to the planet Skaro in his police box/time machine. The Doctor and his companions get involved in a war between the pacifist humanoid Thals and the evil cyborg Daleks.


A big-screen adaptation of the BBC’s enormously successful TV franchise, this was an early example of dumbing-down and pumping-up. The Doctor, played on television by William Hartnell (and others) as a mysterious alien, is turned -- in one of Peter Cushing’s rare terrible performances -- into a childish, daffy, thoroughly human scientist (whose surname actually seems to be ‘Who’), first seen chuckling over the adventures of Dan Dare in the Eagle comic, and much-given to pottering about the laboratory overdoing the eccentric mannerisms.

The crew of the TARDIS makes room for kids’ entertainer Roy Castle and the Doctor’s granddaughter is de-aged from a sulky, sultry teenager into a cheery little girl (Tovey). The Thals, the heroic humanoid race persecuted by the Daleks, are the weediest alien guerillas in the movies, a crew of Julian Clary lookalikes with drama school accents who have reverted to a tribal level of pre-industrial civilisation but kept their eye make-up skills honed.

Nevertheless, for a generation of behind-the-sofa fans, the film is beyond criticism – simply for getting the Daleks (the great British monsters of the 1960s) on cinema screens in lovely glowing colours, and having hordes of the things trundle evilly around their metal city barking ‘ex-ter-min-ate’ and puffing killer smoke at cringing victims.

The skeleton of Terry Nation’s H.G. Wells-derived story is still workable, with a suspenseful countdown-to-doom finale (‘that’s my lucky number!’) and the sort of sets, music and monster-choreography impossible on a 1960s TV budget. Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD, the sequel, is even better, but the two Who films still make an engaging kiddie matinee double bill.

Good because it's got Daleks in. Don't pay too much attention to the rest of it.