Last night’s classic episode was “The Dalek Invasion of Earth,” a First Doctor episode from his second season in 1964. If you couldn’t tell, it has Daleks and it’s set on Earth. It’s the second First Doctor episode I’ve seen, so even though I have a good idea of what he’s like from my reading, I’m really only getting to know him.
Spoilers below, of course, starting with a very short synopsis.
The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan land near the river in London in the latter half of the 22nd century, to find that the city is devastated: the Daleks have invaded the Earth and taken over. Rather than killing everyone, the Daleks have conscripted humans as slaves and put them to work in a mine in Bedfordshire, and it’s up to our protagonists to find out why and do something about it.
From that description, it doesn’t sound like anything exciting, other than having Daleks to fight against, but I found this episode to be very engaging, and that surprised me. I have to admit that it’s difficult to watch the old episodes without being biased against its slow pacing and terrible special effects, and that bias grows the older the episode is. This episode has its moments of long, tedious shots of lack-of-action and people starting to die long before the Dalek-shooting effect is played, but otherwise, the story moves along very well and it didn’t feel like a six-part episode.
Very early on, the TARDIS crew gets separated. Ian ends up stowed away on a Dalek ship that takes him to the mine, while the human resistance group stages an attack on the Daleks and gets decimated, with Barbara fleeing with a woman named Jenny and the Doctor and Susan fleeing with David Campbell and Carl Tyler. Eventually, the separate groups determine that they need to get to the mine to stop what the Daleks are doing and begin their journeys in that direction, but the real story is what happens along the way. Ian and his traveling companion (I don’t remember his name) have a straightforward story, in which they infiltrate the mine, but Ian gets to display his cunning and resourcefulness. Barbara also takes charge of her situation, taking Jenny, who has lost all hope by this time, under her wing and counseling her, as well as figuring out how to get past the Daleks in a variety of different ways (including stealing a large truck and running over Daleks). The Doctor’s and Susan’s adventures are more interesting, as the Doctor, the expert on the Daleks, clashes over authority with David Campbell, who knows the local situation: the Doctor is the only one equipped to figure out what the Daleks are actually doing, but David knows the lay of the land and how the Daleks are operating. At the same time, Susan and David are falling in love. The Doctor begins to realize this, and it’s touching how he reacts. Thus, all three storylines are interesting, and since the show cuts back and forth between them, you’re kept invested in the story to find out how they all turn out.
This is Susan’s final episode, and it is famous for its final scene, in which the Doctor bids farewell to her. It’s a beautiful scene and worth watching, even if you don’t watch the episode in its entirety.
In short, this was a wonderful episode, with a good story, character development for all of the principal characters, and a heart-rending finale (and Daleks whizzing down ramps – looked like so much fun for the operators). I’d definitely recommend this episode for anyone who wants a good example of the First Doctor, or for any classic Doctor.