Monday, 4 March 2013

68: Planet Of The Daleks - Transparently Repetitive

Written by: Terry Nation.
Companions: The Doctor, Jo Grant.
Monsters/Villains: Daleks, Thals, Spiridons.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS follows a Dalek ship to the Planet Spiridon, where the Daleks are attempting to master invisibility.
Rating: 4/10.

So... Planet Of The Daleks features a band of Daleks on the planet Spiridon trying to discover the locals' secret of invisibility; the Pepper-pots don't manage to achieve this transparency but the plot's similarity to that of 'The Daleks' more than makes up for their failings. Terry Nation is behind this almost direct reworking of his original story and Planet of the Daleks contains a number of the same plot devices including: a group of Daleks in a city encountering the Thals on a ravaged planet; a deadly plague instead of a neutron bomb; someone using a Dalek shell as a disguise; the Doctor imprisoned in a cell, and the Daleks imprisoned in their city at the end of the story. It just feels like Nation is afraid to do another story, he's had success with his first Dalek story and doesn't want to break the mould. He's invented these wonderful creations but doesn't know where to go with them, he does go on to redeem himself before too long, but we'll have to wait until there's a new Doctor on the scene.

Terry Nation, writer and creator of the Daleks.
The story carries on right where Frontier In Space left off, Jo gets a chance to run the show as the Doctor is out cold, literally; this is similar to what happened to him in The Dæmons. On her journeys, Jo chances on the Thals, and a friendly member of the invisible Spiridon race. The Spiridons all wear big purple furs to keep warm, and presumably so as to not bump in to each other. Once the Doctor is up and about he too meets up with the Thals and tells them of his past encounter with their people on Skaro, even mentioning Ian, Barbara and Susan, which is a lovely moment.

Jo gets given more to do.
At first it appears the Daleks are on Spiridon simply to master invisibility; an invisible Dalek is a scary idea, although it really feels like this story line gets forgotten about very quickly. We later learn there are 10,000 Daleks in hibernation on the planet just waiting to awake and conquer the galaxy. Likewise we don't see much of the invisible Spiridons (no pun intended) until one dies and loses his camouflage.

A Spiridon.
There are some rather infortunate shots using tiny Dalek toys to fill in for the huge 10, 000 strong Dalek army. It's a great idea to have such a massive Dalek force but technology wasn't quite there yet leaving these shots best forgotten.

An army of tiny toy Daleks.
There is a rather wonderful scene in a cell where the Doctor gives a Thal a pep talk about bravery, stating: "Courage isn't just a matter of not being frightened. It's being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway." This has a really genuine heart-warming quality, but unfortunately stands out as the only  such moment in the story.

The Supreme Dalek, or disco dalek if you will.
In the end the Daleks aren't destroyed but frozen by a wave of molten ice. The Supreme Dalek (which was adapted from one of the sixties film Daleks) also manages to escape, meaning we can surely expect the Daleks' return at a later date. 

Jo is given more to do and it's here that one can really see how far the roll of the companion has come during Jo's time as assistant. Her character has grown and developed from a screaming child into a responsible individual. At the end of the story Jo tells the Doctor that there is only one planet she wants to see: earth, home. This is perhaps a little sign post of Jo's departure in the next story.

The Doctor and Bernard Horsfall as Thal Leader Taron.
Overall Planet Of The Daleks isn't particularly memorable, we've seen it all before in previous Nation stories. The performances from the actors playing the Thals are two dimensional, with the exception of Bernard Horsfall. Like it's predecessor Frontier In Space, this story feels like an unwanted throwback to Doctor Who when it was at it's adventure/pulp sci-fi stage of development back in the sixties. 

It has to be said that a more up to date version of 'The Daleks,' which hadn't been seen since 10 years earlier would have been welcome at a time where repeats and DVDs were non-existent, but with hindsight the story just feels transparently repetitive. 

Join me next time for an absolute classic, Season 10's finale and a farewell to Jo Grant in The Green Death.

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