Monday, 22 July 2013

Planet of the Daleks

‘Planet of the Daleks’ not only sees the return of the Daleks, but Terry Nation, their creator, as the writer. The story continues on from the end of ‘Frontier in Space’, which ended on a cliff hanger, but strangely seems to ignored most of what’s gone on before. In the final episode of ‘Frontier in Space’ the Doctor and Jo learn that the Daleks are massing a huge army somewhere to invade the galaxy, and the Doctor sends a message to the Time Lords because he wants to get after them.
Crikey! It's a Dalek. Didn't expect that when I followed them!

So why does episode one end with a cliff hanger of the reveal of a Dalek like it’s a massive surprise. Don’t forget also that the title is a bit of a give-away too! Episode one is full of Nation-isms, actually the whole story is. Invisible creatures, jungles, a first episode of discovering the environment, a plague and more. The Doctor needs to recover from a shot grazing his forehead and Jo puts him down to rest and goes to get help. She finds a Dictaphone of some description and starts narrating what’s happening. The machine itself proves vital in a later episode but it has to be said it’s a strange thing for her to do.
Latep and Jo.
Her character is very poorly written for these six parts which is a bit sad as it’s her penultimate story. Many of the lines don’t feel like ‘Jo Grant’, and there is this sort of mini-romance between Jo and the Thal Latep (Alan Tucker)which springs from nowhere and isn’t followed through on.  It reminds me of Barbara and a Thal in the first Dalek story, but less convincing.
In fact much of the dialogue from the Doctor too seems a bit non-third Doctor. I can only presume that Nation hadn’t been watching the series as it was at the time and wrote characters very generically, and Terrence Dicks didn’t script edit the thing very hard.
Dalek army in cold storage.
Apart from the writing, which is pedestrian at best, the look of the story is pretty good. The jungle is done, for the most part, well apart from the white backdrop coloured with changing light which is not convincing. The use of the outdoor stuff for the ice pools was a good location which didn’t mix in well with the jungle and rocks of the studio stuff.
The Doctor sneaks around a Dalek.
Yes Katy, I know.
The use of moving ice was really well done, the sets of the Dalek base were not – the appeared to be made out of paper-mache. The Daleks had been dusted off too many times without paint jobs and are visibly peeling through the story. The Thals are nicely written and portrayed for the most part. Nation loves to give us characters who fall in love, have conflicts and the like, and we have both here. They get a bit Alpha-male when the leader Taron played by Bernard Horsfall starts a fist fight with Vaber played by Prentis Hancock. This character is a typical protagonist within a group, and like everything in this story is mostly functional. However, the actors bring the largely two-dimensional characters together pretty well. But it’s a hard story to feel very enthused about. The colour restoration work on episode 3 is fantastic and the pacing isn’t too bad. There’s the Spiradons, invisible locals of the planet mostly enslaved by the Daleks. It’s amusing the see the use of CSO to move objects to make real these creatures, if not entirely successful. The jungle was very well designed with plants that sprayed a thick mucus like fungus and other nasties.

Still, very hard to get excited by this one.


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