“The Daleks”

When I first came to this serial, I was pleasantly surprised. I had no idea how old the Daleks were! They have truly been around since the very beginning, which is amazing.

The TARDIS lands on an unknown planet with high levels of radiation. Seeing as the Doctor was trying to get to 1960s Earth, it’s funny how after all these years he still hasn’t learned to pilot the TARDIS correctly. Susan implies that there has recently been problems with the TARDIS’s flight, and that the Doctor was actually quite good at flying it before. In any case, the Doctor is upset at even the indication that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

The Doctor is still hoping to ditch Barbara and Ian, so makes up some story about how he needs mercury for the TARDIS in order to get them to travel to the city they can see in the distance. The First Doctor is very mean and grumpy! It was quite a shock.

As they journey into the city, Susan stops and makes a remark about how colorful everything is. This threw me for a loop. I had previously irrationally imagined that the First Doctor and his friends existed in a world of black-and-white, simply because the film was monochrome. It struck me strange that Susan would even know what colors were! I think that line was put in simply to get the viewers’ imaginations going. People in the sixties had much more active imaginations than I do.

Once they reach the city, they decide to split up in search of mercury. If there’s one thing that any adventurer should know, it’s DON’T SPLIT UP!!! Inevitably, Barbara is trapped in a small room and attacked. The first episode ends with no clue as to who her attacker is except for a view of a strange probe, which later viewers know to be the first ever footage of a Dalek plunger.

Again, after the first episode I lost track of what was going on, and thus don’t remember everything correctly, if at all. Barbara definitely ends up being captured, and Susan eventually joins her, I think. The Doctor and Ian meet the Thals, who have been struggling to survive on Skaro’s irradiated surface and provide anti-radiation drugs to help the TARDIS crew. We learn that the Daleks and the Thals were once a single race, but they mutated because of the radiation. I guess.

Even though the Thals are extremely peaceful and initially refuse to resort to violence to rescue the captives, the Doctor eventually persuades them to mount a two-pronged attack. I need not point out how hilarious it is that the Doctor is encouraging violence. Actually, I did just point it out. It’s hilarious.

So the city full of Daleks is attacked, and we see the first uses of Dalek weaponry. The laser-thing makes an odd static-y noise, which frankly is the exact opposite of what I or anyone else would expect a futuristic gun to make. The actual projectile is never seen, so I assume it is invisible. The negative effect is very nice, though, so you know what’s happening. I’m glad so much stuff has been kept the same over the years.

Eventually someone figures out that the Daleks can only move via static electricity with the floor, so all they need to do to destroy the Daleks is to power down the floor. Awesome! To get to the main room, Ian decides to disguise himself inside a Dalek armor shell. Hilarity ensues. But not before we get a tantalizing glimpse of what a “real” Dalek looks like: a small black crab-like thing. It quickly scurries out of view, but I wonder if it’ll ever be featured again, or if the Dalek model will simply change to the one-eyed tentacled thing we all know and love.

Now, back to Ian in a Dalek shell. Picture it…

Bam. Now that’s awesome.

Eventually everyone ends up in the control room, having taken advantage of the Daleks lack of peripheral vision and in some cases dementia, as a couple of times a Dalek stares straight at our heroes and then obliviously slides past. The Doctor shuts off the power, the Daleks stop moving and presumably die, everyone’s happy, Susan (or Barbara? I honestly can’t remember) says goodby to a Thal love interest she acquired along the way, and the TARDIS departs, hopefully back to Earth.

It was strangely exhilarating to see the first Daleks. How could anyone have ever guessed that these huge, bulky, slow-moving salt-and-pepper shakers would turn into such an integral part of the show?

The thing that is strangest about these early episodes is that there is no music in the background, not even to transition to different scenes. “The Daleks” had this extremely creepy background noise thing that was probably the only thing that made the Daleks scary. It’s like a note being played backwards, followed by a bass note. Seriously, go and listen to it. A quick youtube search fails to find a video, but it’s playing in the background of this site: http://www.thisplanetearth.co.uk/main/index.html (full link provided so you will trust me. Or something. I dunno, it seemed like the right thing to do). Imagine THAT playing while you are surrounded by ridiculous-looking pepper shakers who are hell-bent on killing you. If that doens’t scare you, I doubt anything in Doctor Who ever will.

The website I linked to, incidentally, sells life-sized Daleks, TARDISs, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, and more! Huzzah!

As I was saying before, the TARDIS departs, ready to set sail back to Earth when–whaaaat? The ship is lurching back and forth? What could this possibly mean? Stay tuned until next time, when the TARDIS teeters on The Edge of Destruction!

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