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After a very hasty escape from the stone age (see episode An
Unearthly Child), Doctor Who (William Hartnell), his granddaughter
Susan (Carol Ann Ford), and his newfound companions, school teachers Ian
(William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), find themselves in the
very far future, on a barren and contaminated planet called Skaro, that at
first holds little interest to our heroes ... until the Doctor discovers a
city of most unusual design ... and to force the others to explore it, he
even sabotages his own time-and-space-machine, the TARDIS.
In the city however, our quartet is soon captured by the alien race the
Daleks, men that have been so mutated by radiation tht they are now
mere lumps of life who are confined to man-high metal machines (that look
suspiciously like saltpots). Thing is, the Daleks think the Doctor and
company are Thals, the other race living on the planet (and naturally the
Daleks's worst enemies), who, unlike them, have developed medicine against
radiation sickness - which the Daleks want to get their hands on. But our
quartet of heroes is already dieing from radiation sickness, and only
Susan still feels fit enough to fetch medicine from the TARDIS, for
themselves and the Daleks alike ... but ont he way, she meets the Thals, a
friendly and peaceful race (much in contrast to the Daleks), who have come
to the city in search of food and to make peace withthe Daleks ...
No such luck of course, the Daleks lure the Thals into an ambush and
kill their leader, and it is only thanks to our heroes (who have since
escaped from their cell) that the other Thals are saved.
But once out of the city and in the surrounding petrified forest, where
the Daleks can't follow - sionce they only can move on metal ground -, the
Doctor realizes they have forgotten a vital part of the TARDIS int he city
- however the Thals are unwilling to help them retrieve it, even though
the Daleks have by now come to realize the anti radiation medicine kills
them and they have by now grown so accustomed to radiation that they need
it to survive ... so they decide to contaminate the whole planet using the
radioactive waste they have got in spades.
Eventually, the Doctor and Ian can convince the Thals they now have to
fight for their lives, and soon attack the city from the front and through
the swamp and caverns in the back alike, while the Doctor sabotages their
scanners and electricity supply - but eventually is recaptured by the
Still, in the end, good (meaning the Thals) triumphs, and once again
our heroes travel on ...
While the first, four-part-episode of Doctor Who, An
Unearthly Child, was a somewhat charming but hardly remarkable
stone age tale, this second episode (consisting of no less than 7 parts)
was the first sign of greatness, and maybe one of the series' best
The Daleks is a tense, well-written sci-fi-thriller with hardly
a dull moment (despite its duration of almost three hours) and featuring a
much more multi-layered storyline than one would come to expect from a
children's program (which Doctor Who back then essentially
With this episode, Doctor Who's future was more or less cemented, and
the series prolonged way past its initial 13 installments-run (it
eventually ran for 26 consecutive years and made a triumphant return with
a new series in 2005.
Especially the Daleks, even though they looked somewhat silly, became
hugely popular, and so it is not surprising that this episode was
eventually made into a movie - in 1965 as Doctor
Who and the Daleks, directed by Gordon Flemyng, produced by Amicus
and starring Peter Cushing in the William Hartnell-role. But even though
the film had a bigger budget and the duration was cut in half - which
should have resulted in an even tenser narration -, the film never
achieved the same quality as the tv-show.