What a Difference a Day Makes
As awful as the last story was, the start of today's story makes it all worthwhile. The Dalek Invasion of Earth is an instant classic on every level and significant for multiple reasons. This morning's workout flew by seemingly in minutes because the episodes were just so dang good.
Let's talk about that.
This episode opens and closes with two genuinely shocking moments. The story begins with a man in tattered clothes staggering along the banks of the River Thames, wearing a weird metal thing on his head. He lets out an inarticulate scream, tear the device off of his head, and then stumbles into the river and drowns himself. It is completely random and inexplicable, and very unsettling. Moments later the TARDIS materializes, just in front of a giant poster plastered on the brickwork of the bridge support which reads "EMERGENCY REGULATIONS IT IS FORBIDDEN TO DUMP BODIES INTO THE RIVER".
The Doctor and companions find themselves in London, but the city is dead silent and the riverbank is completely overgrown with weeds and completely unkempt. While climbing up an embankment to get a better look around, Susan inadvertently sets off a bridge collapse that completely buries the TARDIS. Without heavy-duty cutting tools or excavation equipment. the group is completely cut off from their ship. (It seems the first thing that every writer must do at the start of a story is answer the question "why don't they just get in the TARDIS and fly away?") On top of that, Susan has sprained her ankle in the fall and is unable to walk.
The Doctor and Ian go to search a nearby warehouse for any useful tools, while Barbara stays with Susan. While the group is separated, gunshots ring out across the river. Shortly thereafter, Susan and Barbara are either captured or rescued, depending upon your point of view, by a human guerilla fighter and taken back to their nearby underground base. The Doctor and Ian return from their fruitless search, only to find the women missing. While waiting for their return, the two men see a flying saucer descend from the sky and land nearby. Almost immediately after that they are surrounded by several men who look just like the one who killed himself in the opening scene.
As they stand surrounded by their captors, the episode closes with another chilling sight: A Dalek, slowly emerging from the depths of the river and up onto the riverbank!
Susan and Barbara meet the human resistance, while Ian and the Doctor are imprisoned on board the flying saucer seen landing in the previous episode. Lots of character stuff happens, during which we find out that it is some time after 2164, and the invasion began about ten years earlier with an asteroid bombardment followed by a plague. Within six months 90% of the human race had died off, which was when the Daleks landed and took over the planet. They turn some humans into Robo-Men, with the mind-controlling headgear, and use them as slaves to work in mines as well as to act as security patrols.
On board the spaceship, the Doctor manages to work out how to escape from their prison cell. This turns out to be a test by the Daleks, and the Doctor is selected to be converted into a Robo-Man. At first it seemed weird to me that they would want really smart people to be their zombie slaves, but upon reflection it makes sense to take away the best and brightest and to leave the human race with a diminished capacity for organizing a resistance.
Meanwhile, the rebels plan an assault on the flying saucer. It goes badly, although a group of rebels do manage to make it on board the craft. The episode ends with the Doctor strapped down to a surgical table about to receive the mind control implant.
Like I said, everything about this story just sings. This is the first time the show had brought back a previous villain, and it is the story that locks in the Daleks as the quintessential Doctor Who monster. They haven't quite started shouting "Exterminate!" yet, but that will be coming very shortly. The sets, the characters, the acting, the music... everything is just perfect. After the travesty of the previous story, the contrast is unmistakable. William Hartnell was spot-on throughout both episodes, never fumbling a single line. All the other lead characters are given real meat to work with, which allows them to showcase their real talents as actors. Bravo, I can hardly wait until tomorrow to watch the next two episodes!
Companion(s): Ian Chesterton, Susan Foreman, Barbara Wright
Episode(s): World's End, The Daleks
Steps Walked: 6,465 today, 166,111 total
Distance Walked: 3.06 miles today, 74.25 miles total
Weight: 298.38 lbs (five day moving average), net change -8.92 lbs