‘PLANET OF THE DALEKS’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Rumble in the Jungle with the Third Doctor and Jo
The second story of the ‘Dalek War’ story arc in Season 10 of ‘Doctor Who’ is ‘Planet of the Daleks’. This is a six-part adventure by Terry Nation. Yes! Terry Nation returns to write the Daleks once more in another adventure with the Doctor after a long absence. He last wrote for the Daleks in the 1960s.
His return to writing for the Daleks again in ‘Doctor Who’ was in time to celebrate the show’s 10th anniversary. Mind you, this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for one thing. In the previous season, Season 9, a Dalek story was made beforehand to open the season called ‘Day of the Daleks’.
That story was by Louis Marks, not Terry Nation. Upon the announcement of their return in Season 9, Terry Nation contacted the production team of producer Barry Letts and script-editor Terrance Dicks to inform them they had featured the Daleks without his permission and they were his property.
Whoops! Thankfully Terry Nation was amiable and understanding. Through a placatory lunch, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks negotiated with Terry Nation to include the Daleks in ‘Day of the Daleks’. They also invited him to write a Dalek tale for the next season. Thus ‘Planet of the Daleks’ was born!
I found ‘Planet of the Daleks’ to be a great Dalek adventure when I first saw it on DVD back in 2009. Directed by David Maloney, it does feature many Terry Nation elements from previous Dalek stories. It also resembles the first Dalek story that was made back in 1963-64. But we’ll get into this aspect later on.
Anyway, ‘Planet of the Daleks’ follows directly after the events of ‘Frontier In Space’. The Doctor and Jo get inside the TARDIS and they’re taken to the planet Spiridion, as directed by the Time Lords through the Doctor’s telepathic contact with them. There, the Daleks are to unleash a deadly threat!
On the planet Spiridon, the Doctor and Jo meet a group of Thals led by a man called Taron. Like the Doctor and Jo, the Thals are on this mission to stop the Daleks too. It turns out that the Daleks have a hidden army inside an icy mountain. The army is massive! Can our heroes stop the Daleks in time?
I did enjoy this Dalek story very much. Mind you, it doesn’t live up to the build-up in ‘Frontier In Space’. Not that’s a bad thing. But it did make the Earth-Draconian war only a small part of the Daleks’ plans and not a big one as we were led to believe in the previous tale. This was disappointing.
This is why I think ‘Frontier In Space’ and ‘Planet of the Daleks’ should’ve been penned by just one writer or at least have Malcolm Hulke and Terry Nation in collaboration together to interconnect the two stories together. By which, the significance of the Dalek threat gets well-justified across the universe.
It’s surprising that wasn’t considered especially for a 12 episode epic with two stories linked to each other in Season 10. It’d been done before when Terry Nation co-worked on ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ in Season 3. How come it wasn’t the case in dealing with ‘Frontier In Space’ and ‘Planet of the Daleks’?
Despite the issues I have with the ‘Dalek War’ story arc in Season 10, that didn’t spoil my enjoyment in watching ‘Planet of the Daleks’. Terry Nation does return to write the Daleks at their best. And as I said before, many familiar ideas from the first Dalek TV story get reused for ‘Planet of the Daleks’. 😀
These ideas include the return of the Thals as well as escaping the Daleks from captivity; unleashing a deadly bacteria; Rebec inside a Dalek echoing Ian Chesterton inside a Dalek; the Daleks working in a underground city and Jo falling in love with a male Thal called Latep like Barbara did with Ganatus.
Some might view this as a bad thing with Terry Nation rehashing an old plot he used for a previous story he did. This is usually the case with many Terry Nation-penned stories whether it’d be ‘Doctor Who’ or not. Me personally, I’m okay with it since it befits the show’s 10th anniversary celebrations.
In many respects, ‘Planet of the Daleks’ is not an exact re-telling of ‘The Daleks’. Far from it! For one thing, the story takes place on the planet Spiridion, not Skaro. Also the Thals volunteer for action in their mission whereas the first Dalek story showed them to be pacifists and pretty reluctant to fight.
The story also introduces the invisible Spiridons and the Daleks attempting to use their invisibility techniques to their advantage. The use of freezing cold liquid ice gets used to kill the Daleks as well as to freeze up a Dalek army deep down below the underground Dalek base. They’re very inspirational ideas!
It is a challenge to come up with fresh ideas especially for a new Dalek story when required to write it in a short amount of time. But to give Terry Nation credit, he’s had plenty of writing experience, especially in the ITC field of TV shows. His style of writing also suited the Jon Pertwee era pretty well.
Jon Pertwee is pretty enigmatic as the Doctor in this TV adventure. He starts off with a fever after he got shot in the previous story. But he does come out of it pretty well and I liked his first scene with the Thals. The Doctor tells them how he first met them once on Skaro and he tries to gain their trust.
Even though the Daleks aren’t Jon Pertwee’s favourite monsters, I liked how his Doctor manages to deal with them in dangerous situations. I liked the Doctor’s scenes with Jo and how he interacts with Taron, the Thal Leader. The Doctor’s speech at the end of the story was inspirational and reassuring.
Katy Manning is wonderful as Jo Grant in this story. Jo spends a lot of time separated from the Doctor as she tries to get help for him on Spiridon. I did like how she talked into that cassette log, describing what was going on. I became anxious for her when she got infected with a deadly disease.
Thankfully though, she gets saved by an invisible Spiridon called Wester and I liked her scenes with him since she makes friends with him. I also liked the relationship she formed with Latep, the young Thal male who fell in love with her. It was sad that Jo turned Latep down to return with him to Skaro.
It was great to see the Thals again in this ‘Doctor Who’ story. In many respects, the Thals represent the goodness that was once on Skaro. That’s how Terry Nation envisaged them when he first wrote for them in the first Dalek story. I really liked how the Doctor interacted with them in this adventure.
It’s interesting some of the Thals don’t feel brave as they should be when they volunteered for the mission to stop the Daleks on Spiridion. It’s clear they didn’t know what they’d gotten themselves into. The Thals want a quiet life. Despite not feeling brave, the Thals do fight on valiantly regardless!
Bernard Horsfall guest stars as Taron, the leader of the Thals in this adventure. Bernard has been in ‘Doctor Who’ before. He was in ‘The Mind Robber’ and ‘The War Games’ with Patrick Troughton. He’d later do ‘The Deadly Assassin’ with Tom Baker and the Big Finish story ‘Davros’ with Colin Baker.
I enjoyed Bernard’s performance as Taron in ‘Planet of the Daleks’. Taron comes across as a reluctant and cautious leader. The Thals’ original leader got killed upon landing on Spiridon. He’s unsure about the decisions he has to make to stop the Daleks and he relies on the Doctor to help him.
Prentis Hancock guest stars as Vaber, an aggressive Thal man. Like Bernard Horsfall, Prentis has been in ‘Doctor Who’ too. He was in ‘Spearhead From Space’ beforehand and he would later appear in ‘Planet of Evil’ and ‘The Ribos Operation’. He’s more well-known as Paul Morrow from ‘Space: 1999’.
In this story, Vaber wants to stop the Daleks instantly with the three bombs the Thals have brought along with them. Vaber questions Taron’s authority and leadership at every opportunity. He finds his methods slow, wanting to get in the action to defeat the Daleks as soon as possible rather than later.
Tim Preece guest stars as Codal, the Thal scientist amongst the group. I enjoyed Tim Preece’s performance as Codal, bringing this honesty to the character. I liked that first scene Codal has with the Doctor when locked up in a Dalek prison cell they’re in. They talk about courage and bravery in that.
Codal happens to be a clever Thal scientist and he shares his scientific interest with the Doctor. This is especially when discovering more about the Daleks and the Spiridons’ invisibility. Despite Codal’s keen scientific interest, he isn’t keen about being on Spiridion and is scared stiff about the Daleks.
Jane How guest stars as Rebec, the female Thal member of the group on Spiridon. She joins Taron, Vaber and Codal along with other Thal members by the end of ‘Episode Two’. She happens to be Taron’s lover. Taron isn’t especially pleased when Rebec arrives as he feels he’ll be distracted by her.
I don’t find Rebec to be a poor character as many seem to criticise her for. I found her an interesting character and Jane How plays her well. Rebec seems to be brave on the mission she embarks upon with Taron and the others. It’s a pity she was the one who got chosen to be inside that empty Dalek.
There’s Alan Tucker as Latep, the young male Thal who falls in love with Jo Grant. I liked the scenes between Latep and Jo in the story. I found them sweet, especially when they seemed to form a connection. The way Latep shared his feelings to Jo in ‘Episode Six’ was very touching to watch here.
There’s also Hilary Minster…General Von Klinkerhoffen!!!…as Marat in this adventure! Yes! Hilary Minster would later go on to star in the BBC sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo’ after this. It’s amazing to see him so young in this. Sadly, Marat only appears in ‘Episode Three’ as he makes a heroic self-sacrifice.
The Daleks are great to watch in this TV adventure. It was interesting how the Daleks tried to master the Spiridons’ power of invisibility and that they have a Dalek army hidden underneath an ice volcano. I enjoyed ‘Episode One’s cliff-hanger, especially in CGI form, where that Dalek was revealed.
I also enjoyed the scenes where the Doctor, Jo and the Thals got two Daleks and pushed them into an icy cold river to make them die instantly. It’s revealed that the Daleks are vulnerable to sub-zero temperatures. It gives the Doctor and the Thals the advantage when they sneak into the Daleks’ city.
It was pretty exciting to see the ice volcano erupting and spewing out rivers of ice to freeze up the Dalek army underneath the Dalek base. The Dalek army gets swallowed up by the ice volcano’s icy waters. It’s impressive to see that sequence both in the original form as well as CGI form on Blu-ray.
The voices for the Daleks are provided by Michael Wisher and Roy Skelton. Michael Wisher previously played Kalik in ‘Carnival of Monsters’ and would go on to play Davros in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’. Roy Skelton (Zippy from ‘Rainbow’) previously did Dalek voices in ‘The Evil of the Daleks’. 😀
In this story, a special gold Dalek makes an appearance. This is the Dalek Supreme, who is a member of the Dalek High Council. The gold Dalek Supreme looks very impressive. I got to see the Dalek Supreme from ‘Planet of the Daleks’ on display at the ‘Regenerations 2011’ convention in Swansea!
Sadly the purple lights on the top of its domed head are out of synch whenever it speaks. This is due to the operator inside the Dalek who didn’t time it right switching the lights on at the same time the lines were read. The Dalek Supreme gets angry once one of the Daleks fails him, killing him instantly.
The invisible Spiridons are the natives of their planet and they work for the Daleks. I found it tense when Spiridons were about and you couldn’t see them because they’re invisible. Some wear purple furry overcoats to keep them warm during cold weather and they end up looking like purple Yetis. 😀
Roy Skelton also guest stars as Wester, one of the Spiridons who saves Jo from her deadly disease in the adventure. Wester is against the Daleks as he helps Jo and her friends to stop the Daleks in their plans. He makes this sacrifice to stop the Daleks unleash their bacteria to destroy all life on Spiridon.
The story concludes with the Doctor and Jo in the TARDIS. The Doctor offers Jo many other planets to visit in the universe. But Jo wishes to see only one planet and that’s Earth. Earth in her home time! The Doctor happily agrees. Are you sure about this, Jo? There might be giant maggots there! 😀
The original DVD special features were as follows. There was a mono sound audio mix option for the story and a DVD audio commentary with Katy Manning, Prentis Hancock, Tim Preece, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks. There was also an info-text commentary option to enjoy.
There was the ‘Perfect Scenario: The End of Dreams’ documentary that focused on the socio-political aspects of ‘Planet of the Daleks’ and the making-of documentary called ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’. There was also the ‘Multi-Colourisation’ restoration featurette that focused on the colourisation of ‘Episode Three’ and there was the ‘Stripped For Action – The Daleks’ documentary that looks into the comic book adventures of the Daleks. There was also a ‘Blue Peter’ item; a photo gallery of the story and PDF materials, including ‘Production Design Drawings’ and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story. There was also an Easter Egg that happened to be a commentary extra for ‘Episode Three’ of the story.
On Disc 4 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 10’ Blu-ray, the mono sound audio mix option for the story; the DVD audio commentary; ‘The Rumble In The Jungle’ making-of documentary; the ‘Multi-Colourisation’ restoration featurette; the ‘Stripped For Action – The Daleks’ documentary; the ‘Blue Peter’ item, the ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF, and the commentary extra for ‘Episode Three’ of the story can be found on there. The info-text commentary option; the ‘Perfect Scenario: The End of Dreams’ documentary and the photo gallery of the story have been updated for 2019 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the updated CGI effects option for the story to enjoy. There’s also the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘Planet of the Daleks’ with Katy Manning (Jo Grant); Richard Franklin (Mike Yates) and John Levene (Sgt. Benton) as well as new series producer Phil Collinson; new series writer Joy Wilkinson and new series writer Pete McTighe. There’s also BBC trailers and continuity announcements for ‘Planet of the Daleks’ and a ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for ‘The Green Death’ with Jon Pertwee; Katy Manning; Nicholas Courtney; Richard Franklin and John Levene (taken from the ‘Spearhead From Space’ Blu-ray). There’s also a brand-new 5.1 surround sound audio mix option for the story to enjoy.
On the PDF front, as well as the ‘Radio Times Listings’ and the ‘Production Design Drawings’ of the story, there are also production documents and scripts of the story. You need a special Blu-ray computer drive for that.
I found ‘Planet of the Daleks’ to be an enjoyable and satisfactory conclusion to the ‘Dalek War’ story arc in Season 10 of ‘Doctor Who’. I especially enjoyed this six-part Dalek adventure with Jon Pertwee as the Doctor and Katy Manning as Jo Grant. Those two deliver standout performances for me here.
In many respects, ‘Dalek War’ has been a great ‘Doctor Who’ story arc to enjoy with Jon Pertwee’s Doctor and Katy Manning’s Jo Grant. It’s a shame that the build-up that was promised in ‘Frontier In Space’ doesn’t get properly resolved in ‘Planet of the Daleks’ since many of us can speculate on that.
Despite that issue, ‘Frontier in Space’ and ‘Planet of the Daleks’ are great TV adventures to watch. They showcase some of the best action adventures to be found in Jon Pertwee’s era of ‘Doctor Who’ from the 1970s. If you’re a fan of this era as well as Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, you cannot go wrong here.
But as with many great eras of ‘Doctor Who’, certain things have to come to a conclusion. The tragic death of Roger Delgado as the Master was the first sign of the Jon Pertwee era coming to a close. The second sign was on its way as Katy Manning’s departure from ‘Doctor Who’ on TV was signalled.
‘Planet of the Daleks’ rating – 9/10
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