Back in 1965, Dalekmania was at its height, and everyone involved wanted to make some of that sweet, sweet cash. Understandable. And so papers were signed, a screenplay was written and the next thing you know, the series hit the big screen! Sort of.
There were many, many changes made in the transition from TV to movie. First, obviously, was putting on the “big” screen, and in “colour”. Second, the ship everyone flies around in is called TARDIS. Not the TARDIS. Just TARDIS, and the interior is significantly different from what we’re used to.
Further, it was invented by a human whose actual name is Dr. Who. Yes, this means that he could have, in theory, had a daughter named Cindy Lou, but instead he has two granddaughters named Susan and Barbara. Joining them is Barbara’s boyfriend, Ian. So, got all that?
Oh, and Dr. Who is played by Peter Cushing, which is kind of amazing.
Cushing was, at this point, mostly known for doing Hammer horror films (a group whose alumni includes Christopher Lee). 12 years after this, we’d get to know him as Grand Moff Tarkin. But here, he’s just a doddering, vaguely absent-minded professor.
Many people aren’t fond of this character, and I can understand that. But I actually rather like Dr. Who, and I do kind of wish they’d done more movies with him, though to be fair, just making better movies would have helped.
Ian, in this incarnation, is something of a bumbling twerp who means well, but tends to stumble around everywhere, Chevy Chase-style. He is, in fact, part of why our heroes end up traveling away from Earth (without the usual TARDIS noise, boo!).
As for Barbara and Susan, well, the latter is a bit more scientifically minded, and much younger, than her TV counterpart. Barbara is a bit of an amiable non-entity, which is…not great, but could be worse.
And the plot? It’s basically an 83 minute reduction of the seven part story, “The Daleks”. It actually works fairly well, all things considered. They ditch much of the time-wasting dross from the TV story, and what’s left kind is kind of ok.
The story unfolds pretty much as it did on TV; our heroes arrive on Skaro, go to the Dalek city, suffer from radiation poisoning, and meet the Daleks and Thalls, though the latter really look like drag queens.
The Daleks are much the same, but in vivid Technicolor, and taller than usual. They also have grasping claws instead of the “plunger”, and shoot out clouds of gas, rather like from a fire extinguisher.
Despite being much, much shorter than the serial it is based upon, this is still a fairly plodding story. Once our heroes get away from the Dalek city, there is no valid storytelling reason for them to go back. Sending them back stretches out the time, but it holds back the story itself and wrecks the pacing.
In the end, this movie isn’t perfect, but it isn’t terrible. It’s a solid C, being about as good as the serial upon which it is based. That is, it must be said, something of a disappointment, since one would think they would have looked at the mistakes there and not repeated them here.
Still, it has its moments, and Cushing is entertaining, and I recommend every Who fan watch this movie at least once.
Next time: Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.