Shiny Shelf

Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth DVD

By Mark Clapham on 14 February 2005

Could there be anything more 60s than pop culture horrors the Daleks rolling through Swinging London? Thanks at least partially to the movie remake starring Peter Cushing, a technicolour stalwart of early evening weekend TV, this particular occupation has shaped the public memory of what this long running series was, and what it should ideally be. Daleks. Invasion. London. You dig?

Surprisingly, grooviness is thin on the ground when Doctor Who and his band of little mates (grandaughter Susan and responsible adults Ian and Barbara) arrive in occupied London. The serial may have been broadcast in 1964, but the setting is the far future, and the spirit is ripped from the nightmare of two decades before, an austere occupation where the blitz succeeded, and outside oppressors roll through the city streets unopposed. A resistance movement is in hiding, while black marketeers, collaborators and traitors abound. The people are enslaved. While these World War II era concerns seem distant now, there’s still a great kick to be had from seeing the Daleks larking about in Trafalgar Square or chasing our heroes down the south bank of the Thames.

The location filming is superb – almost four decades before ‘28 Days Later’ and its CGI trickery, a deserted London could be captured on film by the simple method of getting up a bit early. These days, of course, wandering clubbers would constantly be staggering into shot, and the roads never really get that quiet, but that’s the 24-hour-city for you. While the film stock is creaky (albeit tidied up for this release, and looking deliciously clean and clear), the extent of the location work is impressive, and impossible for most modern TV programmes, partially for the logistical problems mentioned above. It’s also an indication of how big ‘Doctor Who’, and the Daleks in particular, were at the time, justifying the expansion of a studio-bound show into a more epic setting.

Of course, an early 60s epic is just so much running about to modern audiences, and by current standards this is incredibly slow stuff. Shown in six weekly episodes, repetitions and plot holes are thrown up by watching the lot in a short space of time. Oh, and the original vintage effects of flying saucers over London are absolutely risible, paper plates on strings in front of photo backdrops. Thankfully, along with restoring the print to digital perfection, the BBC have supplied a branching option with new effects. These CGI shots imitate the best model work of the period, and are aged to fit with the live action. These new effects are a very welcome addition, removing some severely belief-shattering moments, and blend almost perfectly with the original footage. Purists may complain, but they can choose the original effects if they must.

While neither a thrilling non-stop action ride or a lost classic of character drama, ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ is six episodes of entertaining period TV, and a lot of fun for anyone nostalgic for the 60s, old science fiction or the days when someone at the BBC had a functioning imagination. Like all the ‘Doctor Who’ releases, archive collectors and fanboys will find themselves served with a glut of special features, including commentaries and a deeply anal selection of featurettes. While it takes a stronger attention span than average to get through long, long interviews with cast members and obsessively detailed surveys of locations and design work, they’re all well made and will please completists. Best addition of all (new special effects aside) is a radio play from 1994, ‘Whatever Happened to… Susan?’, a Radio 4 comedy based around the Doctor’s granddaughter. It’s a lot of fun, and another example of the added value squeezed on these discs.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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