Doctor Who: Day Of The Daleks – DVD Review

Terminating the exterminators


Release Date: 12 September 2011
1972 * PG * 96 minutes * £19.99
Distributor: 2entertain
Director: Paul Bernard
Cast: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney, Aubrey Woods

One surprising thing about Doctor Who is that, until Steven Moffat came along and had us all drawing flow-charts, the series rarely played with the paradoxes inherent in time travel. This Third Doctor four-parter is a notable exception.

Rather like The Terminator, it concerns people from the future travelling back to our time to prevent a certain timeline unfolding – in this case, a post-WW3 Dalek-occupied Earth – via an assassination.

It’s a fascinating concept, played out as rollicking action-adventure. Pertwee is authoritative, Dalek lackeys The Ogrons (ape-like Gumbie toughs in Max Wall wigs) are a great creation (bring ‘em back, Moff!), and there are some charming moments of good-humoured banter between the “UNIT family”.

The general uselessness of both UNIT and the future rebels is a source of amusement: arriving at night, the rebels decide to wait until morning to attack (an unconventional military tactic); meanwhile, UNIT’s response when the Doctor goes missing is to search everywhere except the wine cellar… The main disappointment of the script, though, is the way the Daleks feel bolted on (which makes sense when you know they weren’t in the original draft at all); the Doctor only gets to say one sentence to them.

The story’s weaknesses are mainly on a technical level. The Daleks sound uncharacteristically weedy, and there just aren’t enough of them, something that becomes very apparent in the “action-packed” finale, as the same three Daleks trundle slowly towards a country house (which, bizarrely, seems to contain derelict wasteland and a railway bridge within its grounds…), something which could have been disguised far better with more creative direction.

Extras:

The main attraction is a new Special Edition of the story (fear not, Luddites – it’s an optional second-disc bonus). Previous re-edits have been a complete waste of time, but this is the first you might actively choose for future viewings. As usual, they’ve tarted up the effects (adding laser rays, mostly), but the Daleks have also been revoiced by current incumbent Nick Briggs, and there are various “fixes”, including a “Greedo shoots first” scenario (veteran Who fans may also be aghast to see that the infamous “No complications!” Ogron has been excised). Most significantly, new footage (cutaways of multiple Daleks and UNIT troops being zapped) has been shot at the original main location using a ‘70s camera, and blends in pretty seamlessly. As a result, in the climactic battle it now looks like as many as five or six Daleks are attacking… well, it’s a step up. Sadly the addition of CGI-cityscape establishing shots is very jarring.

On the commentary, the late producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks are joined by actors Jim Winston and Anna Barry and Mike Catherwood (the story’s vision mixer). Other highlights include a standard half-hour Making Of (rather top-heavy with “expert” talking heads, this);  the second half of featurette “The UNIT Family”, (31 minutes) which is at its most entertaining when covering stories yet to hit DVD such as “The Mind Of Evil” and “The Daemons” (and which also sees John “Benton” Levene tear up remembering the death of Master actor Roger Delgado); a Making Of on the Special Edition (14 minutes); and an amusing piece voiced by Who-loving comedian Toby Hadoke on the so-called “UNIT dating controversy”.

Completing the package are: a featurette in which Letts and Catherwood visit a studio gallery (20 minutes); shot clips from Nationwide and Blue Peter; a particularly intrepid “Now And Then” visit to the locations, which sees the dauntless cameraman struggling with bushes and fences, bless him (five minutes); one of those rather yawnsome sciency pieces they seem to think is essential nowadays, wherein a psychologist discusses the unreliability of our childhood memories (eight minutes); and the usual text commentary, photo gallery and Radio Times PDFs.

Ian Berriman