A Guest Blog by Hevy782
At the end of Frontier in Space we had the Daleks revealed as the true masterminds behind the plot to start a war between Earth and Draconia. While their plan was stopped, their army is still intent on invading the galaxy and this is where Planet of the Daleks comes in. The second part of the Dalek War story-line was written by Dalek creator Terry Nation, the first he penned since The Daleks’ Master Plan in 1965 with William Hartnell as the Doctor. He had taken the rights to use the Daleks away from Doctor Who back in the late sixties and attempted to launch them in their own series in America. However, nothing ever came to fruition and the Daleks were, in effect, gone forever. But an agreement was eventually reached to bring the Daleks back and after their first colour appearance in Day of the Daleks the previous year their creator was finally ready to return to them with new ideas, such as invisible Daleks and ice volcanoes, as well as old ones, such as Thals in a jungle setting and a Dalek base on the edge of said jungle, to add to the celebratory feel.
Continuing from where Frontier in Space left off, the Doctor falls uncouncious in the TARDIS and the Time Lords operate it by remote control, sending it to the jungle planet of Spiridon. Once there, Jo leaves to go finds help and stumbles across a group of Thal’s, Taron, Vaber and Codal, who are marooned on the planet. They agree to go find the Doctor, who has now recovered, and leave Jo inside their damaged space ship. Unaware to them, Jo has been infected by a deadly Fungus but is saved by one of the native Spiradons, Wester, who tells her that the Daleks are on the planet and have enslaved his people. The Doctor is found and then bought back to the Thal ship but he and Codal are captured by the Daleks who destroy the ship, leaving the Doctor believing that Jo is dead. The Doctor and Codal are brought inside the Dalek base but are able to escape their captors and are driven to the lower levels where. Meanwhile, another Thal ship crashes and the survivors, Rebec, Marat and Latep, meet up with Taron and Vaber. Taron, Rebec and Marat then enter the Dalek base through the cooling tunnels and meet up with the Doctor at Codal on the bottom floor where the Doctor discovers a giant refrigeration unit is keeping an army of ten-thousand Daleks in cold storage. Marat is killed but the rest are able to escape and they meet up with Jo, Latep and Taron. A Dalek patrol then finds the Thals and kills Vaber but are the Daleks are then over powered. With a Dalek casing and some Spiradon furs they are able to enter the city but are then detected by the Daleks within. They once again escape to the lower level but this time have a plan and blow up a rock wall, allowing the molten ice to flow through into the base and encase the Dalek army in ice. The Thals then steal a Dalek ship and head off back to Skaro. The Doctor and Jo are then pursued through the jungle by the Dalek Supreme but are able to get to the TARDIS and escape. The Dalek Supreme then orders for mining to begin at once to free the army and announces that the Daleks are never defeated.
Now the first time I saw Frontier in Space I didn’t move immediately on to watching Planet of the Daleks. In fact, it was a number of years before I first saw Planet of the Daleks so I had a lot of hype built up from the cliffhanger at the end of Frontier in Space. Now then, you may remember me using the term loose to describe the Dalek War story line a couple of times in this post and the last one and that’s because you can watch Planet of the Daleks without having first watched Frontier in Space and still get the same level of enjoyment out of it. There is very little reference to the Draconians and the Ogrons here except partway through the story when the Doctor and Jo meet back up and while the story picks up where it left of last time with the Doctor injured, this injury could have been from virtually anything and it would not have affect the plot of this story at all. Does this bother me at all? Not too much as they both stand well on their own and are both enjoyable but it doesn’t really feel like there’s enough pay off in Planet of the Daleks for someone who’s taken the time to sit down and watch Frontier in Space beforehand. Where my big problem with this comes in is the cliffhanger to episode one which features the “surprise” reveal of a Dalek. Terry Nation often devotes the first cliffhanger of a serial to revealing the Daleks despite many of his stories featuring the word Dalek in the title. This is made even worse here by the fact that the Daleks were featured at the end of the previous story so it just makes the first episode of this seem like padding purely there to build up to a reveal which we already know full well about. The dialogue itself edges round the word Dalek so much that it’s almost an insult to the audience’s intelligence and it just feels cheap. However, the reveal of the Dalek is nicely handled in terms of visuals with the Doctor, Taron, Vaber and Codal spraying the invisible being to slowly reveal the shape of a Dalek. Other than that it’s a real waste. I could go on but by this point I’m tired of talking about the negatives of this story so let’s more onto the positives.
The first of those positives is the action/adventure style of story being told here and while it’s not as fast paced as a lot of the stuff we have nowadays (which in my eyes is a good thing as it allows time for reflection and tension building) it still rattles along at a much faster pace than Frontier in Space did before hand. I like Nation’s style of writing and while it’s not always original it is always fun in some way or another. He has a very distinct style of writing which involves the characters facing peril after peril and having to think of a way out of it in a limited amount of time while under a great deal pressure. There are loads of moments like this in this story and not everyone makes it out of them alive which adds a real element of suspense when you get to the next one. This story also has a lot of similarities with the first Dalek story and it is often debated whether or not this is Terry Nation simply recycling old ideas because he can’t think of any new ones or if he’s doing it deliberately to help with the celebratory feel. While we may never know for sure, I like to believe in the latter. Television was very different back then than it is now as episodes were made only with the intention of being shown once or twice and there was no way to record stuff back then. This would mean that it had been almost ten years since The Daleks was shown so people watching Planet of the Daleks all these years later are scarcely likely to remember that, a great deal of them were probably not even born when at the time when the first story went out. There were novelisations though and I think that The Daleks was released in book form the time that Planet of the Daleks went out but fans that had read the book were probably saw this as the closest they would ever get to seeing the classic serial rather than seeing it as the cheap copy that some make it out to be today. Moving on to the Thals, we have some interesting characters amongst them.
However, there are only two really worthy of discussion and they are Codal and Rebec. Codal is the character who develops the most over the course of this story and is the one who works best with the Doctor. There is a great line about courage which the Doctor says to Codal in the second episode and you can really see his character take it on board for the rest of the story. We then have Rebec who is the only female of the group but nevertheless plays a fairly active role. The only problem is that she is tied to the character of Taron and rather than being a character in her own right she is often only treated as Taron’s love interest for the story. So a step down in terms of female representation compared to what we had in Frontier in Space but Jo is as strong as ever here in what is her penultimate story. She spends the first half separated from the Doctor which gives her some interesting stuff to do on her own including breaking in to the Dalek base in an attempt to free the Doctor. Finally we have the Daleks themselves who are very menacing in this bit do have their limits. However, they make up for these with their cunning shown by their attempt to wipe out all life on the planet with a deadly bacteria.
In conclusion, Planet of the Daleks is the weaker half of the Dalek War story-line but is still a good enough story and is a fun romp to kill a few hours with. It’s also left open ended and doesn’t leave the Daleks completed wiped out at the end, a common mistake often made as those types of endings never have any impact because it’s obvious that the Daleks won’t stay dead for long. So then, it’s a seven-out-of-ten from me and while that’s a step down from Frontier in Space it’s still a strong rating. The Dalek War story-line itself is something that I would recommend every Doctor Who fan take a look at as it is made up of two very good stories worth your time. We’re now getting closer and closer to Christmas which means that the Christmas special, Last Christmas, is coming up soon but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the story in the comments below.