special thanks to unwillingadventurer
“They used to say the Earth had a smell of death about it.”
The Dalek Invasion of Earth is a bleak story. It’s a story of death, and plague, and war, and loss, and destruction. It’s also Doctor Who’s first invasion of Earth story, and its first companion departure. But ‘the Dalek Invasion of Earth’ is also uplifting and inspiring. It’s a story about hope, and courage, and resistance, and friendship, and survival. It’s about people struggling for a brighter future; people who have fought against the Daleks years before the Doctor even arrived to help them. And that’s one of its main strengths. These humans were fighting for their freedom before the Doctor came, and they will continue to re-build after the Doctor leaves. It’s about everybody, and not a single person is irrelevant.
Firstly this serial stands out from a visual point of view. It’s iconic. It has vastness and atmosphere; it has Barbara running through a war torn London, and Daleks taking leisurely strolls (or should that be rolls?) across Westminster Bridge. The images and the music, and these rare location scenes are a highlight, and emphasise the true scale and bleakness of the invasion of our beloved home of the future. London’s streets deserted, bomb damage emulating destruction from the blitz of World War II, Dalek graffiti tags, posters declaring ‘do not dump bodies in the river’, men with robotic helmets roaming like zombies to claim their next victims- every single image is used to highlight the impact the Daleks have had on the city, and more importantly its inhabitants.
The imagery sells the stories of what our characters have been through before the Doctor and his friends arrived. What’s wonderful about this story is really about these characters, and the challenges they face as they all make their way to the mines in Bedfordshire for what is almost the final showdown. The people- the freedom fighters, the resistance, the rebels, whatever you want to call them are all struggling to continue this fight. They are strong and willing to battle to the bitter end, but the arrival of the Doctor and his companions almost gives them a new energy, and a new perspective, and a way to defeat the Daleks once and for all. The characters are fantastic.
Dortmun the leader of the rebels is intelligent and defiant, but angered by the burden of his disability. He makes speeches like a War leader, resembling someone like Churchill, but ends up sacrificing himself to give the others a chance. There’s Tyler and Jenny, unable to make friends in a world where they can so easily be taken from you. And idealistic David, ready to re-build the Earth, never running away from his problems but facing them with hope. There’s Larry who simply wants to find his brother, only to find out he’s become a robo-man and doesn’t recognise him. What a truly heartbreaking moment as they both kill each other, and with the robo-man’s last dying breath, he finally recognises his brother and whispers ‘Larry’.
But with the goodness of humanity struggling for a brighter future, the serial doesn’t shy away from showing us the worst of humanity too. As David points out ‘not all humans are automatically allies’. This is brilliantly shown with the greedy Ashton, or the women who betray Barbara for more food. Ashton refuses to help Ian unless he is given gold for his services. Ultimately Ashton is a victim of his own greed, killed by a slyther because no one stopped to save the man who only thought of himself.
And to add to the mix of brilliant characters is the TARDIS team itself. Following each of their separate journey’s we are shown just how truly remarkable this team are (Not that you didn’t know that already!) We have the Doctor telling the Daleks he’ll stand up to them and defeat them, getting a unique sense of joy as he works out all the little things around him. There’s a brilliant Dalek POV shot where the Doctor stands with his hands on his lapels in defiance as the Dalek approaches him in the control room. The Doctor is thoroughly optimistic that they will defeat them. The Daleks dare to mess with the forces of creation, and he’s going to dare to stop them!
There’s also Ian who travels in style on the Dalek saucer, arriving at the mine and diverting the bomb by swinging down some ropes and blocking its path, still finding time to straighten his tie before leaving, ever the handsome dashing action hero! And there’s Barbara, driving across England in a lorry, mowing down Daleks and then giving them a history lesson or two as she makes her way to their headquarters. Each of them is able to carry their own individual stories, showing their own individual strengths and roles to play within the serial.
And who can forget Susan’s story, the girl who doesn’t have an identity, who doesn’t belong, the girl who wants a time of her own? Here she falls in love with David, working alongside him and learning how to fight in a struggling world. Susan is torn between her love for David and her love for her grandfather, and after everything has happened, after the Daleks are defeated and we hear the chimes of Big Ben for the first time in years, we are presented with a new beginning for the Earth, and for Susan. The Doctor’s goodbye to Susan is heartbreaking and beautiful, and the image of the TARDIS key left in the soil where the ship once stood is devastating. Susan’s journey with the Doctor has ended and he and the show must go on without her. This is Doctor Who’s first goodbye, and we’re getting teary eyed even thinking about it.
The Dalek Invasion of Earth is about an invasion by our pepperpot foes the Daleks, but more importantly it’s about the people who stopped them. It’s about the few days where some saviours arrived in a blue box to help them on their way. It’s about a group of survivors showing us there is hope when all is lost. It feels like a special story to us and it will stay in our hearts forever, simply because it’s about human resilience and there’s nothing more inspiring than that. We want to come away from a story knowing that it made us feel something, made us think about something, made us care for the people, and showed us that things matter and we can change anything we want to- we can succeed! The Dalek Invasion does all that, and remains our favourite story in Doctor Who because of it.