Thursday, 19 May 2011

1x06 The Survivors

“It’s possible that they may have been anti-radiation gloves…drugs.”

Broadcast Date: 28th December 1963

After a poorly edited recap shoved onto the beginning of this episode (really, it captured nothing of the brilliance from the conclusion of episode 5) this part does get better and better. There is no music played over the events for ages, when it would be so easy to ruin the atmosphere by adding on a naff piece of sci-fi music, this episode takes a risk and doesn’t do this. Instead it makes the audience give their full attention to the events, which are no small deal. Only five minutes into the episode and we’ve discovered the planet is soaked with radiation, there’s been an atom bomb dropped and the Doctor is incredibly stubborn and foolish.

Just as I’m digesting all this, Tristram Carey decides to play his first piece of music, over the classic alien reveal. The Daleks! Instantly they’re made to appear emotionless and ruthless as they shoot down Ian’s escape attempt. Admittedly Bill Russell does overdo the ‘I can’t feel my legs’ speech but it still adds to the level of danger our characters are going through.

Some of the dialogue in the prison is a little B-Movie but every line is also incredibly important and furthers the plot. I don’t know how this works but it does and does brilliantly. Hartnell is so good in this scene, the radiation poisoning hitting him more than the others, just being able to splutter some words out.

The first appearance of the Daleks!
But old Billy does make a slight recovery, in order to be taken to talk with the Daleks. One thing I’ve never understood with the scenes in this location is why on earth the Daleks TV scanners display the title credits of the show! Getting back on track and the Daleks are screeching their description of the Thal race to the Doctor. For this we have an incredibly powerful low-angled shot of a Dalek, something I’ve breezed over in previous viewings. Now I think it’s the most powerful scene since Barbara entered the TARDIS for the first time back in ‘An Unearthly Child’.

Back to the prison and we’re given a somewhat heavy-handed reminder that Ian is temporarily paralysed, but no review of this story would be complete without the most famous ‘Hartnellism’ of them all. ‘It’s possible they may have been anti-radiation gloves…drugs’. This line has become iconic with Hartnell and his era of Doctor Who, even the subtitles on my DVD picks up on the error.

I think everything in this episode has to be paid attention to, as with the previous episode, as Nation writes his scripts very fast yet very carefully. There are a lot of little, unnoticeable lines of dialogue that becomes very important, either in five minutes time or an episodes time. Another trick Nation includes in his script is the first episode of this serial (1x05 ‘The Dead Planet’) has a cast of just the TARDIS crew and this episode has just the four humans and the Daleks. It’s such a simple tactic but makes the look of the aliens so much more of an impact on the audience.

It’s only twenty minutes in but I’m getting a bit tired of the Dalek voices. They are brilliant, there’s no denying it, but when they get some long speeches, especially when there are no human characters in the scene, it does gets a little irritable.

This and some of William Russell’s dodgy limping aside, the episode is well crafted in every aspect. Even the lighting creating an impact on me, especially with the atmosphere it helps bring to the final scenes where Susan has finally been given something to do; travel through the jungle on her own.

A final note of relevance, if the TARDIS has seventeen different combinations just to unlock the door (something that gets forgotten very quickly in continuity), Susan doesn’t give much thought as she rams her key into the lock. Maybe she’ll break it one day…

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