|Originally Broadcast 5th October 1988|
Written by: Ben Aaronovitch
In a nutshell: The Doctor and Ace arrive in London in 1963 where the Daleks are causing trouble.
Review: Doctor Who celebrates it’s 25th anniversary! I’m reviewing this series as individual stories but I’m also going to gather a sense of how it really captures and celebrates the show’s milestone birthday (if it actually does)! And it all kicks off with the Daleks! Who doesn’t want to celebrate a special with the Daleks?
Straight away the episode has kicked off the image of the previous episode, there’s so much to mention in the first few minutes alone. A cool pre-titles sequence, Coal Hill School(!), the Doctor and Ace just gelling in a way no Doctor/Companion really has since the Tom Baker days and a mysterious little girl. The little girl sends a real sense of menace around the episode, especially once she’s teamed with the music which somehow sounds great but spooky at the same time. The direction works seamlessly as well, with Mike asking Ace if she’s from somewhere else just at the time they walk past the TARDIS. This episode just works so brilliantly, nothing is out of place or wrong so far and I love it.
Returning to the scrap yard where we first met the Doctor back in 1963 is a very nice touch but I’m not sure it works for me, just because it’s so big. I remember it being small and dark and cluttered, this time it’s vast and empty. I suppose someone could have cleaned it out in the last twenty-five years… This episode does seem to be carrying all the ‘traits’ of a Who episode as the Doctor not being listened to by the silly humans and there’s a wonderful line about the Doctor saying whatever’s in there isn’t even remotely human and mistaking the Group Captain for a Brigadier.
The first time we see a Dalek isn’t impressive at all. The bottom casing is on fire and it just trundles out, clearly on wheels. The thing itself doesn’t really carry enough presence in its current form to capture my imagination either. I do think it works when the first Dalek is killed almost straight after it appears on screen signals what’s to come, but it also shows the Doctor is taking no prisoners this time around.
I love the scene of the Doctor and Ace driving to the school, with the Doctor suddenly taking over the driving. Sophie Aldred really sells the scene well and I have to say it again, but I just love these two together. I think this is one of the strongest Doctor/Companion relationships and it’s the one my mind fits together a lot more than anyone else in the classic shows final decade.
“You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies”. There are some fantastic lines of dialogue in this episode and now we’re in the classroom Susan was in at the very start of the programme. Ace picks up a book on the French Revolution, the only thing that’s missing is her flicking through it and saying “That’s not right”.
Never mind all that, though, it appears Davros is on the scene. The classic opening episodes of Dalek stories always feature a severe lack of Daleks and this one, despite carrying more Dalek action than the others, is no exception. By the end of the episode I’m wanting some more to turn up from somewhere and luckily we get one for the episode’s climax. I like how the Doctor doesn’t think about the Operator being another Dalek until Ace points it out, it’s a very Doctor thing to do but then he stupidly trips on a stair like a girl in a horror movie! But the episode ending: just Wow! A Dalek climbing stairs! It sounds so corny now, but for this episode it’s just special and really deserves its own cliffhanger ending. So far the 25th anniversary is looking very special indeed.