Saturday 11 June 2011

Dr. Who and the Daleks (movie)

Dr. Who and the Daleks- bigger budget, bigger studios, all-star cast. You might expect it to be so much more amazing than the t.v. original. Remarkably, it is not. We might not be surprised that The Daleks had a stronger and more thoughtful script and better conceived characters than Dr. Who and the Daleks, but we might expect Dr. Who and the Daleks to be far more impressive on a visual level. Nevertheless, the film shows to demonstrate how much more resourcefully the BBC original uses the limited resources it had available. For instance, although the Dalek city in the movie has a big and impressive entrance, it has no model shot like the original, thus there is no sense that this is any more than just one building. The movie Dalek city just looks like one small factory from the outside. The interior sets of the city in the movie are bigger, but the corridors lack the surreal menacing quality of the t.v. story.

The making of this story in colour reveals just how much the Sixties series benefited from being in black and white. The forest in The Daleks appears dark and menacing. In Dr Who and the Daleks, it looks pathetically small. The same with the caves. You can barely see the tunnels in The Daleks and so one's imagination allows one to conceive of it as massive. The cave set in the movie appears much smaller because it is more visible.

The film utterly fails to capture the depth of the original story. Themes about war and pacifism are touched upon in the movie, but not to the same extent as the serial. Even more unsatisfying, the characters have been altered beyond recognition. The Dr. Who is no longer a scary and mysterious figure, but a kindly old inventor. Susan is the kind of annoying overly clever child that populates many family movies. Ian is no longer a credible character, but a comic slapstick idiot. Barbara is a helpless blonde who seems to be barely acknowledged by even her boyfriend. The fun, comic mood of the movie may make for good entertainment on a wet Saturday afternoon, but it does show its distance from the original source.

Lead actor Peter Cushing puts in a rather impressive performance as Dr Who, though given his enormous talent, this should hardly be surprising. Playing Dr. Who was a role that he enjoyed immensely. He certainly did not feel that the role was beneath him. Roberta Tovey shows very notable talent as a child actress here. Jennie Linden is unfortunately quite forgettable as Barbara Who. She fails to generate any real interest at all. It is rather telling that Ian does not appear to show very much interest in her at all. He seems to pay more attention to her little sister most of the time! The late Roy Castle himself does not impress as Ian either. His comic performance is just too slapstick for the character to be taken at all seriously.

I do love the Daleks in this film. They look really great, even if they lack the negative effect when zapping people. Having them in different colours makes them look so much more surreal, reflecting their kitsch 60s vibe. I am really disappointed by fan reactions to the New Paradigm Daleks. I thought it was fantastic the way the new Daleks paid tribute to the coloured movie Daleks and also the 60s toys. I have a very real fear that the fab new Daleks will be quietly dropped from the show.

Dr. Who and the Daleks is an enjoyable film that one can watch occasionally, but for me its clear failings are a testament to the strength of the original serial. To my mind, there are far too many fans who are quick to dismiss the merits of The Daleks. Watching Dr. Who and the Daleks ought to demonstrate just how strong the second serial of Doctor Who really was.

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