Doctor Who – Day of the Daleks

Now that we’ve had the series finale, and there’s now new Doctor Who until Christmas, it’s time to turn to the classic DVDs again. There are still plenty to come, including one of my personal favourites[1], so expect more of these posts over the next year or so..

This particular DVD is one I’ve been looking forward to. First shown in January 1972, it stars Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, Katy Manning as Jo Grant, and the whole UNIT gang. It was the first time the Daleks had appeared in five years, and their first appearance in colour.[2] The story is a nicely time-wimey one, which involves guerrillas from the future travelling back to the present[3] to try to prevent an event that caused their future to exist, which proves to be a bit of a problem. The world is on the brink of war, and the people in the future believe that war was triggered by the actions of Sir Reginald Styles, organiser of a peace conference. They believe that he set off a bomb, which destroyed the conference, and triggered the first of a series of wars which led to a weakened Earth being invaded by the Daleks. Not being at all happy with being ruled by the Daleks, they’re trying to change things…

Lots of the usual fun follows, with Jo being accidentally moved forward in time where she meets a moderately creepy servant of the Daleks, and everyone meets their charming Ogrons[3].

It’s all good fun, and stands up pretty well, despite the limitations imposed by available resources. It’s painfully obvious that there were only three Dalek props available, and that the original ring modulator used for their voices had been lost. It’s also hard not to notice that the Daleks had been squeezed into an existing story rather than this having been created for them. And behind the scenes, it seems that somebody forgot that the Daleks were owned by Terry Nation, and that his permission was needed to use them.

Now some previous DVD releases have included the option to watch with enhanced special effects created for the disc. I’ve always been a bit dubious of that kind of thing, as I think it crosses the line from doing the best possible restoration job to being George Lucas, but so long as the original version is there to enjoy, it’s harmless enough.

But this one goes further. In addition to the nicely restored original version, there’s a specially tarted up version on the second disc. This includes improved visual effects, Dalek voices by Nicholas Briggs, who does the same job on the current incarnation of the show, and even some reshot and additional scenes, which involved returning to the original location and using vintage cameras to make things match. It’s all very well put together, and quite impressive, but not strictly necessary. But the original version is still there to be seen as it was intended at the time, so it’s a harmless enough thing, which is worth watching once.

Extras are a reasonable collection. Apart from the usual commentary, production subtitles, pictures and trailer for the next release, we have:

  • Blasting the Past – The usual cast and crew review of making the story, with a good set of contributors, including some whose work on Doctor Who came somewhat later than 1972
  • A view from the gallery – Barry Letts, who was a much respected Doctor Who producer, and vision mixer Mike Catherwood talk about how TV was done in those days – pretty much shot and mixed live, with not a lot of time for retakes. Quite different from how it’s done now.
  • Nationwide – There was a Radio Times writing competition associated with the return of the Daleks. Current affairs show Nationwide reported on a school being presented with their prize – a not actually full-size Dalek.
  • Blue Peter – Long running presenter Peter Purves talking about his time as a Doctor Who companion with the assistance of some Daleks
  • The Making of Day of the Daleks – Special Edition – nicely detailed report on how the new bits were integrated into the existing footage, and how it was very carefully timed to match the original, as the original plan was to use the DVD muti-angle feature to have the special edition run as an option from the normal one. If they’d known that wasn’t going to happen, the result could have been a bit different…
  • Now and Then – A look at how the location have changed.
  • The UNIT Family – Part Two – A further investigation into the Doctor’s years as UNIT science advisor
  • The UNIT dating conundrum – Ooooh, this is a good one. There’s been a problem with this for quite some time. While never explicitly stated, there were loads of hints that the UNIT stories shown from the late sixties onwards were set a short time in the future. When Sarah Jane Smith first appeared in the mid 70s, she gave her time of origin as “1980”. But by 1983, in Mawdryn Undead, it appears that the Brigadier has been retired from military service since at least 1977, which all makes very little sense. Several Doctor Who writers attempt to make sense of it all…
  • The Cheating Memory – Should be required viewing for all those fans who make rude remarks about the current series. Steve Broster, producer of the Special Edition, talks about how actual old episodes can never come up to the standard you remember when you were six years old.

[1] You’ll hear me making excited noises when that one’s released. Not telling you which it is, though  :tongue:
[2] The Peter Cushing movies don’t count. They exist in some alternative universe, or something.
[3] A possible source of confusion: the guys in uniforms are guerrillas, while the Ogrons merely look a bit like gorillas.