The Dalek Invasion of Earth

The Dalek Invasion of EarthThe next thing from DWM #474’s poll feature, and it was rewarding, as a consequence of this piece, to discover a lot of other folk also have strong memories of That’s Television Entertainment. “Hello – zzzip!”

DWM #474 “‘Conquered the Earth?'” chides the Doctor. “You poor, pathetic creatures. Don’t you realise? Before you attempt to conquer the Earth, you will have to destroy all living matter.” The Dalek takes umbrage. “Take them! Take them!” As Robomen manhandle the time traveller and his friends, the creature turns to camera: “We are the masters of Earth. We are the masters of Earth!”

This was November 1986. I was on standby, record-and-pause invoked on my video, because I knew the evening’s celebration of 50 years of BBC TV, That’s Television Entertainment, was going to contain bits from Doctor Who. Here was Ringo Starr, sat outside a Romany caravan, remembering Quatermass (“Hello – zzzip!”) and then cameth the clips. I can’t lay my hands on that recording now, but I can play it back behind my eyes. I watched it so many times. There was Leela clawing away Magnus Greel’s hood. Linx tonguing at his Sontaran mask. The Sixth Doctor seeing off Davros (“And I shall be waiting for you”). Eldrad taking a spear to the chest. And, of course, William Hartnell chuckling at those poor, pathetic creatures.

This was the stand-out for me. The authoritarian First Doctor so on the case he could mock his deadliest foes. It would be another four years before The Dalek Invasion of Earth was released on VHS, and it never quite matched up to the cinematic epic I’d extrapolated from that sequence. But if we consider the context of its creation, it reclaims its grandeur.

When Steven Moffat was flagging up Matt Smith’s third series, he said, “I want slutty titles and movie-poster plots”. The Dalek Invasion of Earth is that (it even spawned a film). It didn’t just meet the public’s clamour for the baddies’ return, it saw a production team thinking bigger. This is Doctor Who‘s first-ever alien invasion story and told on a scale then unheard of. One boggles at the ambition of putting a Dalek on Westminster Bridge when the show’s only prior OB was a couple of tiny drop-ins with no regular cast for The Reign of Terror. And how everyone must have despaired in that meeting when they got to the bit in the script where the Dalek emerges from the Thames. Sheer folly. But sheer scale and sheer excitement.

Yes, the story groans over its six episodes, but it remains a giant in Doctor Who. Daleks! In London! On Westminster Bridge! Pound those bongos, everyone, and beat out the message: They are the masters of Earth.

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