Monday, February 6, 2023

First Doctor Revisisted: "The Daleks"

“The only interest we have in the Thals is their total extermination!” –Dalek

Continuing my rewatch of Classic Who, I had to stop and reflect on the story introducing Doctor Who’s most iconic villain: The Daleks. It’s a slow start (yikes seven episodes), but it’s worth the investment.

Coming off the heels of kidnapping Barbara and Ian and escaping prehistoric Earth, we come to our first alien world. This story was our first real time seeing the manipulative side of the Doctor. River Song told us in modern Who, “The Doctor lies.” In the modern era, he tends to lie in order to protect his companions (sending Rose and Clara away from deadly situations, faking his death with Amy and Rory, etc.). However, with the beginnings of the First Doctor, it was self-serving. In this instance, he wanted to explore the metallic city. Sorry, Doctor, but I don’t think any scientific expedition is worth the lives of four people (including yours and your granddaughter’s). 

The first episode of the story builds up the mystery slowly: the petrified forest, metallic city, and the vials of amber liquid. It all culminates in a glimpse of a Dalek, as it approaches Barbara. As I started the second episode, I had to stop and wonder what it must have been like back in the 60s to experience this. Science fiction as we know it was a relatively new concept at that time (heck, the moon landing was over five years  AFTER this story aired), so to see a metal alien armed with a plunger and a whisk, would that have been freaky? What were those first Whovians thinking as these salt and pepper shakers took our time travelers captive?

It’s funny to think about the timeline of the Daleks. This was the first time the Doctor encountered the Daleks (unless that’s part of the lost memories of the Timeless Children), but it wasn’t the first time the Daleks encountered the Doctor. He later encountered the Daleks at an earlier date (wibbly wobbly timey wimey) at least once when Davros first created them.

This story was also one of the few times we got to see the Thals (they later appeared in the Third and Fourth Doctor eras). I would love to see more of the Thal race! We see the Daleks constantly, so why not revisit the Thals? 

If you’ve seen “The Daleks”, let me know what you think. I don’t have enough people to discuss classic Who with. Until next time, here’s a quote from the Thals to take you out:

“There is no indignity in being afraid to die. But there is a terrible shame in being afraid to live.” –Alydon

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