Terry Nation wrote this story, broadcast as The Mutants, but rebranded as The Daleks when it was released to home video, for William Hartnell’s Doctor, and introduced the series most enduring villains… The Daleks. Aired in 7 parts from December 21, 1963 to February 1, 1964, the titles hinted at what you could expect to find in each episode…
The Dead Planet, The Survivors, The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition, The Ordeal and The Rescue brought the Doctor, Ian Chesterton (William Russell) – who still thinks he’s in charge, Barbara Wright (Katherine Mount) – who is the first to find love on an alien world, and the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan (Carole Ann Ford) to a radioactive, seemingly dead planet. It’s not until later that in the story that we learn where we are, though the appearance of the Daleks hints to Whovians where we are… Skaro.
There seems to be a lone city, run by Daleks, who capture our hearty heroes, and after they escape, are captured again. Between captures they are given medicine to survive the radiation by the humanoid species inhabiting the forests, wondering about the city inhabitants, the Thals.
After their escape, the Doctor learns that an integral part of the TARDIS has been lost, one that he removed earlier in the ruse to investigate the city. So they must infiltrate the city again, even as the Daleks decide to set off another atomic weapon to irradiate the planet again, allowing the Dalek civilization to flourish.
When the Doctor and Susan are captured, one last time, the Doctor attempts to make a dangerous bargain, he offers the Daleks temporal travel through the use of his TARDIS. This strikes the Daleks as unbelievable, time travel is not possible. It seems they didn’t even know of the existence of the Time Lords before their first encounter with the Doctor.
That’s a heavy burden for the Doctor to bear, in a number of centuries, when the last Time War erupts….
There is fun and imagination at play in this story, some nice model work for the Dalek city, and some interesting creature designs when our heroes must ford a swamp. There’s also a hint of the monstrosity inside the Dalek shell when they capture one, and remove it, so Ian can slip inside, and escort the company out.
The final battle at the end of the story sees the stop of the Daleks on Skaro (at least temporarily as we know), as our heroes deactivate their power source. But something tells me they’ll be back.
Our Doctor is still a little cranky, and hasn’t quite assumed the lead role in the series yet, he’s more than happy to let Ian take the spotlight while he wanders about collecting samples and musing on circumstance.
Still, for those viewers that only know the 2005 and on series, there are still some recognizable tendencies that exist right from the beginning.
The next story coming our way is the short two-parter entitled The Edge of Destruction, which the final moments of The Escape lead into when, as the TARDIS leaves Skaro, a flare of light illuminates the console, and plunges our quartet into darkness…