Doctor Who and the Daleks (UK - BD RB)
Marcus hangs out with the Non-Doctor in this Non-Doctor Who Doctor Who film
Doctor Who (Peter Cushing) and his granddaughters, Susan (Roberta Tovey) and Barbara (Jennie Linden), end up going on a grand adventure in the Doctor’s new invention, the T.A.R.D.I.S. when Barbara's boyfriend Ian (Roy Castle) accidentally activates the machine.
Transported to a world devastated by an ancient nuclear war, it’s soon revealed that a race of Daleks are behind the destruction and keep the local people, the Thals living in the woods. The Daleks, mutated by the planet’s radiation seek to obtain the Thals anti-radiation drug and through the arrival of Doctor Who and his group they set in motion a plan to get what they require to take over the entire planet and restore themselves to their former unmutated selves.
This 1965 feature film isn’t exactly the Doctor Who fans had grown to love on the BBC. Based loosely on the popular TV show, Peter Cushing’s Doctor Who isn’t some time travelling alien but just a sciency guy that’s made a machine to travel through space and time. Told in a fairly typical 60s British fashion, the film is a solid representative of the sci-fi movies of era but comes with its own fair share of the British slapstick sense of humour.
With a story aimed squarely at the family adventure crowd, Roy Castle is there to offer up the comic relief and even through his clumsiness gets the plot going when he accidently falls on a big red button, ill placed on the floor of the T.A.R.D.I.S. He can get a little grating with some his clumsiness and prolonged moments of humour but much like my feelings on Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace it’s never enough to bring down the whole film, which on the whole is a solid Doctor Who adventure, despite the disconnect from the TV home we're used to with the franchise.
With very little in the way of genuine threat, Doctor Who and the Daleks keeps it simple and rather polite for a film depicting a family imprisoned by dominate alien war machines. I mean for starters the hero here is essentially someone’s inventor Grandfather with a weak heart and the Daleks, not only talk irritatingly slowly but they have a city full of lava lamps (groovy man) and run on static electricity. Even more twee is the fact it’s soon discovered that Daleks move like dodgems at a funfair and being the clever science family the Who’s are, they work out that the Daleks can’t drive over fabric, like clothes or carpet and it renders them powerless. How far sci-fi has come (well maybe not, just last year the Avengers ‘turned off’ an entire army of alien creates just by shutting a wormhole and we all swallowed that one).
The video presentation here is bright and colourful with its many weird and wonderful Doctor Who locations but it still holds a fairly gritty looking appearance. Edges range between sharp and obviously HD powered to soft and only slightly above DVD quality. The brightly lit sets, like the inside of the T.A.R.D.I.S. really show off the textures in the characters’ clothes, especially Doctor Who’s old man suede coat and the metallic appearance of the Dalek city is pretty shiny in all the right places.
The Lower lit sets suffer a little bit from being underwhelming to look at with nothing really popping off the screen beside the garish comic book greens, reds and blues and in some of the more bizarre locations there’s just no escaping the low rent approach to sets and set dressing, even when taking the age of the film into consideration.
All in all this is a pretty grainy, yet well-presented restoration of the nearly 50 year old British film. It feels its age but at the same time feels like it’s making use of the power of HD, even if it never really knocks you over with the results.
The Austin Powers-esq 60s opening score does very little to generate the world of Doctor Who as we know it today (or indeed ever) and the rest of the pretty standard adventure feeling score feels a little out place at times, despite sounding very good within the mix.
Dialogue is very centre based but it's crystal clear. Even to the point where it can sometimes feel disconnected from the film itself and you’ll soon realise that's because all that the track really offers is dialogue for the most part. There’s very few atmospherics sounds outside of the T.A.R.D.I.S. and really its only swooshing doors, Dalek fire extinguishers and the Dalek voices that feature in the sound effects departments. It’s all very timid for an adventure film really and it’s really only that score that dictates the mood of the film.
The commentary with Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey is a fairly good glimpse behind the scenes of the film but it’s a little quaint in the details department and doesn’t really service newer Doctor Who fans who may question exactly how this film came about. Given that I'm a casual Who fan at best, I personally would have liked to have heard if it influenced future Doctor Who episodes and how it stood or indeed stands in the Doctor Who community. That sort of comes next...
‘Dalekmania’ (57:30 HD) is a rather timid behind the scenes making of with tons of clips from the film. The film's history is discussed and how the rights for Doctor Who and the Daleks were obtained. There’s also a very nerdy Doctor Who Magazine editor explaining the differences between the mythology in the film and the mythology in the TV show. This making of, which feels as if it was produced in the 90s includes many of the original cast and it turns out to be a fine extra to sit alongside the film and seems pretty familiar, so I guess they showed it on TV at some stage as its never anything I’ve owned.
‘Restoring Doctor Who and The Daleks’ (08:26 HD) has Marcus Hearn (A TV Historian) amongst other experts explaining the history of the project. Its original Techniscope film limitations and the technolgy used to repair and clean the film for home digital release is covered in a ton of detail and of course it includes before and afters looks at the restoration of the film.
The ‘Interview With Gareth Owen’ (07:41 HD) , a Sheperton Studios Expert as well as a Doctor Who one too it seems talks Doctor Who history, the marketability of The Daleks and how the prospect of a colour, live action film in the 60s was hot stuff to Doctor Who fans.
Lastly there’s a stills gallery and the trailer.
I have a vague memory of seeing Doctor Who and the Daleks in the past but I probably didn’t appreciate its 60s quaintness quite as much in my youth as I do now. I love this era of sci-fi a fair bit, a more innocent time if you will and Doctor Who and the Daleks does enough good to outshine its obvious limitations. Yeah, they stop Daleks with chocolate mousse and a coat but there’s something cool about that and even though this is off of Doctor Who mythology as we know it today, Cushing as a clever old guy still holding his own against the aliens, while his companions help him out at every turn still says Doctor Who to me.
The disc has a solid restoration effort behind it and provides some great results but given the grain, the soft edges and limited audio track, it’s not exactly going to rival any modern HD Doctor Who presentations. That said, the extras go a fair way to make it a solid all round purchase and I feel as if I’ve learnt a lot about the Non-Doctor Who, Doctor Who movie from the sixties because of them. Next up, its sequel time with Daleks: Invasion Earth… see you there.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable for all
Release Date: 27th May 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 English
Extras: Commentary, Dalekmania, Featurettes, Interview, Photo Gallery, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gordon Flemyng
Cast: Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden, Roberta Tovey, Barrie Ingham
Genre: Adventure and Sci-Fi
Length: 82 minutes
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