Who Review – The Dalek Invasion of Earth

Posted by Richo On February 23, 2012 1 COMMENT

Welcome to the Eighth Instalment of Who Review, my ongoing quest to watch and review all available episodes of SF’s longest running television series, Doctor Who.

I’m jumping 2 storylines ahead for this review. The two storylines before this one, The Reign of Terror and Planet of Giants, have not yet been released on DVD. Both are scheduled for release in 2012 and I’ll retro review both once they’re available.

This week, the Doctor’s greatest villains return in the 11th Doctor Who storyline, The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

For a complete listing of all Who Review articles, please click here – Who Review Archive


The Dalek Invasion of Earth (6 Episodes)


November 21 – December 26, 1964


William Hartnell


Susan Foreman

Barbara Wright

Ian Chesterton


The Dalek Invasion of Earth opens with a haunting scene of a man wearing a strange metallic helmet, walking up to the banks of the Thames then stepping into the water and drowning himself. Behind him, on a nearby bridge, a poster reads “It is illegal to dump bodies in the river.” This powerful, harrowing opening sets the stage for the first true masterpiece of the Doctor Who series.

The TARDIS materialises on the banks of the Thames. At first, Ian and Barbara are excited to be home, but it soon becomes apparent that things aren’t quite right. The city is deathly quiet and seemingly in ruins. Things go from bad to worse when Susan, trying to climb the embankment, causes part of the bridge to collapse, burying the TARDIS.

Exploring, the TARDIS team are separated from one another. The Doctor and Ian go in search of tools at a nearby factory, in the hope of finding something to help free the TARDIS. They find a calendar marking the year as 2164 then encounter mind controlled humans wearing metallic helmets, called Robomen.

Meanwhile, Barbara and Susan find human survivors who take them to a nearby shelter, where they meet a small group of resistance fighters. They learn that earth has been invaded by unnamed robots. The resistance leader, Dortmun, has developed bombs he believed may destroy their enemies.

One of the key aspects of The Dalek Invasion of Earth is the strength of its supporting characters, especially the Resistance fighters. Unlike some of the earlier storylines, these characters have depth and nuance: The determination of wheelchair-bound Resistance leader Dortmun to perfect his anti-Dalek weaponry; the fatalism of Jenny; the charm and optimism of David, who is clearly drawn to Susan; the desire of Larry to find his missing brother; the self-reliance and toughness of Tyler. These are fully realised characters that add weight and resonance to the storyline.

The Doctor and Ian return to the TARDIS to find Susan and Barbara missing. They are captured by Robomen and witness a Dalek rising from the river. With this scene the Daleks become the first recurring villains in Doctor Who.

Some brief explanation is given to their appearance here, since we saw their destruction in The Daleks storyline. The Doctor tells Ian that the destruction of the Dalek race on Skaro occurs millions of years in the future, and that these events are occurring in the middle period of Dalek history. We also receive an explanation for how the Daleks can move outside of their city and without the metal floors to channel the static electricity they used to move themselves in The Daleks. They are equipped with receivers.

The Doctor and Ian are taken to the Dalek command, a flying saucer commanded by the Black Dalek. Imprisoned with a Resistance fighter, they learn the details of the invasion: Ten year ago, a meteor storm brought a plague to Earth, separating humanity into small communities. Six months later, the Daleks landed in saucers, easily defeating the scattered human communities. Many of the enslaved humans were turned into Robomen, while others were sent to a mine in Bedfordshire.

The Doctor is to be converted into a Roboman. Fortunately, the Resistance attacks the saucer and the Doctor is freed. Unfortunately, Dortmun’s weapons don’t work and the Resistance force is massacred.

Escaping the massacre, the TARDIS crew becomes completely separated from one another. Barbara escapes with Jenny back to the Resistance HQ, where she reveals to Dortmun that his bombs didn’t work. Fearing that their location is no longer safe, they make a desperate run to the museum, a secondary Resistance safe haven. The flight of Barbara and her companions is a brilliantly tense scene, as they hasten through the streets of London, empty except for the Daleks that hunt them.

Arriving at the museum safely, Dortmun begins refining his Dalek bomb and correcting his notes, while Jenny and Barbara work on preparing a lorry for them to travel in. To their horror, Dortmun leaves his notes from them then confronts a battalion of Daleks to test his weapon, sacrificing his own life. It’s a powerful, moving gesture and one of the strongest scenes in the Dalek Invasion.

With Dortmun dead, Barbara and Jenny take the lorry and head to the Bedfordshire mines.

Meanwhile, Susan escapes with David. They soon join up with The Doctor and Resistance fighter Tyler and decide to head to the Bedforshire mine. Their journey gives Susan and David a chance to bond and their relationship grows. They find love in the face of overwhelming adversity. These scenes are incredibly well written and very natural and at no point does their burgeoning relationship seem forced.

Ian has stowed away on the Dalek saucer, hiding in a concealed panel. The saucer leaves London for the Bedfordshire mines as Ian finds a fellow stowaway, Resistance fighter Larry. Larry is searching for his brother, who he believes is at the mine. In Bedfordshire, they manage to escape the saucer and enter the mines. There, they find Larry’s brother, who has been turned into a Roboman. Larry tries to reason with his brother, to no avail. To save Ian’s life, Larry kills his brother, sacrificing his own life as he does so. Once again, a supporting character is given a moment to shine. Like the earlier sacrifice of Dortmun, Larry’s death adds weight to the story and gives a personal face to the tragedy of the Dalek occupation.

With the TARDIS crew and the surviving Resistance fighters at the mines, the Dalek’s plan is finally uncovered; they are drilling through the Earth’s crust to reach the planet’s core. They hope to blow out the core with an explosive device then use a guidance system to pilot the planet around space. While the motivations for this plan are not explicitly stated, there is a warped kind of logic to it. The Daleks have lost their own home planet of Skaro to the Thals, so why not conquer a new home, one they can then use as a base for further conquests.

Fortunately, the Daleks are immobilised when Susan and David destroy the transmitter that provides them with mobility, and Ian and Barbara mange to free the mine slaves and gain control of the Robomen. The explosive device is diverted, destroying the Dalek base and seemingly wiping out the Daleks.

Back in London, The rebels help the Doctor and his companions remove the rubble that has buried the TARDIS. As they prepare to leave, Susan finds herself conflicted; she doesn’t want to leave her grandfather, but she has fallen in love with David and wants to stay with him. In the end, the Doctor makes the decision for her. He tells her that she has now grown into a woman and needs to find her own way in the world. His final words to her are incredibly moving and deserve reprinting here: “One day, I shall comeback- yes, I shall come back. Until then there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forwards in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.”

This touching moment, with the Doctor sacrificing his own happiness for Susan’s benefit, is a fitting finale to a storyline that runs the whole gamut of emotions.


The Dalek Invasion of Earth is not really the Doctor’s story. While he’s given several key story moments, the focus really is on the companions. This may be in part due to William Hartnell not appearing is episode 3 due to an injury suffered when the ramp of the Dalek saucer collapsed. However, the impending departure of Susan probably also played a key factor in the emphasis moving off The Doctor.

His farewell to Susan, however, marks the defining moment for him in this storyline. It’s an emotional scene and William Hartnell perfectly captures the mixed emotions the doctor is experiencing at that moment.


Susan’s departure is the first send off for a companion and it is excellent handled. The emotion of the scene seems very real and is genuinely heart-warming. It’s a shame to see her depart, as she served as the heart of this original crew.

Barbara continues to grow as a character during this storyline. She seems to be the focal point for much of the writing as far as the companions are concerned, and her depiction as a strong, capable woman is refreshing.

Ian continues to be Ian. I find myself actually getting a little bored with his character, as he doesn’t really seem to be developing much beyond his depiction in the earliest episodes of the series.


The Daleks continue to develop during this storyline. We see more of their hierarchical structure, with acknowledgement of the Dalek supreme controller and the presence of the Black Dalek. They also begin using their trademark “exterminate” catchphrase more widely during Invasion.


As stated above, The Dalek invasion of Earth is the first genuine masterpiece of the series. A tale of a post-apocalyptic world until the oppressive rule of the Daleks, it manages to perfectly balance action and horror with strong character moments and genuine drama. 5 Lukes.


Join me next week as the Doctor heads back out into space and finds a new companion in The Rescue.

One Response so far.

  1. melthoid serendipity says:

    There are so many elements in the production of this story that are terrible: the Robomen (a great concept abysmally performed), the fight scenes (a standard weakness in early Who), the Slyther (they may have gotten away with it if it had a point to the story!!!!), the defusing of the bomb which is only surpassed by Barbara and the Doctor attempting to mimic the Daleks voices into the Robomen microphone (I’ll be laughing for years over that idea), the destruction of the Daleks in episode 6 (the universe’s most terrifying predator reduced to the strength of a rubbish bin (!). Yet despite all of these inadequacies, the story is so strong and the atmosphere so genuinely menacing and constantly terrifying, that these weaknesses can be forgiven. The Dalek coming out of the Thames is surely the greatest single moment in Dr Who history and for a change all of the companions are allowed to shine. My only main complaint about the ending is the shabby way the producers and writers treated Susan’s character in general over her tenure. Carole-Ann Ford had the perfect look for the Doctors Grand-daughter and they could have done a lot with her character but chose to denigrate her into the screaming, crying, whinging teenager that she became. ‘So the teen viewer could identify with her’ the hierarchy said. Bollocks! Instead we got the template for many a wasted and misused companion (Vicki, Polly, Victoria and even Zoe, Sarah-Jane and (gulp) Peri would often suffer this fate). But Susan was a Timelord wasn’t she? So why did the Doctor tell her that she would age like a normal human? Why couldn’t she regenerate? Why has the Doctor never revisited his Grand-daughter? It’s a mystery that deserves to be resolved somewhere down the line. After all, she is the only true relative (apart from time – boom boom) that the Doctor has ever had in the show. By the way the Den of Geeks site didn’t put this in their Top 10 Dalek stories of all-time instead opting (*chokes on my chuckles*) Death and The Chase instead. Aren’t lists a wonderful thing 🙂 This is the greatest Hartnell story (that’s still available) for me.

Leave a Reply