Welcome to the forty-second instalment of Who Review, my ongoing quest to review all available episodes of TV’s longest running SF series, Doctor Who. This week, the story that began in Frontier in Space continues in Planet of the Daleks.
Planet of the Daleks
7 April – 12 May 1973 (6 episodes)
After the events of Frontier in Space, The Doctor has been seriously injured. After broadcasting a telepathic message to the Time Lords, he falls into a coma. Fortunately, his call for help seems to have been heard, as the Time Lords control the TARDIS remotely, guiding it to an unknown planet.
Jo leaves the TARDIS to search for help for the Doctor, but finds herself in a hostile environment covered with dangerous flora. She is exposed to sap from one such plant. Despite this, she manages to find a crashed star ship manned by two crew member: Taron, the leader, and Vaber.
Jo explains her situation to the crew, but is cut short when a third crew member, Vaber, appears with warning of an “approaching patrol.” The crew go to investigate and Jo remains hidden in the starship. An invisible creature searches the ship but Jo avoids detection. Unfortunately, a strange fungus is starting to grow on her hand.
Meanwhile, The Doctor awakens to find the TARDIS covered in plant sap, the air supply seriously low. He begins to suffocate. Taron and his men find the TARDIS and free the Doctor, who quickly realises that the men are Thals, natives of the Dalek planet of Skaaro.
The Doctor has been infected by fungus, by Taron treats the infection with a special spray. He explains to the Doctor that they are on the planet Spiridon, where the dangerous plant life is more animal than vegetable. The crew are the only survivors of a military expedition.
The doctor soon learns that the Thals are threatened by a small squad of invisible Daleks, who have come to the planet because the dominant species there, the Spiridons, have the ability to generate anti-reflecting light waves that render them invisible. The Daleks are hoping to duplicate this ability and have enslaved the Spiridons, although their invisibility is currently limited.
Back at the star ship, Jo’s infection causes her to pass out. A Spiridon finds her and kidnaps her.
On their way back to the ship, the crew are attacked by Spiridons and Codal is captured. The others make it back and find the ship under attack by Daleks. Believing Jo is still inside, the Doctor pleads with them not to attack, but his pleas fall on deaf ears and the ship is destroyed.
The Doctor is taken to the Dalek base and imprisoned, reunited with the captured Codal.
Taron and Vaber manage to evade the Daleks. They head out to a hidden supply stock, gathering explosives to use on the Daleks. They argue over how to proceed, but the argument is disrupted by the arrival of another Thal vessel that crashes nearby. They head towards the crash and are met by three more Thals: Latep, Marat and Rebec. Rebec informs them that an intercepted message from Dalek command reveals that there is an army of ten thousand Daleks on Spiridon!
Taron puts a plan into play. He leads Marat and Rebec into the Dalek base via a series of tunnels filled with liquid ice that the Daleks are using as a cooling system, while Vaber and Latep wait by the entrance to the base with the explosives.
Meanwhile, Jo awakens to find herself in the care of Wester, a Spiridon who cures her of her infection. Wester informs her that the Doctor and Codal have been captured. Determined to free them, Jo sneaks into the Dalek base.
Inside, the Doctor and Codal manage to escape, linking up with Taron’s group. They escape through the ice tunnels, but end up trapped in a chamber. Marat is killed covering their escape. On his body, the Daleks find a map showing the location of the explosives. The Dalek Section Leader sends a squad to find them. Overhearing this, Jo follows the squad out of the city.
Inside the chamber, The Doctor finds a huge refrigerator unit pumping excess heat through a ventilation shaft that leads to the surface. Exploring further, he finds a chamber containing thousands of Daleks sleeping in suspended animation. Creating an improvised hot-air balloon from plastic sheeting, the Doctor and the Thals escape through the ventilation shaft. The Daleks pursue them.
Jo follows a Dalek squad to the hidden explosives. While the villains manage to destroy most of the explosives, Jo is able to retrieve some. The Daleks continue to detonate more explosives, accidentally destroying another patrol that had come to the surface in pursuit of the Doctor.
The Doctor and the Thals find Jo, Latep and Vaber, and the Doctor is overjoyed to learn that Jo is alive. The group head to the Plain of Stones, a rocky area that absorbs heat by day and discharges it by night. There, they avoid a Dalek patrol, and the doctor notices the villains are moving slower than usual. The group rests for the night, but Vaber steals the bombs Jo retrieved and sneaks away. He is later captured by Spiridons working for the Daleks and taken to the Dalek base.
Back at the base, a Dalek reports to the Section Leader. The villains have been working on a life-destroying bacteria that will wipe out all life on Spiridon. The report shows that the bacteria will be ready to release in half a Spiridon day, but an immunisation must first be developed to ensure the Daleks themselves aren’t wiped out.
Back at the Plain of Stones, Taron and Codal go in search of Vaber. Shortly after their departure, strange animal forms surround the camp. The Doctor keeps them at bay with a glowing fire.
Meanwhile, Taron and Codal manage to infiltrate the base, but Codal exterminated while trying to escape. They use the distraction to grab two bombs and flee into the forest.
Unfortunately, the Daleks have perfected their immunisation, and all Daleks and slave Spiridons are ordered to return to base for immunisation. The Dalek Supreme arrives on the planet in a starship to oversee the final stages of the plan.
On the Plain of Stones, Wester appears and tells them of the Dalek’s plan. Deducing that the molten ice can slow down and even potentially stop the Daleks from functioning, The doctor enacts a plan to test his theory. He and the Thals force two Daleks into pools of ice killing them.
To infiltrate the The Doctor, Taron and Codal disguise themselves in Spiridon furs while Rebec climbs inside one of the disabled Daleks. They enter the facility in disguise while Latep and Jo infiltrate the facility via the ventilation shaft. Each group has one bomb.
Wester also sneaks into the Dalek HQ and makes his way to the bacteria preparation room and releases the bacteria, killing himself but ensuring that the Daleks cannot enter the room without dying.
The Doctor’s group try to infiltrate deeper into the facility by they are detected and pursued. They flee into the cooling chamber, where they reunite with Jo and Latep. They set up a bomb that, when detonated, floods the chamber, freezing the massive Dalek army forever. The Doctor and his companions manage to escape via a ramp that leads to the surface.
They make their way to the Dalek Supreme’s starship, where the Doctor and Jo say their farewells. The Doctor asks Taron not to glorify what they have been through when the story is retold, and to remember those who died. Agreeing, the Thals take off for Skaro, while the Doctor and Jo head back to the TARDIS.
Pursued by the few remaining Daleks, the Doctor and Jo barely escape with their lives. The Dalek Supreme orders that operations begin to recover the invasion force. The Dalek invasion has been delayed, but not halted…
Planet of the Daleks is a peculiar storyline. A direct sequel to Terry Nation’s original Dalek tale from the first season, this story follows many of the same story beats and plot points. Some elements are added to give the story its own distinct feel, but watching Planet leads to definite sense of déjà vu.
My first thought was that this was deliberate, given that the series was celebrating its tenth anniversary. Perhaps the similarities were Nation’s way of paying homage to the past. However, both producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrence Dicks have stated that this wasn’t the case.
With that in mind, it’s hard to work out what to make of Planet. It’s certainly an entertaining story that works well as a sequel to the original tale. It gives us a glimpse of what became of the Thals after that initial story, although it doesn’t address exactly how the Daleks survived their apparent destruction. I think it’s safe to say we’ll never get a truly satisfactory answer to that one.
As a direct follow on from Frontier in Space, I found the story lacking much of the complexity and political intrigue of that story. The tale doesn’t exactly follow up on everything that happened previously, with the only real connection being the amassed Dalek army preparing to invade. Given my high praise of Frontier, I was hoping for something equally exciting, but Planet doesn’t really deliver in that regard.
Originally, Episode 5 was to end with all of the Thal characters massacred by the Daleks. Terrance Dicks asked that Terry Nation remove this plot point, as the series was beginning to be criticised for its violent content.
Jon Pertwee was never a fan of the Daleks, once describing them as “ridiculous.” I think that opinion is most apparent in Planet of the Daleks, as his contempt for the aliens is clear. It actually works in the story’s favour, however, as that contempt can be attributed to the Doctor’s hatred of the villains.
Pertwee was a bigger fan of the Ogrons. He once stated in an interview “I was very fond of the Ogrons, who were wonderful, because they were so big, even I was terrified of them.” Interestingly, the Ogrons don’t make an appearance in Planet, despite their prominence in the previous story.
Planet of the Daleks is one of Jo’s strongest showings to date. Almost the entire first chapter is dedicated to her, as the Doctor remains unconscious for the bulk of the episode. Jo completely takes over at this point, and her efforts are impressive. Actress Katy Manning adlibbed much of the dialogue in these scenes, adding a refreshing spontaneity to her performance.
Her concern for the Doctor and her interaction with Wester show a level of compassion that has definitely become her defining characteristic as a companion. There’s a real heart to Jo Manning that has developed as her time on the series progresses.
The previous story, Frontier in Space, ended with a beautiful shock revelation that the Daleks were working alongside The Master and the Ogrons to promote war, weakening their enemies and allowing for a Dalek invasion. Unfortunately, these plans aren’t really followed up on in any major way in Planet except for the villains having an invasion army.
Overall, I felt that this was one of the weakest Dalek showings to date. Their plan to develop invisibility technology is an interesting one but it doesn’t really go anywhere.
I’d have liked to have seen a follow up on the Master and his involvement in the previous story, but for some reason he makes no appearance here.
While an entertaining story, Planet of the Daleks is a little underwhelming given the quality of its lead-in story and the return of Terry Nation as writer.
We bid a fond farewell to Jo Grant in The Green Death.