I grew up loving Doctor Who. In the 1980’s I had Peter Davison guiding me through the adventures of the madman in his box, but as I grew older I started to discover, thanks to my Dad being a Doctor Who fan as well, that there were previous adventures that I hadn’t seen & I soon became acquainted with the previous incarnations of the Doctor. Which led me to discover a strange entry into the Doctor Who franchise.
Two films that were released in the 1960’s, due to the popularity of the TV show, which re-imagined two of the best 1st Doctor adventures into full colour films – you have to remember that this was a big thing in the 1960’s as Doctor Who had only appeared on TV in black & white.
And now, these two films are getting a remastered Blu-Ray release just in time to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of this well loved franchise. But just how do these big screen adventures fair?
Barbara (Jennie Linden) is excitedly getting ready for a night out with her new boyfriend, Ian (Roy Castle), much to the amusement of her Grandfather Dr. Who & her sister Susan (Roberta Tovey). When Ian arrives early, Dr. Who & Susan keep him busy while Barbara finishes getting ready, and they decide the perfect thing to show him would be Dr. Who’s latest invention, TARDIS.
TARDIS is a wonderous machine, cleverly disguised as an every day Police Box. But inside the box, an amazing space that is seemingly too big for the small box exists. This amazing space confounds Ian and as he tries to leave in shock he bumps into the entering Barbara & falls over, activating the machine.
Unknown to Ian, TARDIS is a machine capable of travelling not only in time but in space as well, and the machine has taken the quartet to the mysterious planet of Skaro.
Soon, the adventurers find themselves caught up in a conflict between the peaceful Thals & the monstrous Dalek’s – both races are descendants of the original inhabitants of the planet, which had been devastated in a previous conflict between the Thals & the Kaled’s (the Dalek’s ancestors) which the Kaled’s won by launching a nuclear attack on the Thals.
This attack caused the Kaled’s to mutate, and now they can only survive in war machines called Dalek’s. Now, it’s up to Dr. Who to save the Thals from this monstrous race.
Tom Campbell (Bernard Cribbins) is a Special Constable in the London Police force. While on patrol one night, he stumbles upon a jewellery store robbery. Attacked by the robbers, Tom stumbles to what he believes is a Police Call Box, but when he opens the door finds himself confronted by not only a space that is too big & wonderous for the plain wooden box he has just entered, but three people – the mysterious Dr. Who, his granddaughter Susan & his niece Louise (Jill Curzon).
Just as Tom enters, Dr. Who was preparing to take his two companions into the future, and the TARDIS vanishes from the London street corner, only to reappear in London in the year 2150 A.D.
But the time travellers find that this London is one that seems to have devastated by some kind of attack as the population has vanished & the buildings are in ruins.
It’s not long before they find out what has happened, however, as Dr. Who discovers that his one time adversaries the Dalek’s have invaded Earth & laid waste to all of the countries of the Earth. Some of the population have been turned into braindead robots called “Robo-Men” but most have been sent to work in mysterious mines.
Now, Dr. Who has to join up with the remaining resistance as he must beat the monstrous Dalek’s to save not only the world, but his granddaughter & niece.
Made by horror film house Amicus, the 1960 Doctor Who films took two of the most popular TV stories & used them for the basis of the films, and even though they did change certain aspects the technicolour spectacle of the Daleks is still something to behold and, even though he is a human rather than an alien, the Doctor as played by Peter Cushing is a lot more appealing & personable than the William Hartnell version.
That said, the second film featuring the Dalek’s invasion of Earth is a lot better than the first adventure. In part this is because of the more exciting premise but it’s also because of the cast. Bernard Cribbins is a lot better than Roy Castle, and Cushing seems to be enjoying the role he plays more and Jill Curzon is less annoying as Louise than Jennie Linden was as Barbara.
Likewise, the effects are better and there is something much more frightening about seeing the Dalek’s stalking their human prey through the ruined city streets than it was seeing them pursuing the Doctor & his companions through the corridors of the Dalek city (mainly because once they’d escaped the confines of the city they were pretty much safe as the Dalek’s couldn’t leave!).
But both films are fun, even if they are showing their age a little – but saying that they haven’t dated as much as the original 1960’s TV episodes have & the big screen sensibilities lend the Doctor’s adventures something that the TV show was initially lacking, in that it gave it a much bigger stage.
The restoration work done on these Blu-Rays is pretty impressive, and any fan is going to be pleased with the high definition Dalek’s and it truly is the best that these films have looked since they were first released.
While it is kind of annoying as a fan that the Doctor is not actually the Doctor from the TV series, Peter Cushing is an inspired choice & brings the right air of mystery to the character. And while these films may not be something that fans who are only used to the modern era of the TV show will enjoy, for long time fans there is much to enjoy here.
If you are not already a fan of the adventures of the Doctor then I wouldn’t suggest picking this release up, however if you are already a fan then you owe it to yourself to treat yourself to the HD vision of the Dalek’s and while the Blu-Ray’s don’t bring anything really new to the package with regards to extras, there are interesting (if a little short) featurettes on the restoration process done on both films while also preserving the previously released extras from the DVDs, with the Dalekmania documentary well worth a watch.