One of the last Jon Pertwee Doctor Who adventures not
already on DVD finally arrives for eager fans to snap up.
to the Daleks is a very good story and even manages to make his
though rather dull, enemy interesting.
After saving London (and the rest of the world) from a group
of scientists bent on turning the clock back to the middle ages in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, The Doctor
(Jon Pertwee) and his companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen)
time for a rest and set the TARDIS controls for Flourana where the
the effervescent ocean buoys vacationers to the surface so you can't
sink. Sounds like fun.
Unfortunately they have to make an emergency
landing when the TARDIS looses power.
They end up on Exxilon, a planet where all electrical power is
Stepping out for a look The Doctor gets separated from Sarah
when he's attacked by a group of Exxilons and captured.
He manages to escape and meets up with a
small band from the Space Marine Corps.
Their job is to secure a supply of the rare mineral Parrinium,
found in abundance on Exxilon, which is the only cure for a plague that
killing millions on the outer planets.
Unfortunately their space craft experienced the same energy
the TARDIS did and they're stuck too, hoping that the distress beacon
in the last moments of power gets through to Earth.
What makes matters worse is that the Exxilons
are violent and have killed or wounded several of their party.
Meanwhile Sarah goes looking for The Doctor but instead
discovers an ancient, abandoned city with a glowing beacon at the top
tower rising from the center. This is a
holy place for the native Exxilons and when Sarah's found there, she's
and sent for execution.
Just as The Doctor is
starting to wonder about Sarah, the Space Marines hear another space
landing. They run to great it only to
find that it's not a rescue ship, but one full of Daleks.
The evil machine-creatures screech the order
to "Exterminate!" the humans as soon as they see them but... they can't. Their weapons don't work.
Like everything else on the planet their
blasters have been drained.
So the Daleks, very reluctantly, agree to team up with the
humans in order to dismantle whatever system is causing the electricity
drained. But can the Daleks be
trusted? And what of the Parrinium, an
element that the Daleks have come to Exxilon to mine also?
Okay, confession time:
I'm not a huge fan of the Daleks.
They are just not that menacing to me.
Their design flaws seem to make them more silly than dangerous,
especially since they can't follow someone up a rocky hill, and the
they say everything twice is just annoying.
Having said that, I really liked how they were portrayed in this
story. Scripted by Terry Nation, the man
who created the Daleks, this story asks an interesting question: what would happen if a Dalek couldn't kill? The answer is that he's find a way to
somehow, and that's exactly what this group does.
Being a four-part story with several intertwining plots the
tale moves along at a fairly good pace throughout all the episodes. It
hits a bump in the later half when The Doctor and a native enter the
city and they have to solve a series of intelligence tests at every
before they're allowed to progress any deeper into the city. The tests are a bit simplistic (a child's
maze? Really?) and there's not a lot of
suspense since everyone watching knows that the Doctor is brilliant and
solve any puzzle that some extinct Exxilon engineer devised. Aside from
bit, it's a strong serial.
The supporting characters are especially engaging this time
around. The main human foil is Dan
Galloway (Duncan Lamont) a Space Marine who is left in charge after all
superiors have been killed. He's a loyal
soldier and his main duty is to complete his mission and save tens of
of humans, and he'll do that even if he has to kill some of the natives
blood or turn over The Doctor and Sarah Jane to the Daleks for
extermination. After all, he reasons,
how can you compare the lives of two people (and strangers at that)
millions who will be saved if they can get the mineral back in time? He's not a villain in his own mind, he's the
good guy, and that makes for the most interesting antagonists.
I actually enjoyed watching the Daleks in this story quite a lot. Deprived of their main weapon, they are still
very dangerous and lethal. Seeing how
they work around their problems with a single-minded desire to always
them even more intimidating than when they had their blasters.
Finally, Elizabeth Sladen and Jon Pertwee have a good amount
of chemistry here. When fans think of
Sarah, they often talk about her classic time with Tom Baker. Yes, those two were synched up nicely, but
she and Pertwee are just as enjoyable.
Even in this early adventure (it was her third Doctor
Who story) Sarah is an independent character, not a
companion whose sole duty is to be a hostage.
When an Exxilon follows her into the Tardis, she screams but
running away she runs toward the creature and attacks him!
She's also instrumental in creating a
satisfactory resolution to the whole story, tricking the Daleks on her
without being told how to do it by The Doctor.
That's what I like in a companion.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show
fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the
generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss,
distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
I suspect that the reason this adventure took so long to be released on
because the original prints and negative for the location filming is
the result is that a large part of the serial looks pretty
disappointing. The image is rather soft on
scenes when compared to other Pertwee era stories and the also look
they were filming through a very light fog.
The locations shots were filmed on 16mm too, which means that
good amount of grain in the image. The
fact that many scenes are shot day-for-night just compounds the problem. The interior scenes, on the other hand, were
recorded on videotape in the studio look better. The
screen seems to pop when the switch from
film to video, with the latter being brighter, more colorful and with
detail. Keep in mind that the
Restoration Team did work on all of the elements and it certainly looks
for a BBC TV show from the 70's, just not as good as the other Pertwee
The extras on this disc are just average for a Doctor Who release,
that they're head and shoulders above most TV show DVDs.
The bonus material starts out with a
commentary track moderated by Toby Hadoke and including director
Briant, actor Julian Fox, Dalek operator Cy Town, assistant floor
Richard Leyland, costume designer L. Rowland Warne and sound effects
Dick Mills. As always, Hadoke does a
good job of keeping everyone talking and they relate some interesting
behind-the-scenes information about the show and its creation.
The video extras include Beneath the City of the Exxilons, a
26-miunte featurette on the filming of the story with many members of
and crew chiming in on what they recall.
There's also a 23-minute reel of footage recorded during the
the show that wasn't used. It includes
muffed takes and the cast standing around while things are being set
its still fun to watch. The best bonus
is a 13-minute talk with some of the men who were inside The Doctor's
famous foes, Doctor Who Stories - Dalek Men.
They discuss the trials and tribulation of being a Dalek
well as sharing some of the fun times they had.
There's also a brief look at some behind-the-scenes footage from
feature film Doctor Who and the Daleks.
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option
which is very informative as always. It does give some dry
statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are
interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background
information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded
storyboard comparison, a trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and
listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
This is one of the better Dalek stories.
Even though they don't have their deadly blasters operating,
just as ruthless and dangerous as ever.
With a solid plot and a good supporting cast, this adventure come Highly