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Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)


Main image of Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)
35mm, Technicolor, 83 mins
Directed byGordon Flemyng
Production CompanyAARU Productions;
ProducersMilton Subotsky
 Max J. Rosenberg
ScreenplayMilton Subotsky
CinematographyJohn Wilcox

Cast: Peter Cushing (Dr. Who); Roy Castle (Ian Chesterton); Jennie Linden (Barbara); Roberta Tovey (Susan)

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Doctor Who and his companions travel to a blasted planet where they help the persecuted Thals battle against the villainous Daleks.

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Since their introduction early in the first series of the BBC's Doctor Who (1963-89; 2005-), the Daleks - warlike, metal-cased inhabitants of the planet Skaro - had captured the imagination of a public fascinated by new technology and the burgeoning space age. Dr. Who and the Daleks saw them transferred to the big screen, in colour, for the first time.

The Daleks were a merchandiser's dream. Their inhuman likeness was ubiquitous by the mid-1960s, appearing in books, comics, and newspaper cartoons; on pencils, toys, masks and bedroom slippers. Selfridges even designed a Dalek cake for Christmas 1965. Spotting a sure-fire money-spinner, producer Milton Subotsky acted quickly to secure screen rights to Doctor Who for his Amicus company. According to Amicus historian Allan Bryce, Subotsky, a shrewd negotiator, persuaded the BBC and Dalek creator Terry Nation to let his company make a film version of the first televised Dalek serial, The Daleks, with options for two projected sequels, for the knockdown price of £500. To secure funding and distribution, this family-orientated film was to be deliberately distanced from the horrific fare Amicus was generally known for, and was released under the newly created AARU production banner.

William Hartnell, the Doctor in the television series, but unknown in America, was replaced with the internationally bankable Peter Cushing. As always, Cushing approached his role with conviction, but his character, though still eccentric, was transformed from Hartnell's cantankerous, rootless, mysterious alien time traveller into a twinkle-eyed, kiddie-friendly suburban family man. The result is that Cushing's Who is distinctly sicklier and soppier than his abrasive television counterpart, and his adventures sometimes resemble a foolhardy and awkwardly protracted family outing. Terry Nation, for one, was unhappy with this dilution of the character. "He was a little too gentle... too kindly and too warm. The thing that Bill (Hartnell) had was this irascibility... he was a bad tempered, old, curmudgeonly figure... I'd like to have seen more of that in the character."

With many of the series' rougher edges removed, the result was an amiable but unexceptional family film. It didn't matter, though: for the first time, the nation's schoolchildren had the chance to see Daleks on the big screen, in glorious Technicolor, and without a sofa to hide behind. The film was as unstoppable as Skaro's ruthless residents, becoming one of the biggest money-makers of 1965, and a follow-up, Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., was rushed into production.

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
1. TARDIS (1:55)
2. In the forest (4:27)
3. The Dalek trap (3:35)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks (1975)
Castle, Roy (1932-1994)
Cushing, Peter (1913-1994)
Nation, Terry (1930-97)
Priestley, Tom (1932-)
Subotsky, Milton (1921-1991)
Amicus Productions
Science Fiction
Doctor Who (1963-89, 2005-)