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The Chase

Production Code: R

First Transmitted

The Executioners - 22/05/1965 17:40

The Death of Time - 29/05/1965 17:40

Flight Through Eternity - 05/06/1965 17:45

Journey Into Terror - 12/06/1965 17:40

The Death of Doctor Who - 19/06/1965 1740

The Planet of Decision - 26/06/1965 1740

Plot

The travellers are forced to flee in the TARDIS when they learn from the Time/Space Visualiser taken from the Moroks' museum that a group of Daleks equipped with their own time machine are on their trail with orders to exterminate them.

The chase begins on the desert planet Aridius and takes in a number of stopping-off points including the observation gallery of New York's Empire State Building, the 19th Century sailing ship Mary Celeste (the Daleks' appearance causing all the crew and passengers to jump overboard) and a spooky haunted house which, although the Doctor and his friends do not realise it, is actually a futuristic fun-fair attraction.

Eventually both time machines arrive on the jungle planet Mechanus, where the Daleks try to infiltrate and kill the Doctor's party using a robot double of him. The travellers are taken prisoner by the Mechonoids - a group of robots sent some fifty years earlier to prepare landing sites for human colonists who, in the event, never arrived - and meet Steven Taylor, a stranded astronaut who has been the Mechonoids' captive for the past two years.

The Daleks and the Mechonoids engage in a fierce battle which ultimately results in their mutual destruction, and the Doctor's party seize this opportunity to escape. The Doctor reluctantly helps Ian and Barbara to use the Daleks' time machine to return home.

Episode Endings

The Doctor and Barbara watch as, making rough choking sounds, a Dalek emerges from the sands of Aridius.

The TARDIS dematerialises as the Daleks fire at it in vain. Chorusing 'Eradicate!', 'Obliterate!', 'Exterminate!' the Daleks determine to set off after it at once: the Dalek Supreme has ordered that the travellers be pursued through all eternity and exterminated!

The travellers have escaped from the Mary Celeste and the TARDIS hurtles through the space/time vortex, pursued by the Dalek ship.

The leader of the Dalek executioners asks the robot double of the Doctor if it understands its orders. It replies in the affirmative: it is to infiltrate and kill.

A door in the wall of the cave where the travellers are hiding slides down with a crash to reveal a small compartment containing a spheroidal robot. The robot, in a strange electronic voice, says: 'Eight hundred - Thirty - Mechonoid - English - Input - Enter'. The Daleks can be heard approaching outside, so at Ian's suggestion the four travellers move to join the robot in the compartment...

Having assured himself and Vicki that Ian and Barbara have arrived safely home, the Doctor operates the TARDIS controls. The ship dematerialises and flies through the space/time vortex en route for a new destination.

Roots

The Beverly Hillbillies (Morton Dill).

Max Sennett movies (Dill asks if the TARDIS crew are 'from Hollywood') and Cheyenne (Dill seems to think Cheyenne Bodie is a real person).

Universal horror films of the 1930s.

Dialogue Triumphs

Dalek : "Advance and attack! Attack and destroy! Destroy and rejoice!"

The Doctor : "We're trying to defeat the Daleks, not start a jumble sale."

Dialogue Disasters

Ian : [Speaks for a generation of viewers, telling Vicki] "Don't just stand there and scream, you little fool, run!'"

Continuity

The Doctor implies that he built the TARDIS (or just the time path detector?). The TARDIS homing device is introduced, and the first reference is made to the time rotor (at this stage of the TARDIS' development it's an instrument on the console rather than the central transparent column).

The Time Space Visualiser 'converts neutrons of light energy into electrical impulses' - 'A sort of time television,' says Barbara. On the side of the Time Space Visualiser are the names of all the planets of the solar system (Vicki stated in the previous story that it was developed on Earth). Ian asks to see Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Barbara to see Shakespeare and Elizabeth I discussing Falstaff (Francis Bacon gives Shakespeare the idea for Hamlet. See also City of Death).

Vicki tunes in to the Beatles performing 'Ticket to Ride' on Top of the Pops in 1965. Ian dances like a physics teacher at a Sixth Form dance. How he knows a song released two years after he left Earth is never explained [although he only sings the chorus]. Even the Doctor seems quite into it and is upset when Barbara, playing the 'square' as usual, turns the machine off ('You've squashed my favourite Beatles'). Vicki explains that she visited the Beatles memorial theatre in Liverpool (a case of fiction predicting fact), but didn't realise they played 'classical music'.

Vicki says she used to live close to a castle ('with a drawbridge and everything') as a child.

Steven's mascot is a panda called Hi Fi.

The planet Aridius circles twin suns (the planet once had oceans but after climatic changes most of the marine life was destroyed, except the mire beasts who lived in the sea-slime).

The wildlife of Mechanus includes carnivorous fungoids.

The Daleks refer to Mechonoids as 'Mechons'. Daleks measure both time and direction in Earth terms. There is a first reference to the Daleks' replicant technology (see Resurrection of the Daleks) and their ability to travel through time, possessing both a dimensionally transcendent time machine and a time tracker. The TARDIS also has a Time Path Indicator. This is, the Doctor notes, the first time he has ever found a use for it (see City of Death). The Daleks attempt to destroy the TARDIS but it proves to be impervious to their 'neutraliser'. The TARDIS' computer take 12 minutes to power up and relocate.

Ian has a book called Monsters from Outer Space [which he found in the TARDIS library] (he considers it 'a bit far fetched'). Ian and Barbara return to 1965 in the Dalek time ship which they destroy ('What's two years among friends?').

QV

The First History of the Daleks

Location

The Sagaro Desert, Aridius.

Empire State Building, New York, 1966.

Frankenstein's House of Horror exhibition in the Festival of Ghana, 1996.

Mechanus, England, [1965].

Future History

Mechanus was discovered 50 years before the landing of the TARDIS, Earth sending out the Mechonoid robots to clear the planet for colonisation. Earth, meanwhile, got caught up in an interplanetary war [one of the Cyber Wars, or the Draconian conflict prior to Frontier in Space], during which space pilot Steven Taylor crashed on the planet.

Links

Trivia

The Daleks sport a slightly modified design, complete with 'solar panel' slats around their shoulder sections.

Stock film from Top of the Pops of the Beatles singing 'Ticket to Ride' in the Time/Space Visualiser scene is utilised in the first episode - this was in lieu of a planned live appearance by the 'fab four' made up as old men, which was vetoed by their manager Brian Epstein.

Distinguished actor Hywel Bennett features in an early role as the Aridian Rynian.

There are a number of instances of the Daleks being sent up - most notably in the depiction of a 'thick' Dalek barely able to complete a sum.

There are some adapted cinema film Daleks - and, inadvertently, a studio camera - lurking in the foliage of Mechanus.

The Chase was hastily commissioned from Terry Nation when another of his stories, apparently a revival of his abandoned season one historical The Red Fort, fell through.

The film inserts of Ian and Barbara celebrating their return to Earth were made as part of the film shoot for the following story, The Time Meddler, and so were the responsibility of that story's director Douglas Camfield and designer Barry Newbery.

Myth

The scene of Ian and Barbara taking a bus ride following their return to Earth was shot on location. (It was shot in the BBC's Television Film Studios at Ealing, with back projection used behind the window of the bus to give the impression of movement.)

Goofs

In episode one Vicki and Ian cast shadows over the desert backdrop. In episode two, Vicki knocks an Aridian over, who then guiltily sneaks off camera. When a Dalek moves in front of a scanner screen in episode four, the countdown on the screen appears on top of the Dalek.

As the TARDIS arrives in the haunted house, a man's shadow is visible on it.

A boom mike (and operator) is in shot as Ian and the Doctor descend the stairs.

Frankenstein's Monster rips off its bandages, but changes into a jacket before the next scene.

A Dalek can be seen through the scenery in Frankenstein's lab, before the Daleks arrive. At the end of this sequence, the first line of the following scene (Vicki: 'What's that in aid of?') can be clearly heard. If the Frankenstein's monster is a robot in a funfair attraction, why does it attack people?

In episode five, a BBC camera can be seen in the jungle.

In the final episode, when Barbara almost falls off the Mechonoid city roof, Ian grabs her pants and almost pulls them off in the process.

The Daleks' robot 'duplicate' of the Doctor, far from being 'indistinguishable from the original', actually looks so different that you wonder if they've got the right person.

There's a confused Dalek scene in episode three with overlapping dialogue ("Sucess!" "Final victory"). One of the Daleks sounds like he has a heavy cold and hesitates when asked the time of arrival.

Peter Purves initial estimation of the distance from the roof of the Mechonoid city to the ground is 15 rather than 1500 feet.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - William Hartnell

Barbara Wright - Jacqueline Hill

Ian Chesterton - William Russell

Steven Taylor - Peter Purves

Vicki - Maureen O'Brien

Abraham Lincoln - Robert Marsden

Albert C Richardson - Dennis Chinnery

Bosun - Patrick Carter

Cabin Steward - Jack Pitt

Capt Benjamin Briggs - David Blake Kelly

Count Dracula - Malcolm Rogers

Dalek - Robert Jewell

Dalek - Kevin Manser

Dalek - John Scott Martin

Dalek - Gerald Taylor

Dalek Voice - Peter Hawkins

Dalek Voice - David Graham

Francis Bacon - Roger Hammond

Frankenstein - John Maxim

Grey Lady - Roslyn de Winter

Guide - Arne Gordon

Malsan - Ian Thompson

Mechonoid Voice 5/Mechonoid Voice 6 - David Graham

Mire Beast - Jack Pitt

Morton Dill - Peter Purves

Prondyn - Al Raymond

Queen Elizabeth I - Vivienne Bennett

Robot Doctor Who - Edmund Warwick Also in Journey into Terror but uncredited

Rynian - Hywel Bennett

Television Announcer - Richard Coe

William Shakespeare - Hugh Walters

Willoughby - Douglas Ditta

Crew

Director - Richard Martin

Assistant Floor Manager - Ian Strachan

Costumes - Daphne Dare

Designer - Raymond P Cusick

Designer - John Wood

Fight Arranger - Peter Diamond

Film Cameraman - Charles Parnell

Film Editor - Norman Matthews

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Sonia Markham

Producer - Verity Lambert

Production Assistant - Alan Miller

Production Assistant - Colin Leslie

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Story Editor - Dennis Spooner

Studio Lighting - Howard King

Studio Sound - Ray Angel

Studio Sound - Brian Hiles

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Writer - Terry Nation

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'You all's in a chase?' One of the most bizarre Doctor Who stories, six episodes of unconnected set pieces with only the barest remnant of a plot.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The Chase is nowhere near as strong as the Daleks' first two stories. It revolves, as the title implies, around the simple premise of a chase - the Daleks pursuing the TARDIS through time and space in their own ship (referred to in the scripts - though mercifully not on screen - as a 'DARDIS'!), with the aim of catching and killing the four travellers.

'The first episode is... possibly the worst of... the six...' noted Christopher Williams in Zodin No. 3 dated 1986. '[It] begins with a scene in the Daleks' time machine which basically has the Daleks talking to each other, obviously to fill the viewers in with the plot. The TARDIS is then seen flying through space. This has to be the worst and most annoying effect in the whole story, as it is... just a two dimensional photograph of the TARDIS being moved across a starry background.'

This effect is repeated on numerous occasions during the course of the story, both for the TARDIS and for the Daleks' time machine, as the action moves from place to place. Each episode has a different setting from the previous one (or in some cases more than one setting), and in this sense The Chase is similar to Nation's season one story The Keys of Marinus. Where it falls down in comparison with that earlier 'epic', though, is in the nature of its settings, which are for the most part rather too jokey and unbelievable.

The apparent tendency of the scripts to want to send the Daleks up is also irritating, although in fairness to Nation it should be noted that this aspect was almost certainly introduced by story editor Dennis Spooner - in fact, The Chase is far more deserving of the 'comedy story' tag than is Spooner's own The Romans from earlier in the season.

There are, it must be acknowledged, some commentators for whom this approach worked. Gareth Roberts, writing in DWB No. 117 dated September 1993, positively welcomed Spooner's input: 'The Daleks' blundering silliness in this story is crucial to the credibility of the narrative, because they have become too powerful for the series' infant format to withstand. They have a time-space machine that actually works and a tracking device to follow the TARDIS. Given these abilities it should not be too difficult for them to execute a doddery old fellow, two suburban teachers and a teenage girl who keeps tripping over.'

The mixed reaction to the story from fan reviewers mirrors that of viewers at the time of its original transmission, if the following comments in the BBC's Audience Research Report on the Journey into Terror episode are anything to go by: 'Although the viewer who described this as a "delightful piece of spine-chilling fun" was, perhaps, rather more enthusiastic than most, a substantial proportion of those reporting evidently felt that this episode... [was] very entertaining and, several added, refreshingly different from the usual run of Doctor Who stories. This particular blend of horror and science-fiction was, it seemed, very much to their liking and displayed considerable ingenuity and imagination on the part of the scriptwriter. "This episode appealed to me more than many because of the introduction of the 'house of mystery' and all that happened in it."

Some, however, found the programme rather a jumble - Frankenstein, Dracula, the Daleks - everything seemed to be thrown in but the kitchen sink, they declared, and the result was too much of a hotch-potch to be particularly entertaining - "All we need now is Yogi Bear and we've had the lot!". Others said that, while they themselves had enjoyed it well enough, the episode might have given nightmares to children.

For a sizeable minority, however, the episode was stupid and far-fetched in the extreme and there was evidence that viewers were becoming rather tired of Doctor Who and his exploits and that even the Daleks were losing their appeal. The stories were increasingly ludicrous, it was often said, and followed the same pattern with monotonous regularity - "Why does Doctor Who make such unholy blunders all the time? It is irritating to watch people make the same mistakes over and over again. The party always gets split up, someone always gets lost and Doctor Who always falls into an obvious trap". Nevertheless, even those who disliked the programme frequently added that their children "revelled in it", and there was, obviously, a regular and enthusiastic young audience for whom Doctor Who has become something of an institution, whatever their elders might think.'

Generally regarded as the story's saving grace is its excellent final episode, and more specifically the spectacular battle it features between the Daleks and their new rivals, the robotic Mechonoids (another excellent Raymond Cusick design). This drew a much more favourable report from the BBC's Audience Research Department: 'According to the majority of the sample here was evidently an exciting episode to end a varied and ingenious story in the Doctor Who saga. There was plenty of event and action in it, it was said, what with the escape from imprisonment of Doctor Who and his companions, the lively and "dramatic" battle between the Mechonoids and the Daleks and the final wholesale destruction of the Mechonoids' city... "Full of adventure" was how one viewer (a telephone engineer) summed up the episode approvingly, and a commercial artist called it "an exciting, lively and quite convincing episode which kept my daughter glued to the set - and Dad too". Clever sets and effects added a great deal to the interest as well, apparently.'

'The Mechonoids...' noted Williams, 'are almost as good a creation as the Daleks themselves... The... much-acclaimed fight... between the Daleks and the Mechonoids... is extremely well-executed, with some impressive model work for the time, mixed in with some lovely camera angles. The action is thick and fast and [this] must go down as a classic Doctor Who moment.'

These battle scenes are undoubtedly the most impressive aspect of The Chase. The story is, however, noteworthy for one other reason: like the previous Dalek adventure, it ends with a change in the regular line-up of characters. This time, it is Ian and Barbara who depart, to be replaced by Steven Taylor (although, as Steven simply disappears at the end of the last episode, it is not until the following story that the viewer finds out that he has 'stowed away' aboard the TARDIS).

'What I like about Ian and Barbara,' reflected Roberts, 'is that they represent an England that has ceased to exist, if it ever existed. They are what you imagine your well-adjusted friend's parents to have been like in the early sixties, all cardigan and slacks and politeness...

'Their return to London 1965, accomplished in a blaze of still photographs, is amusing and tear-jerking. One imagines them today as grey haired and still marvellously in love, delivering Liberal Democrat leaflets through letterboxes in North London.'

It is probably fair to say that William Russell and Jacqueline Hill chose just about the right time to leave the series. By this stage, it was becoming clear that they had really done all that they could with their respective roles; had they stayed any longer, they might well have become stale. In deciding to bring in just one new companion to replace the two teachers, rather than trying to come up with direct substitutes as had happened, in a sense, when Carole Ann Ford left, the production team broke the 'four regulars' mould and established a new 'one girl, one boy' set-up that would become the norm until the end of the sixties.

Peter Purves, cast as Steven after appearing earlier in the story as the hillbilly character Morton Dill, gives a creditable and promising first performance as the young astronaut. 'Mr Purves's acting is very good,' observed Williams, 'as [Steven] meets the first humans he has seen in two years. His relief is very convincing indeed. Our first impression of the character... is of a brave bloke, if not a little stupid as he returns to the burning Mechonoid city to retrieve his teddy bear which has kept him company for his two year imprisonment.'

Despite sillinesses such as this, and all its other undoubted faults, it is still somehow strangely difficult not to like The Chase. At the end of the day, perhaps the best way to view it is as being very much a story of its time. This, it must be remembered, was an era when 'Doctor Who' was featuring in his own weekly TV Comic strip, while the Daleks were appearing as 'guests' on programmes such as Crackerjack and Late Night Line-up and being mimicked on novelty pop records with titles like 'I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek'. Steve Lyons, writing in Cosmic Relief in 1994, summed up perfectly the story's curious appeal:

'The Chase has it all, from Vicki missing her cue to the puppet Mire Beasts - and Barbara's little dash to the falling "wall" in time to get captured - to the pathetic Dalek in the time machine ("Um, ah... ten minutes"). It uses an unconvincing double for the Doctor in scenes where there's no reason to, and you couldn't dub Hartnell's voice worse if you tried. It contains one of the most ludicrous concepts in the history of science-fiction, as the Time/Space Visualiser sifts through an infinity of places and events to tune into some silly pieces of costume drama and eventually (by an insanely unlikely coincidence) happens to chance upon a gaggle of scheming Daleks...

'Without a doubt, The Chase is one of the most appallingly scripted, the most shoddily produced and the most apathetically performed pieces of TV trash that has ever... given me such immense pleasure. And I guess that's something I love about Doctor Who: that indefinable magic that can make such a load of rubbish so thoroughly enjoyable to watch.'

< The Space MuseumFirst DoctorThe Time Meddler >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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