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24 September 2014

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The Daleks

Production Code: B

First Transmitted

The Dead Planet - 21/12/1963 17:15

The Survivors - 28/12/1963 17:15

The Escape - 04/01/1964 17:15

The Ambush - 11/01/1964 17:15

The Expedition - 18/01/1964 17:15

The Ordeal - 25/01/1964 17:15

The Rescue - 01/02/1964 17:15


The TARDIS has brought the travellers to the planet Skaro where they meet two indigenous races - the Daleks, malicious mutant creatures encased in armoured travel machines, and the Thals, beautiful humanoids with pacifist principles. They convince the Thals of the need to fight for their own survival.

Joining forces with them and braving Skaro's many dangers, they launch a two-pronged attack on the Dalek city. The Daleks are all killed when, during the course of the fighting, their power supply is cut off.

Episode Endings

Exploring the apparently deserted city, Barbara encounters one of the Daleks and is menaced by its telescopic sucker arm.

Having fetched some Thal anti-radiation drugs for herself and her companions, Susan reluctantly prepares to leave the safety of the TARDIS and head back to the Dalek city through Skaro's terrifying petrified forest.

The Doctor and Ian have removed one of the Dalek creatures from its travel machine and left it wrapped in a Thal cloak on the metallic floor of the cell in which they and their two companions have been held prisoner. Unseen by them, a Dalek claw pushes its way out from beneath the cloak.

The travellers have escaped from the Daleks but Ian realises that the TARDIS's fluid link, a vital component without which the ship cannot leave Skaro, is still in their possession.

Ian and Barbara are accompanying a party of Thals through a treacherous swamp of mutations to try to infiltrate the Dalek city from the rear. One of the Thals, Elyon, goes to fetch water. He screams and the others rush to his aid.

Ian, Barbara and their Thal allies are making their way through a dangerous cave system leading to the Dalek city. One of the Thals, Antodus, falls into a crevasse and hangs from a rope as Ian struggles to maintain his grip on the other end and is himself pulled toward the edge.

The TARDIS leaves Skaro but, as the Doctor busies himself with the controls, the ship lurches violently and the travellers are all thrown to the floor.


The Lord of the Rings.

The Time Machine (especially the 1960 film).

War of the Worlds.

Dan Dare.

Pathfinders to Venus (the Doctor sabotaging the TARDIS).

Journey into Space.

E. M. Forster's The Machine Stops.

The harshly-angled corridors of the city are reminiscent of expressionist films, particularly Das Kabinett des Dr Caligari.

Dialogue Triumphs

Alydon : [Speaking of the Daleks.] "If they call us mutations... what must they be like?"

Dalek : "The only interest we have in the Thals is their total extermination!"

The Doctor : [Speaking to Alydon] "You wanted advice, you said. I never give it. Never. But I might just say this for you. Always search for truth. My truth is in the stars, and yours... is here."

Double Entendre

Alydon : "We're all working towards the same end."

Ganatus : "Now there's a double meaning for you."


Susan says that, fed with the correct information, the TARDIS can be 'piloted' anywhere. However, the TARDIS instrumentation seems unable to pinpoint their location: the Doctor hopes to fix their position [in space and time] by the stars. He also takes readings from a bank of computers in the main corridor control room. [If the TARDIS was being repaired previous to An Unearthly Child then some degree of 'running in' might well be necessary: see Time Flight.] The TARDIS food machine is seen, as is the fault locator. The TARDIS fluid links use mercury.

The Doctor talks about the gulf between Susan's age and his own, and says that he was once a pioneer amongst his own people.

Skaro is the twelfth planet of its system. The Thals, going through a full circle of mutation, survived the aftermath of the war thanks to anti-radiation drugs. They became farmers.

The Daleks have statues in their city. They have been growing vegetables with artificial sunlight [do they still need to eat, or are these Varga plants? See Mission to the Unknown]. The postnuclear wildlife on Skaro includes an octopus-like creature in the Lake of Mutations and Magnedons, lizards whose bodies, held together by an internal magnetic force, are composed of pliable metal. Only a corpse is seen, and the Thals can recharge their handlights with it. The Thals measure length in feet [a translation convention], but the Dalek countdown indicates that their units of time are longer than the second.


The First History of the Daleks




The series' first monster is the dead Magneton in the petrified forest.

There is a wonderfully tense scene leading up to the death of Antodus.

The Doctor is apparently willing to give the Daleks the secrets of the TARDIS and of time travel if they abandon their plan to release deadly radiation onto the planet's surface - or is he just bluffing?

It was associate producer Mervyn Pinfield rather than writer Terry Nation who suggested that the Daleks should be powered by static electricity.

It was director Richard Martin rather than writer Terry Nation who suggested that the Thal anti-radiation drugs should be lethal to the Daleks.

William Hartnell at one point cut himself on one of the metal bands around a Dalek's shoulder section. For all subsequent scenes these bands had sticky tape affixed along their edges as a safety measure.


Terry Nation named the Daleks after seeing the letters DAL-LEK on a set of encyclopaedias. (Nation simply made up the name, but needed something a little more romantic to tell the press at the time.)

There was a transmission fault at the start of the first episode resulting in the opening moments being in negative. (The story was made this way all along to give the impression of intense heat on the surface of Skaro.)

The story was intended to feature a glass Dalek. (The glass Dalek was invented by David Whitaker for his 1964 novelisation of the story.)

The first episode of the story was remade between the third and the fourth as there was electronic interference on the tape of the original recording. (The episode was indeed remade, but the real reason was that talkback - i.e. the sound of instructions relayed to the studio floor from the control gallery - was picked up and clearly audible on the soundtrack of the original recording.)

Raymond Cusick based the shape of a Dalek on that of a pepper pot. (He based it on the shape of a man seated on a chair; the only time he used a pepper pot was to demonstrate to somebody in conversation how he envisaged the Daleks moving.)


The Daleks' Geiger counter has 'danger' written on it in English [a translation convention].

There is a weird conclusion to a Dalek scene in episode two where they all start talking gibberish, and in episode six two Daleks say the same piece of dialogue (with minor differences) at the same time but at different speeds.

Why does the Dalek cell contain a bed, something that they themselves would have no need for?

In episode three Susan runs on the spot while stage hands whip her with twigs.

It is stated that the Thals have been travelling for four years, but by the next episode the figure is just over a year.

Ganatus seems acquainted with 1960s Earth manners: 'We won't use one of the customs of your planet: "ladies first".

Why does Ian wait for Temmosus to finish his speech before warning the Thals that it's an ambush?

Towards the end it is obvious that much use is being made of photographic blow-up Daleks.

In episode six a Dalek turns to consult some instruments and crashes into them.

In the same episode, when Ian grabs the rock wall, William Russell ends up with a chunk of white polystyrene in his hand.

When the Doctor shorts a Dalek control panel the explosion happens too early.

Given that the doors of the city are electrically powered, how can the Thals get out at the end after turning the power off?

Fashion Victim

The Doctor's binocular specs are outrageous.

The Thal men wear leather trousers with holes cut in them, and as for the women...

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - William Hartnell

Barbara Wright - Jacqueline Hill

Ian Chesterton - William Russell

Susan Foreman - Carole Ann Ford

Alydon - John Lee

Antodus - Marcus Hammond

Dalek - Robert Jewell

Dalek - Kevin Manser

Dalek - Michael Summerton

Dalek - Gerald Taylor

Dalek - Peter Murphy

Dalek Voice - Peter Hawkins

Dalek Voice - David Graham

Dyoni - Virginia Wetherell

Elyon - Gerald Curtis

Ganatus - Philip Bond

Kristas - Jonathan Crane

Temmosus - Alan Wheatley

Thal - Chris Browning Also in The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition and The Ordeal but uncredited

Thal - Katie Cashfield Also in The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition and The Ordeal but uncredited

Thal - Vez Delahunt Also in The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition and The Ordeal but uncredited

Thal - Kevin Glenny Also in The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition and The Ordeal but uncredited

Thal - Ruth Harrison Also in The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition and The Ordeal but uncredited

Thal - Lesley Hill Also in The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition and The Ordeal but uncredited

Thal - Steve Pokol Also in The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition and The Ordeal but uncredited

Thal - Jeanette Rossini Also in The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition and The Ordeal but uncredited

Thal - Eric Smith Also in The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition and The Ordeal but uncredited


Director - Christopher Barry 1, 2, 4, 5

Director - Richard Martin 3, 6, 7

Assistant Floor Manager - Michael Ferguson

Assistant Floor Manager - Jeremy Hare

Associate Producer - Mervyn Pinfield

Costumes - Daphne Dare

Designer - Raymond P Cusick 1-5, 7

Designer - Jeremy Davies

Film Cameraman - Stewart Farnell

Film Editor - Ted Walter

Incidental Music - Tristram Cary

Make-Up - Elizabeth Blattner

Producer - Verity Lambert

Production Assistant - Norman Stewart

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Story Editor - David Whitaker

Studio Lighting - John Treays

Studio Lighting - Geoff Shaw

Studio Sound - Jack Clayton

Studio Sound - Jack Brummitt

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

Writer - Terry Nation

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'I wonder what they'll be like ' A game of two halves. The first four episodes helped launch Doctor Who in the public imagination, and are thoughtful and gripping. The last three comprise a B-movie trek through hideous landscapes in order to defeat the monsters: it's as sophisticated as Flash Gordon. As a whole, The Daleks is brilliantly directed, full of inventive touches and wonderful set-pieces. Only in the last battle do the Daleks disappoint.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

From the opening moments of The Mutants it appears that the TARDIS has arrived in a forest not too dissimilar from the one that it has just left. It soon becomes very apparent, however, that this is no normal forest. Indeed, The Mutants is no normal story. Its importance in Doctor Who's history cannot be understated, and there is one simple reason for this: it introduced the Daleks.

The Daleks are undoubtedly the highlight of the story. Nothing even remotely like them had ever been seen before, either on television or in the cinema, and they dominate every scene in which they appear. Their sedate, gliding movements and harsh, electronic voices make for an unforgettable combination. The fact that they are constantly in motion, their three stick-like 'limbs' twitching with alien life even when they are otherwise stationary, creates a very creepy effect.

Their weaponry seems devastating, blistering a wall in moments - although when turned on the Thals it simply causes them to go negative, fall over and die (or, in one case, get up again to continue fighting). The Daleks, as Ian realises, are xenophobes - they hate other races simply because they are different from themselves. They are also intelligent, cunning and ruthless, all of which adds to their appeal - particularly in comparison with the rather wishy-washy pacifist Thals.

It has often been claimed that villains are far more interesting than heroes, and nowhere is this more evident than in The Mutants. The main problem with the Thals is that their charismatic leader Temmosus, played by Alan Wheatley, is unceremoniously killed off in the fourth episode and the remainder, with the possible exception of Alydon, are essentially rather faceless stereotypes - the coward, the ladies' man and so on - to be used by Nation according to the dictates of the plot. Certainly they have little regard for fashion - the men wear leather trousers with holes cut up the sides, while the women wander about in leotards and plastic tabards!

This rather less-than-inspiring costume design is perhaps the only weak point in what is otherwise a very impressive production. Among its many strong points are the sets. Belying the tiny budget he was allocated, designer Raymond P Cusick managed to create settings which emphasise just how different Skaro is from the Palaeolithic era that the travellers have just left behind. These include the eerie petrified forest; the stark and gleaming Dalek city, the doors of which are too small for the humans to walk through without ducking; an impressive swamp filled with horrific mutations; and a network of tunnels and caverns.

On the technical side, good use is made of electronic inlay in the sequence where the travellers first see the Dalek city in the distance, and then later in the one where a massive whirlpool caused by a swamp mutation appears alongside the terrified Elyon. Other clever sequences include a number of Dalek-eye-views of the action, and one where Susan runs through the forest back to the TARDIS - although in this latter case it is perhaps a little too apparent that Carole Ann Ford is simply running on the spot while studio hands whip her with branches.

One of the potential problems with The Mutants is its length. Nation had a job to sustain the action over the full seven episodes, and the travellers seem to spend their time moving between the Dalek city and the Thal encampment. The master-stroke was to ensure that the only way of approaching the city for a final covert attack was to do so via a lake of mutations, a pipeline going up a sheer cliff-face and a dangerous cave system, helping to ensure that the story remains watchable and interesting throughout.

These sequences are not merely padding, though; rather, they pay homage to the Jules Verne school of science-fiction storytelling, as exemplified in books such as Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days, in which an arduous trek through a series of strange and hazardous environments is typically not just an interlude in the story but is the story.

It is however the work of another well-known science-fiction author that provides one of the most apparent sources for Nation's story, as Trevor Wayne noted in Gallifrey Issue Thirteen dated winter 1980/81:

'The basic story is taken directly from H G Wells' The Time Machine... In the famous book, the time traveller is transported to a strange, dream-like future landscape with sad ruined buildings set in a huge park. Mankind has been reduced to two types of creature: the childlike Eloi who live in an apparently halcyon existence on the surface, and the brutal troglodyte Morlocks who tend huge machines that provide food and other necessities for the Eloi, who are in turn themselves the food of the carnivorous Morlocks. The Time Machine is... a political and scientific allegory owing much to Darwin and Huxley and to the Socialist philosophy in the latter years of the nineteenth century. Society has been reduced to one food cycle.

'Taking the basic ingredients of the book, Terry Nation penned an allegory of his time, the 1960s. The setting is removed from Earth to Skaro... The landscape is that of a post-atomic nightmare; ashen and petrified. And there are two types of creature. The first is monstrous [and] lives in an underground city (fall-out shelter?)... The [other is] the image of human perfection (... in fact uncomfortably like the Nazis' stated ideal; tall, blond and - presumably - blue eyed) [and] of a gentle disposition.'

Another apparent source for the story is the first Dan Dare serial from the Eagle comic. In this, the Pilot of the Future, having braved perils such as a swamp full of monsters and a treacherous cave system, gets captured by a race of evil technocrats and then encounters a group of blond-haired pacifists whom he shames into fighting them.

The arrival of the Daleks has often been cited, with some justification, as the development that sealed Doctor Who's popular success. Certainly the creatures' appeal was immediately noted by journalists, as is apparent from the following review by Peter Quince that appeared in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner dated 11 January 1964: 'As for spine chillery... well, I take back what I said a few weeks ago about Doctor Who having got off to such a bad start it could never recover. It has recovered, and, though it still has its daft moments, it also produces some first class sensations - as, for example, last Saturday, when, after the Dalek "intelligence" had been lifted unseen from its robot and placed in a blanket on the floor, the episode closed with something very horrible indeed just beginning to crawl from under the blanket. So horrible was it, that I very much doubt whether I shall have the courage this evening to switch on to see what it was. Lovely stuff!'

The Mutants was a turning point for Doctor Who, and one that would continue to resonate in viewers' minds long after it was over.

< An Unearthly ChildFirst DoctorThe Edge of Destruction >

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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