Dr. Who: The Daleks, Part 3

The Escape

That’s a reassuring episode title.

At the end of the previous episode, the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan had just reached the Tardis to retrieve the box containing vials of medicine that will save him and her schoolteachers Ian and Barbara from a horrible death by radiation sickness. Just as she steps out of the Tardis to return to the Dalek city, she runs into one of those “disgustingly mutated” Thals the Daleks spoke of.

By “disgustingly mutated,” of course they meant strapping blond Aryan types.

Susan and the Thal

Or, as Susan says once she realizes who this guy must be, “But you’re perfect!” (After he says “Don’t be afraid,” and she cowers and says “Don’t hurt me!” several times.)

He introduces himself as Alydon, apologizes for having frightened her when he touched her yesterday–although they never explained why she didn’t notice the big blond man in a cloak standing near her at the time. He wasn’t invisible; you can glimpse his hand when he touches her shoulder. He also reveals that he left the drugs outside the Tardis last night for her and her friends to use. Yes, left, not dropped. He’s horrified that they haven’t taken them yet.

When he hears Susan’s story about the Daleks, he asks she trusts them, and thinks that the Daleks probably want the medicine for themselves. “If they call us mutants, what must they be like?” Just in case, he gives her another box of medication for her companions, and also his cloak, before he sees Susan off to the city.

Just as well that Alydon had another batch of medication at hand. When Susan does get back to the city, the Daleks do take one of the boxes, but they let the prisoners use the other. Wasn’t that nice of them? In a matter of hours, the Doctor and his companions are all feeling fine again.

It seems that the Daleks are more interested in drawing out the surviving Thals than Exterminating! their prisoners (they still haven’t used that word yet). Since Susan returned wearing a Thal cloak, they know she has been in contact with their enemies. Monitoring the cell, they hear Susan tell the others that the Thals are short on food and would like to make a deal with the Daleks.

Dalek serving lunch

When one of the Daleks thoughtfully brings the prisoners food on a tray, to lull them into a sense of security, it says that they will agree to negotiate with the Thals. It lets slip that the Daleks know the prisoners want to help the Thals.

This informs the Doctor et al that they’re being spied on.

Susan is taken out of the cell again and takes dictation for the Daleks’ message to the Thals about their terms: they will provide food if the Thals will help them. The Thals must come to the city for the food.

My favorite part of this scene: when Susan has finished, she holds up the message and one Dalek grabs it with its plunger (the letter is actually metal and the plunger a magnet) and shows it to another Dalek to read and confirm that Susan’s written everything correctly. It’s a little-known fact that Daleks are sticklers for correct punctuation; there’s nothing they hate more than a comma splice.

Daleks reading

I can’t say why other people love the Daleks, but for me it’s this kind of stuff. Sure, they’re evil tinpot fascists who want to exterminate everyone they meet, but every once in a while they do something un-Daleky that’s just adorable.

The reading Dalek is suspicious of the word “Susan” at the bottom of the message, until Susan explains that that’s her name so that Alydon will know that this is really from her. She offers to carry the message out to the Thals, but the Daleks say they’ll send it themselves. Since they can’t leave the city, I was wondering how they’d manage it, but what they do is put it up on a city gate for the Thals to find.

Meanwhile, the others in the cell have been making a plan. When Susan returns, they stage an argument that turns into a fight and “accidentally” knock out the surveillance camera high up on one wall. The monitoring Daleks perceive that this was no accident.

Here we are, halfway through the third episode, and it’s during this conversation about the prisoners’ usefulness in luring the Thals to the city that the Daleks finally speak of “Extermination.” It’s about damn time!

Thals

The Thals do find the message and read it. Alydon is inclined to trust it, since Susan signed it. His older brother, the Thals’ leader, agrees to go and says that he will be unarmed–which will show the Daleks that he wants peace. The Thals were once a warrior race, but the horrors of atomic war have made them intensely pacifist.

I love the Thal outfits, by the way. The men wear padded vests and black leather or plastic trousers with round holes at intervals up the sides from ankle to hip. The women wear black bathing-suits under a padded sort of Brunhilda breastplate and holey aprons. They’re like something you’d see on early Star Trek, only that’s still about 2 years in the future.

While the camera in the cell is down, the Doctor and companions have a little time to talk and plan their escape. They’ve noticed that the Daleks have an electric smell, which Barbara and Ian identify as similar to “dodge-em” or bumper-cars on a fairground. From this, the Doctor posits that the Daleks have to keep in contact with the metal floors, which are all over the city and part of the reason why they can’t go outside of it. Ian gets the idea that they can use the cloak Alydon gave Susan to break one Dalek’s contact with the floor, and Barbara scraps off the mud that Susan got on her shoes while running through the forest in the storm.

The next time a Dalek brings in a tray of food, they attack it. Barbara blocks its vision with the mud and, taking care not to get in front of the “whisk” zapping weapon or the plunger, Ian and the Doctor grab it and drag it on to the cloak on the floor.

The Dalek shrieks “Keep away from me!” a couple of times, but loses its power and goes silent once they break its contact with the metal floor. Ian pops the top open.

Ian in Dalek disguise

We don’t get to see what the Dalek inside the metal armor looks like. Ian looks shocked and sickened by what he does see, and asks Barbara and Susan to keep watch at the door so they don’t get a look at it.

He and the Doctor bundle the unseen Dalek up in the cloak (it’s not very big) and dump it on the floor.

Ian Chesterton then has the distinction of being the very first Dr. Who companion to climb inside Dalek armor. He’ll be the only one for a very long time, until Clara Oswald joins him. Both do it for the same reason: that old tried and true escape ploy of having one of the prisoners dress up as a guard and pretend to escort the others out.

Dalek hand

After they leave the cell, we get a shot of the dying Dalek. A slimy-looking dark claw (?) just peeks out from underneath the cloak.

The BBC got complaints about this shocking image.

This reminds of that warning for sensitive viewers that preceded one of the Quatermass episodes, in which we glimpsed a shapeless methane-breathing creature flopping around in the mists. Apparently, BBC viewers of the ’50s and ’60s really liked their science fiction, but were disturbed by the sight of non-humanoid aliens.

To be continued…

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Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.