Day of the Daleks

Region 1

Region 2
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 60, starring Jon Pertwee)
  • written by Louis Marks
  • produced by Barry Letts
  • directed by Paul Bernard
  • music by Dudley Simpson
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: Sir Reginald Styles, a key politician involved in tense international negotiations, is attacked in his home at night, but the attacker suddenly vanishes "like a ghost." U.N.I.T. is called in to investigate, discovering a small portable time machine, an unconscious guerrilla soldier, and a futuristic ray gun, while the Doctor and Jo decide to spend a night in Sir Reginald's "haunted" house searching for more clues. But also monitoring events closely are unknown forces from the 22nd century, a time when Daleks have conquered and subjugated the Earth. Can the Doctor unravel this complicated temporal conundrum, before they all loop around again to their own doom?

DVD features (on 2 discs no less) include:

  • Original 1972 edit (4 episodes, mono, 96 min. total)
    • Audio commentary (stereo) by producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, vision mixer Mike Catherwood, and
      actors Jim Winston (Shura), and Anna Barry (Anat).
    • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • "Blasting the Past" making-of featurette (30 min.) with Letts, Dicks, Winston, Anna Barry, Katy Manning (Jo Grant),
    Ricky Newby (Dalek Operator), monster maker John Friedlander, and fans Nick Briggs, Dave Owen, Paul Cornell, and Ben Aaronovitch.
  • "The Unit Family - Part Two" featurette (31 min.) covering seasons 8 - 10, with Dicks, Letts, Manning, Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier),
    John Levene (Sgt. Benton), Richard Franklin (Capt. Mike Yates), Fernanda Marlowe (Corporal Bell), and Derek Ware (stunt leader).
  • "Now and Then" location featurette (5 min.)
  • Featurette on multi-camera studio vision mixing (20 min.) with Letts and Catherwood.
  • Featurette on the contradictions in the chronology of the year(s) in which each UNIT story is set. (9 min.)

  • Special Edition 2011 edit (4 episodes, mono, 96 min. total)
    • Making of the Special Edition featurette (13 min.) with producer Steve Broster, Dalek voice Nick Briggs, audio engineer Mark Ayres,
      Kevan Looseley (UNIT Soldier), Nick Nicholson (Ogron), cameraman John Kelly, and Dalek builder Toby Chamberlain.
    • The Cheating Memory featurette (8 min.) with Steve Broster

  • Photo Gallery sound effects montage (5 min.)
  • Primary school first prize Dalek footage (3 min.)
  • Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves remembers his experiences on Doctor Who (5 min.)

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers Guide version instead.

Jon Pertwee has every right to regard the Daleks as being the most boring Doctor Who villains. Although I tend to disagree with him in general, his own era boasts four of the most uninspiring Dalek productions of all time.

"Day of the Daleks" however is a bit of an exception. It has by far the most intriguing plot of any Pertwee Dalek story, and is largely a success because of it. The producers actually grafted the Daleks onto its good script at the last minute, which was a logical move on their part that should have worked. As far as the 1972 version is concerned though, the Daleks themselves turned out to be the weakest part of the production, both poorly directed and poorly voiced.

All that has changed though, thanks to a new 2011 version released alongside the original on the story's DVD. In fact, this is perhaps a rare case where the new version can take over from the original as THE definitive version of this story. I don't say this lightly, as my reviews of the Fiona Cumming remakes "Enlightenment" and "Planet of Fire" can attest to. The new "Day of the Daleks" has been able to turn the tables on the production, and breathe new life into what was essentially a fascinating story. At last, Jon Pertwee finally has a truly worthy, exciting adventure with the show's most infamous villains.

Daleks in Production

The original 1972 TV version was quite disappointing, after my expectations were raised by encountering the novelization first. Paul Bernard managed to deliver a mostly adequate directing job, but the results left much to be desired. The first cut from the Controller in his office to the Daleks watching his report on their monitor is very clumsy, giving away the CSO/inlay or whatever they used. Later transitions between the two are far more effective, and the double zoom-out is actually aligned far better than one could expect from the technology of the day.

Both the action sequences and the Daleks suffered the most. Many scenes were just not blocked out well enough to believably hide the protagonists from searching Ogrons, be it in the corridors or on the grassy knoll. There are too few close ups of Boaz during his final heroics, and what we do get isn't linked well into the long shots, leaving the audience confused when they should be emotionally engaged.

Once again, the leading Dalek got the frailest sounding "Granny" voice and too much unnatural pausing between syllables. The Daleks' TV adventures had just moved into colour, meaning the old full screen negative effect for their weapons' blast looked really outdated. Far from making any improvements in 1972, we got it in slow motion with hammy acting from the victims, making it absurdly silly.

Topping it all off was the ridiculous handling of the Dalek numbers. The BBC only had three Daleks at this point, and one had been painted gold to represent the leader. That left only two blue Daleks to represent the hordes. Cutting away from the tunnel and back as the same two blue Daleks emerge over and over again with different arrangements of Ogron support was predictable, yet still effective. It was in fact the only effective part of the Dalek Horde sequence. Paul Bernard gave the game away time and again afterwards by always grouping the three Daleks together and showing lots of empty space around them in the long shots. Where are all those other blue Daleks that aren't supposed to be so close to the one and only Gold Dalek? We need to cut in shots of blue Daleks all over the place one after the other to maintain the effect. Important: Do not put the gold Dalek in every shot, or the game is up once more! And any high long shot needs to be an inlay composite showing something like ten blue Daleks, but only one gold, to be of any use at all. Can't do an inlay composite due to time and money? Fine, then just don't do the long shot at all. It isn't worth having if it's going to destroy the illusion of lots of Daleks.

Dudley Simpson's music is not great this time around, not composed well enough to elicit much emotion from the audience, and not performed on a great choice of instruments either, electronic or otherwise. But at least it is somewhat thematic and therefore, somewhat memorable. Even if it doesn't make the greatest first impression, it definitely can grow on you after a while.

2011 Special Edition Version

Now, most of the above problems have indeed been tackled by the Special Edition's production team and thoroughly improved and brought up to a decent, enjoyable, often quite exciting level. First of all, our special edition is four episodes, all at the same length down to the second, with cliffhangers, and with pretty much every dialogue scene played out at full length, meaning that they have maintained the strengths of the original. Pretty much everything they've changed is simply an improvement on the competence of the original directing and editing, thanks in part to a new "second unit" acquiring "insert shots" to help things along, and it pays off in spades whenever there is an action scene, and nearly always whenever Daleks appear as well. Good stuff.

The story now opens with a decent establishing shot, which makes so much more sense than the pointless zoom-out on the original. The first cut from the Controller to his image on the Dalek monitor has been very cleverly fixed. All futuristic weapons feature excellent on-screen laser beams, and a thoroughly improved extermination effect for the Daleks. Full marks. Nicholas Briggs' voices rule, allowing us to take the Daleks seriously again when they appear on screen. Two thumbs way up! And there are now many shots of additional blue Daleks cut into the final battle. Add all that to the improved editing for the action sequences, and the case for preferring the new version becomes nearly open and shut.

Not everything is totally successful, but the few minor detractions are extremely minor when compared to the faults of the original. The new voices don't quite overlap each other as elegantly as the originals did for episode one's cliffhanger, even though the emotional tone is still a good improvement here. The team couldn't quite composite new Daleks into all of the offending long shots of the Dalek trio, and if you blink you might miss the fact that one extra Dalek is sometimes added onto the right-hand side of some of these shots. The trio still remains a bit too conspicuous when it appears, although with the improved editing, smoke, and lasers added, and quick intercuts to new shots of other Daleks, it all works much better in this version. There's a new disintegration effect in this story as well, which is a bit gross for my tastes. We also get some new shots of the futuristic buildings in which our villains reside, which are kind of cool, but I still miss the old shots in episode three, which previously evoked that lonely abandoned quality that Rod Serling championed and used to make so many episodes of "The Twilight Zone" so creepy.

If there's one effect that the old version did better, I think it is the various comings and goings through time. The new version features an extra sphere of light with orbiting light patterns and smoke effects, on top of the old rings of feedback pulses. Simply put, it too easily obscures and distracts us from noticing the face of the time traveler, or the fact that he/she is appearing or disappearing, and story points are in danger of being lost. The new effect is cool and works some of the time, but the old effect from 1972 was also cool and ALWAYS worked for the story. This is one element I would have left largely as is.

Story Threads

"Day of the Daleks" still works and remains entertaining and relevant today thanks to its story, as it delves deep into paradoxes of time-travel and patterns of government corruption. The paradox of the Doctor and Jo meeting themselves in their lab can really only be enjoyed for whatever humour one can find in it; the scene at the beginning doesn't make much sense all on its own, and the scene at the very end that would have completed it got cut out due to time restraints on the fourth episode. A true pity, as episodes one and two do seem a bit padded by contrast; a little restructuring might have allowed all the goodies to be fitted in. Even so, in the episodic version, waiting three weeks to get an explanation for a scene would have been a questionable move anyway.

Episode two has a questionable act from the perspective of the Doctor's character. He escapes from the house, captured ray gun in hand, and rounds the corner to find two Ogrons out for a leisurely stroll. It's his first encounter with the creatures in the entire story, he still hasn't really found out who's who from the rebels yet, and thanks to Paul Bernard's direction, the Ogrons appear quite pleasant and non-threatening. The good Doctor then raises the ray gun and disintegrates one of them in cold blood. Nice first contact policy, Doc! If ever the Valeyard wanted good evidence to convict the Doctor of meddling and interference, this incident would make a most damning case! Keeping the Ogrons stupid and useless, the other Ogron fails to react to the fact that his comrade is no more, and would happily continue walking to the same fate like a lemming if the Brigadier hadn't shown up and beaten the Doctor to the draw. Like many other action sequences, this whole section is totally improved in the 2011 version, and increases the Ogron menace enough to make the Doctor's action here seem reasonable. We should perhaps note though that the Doctor now disintegrates yet another Ogron prior to this in the house, one who had previously survived. Perhaps the new version unnecessarily went a bit too far there.

"Day of the Daleks" gets good and interesting by episode three. The old prisoner dynamic pops up, but is kept to the barest of minimums, only used as a vehicle for exposition of a few important human characters of the era. That single scene in the Doctor's cell holds a lot of excellent dramatic meat, and completes the range for many of the characters - I'm going to completely disagree with Barry Letts' comments on the audio commentary and say that the factory manager does not need more introduction or screen time; I think he got the perfect amount to tell us everything we need to know while keeping the story moving and surprising and interesting. This scene is a perfect example of how to keep the pace up while being limited to a tiny set for five or six minutes, and should be celebrated and studied for its economical writing genius. Also in this third episode, the Doctor redeems himself from his ray gun fiasco by taking on the Controller head on in philosophy, and getting his position absolutely right on.

Time Paradox

The final temporal paradox takes the cake though, as it was meant to, and interestingly enough, it can be completely understood even from watching only the final episode, in which it is finally discovered and explored. Many people on the making-of featurette habitually mistake this for "too much exposition", but I disagree. These are the long-awaited answers to the burning questions that the narrative has posed, and the best, most productive and sensible exchange of dialogue that the Doctor ever has with the rebels. Celebrate it! All the kidding aside, "Blinovitch Limitation Effect" included, I have been so opinionated on what is and isn't possible in time travel that I must give "Day of the Daleks" its due discussion as well.

I will give the temporal paradox here the same nod of approval that I give to the eighth Star Trek feature film "First Contact", which is that the events we see are all technically okay, while the characters are allowed to have incorrect theories about what is going on. In fact, "Day of the Daleks" holds up a bit better, because there really is no Commander Data babbling away the wrong idea to the audience unobstructed. Here it is interesting to note that the Doctor appears to have embraced what he learned in "Inferno" (story no. 54), that an infinity of parallel/branching timelines exists, allowing free will, and to use his own words, "the pattern can be changed". (In my own words, it is important to say "the pattern can be chosen" instead, as none of the various timeline options actually change.) Anyway, gone is the old conviction of not being able to affect outcomes that plagued the Doctor in the Hartnell era, in stories like "The Aztecs" (story no. 6) and "The Massacre" (story no. 22), and the Doctor is definitely a more enjoyable and heroic character here as a result.

An added bonus here is that the metaphysical aspects of people creating their own reality is made very tangible as well. Violence begets violence, and as the rebels try to use it to gain their own ends, so they discover that it is precisely what dooms them to a violent fate. Beautiful touch.

"Day of the Daleks" ends on a powerful note of choice, in the present day, making a firm stand for proactive peace instead of reactive violence. (Something it might not have done so well if the story had ended on the other half of the time loop in the Doctor's lab.) All the more power to it. Most thankfully, it does not attempt to show any magical change sweeping across the future as happens in so many Star Trek fantasies. The "Brannon Braga Disney-Wand", as exemplified in tales like Voyager's "Year of Hell", has no jurisdiction here. We don't have to pretend that the timelines all rotate around whatever a few time travellers may do, we can perceive those travellers simply navigating their own tiny routes around and through the timelines instead. The pro-peace timeline shown at the end does not wipe out the one of world war and Dalek invasion, but is allowed to co-exist with it. The Doctor and friends simply choose their way into it, as naturally and believably as you please.

Finding the Chosen Future...

As for the surviving rebels - the Anat and Monia who risked all to rescue the Doctor and Jo and send them back in time (or Anat and Moni if you're reading the novelization), they may well be disappointed with the result I envision them experiencing. I suspect that, full of hope, Anat and Monia send the Doctor and Jo off into the continuum, and receive word that a group of senior Daleks and Ogrons soon follow them in. None are ever heard from again, and the Dalek occupation of 22nd century Earth keeps right on going at full steam. The rebels will probably explain it away as another failed transfer through time - another disintegration. Remember, the TARDIS is not involved in any of the time travel of this story, just some little Dalek hand-held units. The rebels seem to think that the Dalek time-machines must be unstable, because "unlucky" people appear to disintegrate in transit and get lost in the continuum. My view on this is that the lost people find ways to choose themselves onto other timelines, and become "sliders" if you will. Who knows how many slightly or wildly different versions of the future and the past they will travel into?

And so, this latest society of Anat and Monia's 22nd century Earth has a new Controller, and a new Gold Dalek is likely to arrive from Skaro at his earliest convenience, but that's about it for now. For although the Doctor and all his friends in the 20th century have chosen their way onto a new time-line, it co-exists with the old one, and Anat and Monia are still on that old one. They would need a "sliding" machine or an "Inferno"-style accident with a time machine to get onto the time-line that results from the Doctor and friends choosing a different version of their history. Anat and Monia still have choices they can make to free their world, but their choices are in their present, not their past. Had they time traveled with the Doctor, made their choices, and time traveled forward again, they might have been able to arrive in the world they struggled to achieve, however their old world would still be occupied, and they would merely have abandoned it, and become considered lost or disintegrated. And the Daleks might still invade the new world they arrive on, bombarding the planet with meteors if the humans are too united to decimate themselves, as happened in the 2164 timeline that William Hartnell's Doctor visited, or the 2150 timeline that Peter Cushing's Doctor visited. Anyway you slice it, a better key to getting rid of 22nd century Daleks is to use the Earth's magnetic core against them, as Sir Ian Chesterton of Coal Hill can attest to.

Fiction Mirroring Fact???

In her interview in Doctor Who Magazine, issue 199, actress Ingrid Pitt (Queen Galleia in "The Time Monster" [story no. 64] and Dr. Solow in "Warriors of the Deep" [story no. 131] ) reported that she and her husband had been commissioned to write a Doctor Who story set on the USS Eldridge during The Philadelphia Experiment, partly inspired by the book by Charles Berlitz, and the story went up the spout when the original season 23 was cancelled in favour of a hiatus. No self-respecting fan of Doctor Who and time travel in general should go without doing some research into this experiment, and the technology that resulted from it.

Some reports indicate that it could have led to an attempt at something that mirrors the plot of "Day of the Daleks", and thus might be an interesting read for Doctor Who fans. While we will present a good chunk more detail in our article on The Philadelphia Experiment, the basics are that an early version of stealth technology involving electromagnetism was being tested on the USS Eldridge during World War II to hopefully make it invisible to radar and/or the naked eye, and it was discovered that these powerful magnetic fields could actually punch holes in space/time. However, they found out the hard way that much more research into the human mind and its electromagnetic properties was needed before people could safely exist in or pass through these fields. As the story goes, the Philadelphia research eventually combined with mind amplification research until a way was discovered to create a vortex connecting two points in space time and send people back and forth.

There is a fairly long document created by Valdamar Valerian multiplying itself over the internet in whole and in part, which gives a lot of insight into this subject. It was reportedly "constructed from over 9 hours of video interviews, personal interviews and individual commentary". I had intended to quote several passages here, but I discovered in my research quite by accident that I actually had in my possession the 2-hour video interview from which the earliest parts of Valerian's document were made. So why not depart from the rest of the internet and quote the actual source instead? The video has no proper title known to me; it looks like a homemade camcorder video from 1989 would, with 3 interviewees in a living room answering questions from about 5 or 6 audience members. Here are some excerpts from my own more detailed transcription:

Preston Nichols: "First of all, this transmitter was so freaking powerful; this transmitter had enough power to warp space and time.

"You're talking gigawatts, in the etheric power probably many many terawatts. You're talking astronomical etheric power. They're using multiple pulse modulators: pulse modulating amplifiers on top of pulse modulating amplifiers, opening different windows and driving this end to that end, and you can encode all sorts of zero-point functions as you go through what they call the amplidyne function. I don't think I can overstate how much power... as far as we're concerned in this room, it's astronomical power this thing had. This thing literally had, if the target, if the person who was sitting in the chair thought of a time warp and a vortex, that vortex would form.

"They would put into Duncan's mind when he's in a trance, what they want him to think of... The chair would pick it up. ...his thoughts were channelled directly through the transmitter....

"Next bright idea they got was, okay, let's tell Duncan to think of a vortex connecting, ahh..., 1981 to 1947. He would do this for them. What happened? They got a vortex going from 1981 to 1947 you could walk through."

Audience: "Did you ever walk through this time vortex?"

Nichols: "No comment."

Audience: "Do you know anybody that did...?"

Nichols: "Oh yes."

Audience: "Could you describe at least the experience?"

Nichols: "Ahhh... Al."

Al Bielek: "I can. I did more than once. And it's... it's weird..." (smiles, audience chuckles) " say the least."

Audience: "So what was it like, Al? You were saying..."

Al Bielek: "It's like looking into the entrance of a peculiar spiral tunnel which was lit all the way down. You would start to walk into this thing, and then suddenly you'd be pulled down it. You'd more or less be projected. You didn't walk through it as such. You were more or less propelled through it."

Audience: "You walked into it."

Bielek: "You walked into it, correct, to start. Then you were propelled down the thing like some force grabbed you and pulled you through, and you come out the other end wherever it is. You could be far in the past; you could be in the future. You could be very close by, and it could definitely be another place physically other than the point where you started, and usually was.

"It was corkscrew, and it would not go in a straight line either, it would take some very strange turns, which I could not explain. But it did take turns, and you would come out at the other end, wherever you were supposed to come out. And meet somebody or do something at the other point."

Audience: "Did you have like a mission?"

Bielek: "Yes. And you would return. Whenever whatever you were doing was completed, the tunnel would re-open for you, and you go in the other direction, you walk back in it, and go back from wherever you came from."

Valerian's document contains some sections later on that begin to resemble the plot of "Day of the Daleks" - unfortunately, he deliberately left out any reference to whom he was quoting... or paraphrasing as often seems to be the case. This is particularly frustrating when contradicting ideas are presented.
Nevertheless, note these sections:

The Navy had the ability to use the time travel technology from about 1970 and developed full operational capability in 1973. They did do an experiment where they tried to go back and kill the father of the man destined to be the head of the new One-World government. They did kill his father, but it made no difference. They didn't understand why it didn't work.

What is another possibility as to why the death of the father of the One World government failed to produce the dematerialization of the future leader of the One World government?

This seeming paradox can be better explained this way: The people who went back and tried to kill the father were successful but the son still lived. This is all related to the Grandfather Paradox. The truth of the matter is that they prevented the birth of the leader of the One World government not in the time stream where the existing person was born but in a parallel one where he never existed in the first place. It existed before and after the effort to kill the father; the parallel time stream also exists where the Germans overtly won the second world war. There are differing but parallel interrelated worlds and universes, each having an endless number of streams relating to individual entities.....

Atrocious stuff, this assassination bit, but the irony that made me laugh was the difficulty that the perpetrators had to understand what it was all about - that they could not sit back in their time-travel control room, send others through time to do their dirty work, and watch some magic wand of time swoop by and erase their arch-enemies from existence. They might have been able to keep the far end of their time-tunnel-vortex locked onto their assassin no matter which time-line he chose himself into, but when they bring him back to their end, it is still back into the same time-line as before, one with a living breathing future leader of a new One-world government.

For more on this subject, and links to some of the existing copies of Valerian's document, see our article on "The Philadelphia Experiment".

Final word: "Day of the Daleks" had poor Daleks and uninspired directing which the 2011 special edition has largely fixed and overcome, and since it always was thankfully based on a gripping and worthwhile time-paradox story, it is now more exciting and engaging than ever. This one deserves to be revisited and celebrated.

International Titles:

Deutsch: (Der Tag der Daleks)

Magyar: "A dalekek napja"

Français: (Le jour des Daleks)

Русский: "День далеков"

This story is available on VHS video, and now DVD with optional new CGI effects and voice-overs.
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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Curse of Peladon"

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