Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966)
Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 24 min.

Release Date: August 5th, 1966 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Gordon Flemyng Actors: Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, Roberta Tovey, Jill Curzon, Ray Brooks, Andrew Keir, Keith Marsh, Philip Madoc

 


 

C

lassical music opens a jewelry heist sequence, which couldn’t possibly prepare viewers for the eventual sci-fi shenanigans just around the corner. The sudden appearance of a blue police call box marks the arrival of the time-traveling Doctor Who (Peter Cushing), who tends to a wounded beat cop, Tom Campbell (Bernard Cribbins), just before jumping to the year 2150. Accompanied by granddaughter Susie (Roberta Tovey) and niece Louise (Jill Curzon), the foursome arrive in a future London, which looks as if it succumbed to a nuclear war. “Quite remarkable!”

As they poke around the rubble and dilapidated buildings, looking for a crowbar to free their time machine from concrete obstructions, they stumble upon a curious, cyborg-like inhabitant, as well as a band of underground resistance fighters, who roam the wasteland for supplies as they try to avoid heavily armed “robomen.” As it turns out, the black-clad robot soldiers are employed by the Daleks – a formidable foe that Doctor Who has confronted before. And once again, these invaders’ intentions are to enslave or exterminate humanity.

“Obey motorized dustbins? We’ll see about that!” Unintentional yet comedic nonetheless, some of the dialogue highlights glaring inadequacies with the visual effects and costuming. Flying saucers on clearly visible strings; mind-control technology intending to appear advanced, yet looking terribly primitive; vinyl trash bags for robomen uniforms; brightly-colored spaceship interiors (supplemented by obvious matte paintings); and weapons that essentially spray steam onto their targets (an early, impressive stunt finds one poor victim lightly steamed to death) all have tragically mediocre executions. And the Daleks themselves are as stiff and unalarming as ever, though their grating, screechy voices are an effective form of aural torture for the audience (fortunately, their sentences are briefer than in the prior theatrical episode).

Cushing reprises his role as a bumbling, routinely insincere version of the Doctor, who gets sidetracked easily and concerns himself with the wonders and curiosities of new eras over the severity of malevolent beings (or the safety of his family). This nonchalance carries over to the action scenes as well, which utilize an unfitting, playful, jazzy soundtrack during combat, where darker orchestral music should have surged instead. It doesn’t help that the film takes time for comic relief moments (namely, a robomen-infiltration skit full of slapstick) that only dull the intensity of surrounding actions (with bit parts filled by familiar comedy players). There are, however, plenty of explosions and firefights, as well as a budget that accommodates numerous Daleks to be onscreen at the same time. But even when the parties are separated and must journey through hazardous terrain in pairs (like multiple sets of Defiant Ones), and continuously encounter hostile survivors (leading to one of the more sinister subplots, revealing the treacherous nature of humans who value personal freedoms and profits over allegiance to one’s own species), the excitement is always alternated by failed humor or general slowness.

It’s obvious that this particular Who adventure isn’t meant to be morbid or suspenseful; in fact, it’s aimed more toward child-oriented fantasies than heady sci-fi thrills (even if the plot touches upon the fifth dimension, magnetism, and hijacking the Earth’s core) – to the point that laughs come easier than tension. The Doctor, ever the explorer, is also amused by motives and solutions to the Dalek invasion, rather than mere escape. Yet his default defense mechanism is a series of dumbfounded expressions – which always manage to save the day.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10