Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)
Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 22 min.

Release Date: August 23rd, 1965 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Gordon Flemyng Actors: Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden, Roberta Tovey, Barrie Ingham, Geoffrey Toone, Michael Coles, Yvonne Antrobus, Virginia Tyler




he movie starts with groovy jazz tunes like a Derek Flint or Matt Helm flick, distancing itself greatly from the obvious adventure-oriented, science-fiction themes it should include (later, overly dramatic music narrates a rather tepid ascension of rocky stairs). With the abundance of slapstick and spoken jokes, it’s clear that this “Dr. Who” outing is also very much a comedy. And what’s worse is that unintentional humor drastically outweighs the purposeful gags, making it difficult to interpret any of the happenings as sincere.

Dr. Who (Peter Cushing) is excited to meet Ian (Roy Castle), the boyfriend of his granddaughter Barbara (Jennie Linden). Accompanied by even younger child Susan (Roberta Tovey), the foursome accidentally sends their time and space machine, the TARDIS, into a petrified jungle somewhere into the future of an unknown planet. Unafraid of their dark surroundings and the ominous reptilian creatures frozen as ash just outside the transport, Who and Susan wish to investigate the remnants of a nearby, steely city. But Barbara and Ian insist on returning home.

When the TARDIS fails to function properly, the reluctant crew is forced to journey to the adjacent mechanical structures to search for supplies. Assuming the metallic buildings have long since been abandoned, they calmly split up to begin exploring. In short time, they’re cornered by menacing robotic monstrosities, called Daleks, which imprison them and listen in on their conversations, hoping to learn or steal the secrets to the humans’ temporary immunity to the high levels of radiation permeating the war-ravaged world. Little Susie is sent back into the lifeless forest to obtain a drug that can save them all – but the evil robots have no intention of allowing Who and his cohorts to survive.

Cushing’s version of the doctor is a bumbling, prancing, forgetful scientist with an unnaturally high-pitched vocal delivery – an unconvincing persona he would reuse for “At the Earth’s Core” in 1976. But perhaps it is fitting in this hopelessly silly setting. The stilted conversations between the Daleks are more excruciatingly obnoxious, serving as wordy exposition with lengthy emphasis on syllables and mechanized voices that alternate between barely intelligible and unnecessarily repetitive. Their general immobility and inability to grasp or position their arms makes them anything but intimidating – and it shows in the actors’ performances. They can’t help but approach the material with lackluster seriousness.

Poor attempts at horror are more comical than frightening (including characters classically falling down while being pursued, glimpses of colorful garments edging in on the frames, goofy zooms, clumsy assaults on the boxy enemy, and confused expressions) and the sci-fi concepts are devoid of creativity, even if the nuclear warfare scares, radiation poisoning, intolerance, and the necessity of combat possess certain levels of relevance. But for a film about great technological advancements, the set designs, costumes, and makeup are surprisingly uninspired. The walls are quite possibly made of cardboard, lava lamps adorn the Dalek city, and the elevators can, laughably, only accommodate one Dalek at a time. The finale includes a particularly poorly edited countdown sequence that nonsensically insinuates that the trek across a swamp, the breaching of gates, and the climactic storming of the control room altogether only takes 90 seconds to accomplish. From both a visual standpoint and story development, the entire production is comparable to a bad episode of “Star Trek.”

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10