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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Dr. Who & The Daleks


Starring: Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden, Roberta Tovey and Barrie Ingham
Distributor: StudioCanal
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: U
Release Date: 27 May 2013

When Ian Chesterton visits his girlfriend Barbara, he meets her sister and eccentric grandfather Dr Who, an amiable inventor of the TARDIS, a police box which can move through space and time. Following an accident, the group finds themselves on the planet Skaro, a place devastated by an atomic war. The Doctor fakes a problem with the TARDIS as he wants to investigate a nearby city, but when they enter they are confronted by the Daleks...

Dr Who & the Daleks (1965 - 1 hr, 22 min, 57 sec) is the big screen spin off from the television show. The film was directed by Gordon Flemyng from a screenplay by Milton Subotsky, who adapted the original script by the Daleks creator, Terry Nation.

Transferring Nation's script to the big screen required that the story become more family friendly. The back story from the show was dropped in favour of a quick archetypal character sketch to get the film to Skaro as quickly as possible, and the violence was toned down to ‘mild peril’ levels so as to get a U certificate.

Whilst a lot of the Thalls story is truncated, to the point where the audience barely notices when the Daleks kill their leader, the levels of humour were increased with Roy Castle providing the comic relief, presumably to tone down the Daleks perceived threat to levels appropriate to small children, I can only assume that Flemyng either had especially delicate children or none at all as most revel in comic book style violence.

Peter Cushing (Dr Who) plays the character as a warm hearted old gentleman and certainly not as acerbic as William Hartnell’s portrayal. Susan’s age has been reduced. No longer portrayed as the hip teenager of the television series, none-the-less Roberta Tovey's portrayal finds a level of courage at the character's heart. Throughout the film it is Susan who has the most interaction with both the Daleks and the Thalls. The character nearest to the small screen portrayal is Barbara (Jennie Linden), although it is not stated that she is a teacher she shares many character traits with Jacqueline Hill.

Of course, the main reason to see the film was to see the Daleks in magnificent full colour. Although the production was studio bound both the city and the poisoned forest are still impressive sets, even if the Daleks do have a fetish for Lava Lamps and Oscilloscopes. Apart from being brightly coloured the Daleks also underwent a redesign, giving them much larger bases and fire extinguishers for weapons.

The restoration on the Blu-ray is impressive, the picture has been stabilised and cleaned, colours are bright and funky, even having seen the Daleks in colour on the television there is still something special about the primary colours of the film version, a version which would ultimately influence the modern show in their controversial redesign.

There is a collection of both old and new extras for this release starting with Dalekmania (57 min, 30 sec) a documentary about the making of the film with little reference to the original show, although they do explain why the changes were made to the original script and concept. This documentary has already appeared on the previous DVD releases.

Restoring Dr Who & the Daleks (8 min, 26 sec) is a new feature which gives a taster of how the film has been restored for its Blu-ray release. Interview with Gareth Owen (7 min, 41 sec) who is the author of The Shepperton Story discusses the production of the movie.

The release has kept a restored version of the 2.0 mono LPCM audio, with English subtitles and includes a full length audio commentary with Jonathan Southcote, author of The Cult Films of Peter Cushing, Jennie Linden (Barbara) and Roberta Tovey (Susan).

Although never accepted as canon, the film still remains a good slice of family entertainment.


Charles Packer

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