the late 1950s, Hammer films made it big with their adaptations of
popular British television and radio shows, in particular the
Quatermass series. Alongside their horror films, Hammer had made some
headway into the U-rated family friendly adventure genre with such
titles as Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) and Captain Clegg
(1962). In the mid 1960s, Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg were trying
to start Amicus Productions, their own film company to rival Hammer. In
1965 they shot a pair of horror films starring many of Hammer's top
names. When the BBC launched a new science
fiction series called Dr. Who, about an enigmatic time/space
traveller; hoping to capture the family and sci-fi markets from Hammer,
Amicus were quick to snap up the rights to the big screen
Doctor Who (Peter Cushing) is an inventor who lives with
his two young daughters. When Barbara's boyfriend Ian arrives, The
Doctor shows him their latest invention, Tardis, a time and space
travel machine shaped like a police box. Ian slips on a control lever
and the machine suddenly arrives on an unknown planet. As the four
explore, they discover a city occupied by the evil Daleks who are
scheming to kill the planet's other residents, the peaceful Thal
people. The Doctor and his comrades have to find a way to bring and end
to the seemingly indestructable Daleks and save the Thals...
David Whitaker's script is
often disliked by Dr. Who fans for making a number of changes to the
basic notions of the television serials. The Doctor goes from being an
alien Time Lord to an eccentric inventor and is actually called Doctor
Who - these changes made, quite sensibly, to help the film be
understood better in America and Europe where the television series had not been shown, and avoided any
complex exposition at the start of the film. The story itself is
adapted from the second Doctor Who serial, broadcast in early 1964 and
compressed into a much shorter run-time than the original which ran to
over three hours - it works suitably well, and avoids appearing too
rushed like many TV to film adaptations but it does mean that the plot
and characters, especially the Thals, are very underdeveloped. The
frequently banal dialogue between the Daleks stands out and destroys
the mystery and fear aspect of these characters who in the BBC serials
are often very enigmatic. Unlike Hammer's adaptations of television
sci-fi, Amicus went for the big money children's market so the film
avoids the potential horror aspects and plays up the physical comedy.
The film is well paced and builds to a decent but predictable and
sanitised climax and the ending is dragged out for a very poor gag.
Doctor Who was being broadcast in black and white on tiny television
screens, the film version allowed a big widescreen, colour production
and the set and costume designers went all out. The sets are big and
elaborate, within the budget, and there is good use of matt paintings.
The lighting in many of the outdoor sequences is quite impressive with
petrified forest lit in greens and blues. The Daleks themselves were
painted in a variety of colours, and many of them were later used in
the television serials. Director Gordon Flemyng was largely a
television director and gives a relatively mundane shoot here with a
few fancy camera angles, although without any particular cause. The
soundtrack is a mix of orchestra and jazz and fits the film suitably.
Cushing was a big name in British cinema and well known overseas.
Amicus brought him onto the production instead of the BBC's star
William Hartnell because of his marquee billing, Cushing had already
starred in two of the studio's horror movies in 1965 and is seemingly
cast against type here as a kindly, eccentric gentleman - his curious
mustache helps to give him a very different appearence to normal. Some
have criticised his fussy, eccentric performance, but it does seem to
suit the part and for a children's production, it seems to fit fine.
Roy Castle had also appeared in a semi-comic role, alongside Cushing,
in the Amicus anthology horror Dr. Terror's House of Horrors
(1965) and he was similarly cast here. Again his role, being the brunt
of most of the physical comedy, has often been criticised,
but he actually plays the part very well making the pratfalls funny
rather than simply awkward with some good comic timing. Barrie
Ingham plays a Thal leader in a role that would seem to have inspired
his casting in Hammer's family adventure film A Challenge for Robin Hood (1967). The Doctor's daughters, played by little known actresses Jennie Linden and the young Roberta
Tovey give the film its sexy charm and the child role that every child
in the audience associates with respectively, they both look good in
Ultimately Dr. Who and the Daleks was
intended as light-hearted, family friendly entertainment and that it
remains. While the television serial fanatics will cry foul over the
script's changes and abbreviation to the stories, and the script itself
is rather short on plot and substance, this can be overlooked by most
audiences who can instead enjoy the daft comedy moments, an interesting
Peter Cushing performance, and the unusual sight of the Daleks in their
first full-colour outing. Fans of the Dr. Who series should be able to
enjoy this, provided they can accept the changes made to the Who-lore.
Anyone famous in it?
Peter Cushing - Hammer horror favourite, best known as Van Helsing and Baron Frankenstein. Barrie Ingham - star of Hammer's Challenge for Robin Hood (1967). Roy Castle - a famous British comedy actor and television presenter.
Directed by anyone interesting?
Gordon Flemyng - a little known British director who also worked on the film's sequel.
Is it scary?
Some scenes might scare children.
Who is it for?
Recommended generally, of interest to Dr. Who and Peter Cushing fans.
Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour The picture quality
is good with no print damage, strong colours, although some noticable grain throughout.
Original English mono - sounds great, no hiss.
This disc includes an audio commentary for the
film with Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey who play the two female
lead roles. Interesting and full of details about the film and its
shooting. More extras in the boxset.