Dr Who and the Daleks (1965)

Director: Gordon Flemyng

Peter Cushing played another doctor for Subotsky and Rosenberg in 1965, that being the big-screen incarnation of everyone’s favourite Time Lord… except the show hadn’t quite developed that bit of mythology yet, but that’s by the by. Anyway, helped along by everyone’s favourite mutant alien pepperpots, Doctor Who had been a big hit on TV for the BBC; now Milton Subotsky wanted to make them a cinema hit (somehow getting Terry Nation to sign the Daleks over to him for juts five hundred pounds; maybe part of the deal involved conveniently leaving Sydney Newman, the actual series creator, out of the film’s credits). Cushing was apparently quite happy to take on a more family-friendly film for a change, and similarly Subotsky tried to distance the film from Amicus’ horror fare by crediting it instead to “Aaru”. I haven’t seen either Dalek film since the 80s that I can remember, so my memories of the films are dim; as such, I was pleased to find this one at least not as bad as I remembered. Unlike Hammer’s first Quatermass film, we do have the original TV version of The Daleks to compare with the film, and I was impressed by the efficiency with which the latter takes a story that ran nearly three hours on TV and condenses it to less than half that time; plus the petrified forest set looks damned impressive with that lighting (those greens, those blues). The Thals compare less favourably with their makeup (ill-advised), and I’m not thrilled by the film’s changes to the primary character dynamics either (particularly Roy Castle’s somewhat gormless Ian). But Cushing comes out of it fairly well, his Doctor is markedly kinder and gentler than William Hartnell’s often abrasive TV equivalent; interesting, though, that Cushing appears to have taken some vocal cues at least from Hartnell… notice how (apart from a couple of moments where he kinds of slips) he speaks in a different, “older” tone of voice to his usual. Maybe he was just trying to play up the age of the character, but it did seem to recall Hartnell quite a lot. On the whole, obviously no masterpiece of the seventh art, but it is what it is, i.e. a B-picture aimed at younger viewers, and it fulfils its task in an attractive and entertaining way.

Written for the Peter Cushing centennial blogathon at Frankensteinia


One thought on “Dr Who and the Daleks (1965)

  1. Joe Thompson June 1, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Like you, I saw at least the first movie before I saw the television show. I liked the way Peter Cushing played the Doctor as more of a kindly grandfather than a snappish one. Thanks for sharing.

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