Terry Nation returns to his most famous creations for a third time, and having introduced them on their home planet, and then had them successfully invade Earth, he’s left with how to top those stories.
The chase has a simple and grabbing concept. The Daleks, not best pleased at the Doctor foiling their plans, and having invented their own version of a TARDIS, take chase throughout time and space, determined to show the Doctor the wrong end of their gunsticks.
Brilliant, you might say. The TARDIS crew find themselves jumping from desert planets, to New York City (don’t blink), a haunted fun house, the Marie Celeste and finally end up on the jungles of Mechanus where the Daleks must face off against the latest attempt to ape their success, the Mechanoids. Throw in those crafty pepperpots creating a cunning robot double of the Doctor and the introduction of fan-favourite companion Steven Taylor and its a sure-fire winner.
Except, its not. Being honest, I’ve only ever watched the story once on VHS, and my overriding memory is of being bored. Now granted, I really like Peter Purves as Steven Taylor, and Ian and Barbara actually get a really touching exit (the production team perhaps having learned something from the summary dumping of Susan), with the scenes showing them genuinely happy to have finally returned home a high point of the story and a reminder of how they were kidnapped from their proper time and place.
However outside of that the story fails to bring the tension the concept requires. These are the Daleks. Already established as the Doctor’s most fearsome enemies, and now they’ve got their own TARDIS. But instead, by aping the structure of Keys of Marinus and focusing on smaller stories having their own silly runarounds, it robs the story of the pace and adrenaline it needs. Whereas in Marinus I enjoyed the individual stories feeling they were let down by the overarching plot, here the main plot really needed to be what was pushed, and embroiling the team in comedy adventures in New York seems against what the story needs.
Things pick up once the team arrive on Mechanus and the story finds its grounding again, but even this is hampered by a poorly-executed robot duplicate (my main memories being of the actor not entirely being convincing as Hartnell, and also being completely out of time with the lipsyncing of the Hartnell-provided dialogue), and the fact that the Mechanoids are a poor Dalek knock-off (although their return in Big Finish was fun).
The first story to show that not all Dalek adventures would be golden for me, and by no means the last. Thankfully their next appearance would see them up their game.
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