January 6: "The Rescue" / "The Edge of Destruction"

(The Daleks episode 7 & The Edge of Destruction episode 1)

The end of the Daleks. ("The Rescue") ©BBC
And so with "The Rescue" (like The Mutants, a potentially confusing title), we come to the end of the adventure on Skaro.  It's a decent ending, but it must be said, the actual defeat of the Daleks is rather perfunctory.  One of them is pushed into what turns out to be the power supply for the Daleks, and so they all perish.  It's not exactly the most thrilling conclusion ever, but at least what we do get is competent, with some nice touches (there's a Thal climbing down a rope, in the studio!).  But before the Daleks meet their end, there are some interesting moments, such as the Doctor bargaining with the Daleks for his life and Susan's, in exchange for which he'll tell the Daleks how to build their own TARDIS.  With 50 years of hindsight it's incredibly odd, but even in context it still seems out of character, given his concerns with letting Ian and Barbara go free at the end of "An Unearthly Child" -- we have to conclude that this is a bluff to get free rather than a serious bargain.

Still, even with the ending, you can see why the Daleks caught on.  They're not only a masterpiece of design, but as I said earlier, here they're allowed to be characters, to have conversations with each other and experiment with anti-radiation drugs.  When they're going to flood the planet with more radiation, it's because they're concerned with their own self-interest rather than out of any sort of malice.  They simply consider themselves to be superior beings, and everything else as pests: consider the word they use, "extermination" (not "exterminate" quite yet).  It's now so associated with the Daleks that we've stopped thinking about what it actually means when they say it.  It brings to mind not just the Nazis (who aren't really as overt an influence on the Daleks here as they will later become, but there's still a hint), but the treatment of things less than them.  You exterminate bugs, not people.  It's a nice subtle touch, illustrating the mindset of the Daleks: killing the Thals to them is no different than stepping on a spider.

So they look great, they're written with care, and they sound amazing.  No wonder the public wanted them back.

The next episode, the start of The Edge of Destruction (aka Inside the Spaceship), is surprisingly paranoid.  We're now into episode (and thus week) 12 of Doctor Who, so we've had a chance to get to know the regular characters and how they behave, so to see them acting so oddly gives the episode an unusual sense of tension.  The suggestion that some sort of intelligence has entered the Ship and could be inhabiting Our Heroes is compelling, and the cast seem to play this angle up with relish -- watch William Russell at the beginning, in an unnatural daze as he tries to remember what's happened, or Carole Ann Ford's deep mistrust of Ian and Barbara throughout the episode.  Meanwhile, Barbara gets to lash out at the Doctor after he accuses the two schoolteachers (without any real evidence) of sabotaging the Ship.  "Accuse us? You ought to go down on your hands and knees and thank us!" she cries.  It's marvelous, especially since the Doctor refuses to be swayed by her outburst.  And while the music may be from stock, it's well chosen, adding effectively to the sense of foreboding.  The whole episode is thus very compelling, especially since we're not quite sure: is there something controlling the travellers, jumping from person to person to throw suspicion on all of them?  Or is something else going on?