Doctor Who: Planet of the Daleks
(6 episodes, s10e15-e20, 1973)
Picking up immediately after the events of Frontier in Space, this serial ties off some loose ends from the beginning of the Doctor’s adventures.
The Doctor contacts the Time Lords telepathically before lying down and entering a healing trance. Just like the last time, his temperature and heart rates rapidly decline, but Jo is okay with this because she’s seen it before. This talent got me thinking: The Third Doctor started his adventures in another healing trance, but he stayed at his normal temperature and cardiac rhythms. Is a violent demonic summoning or a grazing gunshot injury that much more traumatic than a forced regeneration, or did the Doctor enter this healing coma during the trip from Gallifrey to Earth during his transition from Second to Third?
Or am I overthinking it? That’s always a strong possibility.
The TARDIS lands and Jo goes to find help, but finds some strange flowers that start spraying the TARDIS. She evades the flowers and finds a spacecraft, along with a corpse within. Some time later, the Doctor emerges from his coma and discovers that the TARDIS has triggered the emergency air supply despite the planet’s breathable atmosphere. He has also pulled off a quick wardrobe change from green to purple.
Jo is discovered in the spacecraft by two people who recognize Earth as a place in their legends. They are alerted to a nearby patrol, and they leave Jo in the ship’s relative safety as they set off for the TARDIS, which has been completely covered in the sap from the spitting plants. The soldiers break the sap and rescue the Doctor from suffocation. Given the sheer magnitude of the TARDIS interior, he must have been inside for a very long time to use up that much oxygen. The soldiers identify themselves as Thals, and they recognize the Doctor (and his previous companions Ian, Barbara, and Susan) from their legends.
In a quick info-dump, we discover that the plants are fungi who spread their spores by spraying, that the planet is Spiridon, and that the natives are invisible. The Thals treat the Doctor fungal infection, but Jo needs attention soon, so they set out to find her. On their way, they hear a noise and see a circular depression in the ground. After spraying the area with a revealing compound, they discover an inoperative Dalek, and the Doctor learns that the Daleks are trying to replicate the Spiridon invisibility science. Fortunately, they have had limited success.
Separate Spiridon patrols find the Doctor’s group and Jo. One of the Thals, Codal, distracts the Spiridon patrol long enough for the rest of the group to reach the ship. When they reach it, they find the TARDIS log that Jo was using, but two Daleks arrive and nearly destroy the ship and the Doctor interferes since he believes Jo is still inside. The Daleks stun him, destroy the ship, and take him away.
These Daleks don’t seem to know who the Doctor is.
The Doctor has some great motivational moments with Codal during their incarceration, including a quote: “Courage is being afraid but doing what you have to do anyway.” The Doctor tries to escape the cell with his sonic screwdriver, but fails, so he uses the TARDIS log to transmit a signal that will jam the Daleks. Meanwhile, a Spiridon named Wester (who sounds a lot like an Ice Warrior) tends to Jo’s infection, and she joins the rebellion. Several Spiridon slaves are moving vegetation samples into the Dalek base, and the pair sneak in using those crates. In a conceit for the audience watching along at home, Wester carries stuff around to show us where he is.
The Thals are surprised when a new ship crash lands on the planet. It is piloted by a Thal crew bearing a message intercepted from the Daleks to their supreme commander: There are 10,000 Daleks on the planet. Additionally, the planet has an icy core that spews out molten ice magma, which the Daleks use to cool their base. In a move very similar to The Daleks, the Thals attempt to infiltrate the base using the cooling tunnels.
The Doctor’s Dalek disruptor works, but only once at close range. He quips, “You know, for a man who abhors violence, I must say I took great satisfaction in doing that.” Really? He abhors violence while using guns and hand-to-hand fighting more than his predecessors? I’m not entirely sold on that claim. Anyway, he and Codal begin to look for a way out and discover the Thals infiltration team. They jam the door open and dodge an ice magma explosion that covers a Dalek patrol. They escape the base after retrieving the location of an explosives cache, through a vertical ventilation shaft on an improvised hot air balloon. The Doctor also discovers the massive Dalek army under ice.
Jo follows the Daleks who are also seeking the explosives. The Daleks arm the bombs, and Jo attempts to disarm them but takes a falling rock to the head. When she comes to, she takes the two disarmed bombs and hides. The remaining explosion takes out two patrolling Daleks. The Doctor’s group escapes from the shaft and discovers Jo with a happy reunion. The Doctor explains that he (conveniently) learned of the Dalek invasion force and this planet during the events of Frontier in Space, and that the Time Lords steered the TARDIS to Spiridon to stop the evil plan. The group proceeds to the Plain of Stones, a good place to spend the night since the stone formations store heat from the daylight, which will protect them from the intense cold of Spiridon night. Vaber, a Thal who is at odds with their leader Taron, steals the bombs in the middle of the night and is captured by the Spiridon slaves. Taron and Codal pursue Vaber, disguise themselves as Spiridons, and attempt a rescue, but the Daleks exterminate Vaber after he attempts to mislead them. Taron and Codal retrieve the bombs in the chaos and escape. Meanwhile, Wester stops by the Plain of Stones to warn Jo about a new wrinkle: To defeat the Thals, the Daleks have cultivated a bacteria to destroy all life on Spiridon. Luckily, they have also developed an immunization to protect themselves. The Doctor’s group develops a plan to enter the base, including luring the Daleks to the molten ice pools and submerging them, then using the casing to sneak in.
We still have no idea what the Daleks look like inside the shell at this point. Also, add two Daleks to the Doctor’s list of “non-violent” acts.
Once inside the base, Wester breaks containment on the bacteria, sacrificing himself but sealing the room so that it can never get out. As the Thals break into the base, the Daleks spot a Thal boot in the Spiridon disguises, blowing the cover for the Doctor’s team. They escape to the cooling chamber and set their plan into action. The timeline is accelerated as they learn that the Dalek Supreme is inbound, and the Daleks (who have finally recognized the Doctor) decide to capture the Doctor for interrogation by their supreme leader. The Dalek Supreme, who has a unique light-up eyestalk, is ruthless, and he exterminates the section leader for allowing the Thals to disrupt the operation.
In the chaos, Jo and Latep use one of the bombs to slow down the Daleks, and the rest of the group set the last bomb to open an ice magma vein and flood the chamber where the invasion force is gathered. They are successful, and the Daleks are re-frozen into suspension. The setback forces the Dalek Supreme to abandon the base. The Thals hijack the Dalek Supreme’s ship and return home to Skaro. The Doctor only asks that they do not glorify this adventure and that they return to a peaceful existence. Latep asks Jo to return to Skaro with him, but she declines as she is starting to become homesick after this series of adventures. As the Thals take off, the Dalek Supreme arrives and pursues Jo and the Doctor to TARDIS. The TARDIS dematerializes successfully, but the Daleks start making plans to recover their army. They are never defeated.
I still love how manic the Daleks get under stress.
Despite the inconsistencies, I had a lot of fun with this serial.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Green Death
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.