You will move ahead of us and follow my directions

Seeing what was on the end of that plunger must have kept viewers anxious during that last week of 1963.

It’s hard to grasp that feeling of anticipation because for most of us now looking back, the Dalek serial was unlikely to be the first story featuring the Daleks we’ll have watched. As soon as we see the plunger we know what it is.

We don’t see the Daleks in full until a little later when the Doctor, Susan, and Ian leave the room containing the Geiger counter and walk into a room full of them. And not much has changed between then and now. The Dalek designs famously have barely altered over fifty years, and this is a marvellous thing because they are just so ALIVE. Were the production team to have gone with some of the original cheaper suggestions for the Daleks, the show would probably died on its arse, but during this story the ratings continued to climb as Dalek fever hit the UK.

“The Dead Planet” 21-Dec-63 6.9
“The Survivors” 28-Dec-63 6.4
“The Escape” 04-Jan-64 8.9
“The Ambush” 11-Jan-64 9.9
“The Expedition” 18-Jan-64 9.9
“The Ordeal” 25-Jan-64 10.4
“The Rescue” 01-Feb-64 10.4

Word of mouth must have been tremendously powerful.
  • The Doctor clearly is still being a jerk. In the first episode he lies about the fluid link, but in the remaining episodes we see him persuade the peaceful Thals to fight in his name. He doesn’t seem that concerned about the repercussions of starting a conflict between these two races.
  • At seven episodes, it’s a little ploddy. I’m very used to the Peter Cushing movies and that rips through the story far more economically than here; particularly the cave scenes, God, I can’t bear the cave scenes.
  • The Doctor seems very eager to show the Daleks the TARDIS. We can retcon this now as some kind of trap, but even in isolation, this seems a dodgy thing to do. Actually, was their any explanation for how the Daleks were meant to get to the TARDIS? The Doctor knows at this point that they can’t travel outside of the city.
  • Placing this story in the Dalek’s timeline is difficult. There’s plenty of material outside of the TV show to explain where this is, but within the show—less so. Are we looking at far future Daleks or ones from the deep past?
BARBARA: Ian, do you think they really are just machines? 
IAN: What do you mean? 
BARBARA: Well, I was going to say, do you think there’s someone inside them? 
(Susan laughs) 
IAN: That’s a point. We haven’t any idea what’s inside them. 
BARBARA: I tried to think of how I could get away from them, but then I began to feel so weak and giddy. It’s getting worse now. I think they must have drugged me in some way. 
IAN: It’s not that. Barbara, we’ve got radiation sickness. All of us. The Doctor’s pretty badly hit. 
BARBARA: Well, how do you know it’s radiation? 
SUSAN: We found a Geiger counter. It seems that all the time we’ve been in the open, we’ve been exposed to it. 
BARBARA: Well, what’s going to happen to us? 
DOCTOR: Well, unless, unless we get treatment, we shall die. Yes, we shall die.