Director: Gordon Flemyng
Writer: Mitton Subotsky
Starring: Peter Cushing, Roberta Tovey, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden, and Bernard Cribbins
The often forgotten and overlooked Dr. Who films (stylised as Dr. instead of Doctor) from the mid-60s are being remastered and re-released in 4K, and are really worth seeking out for any fan of Doctor Who or classic cheesy sci-fi. Peter Cushing takes on the role of The Doctor, who this time around isn’t an alien, but a human with the surname ‘Who’. It’s a completely different origin story, and he creates the Tardis in his back garden. Even so, he’s still recognisable as the eccentric goofball, reading comics in his spare time and making jokes whenever possible.
The first film features him taking his two grandchildren on an adventure to another planet and getting caught up in a multi-generational civil war between the Daleks and the Thals, which is based on the classic episode ‘The Daleks’ written by Terry Nation. The second film involves the Doctor and family as they accidentally kidnap a policeman (played by a young Bernard Cribbins who would appear in the actual Doctor Who as Donna’s grandfather Wilf), and taking him to the year 2150, where the Daleks are invading Earth. The second film is based on the episode ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’, also written by Nation
In the almost sixty years since they where first shown, they have both received a lot of criticism and to be fair most of it is warranted. To start off, the Daleks aren’t scary or menacing in the slightest. They’re reduced to being silly monsters that people push around and always lead to their own doom. They even come across as sympathetic when the first Dalek is blinded and killed by the heroes as it screams ‘help me’ over and over. Although they are pushovers, it is still pretty cool to see the Daleks, with the iconic design and voice.
In all honesty the first film is vastly superior to the second one. It moves faster, has a more interesting storyline and has a really charming quality about it when watching it over half a century later. The charm starts to run thin in the second one, with a storyline that makes little sense, and a lack of Peter Cushing, who is side-lined to being a side-kick in his own story. It drags on a bit, while the first one never stops being entertaining.
Both are very low-budget films, with poorly constructed sets, and a lot of imagination required to really get into them. The second one features many shots of a spaceship flying about with strings clearly on show, made a lot worse by the 4K upscaling. The acting is pretty poor throughout, but that works in the films favour, winning you over with the charm of it all. They’ve aged surprisingly well over the years, and they are more than just a novelty interpretation of the classic sci-fi show.
Yes, they are goofy, poorly acted, and have effects that probably felt dated even at the time, but they’re still a lot of fun to watch. It’s a shame the series didn’t spawn more films, based on classic episodes, as Peter Cushing makes a good Doctor. It’s also amazing how similar they are to modern episodes. Spruce up the dialogue with more mumbo jumbo and add some better special effects and you could have an episode out of the David Tennent or Matt Smith era. They’re fun, easy-watch cheese and a must for any die-hard Doctor Who fan. This was also the first time Doctor Who was shown in colour, so an important piece of history of the franchise.
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