One thing I really like about Planet of the Daleks is its focus on the utter, relentless horror of the Daleks themselves. They cut through a solid metal door, quickly discover the Doctor’s escape route up the ventilation shaft, send a squad out to locate and destroy the Thal bombs and intercept the escapers at the top of the shaft, send a Dalek to elevate up after their enemies (belying Revelation and Remembrance‘s claims to have been the first to feature flying Daleks), and develop a deadly bacteria to wipe out all life on Spiridon just out of spitefulness towards the little band of rebels. There’s something quite Michael Myers about this unremitting pursuit and destruction that reminds us how brilliantly horrible an invention the Daleks are.
Elsewhere, this is fairly basic Terry Nation stuff. The deadly plague is an obsession he’ll keep coming back to, while the plain of stones surrounded by unseen creatures with glowing eyes is a throwback to the first Dalek serial. Vaber and Taron rehearse their old arguments about cautious planning versus reckless attack against the Daleks, and it turns out that Rebec and Vaber are in love, which gives the Thal leader even more to agonise about in a way that, to modern eyes, feels pretty uncomfortable. (‘Perhaps a female shoulder to cry on might come in handy,’ says the Doctor to Jo, as anyone born after this was transmitted collectively cringes).
Pertwee and Manning again make the most of fairly limp material. Their business when they’re reunited – Jo’s excited babbling, and the Doctor’s sheepish apology for getting her into this are a lovely restatement of their relationship, and the last opportunity they’ll get to do something quite like it. Pertwee gets to be the sage voice of wisdom, which he takes to quite well. Meanwhile, Katy Manning’s nervous blinking as she anticipates a giant polystyrene rock falling on her is up there with Matthew Waterhouse’s tentative typing in Earthshock.
Next episode: Planet of the Daleks – Episode Five