February 4, 2023
Book Review | Dr. Who and the Daleks: The Official Story Of The Films

“John Walsh has done it again. He has written a book that is extraordinary, fact-filled, written with love, and is a must-own for every film fan.” We review John Walsh’s brilliant Dr. Who & The Daleks: The Official Story Of The Films.

One of my fondest memories of childhood is sitting with my grandfather and watching a VHS movie together. I loved sitting alongside him and marveling at what we were seeing on his TV screen. Two of the movies we watched many times together were Dr. Who And The Daleks (1965), and its sequel Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966). Both were big-screen spinoffs from the classic BBC sci-fi series and highly enjoyable in their own right. They were never intended to be a part of the ongoing storylines of the television series, despite elements and characters appearing in re-imagined forms.

The legendary Peter Cushing played the Doctor in both movies and battled his most famous enemies in the Daleks. Both films followed a similar storyline of the Daleks trying to wipe out humanity using bombs. But, of course, the Doctor foils their evil plans and saves the day. These two movies are focused upon in John Walsh‘s new book Dr. Who and the Daleks: The Official Story Of The Films. and once again, the author doesn’t skimp on the detail, research, and dedication to his project. After his exemplary books on Flash Gordon and Escape From New York, we are again given something that deserves a place in our libraries.

Book Review | Dr. Who and the Daleks: The Official Story Of The Films

DR. WHO & THE DALEKS: THE OFFICIAL STORY OF THE FILMS

As we open the front cover, we are greeted by the overall dimensions of the Daleks. These hand-drawn schematics give us a nice nostalgic feel. As we approach the contents page, we see still images from the films, many of which feature Peter Cushing as the Doctor. We have six forewords in the book. The first two concern the introduction to the book, and the cast themselves. The first foreword we come across is from actress Roberta Tovey, who played the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan in the original film. The actress remembers fondly her experience working on the film.

She describes how director Gordon Flemyng came to her school for a mass audition for the role, how she received a phone call offering her a screen test at the UK Shepperton Studios, and about working with the legendary Peter Cushing. She describes how he became a surrogate grandfather to her during the production and how he made sure she was signed up for the sequel the following year. Her remembrances of working on the two films are superb and give us a peek behind the curtain at how things went over fifty-seven years ago.

Dr. Who and the Daleks: The Official Story Of The Films

JASON FLEMYNG

The second foreword is by actor Jason Flemyng. He explains how he had always known about the Daleks. And how he and his brother used to proudly puff out their chests when they were described as ‘the sons of the guy who made those Dalek movies.’ He describes how his father was obsessed with film, storytelling, and the magic of the movies. His father is the reason he chose a career in film and how he still has the posters on the wall at home. It is a wonderful little piece that accentuates the story behind the films brilliantly. Accompanying these two forewords are some great still images of the actress herself alongside a full-page photo of Peter Cushing, sitting in a comfortable armchair and reading a copy of the classic British comic, The Eagle.

INTRODUCTION

We come to the introduction to the book. It is here where we will discover how and why the series came into being. How the show was influenced by George Pals’s classic adaptation of H.G Wells’ novel The Time Machine. We are shocked to find that the BBC had little to no enthusiasm for the show when it was first presented. But a year and a half into its run, the decision was made to make a full-length feature film of the property.

Fans were divided about the casting of Peter Cushing for the big-screen movie, thanks to the popularity of original actor William Hartnell on TV. But the appeal of the Daleks had the fans flocking to the cinemas to see the biggest villains in sci-fi history take on the Doctor in color for the first time. Alongside the text, we discover some brilliant images from the movie including publicity shots that amaze us.

We also get an in-depth look at Terry Nation, the creator of the Daleks. Nation had to follow what was a muted reaction to the first episode. What he created has lived on to this day. Ask any fan who they think is the greatest enemy in the show’s history and they’ll invariably answer the Daleks.  No royalties would be paid to Nation as he was an in-house writer. However, he held onto the rights for his creation and over the years, has seen financial rewards for anything related to the Daleks. Again, some terrific photos bring the text to life, displaying the things that had us hiding behind the sofa years ago.

Dr. Who and the Daleks: The Official Story Of The Films

THE DALEKS

Throughout the book, we discover more about the characters than we ever thought possible. We see their designs throughout the decades, the performers who occupied the metal villains, and everything we wanted to know. We discover the names of the people who operated them in the movies and TV series alongside more incredible images from the film itself as well as behind-the-scenes shots from the set of the films themselves. And we are even rewarded with a short piece of information regarding a Dalek from Invasion Earth that was modified and restored over the years before going up for auction in 2020. It still retained its original wooden bench operator seat inside, despite being modified and restored.

Dr. Who and the Daleks: The Official Story Of The Films

THE FILMS

The book concentrates on the cast, crew, and making of both films. And we are awarded more information that we wanted or didn’t know about the pair. For instance, in the sequel Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D, due to actress Jennie Linden not being available to appear again as her character of Barbara, it meant that actor Roy Castle couldn’t return as her boyfriend, Ian. Instead, Bernard Cribbens was cast as a new character and companion, Tom Campbell. With the exception of Peter Cushing and Roberta Tovey, the film featured an entirely new cast while most of the original production team returned for the second outing.

After criticism for his performance as the Doctor in the first film, Peter Cushing delivered a more restrained performance. This was in part due to the actor falling ill before production started. This led to the film having to be shot around him. In some cases, they filmed scenes where his character wasn’t needed and dismantled the set only to rebuild it when the actor was well enough to work. But this restrained performance was more in line with the fans’ expectations of the character.

Every aspect of the two films is examined in detail. Whether it’s the model effects, the set designs, the stunts, or even the editing, it is all placed under the microscope here. Even how they accomplished the destruction of some of the Daleks seen in the films is investigated along the way. The music is scrutinized, and the posters for the films from around the world are revealed. Even the VHS cassette covers. The ones I adored looking at many years ago, and still own to this day, are seen.

Dr. Who and the Daleks: The Official Story Of The Films

THE LOST THIRD FILM

A third film was planned to continue the adventures of the Doctor on the big screen. It was to be an adaptation of the Terry Nation six-part serial The Chase. The movie was to showcase Nation’s newest mechanical creations, The Mechanoids. These new characters would be a natural enemy to the Daleks and their pursuit of the Doctor to take control of his TARDIS. Roberta Tovey heard a rumor that a third film was in the offing. But admits that she heard no more about it.

This third film was sadly abandoned after the poor critical reception of the second film compared to the first. Peter Cushing himself spoke about the third film and possibly a fourth, saying they came close to it but it didn’t come to pass. What might have been will forever fill the minds of the fans. How they could have had at the very least, a Dr. Who movie trilogy.

Dr. Who and the Daleks: The Official Story Of The Films

FINAL THOUGHTS

Do you think you knew it all? Think again. Dr. Who and the Daleks has everything that a fan and non-fan alike will ever need to know about the making of the two films. From the full color and black & white photographs that brilliantly accompany the text to the revelations revealed, the book is sublime. Any science fiction aficionado will get a huge kick out of what they will discover on the pages and the details they will be presented with.

John Walsh has done it again. He has written a book that is extraordinary, fact-filled, written with love, and is a must-own for every film fan. He has delved into the lore of the movies, and researched them thoroughly, coming up with another classic volume that is a highlight to read and own. His attention to detail, his descriptive powers, and the way he easily presents the facts are the mark of a master author. Make no mistake, this book deserves and demands to be owned. And I’m pleased and honored to have got my hands on a copy. The TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside. And the same must be said for this extraordinary book.

Dr. Who and the Daleks: The Official Story Of The Films is published by Titan Books and is available to buy now.

 

 

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