Day of the Daleks
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All photos © BBC
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
s classic “Doctor Who” DVD releases go, few have had as much pre-release hype surrounding them as “Day of the Daleks.” The first teaser trailer for it appeared earlier this year, and since then, it’s been one of the most anticipated DVDs in the range – not because “Day of the Daleks” is on everyone’s “most wanted” list, but because 2 Entertain (and specifically Steve Broster) had created a secretive special edition of the story. What’s been done with “Day” is probably less of a secret at this point, but for those who’d like to know how one diehard fan feels about it all, read on.
The story turns on the politician Sir Reginald Styles, who’s in the process of brokering a peace conference that will avert World War Three. Late one night at Auderly House, the mansion where Styles is staying, a guerrilla soldier, dressed to kill, appears in front of him…and then promptly disappears again. UNIT and the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) are called in to investigate. What they discover is a faction of soldiers from the future, attempting to travel back in time to assassinate Styles, who 200 years from now is known as the man who started decades of world wars which ruined the planet. 22nd century Earth is a world in ruins. Humanity has been largely destroyed by not only years of war, but also by the Daleks, who apparently swept in and took control when the planet was at its most vulnerable.
Does that all sound a bit epic? Because honestly, if you watch “Day of the Daleks” with the right kind of eyes, it feels pretty epic, or at least it does now, thanks to Steve Broster. The original version always felt somewhat lacking, but Broster, armed with disingenuous memories, aimed to put “Day of the Daleks” right by going in and turning it into the story he remembered seeing when he was six years old. In a documentary, he opines, “It was the best TV program I’d ever seen, right up until I saw it again, [at] age 19.” Up until now, the obviously tweaked editions of classic “Who” DVDs have mostly involved the addition of CGI, which this one does, too, but “Day of the Daleks” goes a remarkable step further: Broster and company shot 16 mm filmed sequences of Daleks, Ogrons and soldiers to insert into the story. The raid on Auderly House in the final episode now feels like a real attack, whereas in the original it all felt pretty limp. Another important improvement is all-new Dalek voices done by Nicholas Briggs. You’ll understand why this was done when you hear the Dalek voices in the original version.
There are countless other changes (here are a few screencaps) littered throughout the Special Edition, and anyone who’s read my classic “Who” reviews over the years knows I’m a whore for this stuff. One thing that hasn’t been changed is that the story remains in its episodic format, and no scenes have been cut a la the less-than-successful “Planet of Fire.” That anomaly of a release aside, it seems every time they put one of these out, I start attaching labels like “best one yet,” but maybe that’s because they genuinely have gotten more polished with each new effort. Then again, how do you compare a giant CGI snake at the end of “Kinda” with tangible actors dressed up like Ogrons and soldiers and real Daleks? You don’t, because each has its merits and they’re two very different kinds of “Who” stories. As is always the case, the original version of the story remains intact (on Disc One) for those who don’t care to partake in the fun on Disc Two. These are probably the same people who will complain about having to pay more for this two-disc set because of the Special Edition. If so, sorry about that folks, but my vote is to keep ‘em coming!
In addition to all the new bling, “Day of the Daleks” (either version) features some fine performances. Pertwee in particular is incredible here, offering up some deceptively strong work. The guerrillas are also very well cast, with the standout being Anna Barry as Anat, who brings a great deal of 22nd century realism to the proceedings. On the other side of the acting spectrum is Aubrey Woods as the Controller, who delivers an over-the-top villainous performance as a man who was essentially born into Dalek servitude. He’s a fairly remarkable villain by old “Who” standards, and ends up being more than just a villain.
But what “Day of the Daleks” is perhaps best known for is its time traveling twist, which you’ll recognize if you’ve seen “The Terminator.” This was the original timey wimey wibbly wobbly – back before Steven Moffat came along and corrupted it into something nonsensical. “Doctor Who” didn’t play with time a whole lot back in the day, but when it did, it always felt monumental, and here it’s done just right, even if through the lens of today it feels fairly predictable. In any case, in a year that’s already seen loads of sweet “Doctor Who” DVD releases, this one – from a technical standpoint – is up there with the best of them.
Special Features: Disc One features an unusually stale commentary track with actors Anna Barry and Jimmy Winston alongside the late producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, and vision mixer Mike Catherwood. “Blasting the Past” is a making-of doc that’s up to the usual high standard. “A View from the Gallery” feature Letts and Catherwood on vision mixing. There also some bits from “Nationwide” and “Blue Peter,” as well as a photo gallery, PDF Radio Times material, production notes subtitles option, and a trailer for “Colony in Space,” which will be out in November.
In addition to the Special Edition, Disc Two features “The Making of Day of the Daleks – Special Edition” that’s exactly what it sounds like. “Now and Then” is a look at locations; “The UNIT Family - Part Two” is the second half of a documentary that was started years ago on the “Inferno” DVD; and “The UNIT Dating Conundrum” is a great little piece on all the continuity problems that surround UNIT throughout the series. Finally, there’s a short piece called “The Cheating Memory” and the original internet teaser for this release.