Dr. Who and the Daleks (theatrical film)

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Dr. Who and the Daleks was the first theatrical film based on Doctor Who. As an adaptation of The Daleks, it stars Peter Cushing as the human scientist Dr. Who, who invents Tardis and takes his companions on a journey to the planet Skaro, where they help the peace-loving Thals battle the evil Daleks.


Accidentally thrown together, Dr. Who, his granddaughters Barbara and Susan, and their friend Ian cross the universe in Who's new invention, the space and time machine known as "Tardis". When they land on the planet Skaro, the travellers meet the kind and placid Thals, who live in fear of the dreaded Daleks. Somehow, Dr. Who and his party must find a way to help the Thals overcome the deadly mutants who live inside impenetrable metal casings.


Dr. Who and his granddaughters, Susan and Barbara, show Who's latest invention, a time and space machine called "Tardis", to Barbara's boyfriend Ian. When Ian accidentally activates the machine, it takes them to a petrified jungle inhabited only by a petrified lizard-like animal. Who discovers that the ground is merely ashes, burned by a terrible heat, and, when Susan sees a huge futuristic city, they realise that they must be on another planet and possibly in another time.

Ian and Barbara are unnerved by the jungle and demand to return to London but Dr. Who, eager to investigate the city, fakes a leak in one of the vital Tardis fluid links to keep them on the planet. The group decide to search the city for the mercury needed to refill the link but stumble across a case of drug vials as they leave. In the city, Dr. Who, on reading a Geiger counter, realises that the planet is radioactive and in view of the fact that they are feeling unwell, deduces that they are developing radiation sickness. Suddenly, cyborgs known as "Daleks" appear and capture the travellers, confining them to a cell and seizing Dr. Who's fluid link for inspection. The Daleks later explain that many centuries ago, there were two peoples on this planet: the Daleks and the Thals, but, after "the Neutronic War", the Daleks were confined in their metallic skirts, and the Thals had "horrible mutations", but Who deduces that they used the drug to survive.

The Daleks hear the travellers talking about the Thal drug and want to reproduce it in large quantities so that they can leave the city and exterminate the Thals. They offer to let the humans use some of the drug to cure their sickness if the vials left outside Tardis are brought to the city. Whilst carrying out the task, Susan encounters Alydon, the Thal leader who left the vials. Alydon gives Susan a secondary drug supply to use in case the Daleks deviate from their promise and also lends her his plastic cape.

The Daleks discover Susan's secret drug supply, but allow the humans to treat themselves with it. They then summon Susan to write a letter to the Thals, informing them that they wish to end post-war hostilities and will leave food in their control room as an act of friendship. The adventurers discover that when the Thals arrive, however, they will be ambushed and exterminated.

When a Dalek comes to the cell to deliver food and water, Dr. Who and his companions immobilise it by forcing it onto Susan's cape, thus insulating it from the charged metal floor. Ian takes the place of the creature inside the casing and notifies another Dalek that he is taking Who, Barbara and Susan to the control room for questioning. Now free, the travellers shout a warning to the Thals who are entering the city and escape with them into the jungle, but not before an elderly man, Temmosus, is killed by the Daleks.

Later the Daleks test the Thal drug on a number of themselves but find that it causes disastrous side effects. With no way of leaving the city, they decide to detonate a neutron bomb to increase the radiation on the planet to a point at which not even the Thals can survive.

At the Thal camp, Who urges Alydon to fight the Daleks to secure a safe future for his species. Alydon insists that the Thals are pacifists, but Dr. Who tests this claim by ordering Ian to take Dyoni, Alydon's love, to the Daleks in exchange for the confiscated fluid link. Alydon punches Ian to the ground, proving that Thals will fight for some things. Alydon, Susan and Dr. Who lead the tribe to the front entrance of the city, where they attempt to confuse the enemy's scanners by reflecting light off small mirrors to give the impression of greater numbers. The plan fails when the Daleks appear and the Thals scatter, however, and Susan and Dr. Who are captured.

Meanwhile, Ian and Barbara, guided by the Thals Ganatus, Antodus and Elyon, set out to infiltrate the city from the rear. While navigating a swamp, Elyon is killed by a marsh-dwelling mutation and the party is eventually forced to jump a chasm to proceed any further. Antodus falls short and plunges into the void, but manages to cling to the uneven rock face and is pulled up by the others.

In the city control room, the Daleks ignore Dr. Who's appeals as they start the bomb countdown. Ian, Barbara, Ganatus and Antodus penetrate the city and join Alydon and the rest of the Thals, who have returned determined to rescue Susan and Dr. Who. The Thals and humans enter the control room and struggle with the Daleks while Dr. Who yells for someone to stop the bomb detonation. Ian calls out his presence and dives for cover as the Daleks fire towards him in unison. The Daleks inadvertently destroy their own control panel, disabling themselves as well as freezing the countdown. Dr. Who then retrieves the Tardis fluid link.

In the jungle, the Thals bid farewell to Dr. Who and his companions and express their gratitude with special gifts of Thal capes, which Dr. Who says they will treasure. When the travellers depart in Tardis they materialise not in London, however, but on an ancient battlefield in front of an advancing Roman army, much to Ian's dismay and demands his fellow travellers to assist him to escape.



Story notes[[edit]]

  • Several of the Dalek props were purchased by the BBC and appear in TV: The Chase. As it was broadcast before the release of this film, the Dalek movie props were seen on TV before they were seen in the cinemas.
  • The Daleks were proposed to have flame throwers, but this was vetoed. The effect used for the Daleks' weapons on television could not be achieved on film negatives.
    • According to Gordon Flemyng, "We used [the fire extinguisher] because we couldn't afford to add a ray to the film and it wouldn't have been good enough to just have people fall down. We wanted something that could be seen."[1].
    • Another reason was given by Milton Subotsky; "We were going to have them shooting out flames, but John Trevelyn, the censor, thought children would be frightened of flames. So we went to the other extreme and armed them with fire extinguishers."[1].
  • In the film, Tardis is referenced as such without the definite article "the", unlike the TV series which always used the phrase "the TARDIS" when referring to the ship.
  • The interior of Tardis is completely different from the TV version, with the outside windows of the ship visible, and it appears there is only a single room, the console room. The revival series' version of the TARDIS interior actually borrows a few of these elements: the exterior police box door (with windows) is visible from inside, and, for the most part, usually only a single room is visible (though others are mentioned or occasionally visited).
  • In Spain, the movie was entitled Dr. Who y los Daleks.
  • The alien look of the jungles was achieved by filming the scenes without the anamorphic lens (wide-screen lens) on the camera, giving them a strange unearthly quality.[1]
  • Jonathan Southcote wrote a book about Peter Cushing's time as Dr. Who.

Crew notes[[edit]]

  • Barry Gray, best known as Gerry Anderson's staff composer for his numerous Supermarionation and SF TV series, composed the musical score for the film. As a result, this film — and its sequel — are to date the only officially authorised productions based upon Doctor Who to use theme music other than the original Ron Grainer/Delia Derbyshire theme. Several reference books, including The Complete Encyclopaedia of Television Programme 1947-1979, erroneously credit Gray with composing the music for the TV series, too.
  • Paddy Smith was Peter Cushing's uncredited stand-in. (DWM 461)

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

  • There is a staircase next to the Daleks water supply pipe, as they cannot use stairs this is a production design error.
  • The Daleks' lights flash indiscriminately and do not match the voice. They also flash when they are not speaking. Director Gordon Flemyng, being unfamiliar with the Daleks, did not realise the lights on the Dalek were there to distinguish which Dalek was speaking and so they flash randomly. This caused problems when the dialogue for the Daleks was being dubbed: some of the Dalek dialogue is rather laborious as the voice artists tried to match the dialogue to the random light flashes.
  • When two Daleks escort Susan to the entrance of the city, the top half of one tips backwards for an instant.

Deviations from television serial[[edit]]

  • Barbara is Dr. Who's granddaughter and related to Susan rather than being her teacher. She also appears to be studying science rather than teaching history.
  • Tardis' interior doesn't have roundels or the six-sided console.
  • Unlike his TV counterpart, Ian Chesterton doesn't appear to be scientifically minded. He is also notably more clumsy rather than cautious and alert.
  • The Thals have purple skin rather than being white.
  • The Daleks are led by a Black Dalek, with the Red Dalek seemingly being its second-in-command.
  • The Daleks' lights continue to flash when they are not talking.
  • On leaving Skaro, it is Susan who notices the fluid link is missing rather than Ian.
  • The pronunciation of Antodus' name is different here in comparison to the TV version.
  • Unlike his TV counterpart, Antodus survives the fall after cutting the rope.
  • Other than the black and red Daleks, the other Daleks have blue domes and blue bases.
  • Tardis was created by Dr. Who rather than being stolen.
  • The film ends with Tardis arriving in the Roman era rather than a flash knocking its occupants unconscious.
  • It is Dr. Who who persuades the Thals to fight back against the Daleks rather than Ian.
  • The creature that the time travellers find in the petrified forest is made of stone rather than metal.
  • Dr. Who learns of the history of the Thals from Alydon rather than Dyoni. No mention is made to the Daleks being formerly named Dals, or of Skaro being the twelfth planet.
  • Temmosus is less optimistic about making peace with the Daleks than his TV counterpart. Instead, that role went to Alydon.
  • It is Dr. Who who warns the Thals that they have walked into the Daleks' trap rather than Ian.
  • Temmosus doesn't give a speech to the Daleks before being killed by them.
  • Alydon reads the letter from Susan rather than Temmosus.
  • Susan discovers the Dalek city first rather than Ian.
  • Whilst Barbara's hair style is similar to her TV counterpart, it is blonde rather than dark.
  • Neither Susan or Barbara's surnames are stated on-screen or in the credits.

Home video releases[[edit]]

Super 8 releases[[edit]]

Video releases[[edit]]

  • Released in the UK on VHS and Beta in 1982 by Thorn EMI.
  • Released in the US on VHS in 1985 by Thorn EMI.
  • Re-released in UK on VHS in 1988 by Warner Home Video.
  • Re-released in US on VHS in 1989 by GoodTimes Home Video.
  • Released in Australia in 1990 by Universal.
  • Re-released in US in 1994 by Lumiere.
  • Re-released in UK in 1996 by Warner Home Video.

DVD releases[[edit]]

  • Released in Australia in 2001 by Universal / Studio Canal as a double release with Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and 1995 Dalekmania documentary in the Doctor Who and the Daleks... boxset. Note: the print of Dr Who and the Daleks on this Disc set features a different edit, from the generally accepted print, during the battle scene at the end of the movie and is a zoomed version of the VHS master. Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is a correct anamorphic print but has a sound glitch about 10 seconds in and has the prologue and opening titles switched around.
  • Released in US in 2001 by Anchor Bay as a single disc and with Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and 1995 Dalekmania documentary in 'The Doctor Who Movie Collection' boxset. This release also features the different edit found on the Australian release.
  • Released in UK on 29 July 2002 by Studio Canal/Warner as a double release with Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.. and 1995 Dalekmania documentary in the The Dr Who Movie Collection boxset and the Dr Who - The Motion Pictures (Gold Edition) boxset. Note: the first pressing of the 'Dr Who and the Daleks' disc in this set had a sound problem which caused all music and effects to sound glassy and "echoed" and so it was re-pressed by Warner, this also had a problem as the disc now froze on chapter 16, this was corrected for the 3rd pressing, this version and the Gold Edition boxset version have no problems.
  • Released in the UK on 25 September 2006 by Studio Canal/Optimum as a triple release with Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and the 1995 documentary Dalekmania in the Doctor Who: The Dalek Collection boxset.
  • A digitally restored version of the film was released in the UK on 27 May 2013.
  • Released, as a non-dubbed edition with often wrong Italian subtitles, in Italy in 2017 as a triple release with Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and the 1995 documentary Dalekmania in the Sinister Films Dr. Who Film Collection boxset. To date, this is the only known Italian release of the film, as it did not even hit theatres when it was first released in the United Kingdom.
  • The film will be released on DVD in Germany with a new 4K restoration on June 23 2022.

Blu-ray releases[[edit]]

  • A digitally restored version of the film was released in the UK on Blu-ray on 27 May 2013.
  • A steelbook was released exclusive to Zavvi.
  • It was also released on Blu-ray alongside Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. in a limited edition collector's set.
  • The film was released on Blu-ray in the US and Canada alongside separately with Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. by Kino Lorber on 8 September 2020. This release restored a number of dialogue and sound effects that were missing to prior DVD and Blu-ray releases and was overseen by Mark Ayres.[2]
  • The film will be released on Blu-ray in Germany with a new 4K restoration on June 23 2022.

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray releases[[edit]]

The film will see a 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray combo release on 20 June 2022 by StudioCanal and will be available in Collector's Edition packaging and steelbook packaging. Both discs will contain a new 4K restoration.[3]

French, German, and Australian releases will shortly follow.

VOD releases[[edit]]

  • The original version of the film is available through various VOD providers including Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and YouTube.
  • The RiffTrax edition of the film, with a humorous commentary track added, was released on 23 May 2013.[4]

Novelisations / Books[[edit]]

No novelisation based upon the film script was ever published. However, the original teleplay, The Daleks, was adapted as Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks by David Whitaker, published by Frederick Muller in late 1964. Later, when the book was republished by Target Books, it was retitled Doctor Who and the Daleks.

A new book about the making of both films, Dr Who & The Daleks: The Official Story of the Films by filmmaker John Walsh, was published by Titan Publishing Group on 5 December 2022.[5]

A panel of the comic strip.

Comic book adaptation[[edit]]

Dr. Who and the Daleks was adapted as an American comic book by Dell Publishing in 1966 (the year the film was released in the US). The comic book featured artwork by Dick Giordano and was the first US comic book appearance of anything connected to the Doctor Who franchise. It was reprinted in the UK by Marvel Comics UK in Doctor Who Classic Comics #9.

External links[[edit]]