Cult Movies: Doctor Who and The Daleks a big screen cash-in on 'Dalekmania'

Peter Cushing took on the role of Doctor Who for his big screen debut
Ralph McLean

Doctor Who and The Daleks

HARDCORE Doctor Who fans have always been a bit sniffy about their hero's first outing on the big screen. Most of them tend to dismiss Doctor Who and The Daleks (1965) as little more than a kiddie-friendly cash in on the hit TV show and its most popular baddies that had made it a massive hit with the public in the first place.

In many ways, they're not wrong.

A cheap and cheerful adaptation that sets out to shamelessly jump the Dalekmania bandwagon roaring through Britain since those fascistic pepperpots first graced TV screens in 1963, this swops BBC black and white for eye-popping mid-60s Technicolor film stock and the results are pretty garish to say the least.

That combined with the decision to replace the TV Doctor William Hartnell with horror icon Peter Cushing, who plays the lead character as something of an absent-minded and bumbling nit rather than a grumpy but clearly intelligent Timelord, does suggest this was never going to sit well with the truly devoted fans – but that doesn't mean that it's not tremendous fun all the same.

Released next week in a breath taking new 4K print by StudioCanal, with more extras and additional fan-friendly paraphernalia than you could shake a Sonic Screwdriver at, it's well worth a second look whatever your feelings on the whole 'big screen Who versus small screen Who' debate.

Made on the cheap by AARU productions (a banner name for Amicus films) this first cinematic outing for the Doctor sees him randomly steer his fairly homemade looking TARDIS off to a petrified forest on a dead planet accompanied only by his granddaughters Barbara (Jennie Linden) and Susan (Roberta Tovey) and Barbara's irritating boyfriend Ian (Roy 'Record Breakers' Castle).

Once they land on the planet they are drawn towards an odd glittering city in the distance which swiftly leads them to a confrontation with the evil space robots of the title.

The whole thing is painfully underwritten by Milton Subotsky, something he could be accused of throughout his entire career as the maker of low budget fantasy films, but director Gordon Flemyng keeps the simple adventure trotting along nicely and everything looks simply dazzling.

The cheap sets transform Shepperton studios into the sandblasted wilds of Skaro, glowing with acres of tin foil and multi-coloured transparent plastic to create a genuinely psychedelic viewing experience, while the Daleks – seen for the first time in a veritable rainbow of paintbox colours – are stunning to look at, even if they are generally thicker than mince and given the royal runaround by Cushing and his cohorts most of the time.

The Cushing characterisation is a mis-step, but as family-friendly Saturday afternoon cinema fun goes, Doctor Who and The Daleks delivers the goods.

A follow up, the superior Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 AD, arrived in 1966, but this original big screen effort is still well worth seeking out – and those impressive extras, from documentaries to posters and commentary tracks, make this new release pretty close to an essential purchase for all Who fans.

Well, the less hardcore ones at any rate.

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