Although the idea of kicking off Doctor Who’s ninth season with the ratings-grabbing return of the Daleks must have seemed like a good idea in 1971, the fact that the metal foes barely appear in Day of the Daleks thankfully doesn’t stop the story, now out on DVD, from being one of the Third Doctor’s most memorable outings.
Called in to investigate sightings of ghosts at the home of diplomat, Sir Reginald Styles (Wilfrid Carter), just ahead of a world peace conference, the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo (Katy Manning) become involved in a plot to change the course of history thanks to guerillas from another time.
As if that wasn’t enough to cope with, the Daleks turn out to be part of the 22nd century plot, with the Doctor forced to move back and forth between modern-day Earth and the future as the safety of the universe hangs in the balance.
Running to just four episodes, writer Louis Marks manages to set up the story and involve viewers in the action with little delay, ensuring that time travelling soldiers of fortune, Ogron bodyguards and a dystopian future are introduced without anybody really missing the Daleks, who finally pop up at the close of episode one.
Jon Pertwee glides through the story with ease, clearly relishing the opportunity to be a man of action, while the regular UNIT cast don’t hamper things too much. Aubrey Woods’ Controller is a decent match for the Doctor, though the assorted guerillas don’t make too much of an impact.
Let down by the Daleks themselves, who neither sound as scary as they should or mark themselves out as being worthy of ruling the universe, the adventure does benefit from frequent pauses to contemplate the merits (or lack-of) of time travel and the consequences it can bring. The episodes also look good, in both time periods, the odd duff effect forgivable when everything else works so well.
The main “extra” on this double disc set is the opportunity to watch all four episodes as a Special Edition, with various effects and add-ons beefing up the original story. Thankfully, while some previous attempts at sprucing up an old adventure have failed spectacularly, Day of the Daleks has had much time and love lavished upon it.
As well as a new range of voices for the Daleks and time travel effects sprinkled throughout, new scenes have been shot at the original locations, giving the battle sequences an added oomph that doesn’t look out-of-place on 2011 televisions.
A raft of new documentaries and featurettes, including a fascinating one on the problem of the memory cheating and another on the problem of trying to date UNIT stories, back up the commentary, moderated by Toby Hadoke and featuring Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks alongside actors Anna Barry and Jim Winston.