Director: Gordon Flemyng
Words: Scott Burns.
The ambitious sequel to 1965’s Dr. Who And The Daleks and based on the popular William Hartnell-era story, The Dalek Invasion Of Earth by Terry Nation, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD sees a returning Peter Cushing as the time-travelling grandad facing his deadliest enemies again in widescreen and full colour.
Also returning were director Gordon Flemyng, producer Max J. Rosenberg, screenwriter/producer Milton Subotsky (again assisted by David Whitaker who gets a credit this time around) and Roberta Tovey, the young actress who plays Susan, apparently at Cushing’s request. Roy Castle and Jennie Linden were committed to other projects so they were replaced by Jill Curzon as the Doctor’s niece Louise and Bernard Cribbins (who would later in life become a major character in modern Doctor Who) as beat cop Tom Campbell.
After failing to stop a robbery, Campbell runs to a nearby Police Box to raise the alarm and, wouldn’t you just know it, stumbles into the TARDIS, the occupants of which are about to head off on another adventure. They arrive in London 2150 AD to find the city utterly destroyed and the people hiding from the conquering Daleks and their zombie enforcers the Robomen.
Following the plot of the serial, Dr. Who and his companions join the weakened resistance, led by Dortman (Godfrey Quigley) and Wyler (future Quatermass actor Andrew Keir), to foil the Daleks plan to destroy the molten core of the Earth and use the planet as a giant spaceship. Thrills and surprisingly violent spills ensue.
Even though Dr. Who And The Daleks was a disappointment at the box office, the huge success on television of The Dalek Invasion Of Earth, with its imagery of Daleks patrolling around the Palace of Westminster and Trafalgar Square melting the minds of fans up and down the country, perhaps inspired Subotsky, Rosenberg and exec. producer Joe Vegoda to have another go. The film even repeats the startling moment where a Dalek emerges from the river Thames.
Despite being set in 2150, the London of the film has evolved surprisingly little. No skyscrapers, flying cars or robotic butlers here, just ruins that perhaps reminded the parents of the little ones watching the film of the destruction caused by the Blitz. The city is virtually identical to the London of 1966. Another bizarre inclusion is the heavy product placement for Sugar Puffs (as part of a finance deal with the Quaker Oats company who promoted the film heavily with a competition, the top prize of which was a full-size Dalek), along with Del Monte tinned fruit and other retro favourites. No doubt this contributed to the increased budget: we get more Daleks; more action (a chase between the Daleks’ flying saucer and a clapped-out van) and more scope (more location shooting), outspending the studio-bound first film.
Speaking of the Second World War, the film bears some resemblance to the events in Nazi-occupied France with the resisting forces made up of ordinary people fighting against an authoritarian invasion with improvised explosives and found weapons. The Robomen obey their new masters without question, destroying and enslaving their fellows. There’s also opportunistic profiteers who prey on the situation, like the character of Brockley (Philip Madoc) who sells food at a premium to starving slaves. At one point, our heroes Wyler and Susan are betrayed to the Daleks by two women for a sack of vegetables.
All this plus a surprising seam of eye-opening violence, where people are blown up, microwaved with laser rifles and sprayed by the Daleks’ fire extinguisher gun sticks, not to mention the odd stabbing of a Roboman and starving slaves being beaten and whipped. There’s also a lot of inventive Dalek deaths too. Seeing the supposedly-indestructible metal marauders getting blown up, tumbling into mineshafts and, my personal favourite, crushed like a soda can by powerful magnetic forces is immensely enjoyable. The BBFC’s reaction at the time? A ‘U’ certificate (upgraded to a ‘PG’ for the new restoration).
Alongside the crowd-pleasing violence and dark ideas, the pantomime comedy of the first film also makes an unwelcome return with Cribbins doing some tonally-inconsistent comedy schtick (in a scene that follows a brutal failed attack on the Dalek saucer) as a disguised Roboman.
Remastered in 4K by StudioCanal and returned to British cinemas, serving as an introduction for the unfamiliar and the nostalgic enjoyment of fans, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD, like its predecessor, deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Yes, you might see the strings holding up the Dalek saucer as it hovers over a Papier-Mache cityscape but surely that’s part of the fun.