Doctor Who #10: The Ordeal

"We mustn't diddle around here."TECHNICAL SPECS: The episode is on disc 2 of The Beginning DVD boxed set as part 6 of The Daleks. First aired Jan.25 1964.

IN THIS ONE... While the Doctor, Susan and Alydon create a diversion, Ian, Barbara and Ganation spelunk through caves, trying to reach the Dalek city. A LOT of caves.

REVIEW: In case you didn't know, two directors actually share the credit on The Daleks. Christopher Barry, whom I praised frequently for his visual flair, directed episodes 1, 2, 4 and 5. Richard Martin did episode 3, 6 and 7. This is relevant because episode 3 had that long, slowly paced sequence in which the cast found a way to escape the Daleks. In this episode, there's a similar approach to all the spelunking. First, Barbara has a long bit where she lowers Ganaton down to a cave, and later, we practically see EVERY member of the party jump a ravine in a sequence that eats up most of the running time. I can safely call it procedural in the way it shows us how the characters (and thus, actors) work out how such actions would actually be undertaken, along with some trial and error. It goes on beyond the needs of suspense, I'm afraid. Ian's initial jump is well orchestrated, especially when you consider the lack of editing, but four more people have to jump, and a time cut would have been much more efficient storytelling (and feasible, given that we often cut to the Doctor's group). Mr. Martin, you've been put on notice for lacking pace!

Meanwhile, the Thals are using reflective screens to blind the Daleks' "rangerscopes", and the Doctor uses the diversion to try and cut their power. Cue another odd bit of scripting from Terry Nation involving the TARDIS key (his stories have an obsession with keys, it seems - The Keys of Marinus is his next). Now the Doctor is ready to destroy Susan's key to short circuit a power line, telling Susan he can always make a new one. Though he still has hie own, it still seems a little reckless (remember the fluid link?) when any piece of metal will do. Of any episode we've yet had, this is the one where the Doctor appears to be the most foolish. Not only does he risk one of only two TARDIS keys and spout the ridiculous fluff used as today's quote, but he also starts raving about his superior brain just in time for the Daleks' ironic arrival. He's losing it, the old man.

The Daleks' new plan is to bombard the atmosphere with radiation from their nuclear reactors because building a bomb would take too long (making a scene in the previous episode completely irrelevant padding). They've got some trouble with synchronizing their chants too, but get a good bit when they claim a distinction between extermination and murder. As for the Thals, Alydon and Dyoni are ciphers, tools used by the Doctor, but Ganeton and his cowardly brother Antodus get character business. Ganeton shows some jealousy towards Ian when he asks Barbara if she always does what Ian tells her to. She doesn't, by the way, and her pairing up with a Thal rather than her colleague keeps the potential for hanky-panky in the TARDIS well under control. It's also a more decisive role for Barbara than the scream queen of earlier episodes. Antodus' fear would have him betray Ian and Barbara, but a cave-in prevents him from going back even if his big brother had been willing to go along. You gotta feel for the kid, but he's really useless. Transfixed by the ravine, he is only slowly coaxed to action by Ian's teacherly encouragement... but falls in, dragging Ian with him.

THEORIES: The Daleks make the claim that they need radiation to survive, like we need air, a claim not supported by other appearances. Either this is unique to these particular Daleks, or whether thet later manage to have their travel machines supply them with radiation is anyone's guess.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Some will find it unbearably slow, but I prefer to call it "procedural" and "detailed". Certainly, more modern series would take shortcuts here.

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