DVD Review: Day of the Daleks

Jon PertweeThe latest Doctor Who from the original series to be released on DVD is the 1972 story Day of the Daleks, starring Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning, which has been given a special edition featuring a version of the story with new special effects and Dalek voices.

Day of the Daleks is one of my favourite Dalek stories from the original series; for me it’s up there with Genesis of the Daleks and Planet of the Daleks. It’s taken a while for this story to be released on DVD but then the Planet (another Pertwee Dalek saga) has only relatively recently been released on DVD and Death to the Daleks (the other Pertwee Dalek story) has yet to find its way onto DVD.

The story if Day of the Daleks is relatively simple but very effective; a group of rebels from the 22nd century travel back in time to kill Sir Reginald Styles (Wilfred Carter), a man they believe will cause a 100 years of war allowing the Daleks to invade and conquer Earth (again). The Doctor (Pertwee) and Jo Grant (Katy Manning) are called in along with UNIT to investigate the attempts on Styles life and that’s when the Doctor and Jo encounter the time-travelling rebels.

The time travel element of the story – and the paradox at its heart – is a fascinating one and perhaps at the time television viewers would not have been all that familiar with time paradoxes. Despite Doctor Who being a story about time travel it has only, a few times, actually tackled the issues of paradoxes mainly because they can cause a headache if you think about them too hard. Since the 1970s though there’s been many a sci-fi show which has dealt with paradoxes; Star Trek, Crime Traveller ect. The paradox here though is relatively simple and easy to understand; the rebels themselves cause the wars that allowed the Daleks to invade, not Styles.

The first thing that springs to mind when you think about Day of the Daleks is the voices of the metal monsters themselves. They are quite unlike the voices featured in any other Dalek stories. Then there’s the fact that there are quite clearly only three Daleks – given the impression three single Daleks managed to invade Earth and keep control over the human population. No wonder they needed to bring in the Ogrons if there were so few Daleks about. The limited number of Daleks only really comes into focus during the battle sequences of Episode Four.

The three Daleks – quite obviously just three Daleks – travel back to the 20th century to ensure their version of history happens and there they battle UNIT…all three of them. Sadly the lack of time and probably budget at the time meant the battle sequence couldn’t be filmed in a way to hide the lack of Dalek props. This is where the special edition comes in because the DVD contains two versions of Day of the Daleks – the original and a new version. The new version replaces the “odd” Dalek voices with more traditional style voices – as done by Nick Briggs – and new special effects.

The new special effects are throughout the story from time-travel sequences, making the future look more er futuristic and adding rays to the guns. Not all the “new” effects work and at times they look dam right bad – computer game-esque at times. But where the special effects – and a few new specially filmed sequences – do work is the battle in episode four. The effects and new sequences actually make enhance the battle no end and removes the “three invading Dalek embarrassment”. The special edition is worth getting purely for the episode four battle sequences.

Doctor Who purists will, undoubtedly, prefer the original broadcast version of the episode and fair enough. As said above not all the effects in the special edition work but the replacement of the Dalek voices and the tightening up of some shots allow a smoother flowing story. There are also a wealth of special features – as ever – to accompany the DVD.