The four episode arc that opened the ninth season of Doctor Who, and the third season with Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, brought back the Daleks for the first time in years. And although the story itself was exciting, intriguing and well-scripted, the execution of Day Of The Daleks didn’t do it justice—particularly when it was watched in the years since originally airing in 1972.
Now, however, producer Steve Broster brings us this special edition DVD release, which features newly shot sequences, improved effects and, most importantly, newly recorded Dalek voices stitched almost seamlessly into the original footage.
Doctor Who: Day of The Daleks finds the Doctor, who is still exiled to Earth without the TARDIS, and his companion Jo (Katy Manning) investigating UNIT reports of ghosts at Auderly House, which is to be the site of an impending, historic peace conference brokered by Sir Reginald Styles. On the eve of his trip to China where he hopes to convince Chinese delegates to participate in the conference, Styles is accosted by an attacker, who then mysteriously vanishes, which leads to the ghost stories. Of course, when the Doctor and Jo arrive to spend the night in the haunted house, they find the ghosts aren’t ghosts at all but time travelers from 22nd century Earth.
Day of The Daleks is based on an earlier story written by Louis Marks, called The Ghost Hunters, about a group of future freedom fighters traveling back in time to the present day to change their history. When it was decided to bring the Daleks in for the season opener, they were written into the existing story. Not only does Day of The Daleks address the global political climate of its time with plot lines that mirror actual events of the early ‘70s, and question the lines between terrorism and guerrilla warfare with its presentation of the freedom fighter characters, it’s also the first time a Doctor Who story really explored the idea of a time paradox and touched on the consequences inherent in creating them.
While playing lord of the country manor in Auderly House, the Doctor discovers a strange box that turns out to be a primitive time machine, so he’s not too surprised to be karate-kicking adversaries that suddenly materialize while he’s drinking Sir Reginald’s “sardonic” wines and feasting on cheese. When three 22nd century guerrilla soldiers (including Anna Berry as “Anat”) appear, they take The Doctor and Jo hostage, revealing that their mission is to kill Styles and stop the conference.. They also reveal that the other creatures that have been appearing and disappearing from the grounds around Auderly House are the Ogrons, ape-like beings from the future Earth sent back to try and stop them.
That it’s initially unclear who are the good guys and who are the baddies, is what makes Day of the Daleks such a gripping story from the start. But then Jo triggers one of the time machines and is transported into the future, discovering that the Earth is enslaved by the Daleks, and that’s what escalates the action as the Doctor must find a way to rescue her and also devise a plan that will prevent the chain of events that lead to the Dalek invasion, which are, naturally, a direct result of the rebels’ attempt to travel back in time to prevent the events that led to the Dalek invasion.
To that end, the Doctor is captured and taken to the future where he and Jo discuss politics, philosophy, corruption, and the basic human instinct for survival, with the Controller (Aubrey Woods), a human that has been put in a position of power by the Daleks. Their dialogue is brilliant in the way that it intelligently presents both sides of the argument, the benefits and the costs, of freedom versus self-preservation.
In the final episode of Day of the Daleks, a battle occurs at Auderly House. This, in addition to truly terrible Dalek voices, is where the 1972 production fell seriously short of the story.
In the original version, it’s painfully clear that there are only three Daleks and a couple of misdirected, lumbering Ogrons waging the assault. This is where the bulk of Broster’s revisions for the special edition are focused, as he adds laser effects, explosions, cutaways to UNIT troops and… doubles the Daleks. Well, it might not be the overwhelming Dalek army of your imagination, but it’ss an improvement.
Overall, the special edition sequences are well-done, for the most part blending into the previous footage and providing welcome augmentation to things like time travel visual effects. The only complaints might be that some (possibly now-iconic) mistakes have been removed, or that certain sequences have been re-edited to look more polished (the “trike chase” has been edited inserting more footage, different angles, and slow-motion to make it look more like the Ogrons are actually chasing the Doctor, rather than avoiding catching him too soon). However you may feel about digital effects being added and flubs being excised, you can’t deny the obvious wisdom in re-recording the Dalek voices, which are now provided by Doctor Who‘s current resident Dalek, Nick Briggs. Daleks, whether three in number or legion, should sound scary, and thanks to Briggs, now these Daleks do.
Doctor Who: Day of The Daleks is a two disc set filled with a wealth of extra material. The first disc contains the original, unrevised episode with audio commentary from actors Anna Berry and Jimmy Winston, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, and vision mixer Mike Catherwood. Disc one also has a making of featurette called “Blasting the Past” and a look at vision mixing titled “A View From the Gallery”.
The second disc consists of Day of The Daleks Special Edition and several bonus features. Along with features about the special edition, including a 13 minute “Making of” and a five-minute “Now and Then” side-by-side comparison, disc two also has two UNIT-related bonuses (“The UNIT Family -Part Two” and “The UNIT Dating Conundrum”), a feature on “The Cheating Memory” (for those who watched the original broadcast and swear they remember more than three Daleks!), and the internet teaser trailer.