The Daleks

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002 – The Daleks
Doctor Who serial
Barbara is threatened, in the first ever on-screen appearance of the Daleks.
Writer Terry Nation
Director Christopher Barry (episodes 1,2,4,5)
Richard Martin (episodes 3,6,7)
Script editor David Whitaker
Producer Verity Lambert
Mervyn Pinfield (associate producer)
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Tristram Cary
Production code B
Series Season 1
Length 7 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started 21 December 1963
Date ended 1 February 1964
← Preceded by Followed by →
An Unearthly Child The Edge of Destruction

The Daleks (also known as The Mutants and The Dead Planet) is the second serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in seven weekly parts from 21 December 1963 to 1 February 1964. It is the first serial to be entirely set on an alien planet. It was written by Terry Nation and directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin. This story marks the first appearance of the Doctor's greatest extraterrestrial enemies, the Daleks, and is also the first to feature recurring Skaro people, the Thals.

In the serial, the First Doctor (William Hartnell), his granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford), and her teachers Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) land in an alien jungle and are captured by the Daleks, a race of mutated creatures who are surviving off the radiation that remains in the atmosphere after a nuclear war they waged with their enemies.


This story introduces two plotlines in Doctor Who, that of the TARDIS' navigational circuits malfunctioning and that of the supposed destruction of the Dalek race. In this case, instead of bringing its crew back to Earth, the TARDIS lands in a petrified jungle, and the Doctor has to try to fix their position by taking a reading of the stars. The Doctor insists they explore a futuristic city they spot beyond the forest but Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright are not convinced. In the forest someone touches Susan's shoulder, but the Doctor doesn't believe her. Later a box of vials is found outside the TARDIS. The Doctor claims the fluid link of the TARDIS is running low on mercury (a ruse he later admits to), forcing the crew to travel to the city in search of more mercury.

Inside the city, Barbara becomes separated from her colleagues, and is, in the iconic first episode cliffhanger, threatened by an unseen creature with a metal arm - the first appearance of a Dalek. Before long, the entire crew is captured by the Daleks. Susan is eventually sent to retrieve anti-radiation drugs from the TARDIS, the Doctor realising this is what the box contained. Susan encounters a second species, the Thals, who used to be at war with the Daleks. The Thal who left the drugs reveals he encountered her in the forest. Susan attempts to broker peace between the two groups, and while it appears to work, the Daleks eventually betray the Thals, opening fire on them at what was supposed to be a peaceful exchange of food. The Daleks try using the anti-radiation drugs, but discover that they are fatal to Daleks. They conclude that Daleks need radiation to survive and decide to bombard the atmosphere with more radiation.

In the ensuing chaos, the Doctor and his companions escape with the Thals, and learn their version of the history of their planet. They also learn that the Thals are avowed pacifists. They are unable to leave Skaro, however, as the fluid link has been taken by the Daleks. In order to save them from the Daleks, the TARDIS crew convinces the Thals of the importance of aggression and warfare, and manages to lead the Thals in a successful attack against the Daleks. At the end, it is believed the Dalek race has been destroyed when their power supply is knocked out. The TARDIS crew leave Skaro, but an explosion in the TARDIS knocks them out.


The serial marks the first appearance of the TARDIS' food machine.[1] The mercury-filled fluid links in the TARDIS console feature again in subsequent stories including The Wheel in Space, written by The Daleks' script editor David Whitaker.[2] Anti-radiation drugs are shown to be required to survive on the surface of Skaro in this serial—a plot point repeated in Destiny of the Daleks when the Doctor next returns (chronologically) to the post-war planet.[3]

This story marks the first appearance of the Daleks. Although many parts of the Dalek mythos were established here, several key elements of the continuity were retroactively changed over the years. The most notable change regarded the nature of the war with the Thals and the transformation into the Daleks. In this story, the Daleks mutated as a direct result of the war, and their previous species was called the Dals. In the later Genesis of the Daleks, their mutation was accelerated (but not directly caused) by the machinations of Davros, their previous species was the Kaleds, and the mutation marked the end of the war with the Thals.[4]

This story was also the only instance in which the Daleks' dependence, for motive power, on static electricity from the floors of their city was a factor. In their next appearance, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, they had found a way around this restriction—they sported small satellite-type dishes to receive power transmissions, and subsequently the design incorporated power-panel slats around the midsection (though an affinity for static was occasionally referenced in future serials, such as The Power of the Daleks, and the plot of Death to the Daleks required an explanation that for basic movement they now utilised telekinesis).[5][6][7] Similarly, this story states that the Daleks require radiation in order to live at all (leading to them trying to further irradiate Skaro); later stories, including the immediate sequel, show them operating without heavy background radiation.[5]

The Thals feature again in Planet of the Daleks and Genesis of the Daleks.[4][8] In Destiny of the Daleks, they appear to have abandoned Skaro.[3]


Script editor David Whitaker commissioned a six-part serial from comedy writer Terry Nation, after being impressed by his work in the science-fiction series Out of This World. This was formally commissioned under the title The Mutants on 31 July, and was originally intended to air fourth in the season's line-up, after Marco Polo.[9] The designer originally assigned to this serial was Ridley Scott, later a famed film director. However, a problem with Scott's schedule meant that he was replaced by Raymond Cusick, who was thus given the task of realising the Dalek creatures.[10] Cusick based the design of the Daleks on a man sitting in a chair.[1] The Daleks proved to be very popular, but Cusick received little money for merchandise sold with his design.[1]

Nation once claimed that he came up with the name "Dalek" after seeing a set of encyclopedias with one volume spanning the section of the alphabet from Dal - Lek. However, he later admitted that this was simply a good story for the sake of the press, and that in fact he had just made up the name.[11] The cliffhanger to the first episode, in which Barbara is confronted by a Dalek's sucker arm, was filmed with floor manager Michael Ferguson holding the arm, rather than it being attached to a full Dalek body.[1]

Alternative titles

During production the overall story went through a number of working titles such as The Survivors and Beyond the Sun, before settling down as The Mutants.[12] This title was used in most BBC paperwork using titles for over a decade. In 1972 a later Doctor Who story called The Mutants was produced (also directed by Christopher Barry).[13] To avoid confusion, two titles have emerged as alternatives. The Dead Planet came into use after the 1973 Radio Times 10th anniversary Doctor Who special referred to all the early stories by the title of their first episodes. The Dead Planet was used in many licensed guides and magazines up until 1980, when it was displaced by The Daleks, a title deriving from the story's book and film adaptations and with no basis in contemporary usage. This title has largely stuck, and was used for the script book published by Titan Books in 1989,[14] as well as the VHS and DVD releases. However, some reference guides still refer to the serial as The Mutants.[15]


According to text commentary on the 2006 DVD release, the first episode, "The Dead Planet", was recorded twice; this fact is confirmed in the 2010 book Wiped! Doctor Who's Missing Episodes, written by Doctor Who expert Richard Molesworth.[16] The first version was affected by a technical fault that captured backstage voices.[17] The remount was done two weeks before it was broadcast, and Susan's outfit was changed in the second version. The only surviving footage of the first version is the recap at the start of the second episode, "The Survivors", showing Barbara menaced by a Dalek; the corresponding scene at the end of "The Dead Planet" was recreated when the episode was remounted.[18] The second episode, "The Survivors", was taped on 22 November 1963. Minutes before taping started, the cast and crew learned of the assassination of John F. Kennedy but it was decided to continue with the recording.[citation needed]

Dalek props

Four timber and fibreglass Dalek props were created for the serial, designed by Ray Cusick and constructed by Shawcraft Engineering.[19]

Themes and analysis

In About Time, Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles discuss the story's heavy debt to Dan Dare and Flash Gordon comics, quipping that "scratch any Nation story and you'll find either a Flash Gordon or a Rider Haggard squirming under the surface," as well as pointing out that the Daleks are modeled after Nazi Germany. They also point out the way in which the easily broken TARDIS parallels the space travel of 1963, where "one faulty component could doom the astro- or cosmonaut at the controls." On the whole, however, they praise the degree to which Skaro is realized, not just in Nation's script (where they compare the world-building to that of J.R.R. Tolkien) but in the design work of Raymond Cusick and the sound and music of Brian Hodgson and Tristram Cary.[20]

Broadcast and reception

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"The Dead Planet, original recorded version" Unaired  ??? n/a Only stills and/or fragments exist
"The Dead Planet, remounted version" 21 December 1963 (1963-12-21) 24:22 6.9 16mm t/r
"The Survivors" 28 December 1963 (1963-12-28) 24:27 6.4 16mm t/r
"The Escape" 4 January 1964 (1964-01-04) 25:10 8.9 16mm t/r
"The Ambush" 11 January 1964 (1964-01-11) 24:37 9.9 16mm t/r
"The Expedition" 18 January 1964 (1964-01-18) 24:31 9.9 16mm t/r
"The Ordeal" 25 January 1964 (1964-01-25) 26:14 10.4 16mm t/r
"The Rescue" 1 February 1964 (1964-02-01) 22:24 10.4 16mm t/r

In 1999 during a BBC2 themed evening, "Doctor Who Night" (13 November 1999) hosted by Tom Baker, a special edit of episode 7 'The Rescue' was broadcast which included 5 minutes of footage from episode 6. Additionally, due to a mistake when mastering a short section of episode 7 was omitted. The serial was most recently broadcast on the BBC on BBC Four, as part of a celebration of the life and work of producer Verity Lambert. It was shown in three blocks from 5 to 9 April 2008.

Christopher Bahn of The A.V. Club wrote that The Daleks is "quite solid, full of well-paced action and some interestingly subtle characterizations, though it definitely begins to drag around the fifth episode, with a long trek through swamps and caverns that moves the plot forward by about an inch".[24] Radio Times reviewer Patrick Mulkern praised the strength of Nation's script, especially the first three cliffhangers. However, he felt that "the urgency and claustrophobia dissipate towards the end", with the final battle being "a disappointingly limp affair".[25] DVD Talk's John Sinnott, despite noting that "there are a few parts that drag just a bit", commended the script for holding tension unlike in An Unearthly Child and allowing the characters to develop. Sinnott also commented that the serial made the Daleks scary despite what they would become later.[26] In 2010, Charlie Jane Anders of io9 listed the cliffhanger of the first episode among the show's greatest cliffhangers.[27]


The Daleks survives due to the efforts of film collector Ian Levine, who discovered in 1978 that older episodes of Doctor Who were being junked to make way for newer programmes. Coincidentally, he arrived the day that all seven episodes of The Daleks were scheduled to be junked, and when he learned of this, he contacted the BBC Archive Selector, the official in charge of maintaining the BBC archives; the Selector then issued an order which stopped the junking of older material, saving The Daleks from destruction.[28]

Commercial releases

In print

Doctor Who and the Daleks
Author David Whitaker
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
2 May 1973
ISBN 0-426-10110-3

This was the first Doctor Who serial to be adapted as a novel. Written by David Whitaker, the book was first published in hardback on 12 November 1964 by Frederick Muller as Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks.[29] A paperback release by Armada Books followed in 1965.[30]

In 1973 Target Books published it under the cover title Doctor Who and the Daleks, although the full title was still given on the inside frontpage. From 1977 onwards reprints dropped the full title. In 1992 the novelisation was retitled Doctor Who - The Daleks. It was the very first novelisation published under the Target imprint (the books would continue for the next 20 years).

From 1983 onwards the Target novelisations bore numbers, with the first 73 releases retroactively numbered in alphabetical order. However, it would not be until 1992 that an actual reprint stated it was "No. 16" in the Target Books Doctor Who Library.

Whitaker's book differs from most later novelisations in that it is written in the first person and from the point of view of a companion (Ian Chesterton). It also ignores the events of the preceding serial An Unearthly Child, except for a modified retelling of the first episode (to explain how Ian and Barbara joined the Doctor). Here, Ian meets the Doctor, Barbara (who is Susan's tutor) and Susan on Barnes Common after a car crash. The novel also plays up the romantic tension between the two human companions and features a glass Dalek leader on Skaro.

Susan Foreman is renamed Susan English for the novelisation, which has led to some reference books erroneously listing the character by this name. In the PC game Destiny of the Doctors, the player has to ask the First Doctor the surname of Susan for one of the tasks. Both English and Foreman are available options (although only the latter is considered correct in the game).

The novelisation was translated into Dutch, Turkish, Japanese, Portuguese, French and German.

In 2005 the novel was issued by BBC Audio as part of the Doctor Who: Travels in Time and Space audio book collectors tin, read by William Russell.

The script of this serial, edited by John McElroy and titled The Daleks, was published by Titan Books in December 1989.[31]

Home media

The serial was released twice on VHS; first in 1989, then again in 2001 with remastered quality and new cover artwork (this remastered edition was only released for the United Kingdom and Australia). In 2006, it was remastered again for inclusion with An Unearthly Child and The Edge of Destruction in the Doctor Who: The Beginning DVD boxed set. The music from this serial was released as part of Doctor Who: Devils' Planets - The Music of Tristram Cary in 2003.

Film version

This serial was adapted by Milton Subotsky as a film, Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) starring Peter Cushing as Dr Who, Roberta Tovey as Susan, Roy Castle as Ian Chesterton and Jennie Linden as Barbara. Roberta Tovey is the daughter of the character actor George Tovey, who later appeared in Doctor Who as the poacher in Pyramids of Mars (1975). The film had no relation to the novelisation of The Daleks, which was titled Doctor Who and the Daleks upon republication by Target Books in 1973.


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External links