The Doctor Who Wasn't -
The Peter Cushing Movies

     When the Daleks first appeared in Doctor Who  in 1963, they became immediate pop culture icons in Britain. Capitalism being what it is, it was inevitable that someone would jump on the Dalekmania bandwagon by bringing them, and The Doctor, to the big screen. In 1965, Amicus Productions released the wide screen color movie DOCTOR WHO AND THE DALEKS, followed by a sequel film a year later. Peter Cushing starred in both films.

     Based on writer Terry Nation's original TV story "The Daleks", DOCTOR WHO AND THE DALEKS reconfigures The Doctor as a fully human scientist named Doctor Who, who has invented a time machine called a TARDIS. The characters from the TV story - Doctor's granddaughter Susan and fellow travelers Ian and Barbara - are all reprised in the film, but played by different actors and given different personality traits. Comedian Roy Castle plays the part of Ian Chesterton, now turned from a dignified, ready for action school teacher into a bumbling buffoon you just want to smack in the face repeatedly. Not to knock the great Peter Cushing, but he seems to coast through this one without giving it his all. He takes the "kindly old grandfather/inventor" part to heart, as he does little else than hop about like a marionette and turn his head and body in herky-jerky motions like a doddering old man. The Daleks, who are supposed to be the highlights of the film, quickly become irritating as they shout out pages and pages of dialog at each other in the robotic Dalek fashion. (The Daleks in the original episode had the same problem, but somehow they were still more fun). The movie was a huge hit in Britain, but all in all, it is a pretty dull affair, with too much talk and not nearly enough action.

     Despite the awkward and overly punctuated title, 1966's DALEK - INVASION OF EARTH: 2150 A.D. is a much more entertaining film. Also based on an episode from the original series, the film moves quickly and features many good stunts and action sequences. Peter Cushing still only uses approximately 1/50th of his wonderful acting talent throughout the film, but the Daleks themselves are more menacing and less chatty this time, making for a more exciting feature. Comic actor Bernard Cribbins plays Constable Tom Campbell, who gets into the TARDIS thinking it's a real police telephone box and is inexplicably forced by Doctor Who to go on an adventure to the future. That's just how The Doctor rolls: if you're in his TARDIS and he's on a schedule... too bad.

     Doctor Who and his travelers wind up some sixty years into the future on an Earth conquered by Daleks. At this point, it becomes a typical "Rebellion Force versus the Evil Overlords" movie, with Bernard Cribbins figuring as one of the main heroes of the film. See - there was a reason The Doctor kept him around! There is also a great effects shot near the end of the film, as a Dalek spaceship is knocked out of the sky and as it falls, it keeps getting closer to the camera, revealing just how huge it actually is. Nifty shot!

     Overall, DALEK - INVASION OF EARTH: 2015 A.D. is a good 1960's space adventure with decent special effects and a story that could be enjoyed by people who had never even heard of Doctor Who or the Daleks. Such as Americans in the 1960s.

     There were plans to do one more film based on the original episode "The Chase", but it didn't happen.

There Are No Good Puns For Cribbins: Bernard Cribbins later played recurring character Wilfred Mott, grandfather of companion Donna Noble in the David Tennant era of the new Doctor Who series. In Tennant's swan song "The End of Time", Wilf gets to travel with him in the TARDIS. That makes him one of the most obscure and pointless trivia answers in history: What actor traveled in the TARDIS in both a Doctor Who movie and in an episode of the modern TV series?

Who Are You?: In 1967, Toho monster movie KING KONG ESCAPES featured an evil villain named Doctor Who, who sort of dressed like William Hartnell. In Japan, he was Doctor Hu. In Germany, however, he was billed as Doctor Frankenstein, as The Germans seemed to like linking all of the Japanese monster movies to Doctor Frankenstein. Eisei Amamoto, who played Doctor Who, was a wonderful character actor who appeared in many Japanese movies of his era.

You Will Be Exterminated But First... Breakfast!: Despite the much larger budget on the second Daleks film, the producers still needed some other secondary source of cash to complete the film, so they made a deal with the makers of the breakfast cereal Sugar Puffs, which included obvious product placement and advertisements of the sugary cereal throughout the film.

The Doctor Is NOT In: Neither the movies nor Peter Cushing's portrayal of The Doctor are considered to be a part of the Doctor Who canon. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy them.

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