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Daleks - The Early Years

Reviewed by David Lawrence


'What have you done with your infernal meddling?'
(The Evil of the Daleks)

Hmm. This is basically one of those 'theme' tapes that's actually just a thin veil for releasing episodes from incomplete stories and thus still being able to make money out of them. Not that there's anything wrong with that. How else are many people ever going to see some of those Hartnell and Troughton episodes?

My own copies of Counter Plot and Escape Switch from The Daleks' Master Plan are of extremely bad quality, but viewing them in Daleks - The Early Years I now know that regardless of whether the picture's fuzzy or clear, they're still extremely dull, plodding episodes, and I'd imagine that the lost Dalek epic in its entirety will prove, if ever recovered, to actually be almost as boring as The Web Planet.

Not so with the surviving episode of The Evil of the Daleks though. This would have to rate as being one of the best of the individual surviving Troughton episodes.

Daleks - The Early Years features lots of other bits which make it worthwhile - recovered footage from lost episodes (the hundreds of Daleks from The Power of the Daleks are quite neat), a television advertisement for the original broadcast of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the obscure 1960s pop song 'I'm Going to Spend my Christmas with a Dalek' (brilliant!!), and of course, interviews with the people responsible for making the Daleks happen. John Scott Martin's sideburns have to be seen to be believed. The Peter Cushing Dalek films are only fleetingly referred to, which is a bit of a shame. Perhaps the video might have been more rewarding if rather than fitting the factual stuff in around the three 'lost' episodes they'd abandoned the episodes altogether and focused on making a more in depth documentary.

Peter Davison's narration is nice and pleasant despite the factual mistakes, but surely these are scripting rather than performance faults. However the undoubted highlight of the video for me is hearing a Dalek singing 'Merry Christmas - I want to be your friend' set to footage of Daleks slaughtering people from Mission to the Unknown. Great stuff!

This item appeared in TSV 49 (November 1996).