Importance: First appearance of the Daleks, and first look at the planet Skaro.
Synopsis: The Doctor and his companions land on an unknown that appears to be made of stone. When they discover a city, the Doctor insists that he must explore it.
Once in the city, Barbara becomes separated from the group and is captured by the Daleks. The others go in search of Barbara and discover that the planet is highly radioactive and they have been suffering from radiation sickness. They are all eventually captured by the Daleks and held as prisoners.
Susan is eventually allowed to go the ship to retrieve anti-radiation drugs from the TARDIS. Susan comes into contact with one of the Thals and attempts to create peace between the two races. During an exchange of food that was meant to be peaceful, the Daleks open fire.
The Doctor and his companions convince the Thals that they have to fight the Daleks. After the battle, they leave the planet believing the Daleks have been defeated.
Thoughts: The first thing that I want to say is that I love how the look of the Daleks hasn’t really changed since their first appearance. Even how they talk is the same. Love it!
Anyway, this is a very important episode for the Doctor Who series since the Daleks end up being his major enemy once the Time War starts later. So as the first run-in with them, these episodes are pretty pivotal for anyone going through Classic Who. Do take into account that the continuity of how the Daleks came about does change later, so it’s not as important for that kind of information. However, it is important in that we get a glimpse of how ruthless and untrustworthy the Daleks are. This hasn’t changed, and we get a good idea of these aspects of them when they betray the Thals and we learn about the history between the two races.
It’s also interesting to see the Doctor act so differently than he does now. First, he lies to his companions so that he can go see a city, despite the fact that they are uncomfortable with staying there. However, this does make sense when we find out that he left Gallifrey without permission and stole a TARDIS to do it. He wanted to go on adventures and see the galaxy. Obviously, a seemingly abandoned city on a strange planet would be interesting.
Then he tries to get them back on the TARDIS after they escape from the Daleks, and doesn’t seem to be overly interesting in helping the Thals against the Daleks. It’s a different Doctor than I am used to. However, there is one similarity. His companions are helping him grow into a better person. Whenever the Doctor is hesitant to help someone, his companions insist that he change his mind. I believe that without his companions, the Doctor would have stayed a rather crotchety old man.
There is also a really important scene near the end of this serial that is very reminiscent of how we have seen the Doctor deal with the Daleks in the future. The Doctor is talking to a Dalek whose power is fading. The Dalek tells him that it will be the end of the Daleks if their power fades, and the Doctor coldly responds, “Even if I wanted to, I don’t know how.” We can see this as a foreshadowing of the hatred that the Doctor will feel for the Daleks later during and after the Time War.
The Doctor very rarely breaks from his morals, but the Daleks often test his limits. This moment becomes rather chilling when we have the knowledge of the tumultuous relationship he will have with the Daleks, and the many times that he is barely stopped (mainly by companions) from losing himself when faced with their evil. (The episode “Dalek” in the first season of modern Who comes to mind.) This also makes the first time the Doctor believes he has defeated the Daleks only to later find out that they survived. As well as the episode where the Daleks find out about the Doctor’s TARDIS. Since the Daleks constantly attempt to commandeer his ship later, this is a rather significant aspect of these episodes.
On a lighter note, the final battle between the Thals and the Daleks is rather entertaining since their main way of defeating them is to sneak up on them, spin them around, and knock them over until they could shut off their power source. It was super entertaining to watch.
Watch it?: Yes. Not only do you get to meet the Daleks for the first time, but you get a glimpse of the Doctor personality before he goes on lots of adventures with his companions. It’s great to compare what he was before and what he has become.
[The Daleks’ power source has been knocked out, causing their casings to shut down]
Dalek: Listen to me…
The Doctor: Yes?
Dalek: Stop our power from wasting… or it will be… the end… of the Daleks!…
The Doctor: [coldly] Even if I wanted to, I don’t know how.[The Dalek gives out a final, despairing cry, then falls motionless]