The Daleks made their first (of many) return visits to Doctor Who in this story. It’s the second story of the second season (10th overall). The still features William Hartnell as the Doctor with Ian, Barbara, and Susan as his companions.
This story was the first to see a former enemy of the Doctor return, and it was Carole Ann Ford’s last appearance with William Hartnell. Susan was the first of the Doctor’s companions to leave him. A girl from this episode was originally supposed to stowaway on the TARDIS to become the new companion, but that didn’t happen.
The story begins with a mysterious man staggering towards the river, ripping off his helmet, and finally throwing himself into the water in front of a large poster that states that it is forbidden to dump bodies in the river.
The TARDIS soon materializes in the same spot. The travelers are excited because all signs point to them having landed on a planet similar to earth. They exit the TARDIS and discover that they are back in London. Barbara and Ian are so excited that they fail to notice the unnatural quiet in the city. Susan tries to climb up to get a look around, but she falls injuring her ankle. Her climb also disturbed the bridge that the TARDIS was parked under and it collapses around the TARDIS, cutting the travelers off from it.
The Doctor and Ian go off to a nearby warehouse to search for tools to help them get the TARDIS free, leaving Barbara and Susan behind. A man comes and brings Barbara and Susan to a hiding place, explaining that they will be killed if they are found. The Doctor and Ian find a corpse wearing a strange helmet in the warehouse and a calendar dated 2164; they decide to return to the others. On their way back, they see a flying saucer overhead. When they reach the spot where they left Susan and Barbara, they are gone.
The Doctor and Ian decide to wait for the women to return. The rebel humans were about to return for them when they realize that the Doctor and Ian are surrounded by robomen. As soon as the two realize that they are surrounded, they attempt to make a run for it, only to be confronted by a Dalek rising out of the Thames.
The rest of the plot has to do with the attempts of the remaining band of free humans to defeat the Daleks, who either kill the humans, turn them into robomen (who seem a bit like primitive cybermen), or send them down to work in the mines. Eventually, all four travelers are separated, so the episode also deals with their attempts to find each other.
I was bit confused by the goal of the Dalek invasion. It seems that they want to remove the Earth’s core, so that they can replace it with a power system and pilot the planet anywhere they want. I was not exactly sure why the Dalek’s needed to pilot Earth, or why, in fact, they would even want to pilot a planet. Maybe if I watched it again…
This episode is most notable for Susan’s departure. She has fallen in love with one of the rebel humans, David, and he wants to marry her. Susan does not want to leave her grandfather, but she confesses to David that she loves him too. The Doctor hears Susan’s confession and locks her out of the TARDIS. He tells her that he wants her to belong somewhere and David will take care of her. She is now a woman, and she shouldn’t worry about taking care of him when she can have a home, something she hasn’t been able to have. Before the TARDIS dematerializes, he tells her that he will return one day.
I was not satisfied with Susan’s departure. It seemed odd for the Doctor to suddenly decide that Susan is a woman, when in an earlier episode of this story, he told her she should be spanked. I know a lot happens between the first and last episodes of this story, but it could have been a bit more of a gradual build up. It also seemed a bit cruel to just lock Susan out of the TARDIS, not really allowing her a proper goodbye, but I guess that’s consistent with Hartnell’s Doctor’s behavior; he’s not exactly Mr. Sensitive.
Overall, I found this story disappointing. I’d heard good things about it, but I actually preferred the first Dalek story. It had some interesting ideas, but I didn’t find the plot particularly engaging in this one, and, as I stated before, I wasn’t satisfied with Susan’s goodbye. I wasn’t sure that leaving her on an earth where society was in shambles with someone she barely knew was the best decision. How did the Doctor even know that she would be safe (much of the planet’s population had been killed by plague and was living in small isolated communities)? I guess I just shouldn’t think too much about this one.