London constable Tom Campbell mistakes Dr. Who's time machine for a police alarm box and finds himself transported to the year 2150 AD with Dr. Who, his niece Louise, and his granddaughter Susan. Emerging from their time machine, they find a London totally decimated and a population turned into robots by the evil Daleks, mechanical invaders from outer space.
Directed by: Gordon Flemyng
. Starring: Peter Cushing
, Bernard Cribbins
, Ray Brooks
, Andrew Keir
, Roberta Tovey
, Jill Curzon
, Roger Avon
, Geoffrey Cheshire
, Keith Marsh
, Philip Madoc
, Steve Peters
, Eddie Powell
, Godfrey Quigley
. Music by: Bill McGuffie
To the "Doctor Who" fan these names trip off the tongue as easily as do the Kings and Queens of England to the historian or the current England batting line-up to the cricket lover. Yet there is one name missing from the Timelords Cricket Club First Eleven: Peter Cushing, who doesn't even make it onto the scorecard as twelfth man. Although Cushing played the Doctor in two films from the mid-sixties, of which this is the second, he is generally omitted from the "official" sequence; the current incumbent, Matt Smith, is regarded as the Eleventh Doctor, not the Twelfth.
Although William Hartnell was the British television Doctor at the time, for some reason he was not asked to play the role in the films, even though both were based upon television episodes which he had appeared in. The films make no mention of the Doctor being a member of the alien Timelord race; he is presumed to be a human scientist and inventor, and this deviation from one of the key premises of the television series is doubtless the reason for Cushing's banishment from the official canon. Something else missing from the film is the television version's very distinctive electronic theme tune.
Yet in many ways the films remain faithful to the original concept. As in the original the Doctor has the ability to travel through space and time in his Tardis, a time machine which from the outside appears to be a police box. (In the sixties police boxes were a common sight on the streets of British cities; since 1969 they have largely been phased out, but the Tardis has always retained its original design). As in the original the Doctor is accompanied on his travels by female companions, in this case his niece Louise and his granddaughter Susan. (Susan also appeared in the early Hartnell episodes, although there she was played by Carole Anne Ford as a young woman in her early twenties; here she is played by Roberta Tovey as a young girl). Both films feature the Doctor's most iconic enemies, the Daleks.
In some ways, in fact, the films look forward to the future of the franchise. In 1965 when the first film, "Dr. Who and the Daleks", came out, only one actor had played the Doctor on television. Cushing's interpretation of the role is quite different to Hartnell's. Both Doctors are elderly, but whereas Hartnell's was impatient and testy, Cushing's is eccentric but kindly, a well-spoken English gentleman. Cushing may have influenced the development of the television series; after Hartnell was replaced by Patrick Troughton it became a feature of the franchise that whenever the Doctor "regenerated" himself his new incarnation was quite different, in both looks and personality, to the previous one. In his personality Cushing seems to prefigure Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor and in his dress Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor.
The title, "Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.", effectively summarises the plot. The Doctor, Louise and Susan, accompanied by a London policeman named Tom Campbell, travel forward in time to the year 2150. They find that the Daleks have invaded Earth and imposed their rule on the human population. London has been reduced to ruins and its surviving inhabitants forced underground, where resistance to Dalek rule is forming. The story tells how the Doctor assists these movements to liberate the planet from the Daleks. Although the story ostensibly takes place nearly two hundred years into the future, the recently-ruined city bears a much closer resemblance to the London of 1966 than to anything futuristic. Perhaps the film should have been titled "Daleks' Invasion Earth: 1967 A.D." We even see an advertisement for Sugar Puffs, a popular breakfast cereal of the time; this was, apparently, a piece of product placement as the manufacturers were sponsoring the film. They obviously liked the idea that their products would still be popular in the mid-22nd century.
Objectively speaking, this is not a very good film. The acting is generally undistinguished, although Peter Cushing's interpretation of the Doctor is as good as any, and in my view better than Hartnell's. The attempts at comic relief, mostly involving Bernard Cribbins's Tom, are never really successful. Like a number of science-fiction films, the "science" involved is pure fiction; the Daleks' master-plan, apparently, is to remove the Earth's core and replace it with a giant motor, thus turning the planet into a gigantic spaceship which the Daleks will use to return to their home planet. (It's easy when you know how). There are some curious permutations of geography; Bedfordshire, one of England's least spectacular counties, has suddenly acquired mountains far more spectacular than the Dunstable Downs, and Wren's famous spire of St-Dunstan-in-the-East seems to have relocated itself from the north bank of the Thames to the South. And the film suffers from that frequent curse of sixties sci-fi; cheap, dodgy-looking special effects. It was not a success at the box office and a planned third Doctor Who film was cancelled.
Yet like most Britons of my generation who grew up in the sixties and seventies I am quite unable to be objective about "Doctor Who". This film has not dated well, but I doubt if many of the television adventures of the Doctor, which we spent so many hours eagerly discussing in our school playgrounds, would stand up well in the cold light of day of 2011. For the pleasures of nostalgia, if for no other reason, even a "non-canonical" Doctor Who adventure is still worth watching.
Review by James Hitchcock from the Internet Movie Database.