Toys of the 1960's
Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks
Without a doubt, Doctor Who is one of the most important science fiction television programs in history. Spanning more than 44 years, the show holds the record as the longest running science fiction TV series. Visually, it was characterized for relatively inexpensive sets and unsophisticated special effects; however, the extremely intelligent and engaging scripts more than compensated for the modest production costs and made Doctor Who one of the most interesting and intelligent shows on either side of the Atlantic. Many of the ideas and concepts presented in this show (when originally broadcast) were well ahead of their time; ven more, although the show's tight budget did not allow for expensive effects, the series was able to present some of the most intriguing places and exotic creatures ever shown on a TV screen.
For those not familiar with the Doctor's adventures, the series portrays the adventures of a renegade Time Lord, one of a race of near-immortal aliens who have mastered time travel but - like the Prime Directive on Star Trek - choose not to interfere in the doings of other beings. The Doctor is a rebel in that he has decided to use his people's technology to help those in need. He is a singular character, who is usually portrayed as an eccentric, strange, weird, intelligent and colorful person. Countless times the Doctor has saved the galaxy from cosmic evil menaces without the use of advanced weaponry, or even without violence; most of the time he just outwits his enemies. As a matter of fact, part of the charm of the stories is seeing how the Doctor can get himself out of an intractible jam without resorting to lesser actions.
During his many adventures, the Doctor has fought a nasty gallery of space monsters, robots, demons, and other creatures. However, his most relentless and ruthless foes were the Daleks. Long before the Borgs or Robocop, Doctor Who envisioned a race of vicious creatures encased in armored robotic structures. These organic-robotic hybrids were engaged in trying to conquer the entire Universe (as a matter of fact, according to the show's mythos, the Daleks invade the Earth circa the year 2150). "Remembrance of the Daleks" is the last episode that pits the Doctor against the Daleks before the show's re-launching, thus seen as the last 'classic' confrontation between the Doctor and the Daleks, and is related back to the first ever episode of the series, "An Unearthly Child." Because of its references to the first episode and the ultimate fate of the Daleks, this show would have been much more appropriate as the series's finale.
In that first Doctor Who episode, the original incarnation of the Doctor (played by William Hartnell) arrives at Coal Hill School in London in 1963. Soon thereafter, he leaves with his granddaughter and a couple of schoolteachers to explore the cosmos. After 25 years and 151 exciting adventures, the Doctor (by this episode played by Sylvester McCoy) returns to Coal Hill School. Interestingly, he arrives to the school the day after his previous incarnation departed. Apparently, he had some important task to accomplish there, but he forgot to do it and 25 years later he returns to complete the task. (One of the advantages of having a time machine is that one can put off important things for years, as long as one goes back in time at the right moment.) His task was to retrieve a device called the Hand of Omega, a powerful device that can turn stars into supernovas, and send it back to the Time Lords' native world, Gallifrey.
Unknown to the Doctor, though, the malicious Daleks have also traveled back in time and are looking for the Hand of Omega. The Daleks intend to use the device's power to conquer the universe. But things are more complex than this. The Daleks are suffering from an internal struggle with two combative factions fighting each other. The Doctor has to overcome both groups of Daleks, in order to prevent the destruction of London and the eventual conquest of Earth.
"Remembrance of the Daleks" is not the best Doctor Who adventure, but nevertheless it is a very engaging episode. The narrative is full of science fiction themes such as cyborgs and time travel. These are interestingly developed and the storyline avoids falling into trivial situations. The circular structure, which gives closure to the first episode, is very amusing and well developed. The plot also has a few implausible situations, but these are not enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the story.
It is important to note that the structure of the series was a unique feature that allowed the writers to present such intelligent and engaging stories. The series was comprised of weekly half-hour episodes, and a complete Doctor Who adventure was usually comprised of four half-hour episodes. This resulted in adventures lasting longer than 90 minutes, which allowed enough time for a satisfactory development of the well-thought out and complex situations. While the show lacked in special effects, this time structure allowed for intense character-driven stories. BBC's DVD release of "Remembrance of the Daleks" presents all four episodes, and fortunately it includes the opening and closing credits for each episode (for further enjoyment of the extraordinary Ron Grainer's main theme music).