The Mutants/The Daleks: The Dead Planet

First Broadcast December 21st 1963 @ 5.15pm (6.9m viewers)

Admittedly it is just a glimpse. A waved sink plunger. But this is it. The first moment that (part of) a Dalek appeared onscreen. The rest, as they say is history. But although we don’t see the full Dalek in all it’s glory until the next week, this first episode of the serial was crucial to cementing the popularity of the Daleks and the longevity of Doctor Who.
Doctor Who - The Dead Planet - (c) BBC
Doctor Who – The Dead Planet – (c) BBC

This opening episode sees the Ship take the Doctor, Barbara, Ian and Susan to a dead world. For the first time this fledgling BBC show has taken the viewers to an alien planet. It is an interesting environment, very well delivered in a studio, with an immediate mystery regarding the petrified jungle. What is clear however is that nothing could be alive in that harsh environment. The first alien seen by the characters is a peculiar creature made of metal, a hint of what was to come. Ian and Barbara also share a couple of scenes discussing their desire to return to Earth of 1963 which would be a continuing theme for the show. After some deviousness from The Doctor they are forced to venture towards the city, leading to one of the most memorable cliffhangers in Doctor Who’s history.

Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)

The climax of this opening episode of the serial delivers a grippingly dramatic finale. It would later become customary that the end of the first episode would feature the shocking reveal of a Dalek or Zygon for example. This episode doesn’t do that. All that is seen is the telescopic arm, with plunger attachment, reaching out. The power of it is completely carried by Jacqueline Hill. She is supported by a fantastic set, peculiar camera angles and the futuristically odd soundtrack. However her acting as the trap closes in around her before finally shrieking in terror at the alien creature approaches her brought the viewers back the next week.
Doctor Who - The Dead Planet - (c) BBC
Doctor Who – The Dead Planet – (c) BBC

Curiously viewing figures actually went down for the next episode ‘The Survivors’. However after the Daleks were properly revealed during that episode the ratings leapt from 6.4 million to 8.9 million and rose even further culminating in 10.4 million for the final two instalments. Lessons were learnt and so the Daleks would not be implied in future but fully revealed for the first episode cliffhangers, particularly in Terry Nation stories. It is wildly known that Sydney Newman dismissed the Daleks as “bugged eyed monsters”. But without them, their story, the iconic design, the terrifying voice, all contributed to making Doctor Who a hit. Without it the show would not have survived. Like the Daleks managed to on their dead planet so did Doctor Who.

Also First Aired On This Day…
• The Invasion: Episode Eight
• The Greatest Show in the Galaxy: Part Two

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