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Doctor Who: Day of the Daleks (part four)

In 2011, “Day of the Daleks” was released on DVD with a really interesting bonus feature: a complete special edition of the story with new special effects, several additional Daleks, some new footage for the climactic battle scene, and proper Dalek voices provided by Nick Briggs instead of those guys that did the original work forty years previously and sounded wrong. Unfortunately, the well-meaning team behind this otherwise entertaining upgrade also decided to cut the hilarious bit in episode one where an Ogron actor forgets to talk like an Ogron and just mumbles “No complications” in his regular voice. For shame! I love that part!

We switched over to watch the special edition for part four. It might be fairly accused of having one or ten too many bells and whistles, but it does improve what was originally a pretty tame battle scene. The director, Paul Bernard, did his best, but he just didn’t have the resources to make this important sequence shine. Worse, the human part of the conflict is ridiculous. Sir Reginald absolutely refuses to evacuate. Nobody thinks to say “There is a bomb in this building and terrorists are attacking.” You’d think that would get people back in their cars. But with lasers all over the screen and smoke in the air and bullets ricocheting off Dalek armor and lines of bullets vipping along the ground and UNIT soldiers getting either exterminated or vaporized, there’s so darn much to look at.

Our son loved it. This is the second story in a row to end with a big explosion. “Now you know the meaning of the word Dalek-explosion!” he shouted. This was after a little hiding behind the sofa and worry. He’s at the perfect age where the Daleks are both exciting and scary. He did clarify that they are meaner than both the Ice Warriors and the Master. Funny that he should think of those villains…

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Doctor Who: Day of the Daleks (part three)

The third part of “Day of the Daleks” gets a little stick because of this silly bit of runaround where the Doctor and Jo escape only to get recaptured. It’s there because the plot needs a little action, which happens a lot in this kind of program, but it’s incredibly egregious here because the runaround is on the back of an ATV three-wheeler. These were only a couple of years old at the time and still unfamiliar enough to possibly look “futuristic” to the TV audience of 1972. I think that if anybody from our day and age were to find themselves running from eight lumbering Ogrons, they wouldn’t pause to jump on an ATV, they’d just keep running.

But never mind the runaround, Jon Pertwee is on fire in this episode. He’s full of righteous fury about the criminal government of the Dalek-occupied Earth, while Aubrey Woods tries to deflect with a load of nonsense about how the enslaved planet really just puts their hardened criminals to work in labor camps. It’s a really great scene, though I think it’s an underrated one.

There’s a very effective cliffhanger too, surprisingly. I never thought much of it myself – the Daleks put the recaptured Doctor under a mind analysis machine that shows, weirdly, promotional photos of the previous two Doctors against the background of the show’s title sequence – but once again our son was riveted and frightened and hid his face. The Daleks are, “of course,” the show’s meanest enemy. How will he possibly get out of this?!

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Doctor Who: Day of the Daleks (parts one and two)

Back to January 1972 and the ninth season of Doctor Who opened with the return of the Daleks to the series for the first time since the summer of ’67. They’d been retired while their creator, Terry Nation, unsuccessfully tried to sell the American networks on a series in which a Space Security Agent foils a new evil plot by the villains every week. I sometimes wonder about that show, and kind of think that it would have been a fondly-remembered series, but not a very successful one. Still, when they do invent transportation between parallel universes, that’s on my list to check out. I wonder who would have been in the cast*.

Anyway, so the Daleks conquered Earth some time in our future, and in the 22nd Century, some fanatics have got their hands on some time travel equipment and have traveled back to “the 20th Century time zone” (just call it September 13, 1973, it makes sense) to kill a prominent politician for an as-yet-undisclosed reason. The Daleks mainly stay in a room in their future city where they yell at a controller character played by Aubrey Woods. But at the end of part two, the Doctor chases after the guerrillas and just about runs smack into a Dalek in a dark tunnel, which frightened the bejezus out of our son. Any pleasure that might come from seeing the Daleks back – he wanted to talk and talk and talk between episodes about how many there were in 1966’s “The Power of the Daleks” – came crashing into the scary reality that creepy dark tunnels are not where you want to find a Dalek.

The Daleks were apparently a late-in-the-day addition to this story by Louis Marks, who had last written for the show in 1964. He had the story about fanatics from the future trying to change history, and the ape-like Ogrons who do all the gunfighting, but the Daleks came on board to boost the marketing push. It’s the first Who serial directed by Paul Bernard. He did three of the ten serials in seasons nine and ten.

Part one of this story features a scene that I absolutely adore. The Doctor and Jo are staying in this big country house waiting for another visit from the time travelers, and the Doctor has helped himself to the cheeses and wines. Jo takes some to feed a hungry Sergeant Benton, only to have Captain Yates order him to get back to work so he can take a snack for himself. “RHIP. Rank has its privileges,” he tells her.

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Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Today was a really special day for our family. It was Daniel’s first trip to a movie theater. All the TV and movie watching we’ve done as a group has been, in small part, getting him ready for enjoying a movie with a group and not being a distraction or anything to the other viewers.

Now, I’d actually hoped that his first big screen experience would have been Star Wars: The Force Awakens, because a Star Wars movie is a great one to claim as your first, but as regular readers know, our son is very gentle and frightens pretty easily, and the overwhelming spectacle of, not the movie, but all those maximum volume trailers of every PG-13 blockbuster – they’re all really just one film called Everything Explodes Again, starring either Vin Diesel or The Rock – would have been too much for him, I know, so we waited until he was a little older and wondered what would be a good, appropriate experience that we would want to enjoy with him, instead of giving up with something brain-dead about cartoon animals with Jimmy Fallon and Whoopi Goldberg’s voices. So a HUGE thanks to the great people at Fathom Events for programming Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth.

He had a great time and was extremely well behaved. He wasn’t completely flawless; he forgot the rules and did speak about three sentences, but the potentially frightening bits – the boat ride and the ceiling fan – didn’t shock him too greatly. He loved the whole weird, wild experience, especially that bizarre car that belches soda foam all over its riders.

I read that Roald Dahl was really unhappy with how the film evolved outside of his hands, especially the way that Gene Wilder just takes over the picture as the emphasis completely shifts to Wonka instead of Charlie and Grandpa Joe. You know, I think he just might have been right. Don’t get me wrong, Wilder is perfectly entertaining (and I do mean perfect), but Peter Ostrum and Jack Albertson have such an incredibly fun chemistry in the first half of the film, and the change in focus means the characters become supporting players in what had been, up to then, their movie. But that’s possibly an opinion many won’t share because Wilder is just so astonishingly fun. The only real flaw in this movie about which we’ll probably all agree is that, as mentioned the last time we watched a movie together, it all comes to a crashing halt during the deadly dull song “Cheer Up Charlie.”

Other standouts, on the other hand: Nora Denney is hilarious as Mike Teevee’s mother (did you notice that Mike signs his name T.V., by the way?), Tim Brooke-Taylor had me giggling in an uncredited part as a computer operator, Roy Kinnear and Julie Dawn Cole are just perfect together as the unfortunate Salts, and I really like Aubrey Woods as the guy who runs the candy shop. Several months after this was filmed, Woods did a four-part Doctor Who and was really theatrical, like a bad stage ham, and yet he’s very natural and believable here, so I wonder what the heck happened. And of all the giggle-inducing lines that Wilder delivers, there’s an exchange between he and an Oompa Loompa once Mike has been transmitted across the room and shrunk that had me laughing for a minute straight. It’s a really, really good film.

If you’ve never seen a Fathom Events / Turner Classic Movies presentation before, these monthly screenings of old movies are really worth your time. They’re a little costly – seats are going to range from $13 to $20 depending on your market – but the prints are in very, very good shape, the previews are exclusively for other Fathom Events instead of dumb new movies like Everything Explodes Again, and they’re topped and tailed with commentary by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz. Marie and I saw The Maltese Falcon a few months ago, which is how we learned about this month’s presentation of Willy Wonka. They don’t have any other family movies coming up in the next six months, but they do have Dr. Strangelove, one of my favorite movies, coming in September, and The Shining in October. I’ve seen Strangelove on a big screen at least six times, but I honestly don’t know whether I’ve ever seen The Shining projected. It’s been at least twenty years if I have. I hope we can get a babysitter for those!

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