The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Landing of the Daleks

A slightly overdue blog, about two things that were released last week.

Firstly, there’s another instalment of The Blogs of Doom in the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine. The 19th! Proof, if any were needed, that letter-writing campaigns don’t always work. I wonder how long I can keep it going! But anyway, I think this is one of the funnier ones, particularly if you happen to know by heart the script of a 1965 missing episode of Doctor Who. So that’s most of you.

And secondly, my Black Archive book on The Dalek Invasion of Earth was published, by Obverse Books. It’s already had some good reviews over at SciFi Bulletin and We Are Cult. Also:

“I loved this” – James Goss
“Just started reading this, it’s already *amazing*” – Clayton Hickman
“Strong recommend... Tons and tons of facts and things to make you go ‘ooh!’ and it’s given me even more love for David Whitaker.” – Gareth Roberts

What’s in it? A quick rundown. There’s an introduction, where I explain why The Dalek Invasion of Earth is a story close to my heart, then:

Chapter 1 – The Return of the Daleks. Pulling together all the information we know about the commissioning of the story, what was going on behind-the-scenes at the time, who was on their way in, who was on their way out, and discussing why the story marked a significant shift in the series’ format.

Chapter 2 – Doctor Who and the Daleks. A brief discussion on the story’s influences – brief because there aren’t many to be found, it’s not a textually involved piece of work.

Chapter 3 – The Invaders. A scene-by-scene analysis/discussion of Terry Nation’s draft of the story, based on the draft scripts. This chapter includes some exciting revelations (for me, at least) about the authorship of the TV series Survivors and explains the episode title The Waking Ally which has hitherto left Who scholars baffled.

Chapter 4 – Serial K. An analysis/discussion of story editor David Whitaker’s rewritten version of the story, based on the camera scripts. I don’t merely list everything that Whitaker wrote, fascinating though that is, I also try to work out why he rewrote what he did. I’m particularly proud of the bit where I look at the otherwise mystifying cliffhanger to episode one.

Chapter 5 – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. In this chapter I look at how director Richard Martin realised the scripts in the TV version of the story; what changed between the camera scripts and the finished version (for instance, the dramatic discovery of Barbara’s mislaid handkerchief being dropped at the last minute). This is also where some of the most overt World War Two references/imagery come in, and where I explain why the iconic image of the Daleks crossing Westminster Bridge isn’t in the story.

Chapter 6 – The Daleks are Here! A brief look at the story’s promotion and broadcast. 

Chapter 7 – Daleks Invade Earth. Now, this is the thing that nobody else has ever written about before. You see, while I was researching this, I checked the BFI Archive index, to see if they might have anything. Their directory at the time (it has since been updated) listed two scripts for Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD. I asked to see them both, and the BFI helpfully obliged. One of them was a release script, in other words a minute-by-minute, second-by-second transcription of the film as released. The other script that was presented to me, though, was a screenplay entitled Daleks Invade Earth by Milton Subotsky. As I leafed through it, I discovered, to my insane delight, that this was an early draft of the film that was almost entirely different to the finished script! (Whilst also being obviously an intermediate step between the TV version and the final film). And so I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours going through it, making detailed notes, which formed the basis of this chapter. You see, with me, you get brand new info!

Chapter 8 – Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150AD – In this chapter I look at the finished film, how Milton Subtosky rewrote his script and how it was realised on screen. I point out a few things which have not been pointed out before.

Chapter 9 – Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth. All about Terrance Dicks’ novelisation. I did email Terrance about it but he remembers nothing so once again I had to do some actual research. Essentially, I look at how he novelised it, and in particular, how he drew on elements of the Nation scripts, the Whitaker scripts, the TV version and the film version in doing so.

Chapter 10 – Legacy of the Daleks. In which I attempt to cover the story’s legacy in terms of Doctor Who; I daresay I have missed something out, as it is probably the story which has had the most references made to it (and of course I’m not going to cover every odd line). But it was interesting to look at things like the novelty pop records it inspired and the various recreations of the iconic shot of the Daleks on Westminster Bridge.

There’s also a bibliography, in which I list every book that was on my desk while I was writing it, and everything else which was referred to. It’s like a proper academic text – except you can buy it as an ebook for about the cost of a pint of lager in London. A bargain!

Anyway, it was lots of fun to do, I’m glad I did it and proud that I managed to find out a few new things. I don’t think I’ll do another one; I think one of the great strengths of the range is the variety of authors and that everyone is covering a story that means something special to them. And, of course, how can I hope to top The Dalek Invasion of Earth? I can’t!

You can order it here.