Red Scharlach (redscharlach) wrote,
Red Scharlach

Never mind the canon, feel the Cushing!

Thanks to the wonders of cheapness, I have recently revisited the cinematic curiosity that is Dr. Who and the Daleks, also known as The First Weird Who Film With Peter Cushing In It. It was the first time I've seen it since it was a regular summer holiday TV filler in my youth, and while I can't say I've been yearning for it all these years, I thought it might still be a piece of entertaining silliness, and indeed, it is.

So much so, in fact, that it persuaded me to produce this promotional picspam, peppered with pointless or pertinent particulars. There are spoilers only in the loosest sense -- knowing the plot will not ruin your viewing experience one jot, since the story isn't really the point.*

For those of you who are unacquainted with this bit of movie flotsam, it's basically a remake of the First Doctor story The Daleks, which I haven't personally seen. As far as I can gather, the plot is a pretty straightforward retread of the TV version, but to modern viewers, the interesting part is the weird non-canonical movie trappings that they've stuck on. Perhaps it was believed that cinema-going punters of the 60s would go so ga-ga for hot Dalek action that the other bits didn't matter, so the whole thing has the feel of something half-remembered down the pub and cobbled together in a "That'll do, the kids will never notice!" fashion.

Peter Cushing with a comic

Meet Dr Who. Yes, that really is his name. He seems to be a human being (at least, it's never intimated that he could be anything else), lives in a house with his two (TWO!) grand-daughters, and his hobbies include reading comics and building a time machine in his backyard. He's quite a chirpy old gent for the most part. Because Peter Cushing wasn't all that old when he made this film, he impersonates elderliness with a lot of waddle-style walking that suggests he may have crapped himself.

Team TARDIS are on the case

Meet Team TARDIS, in this off-kilter bizarro-verse. They have familiar names, but unfamiliar appearances.

On the left is Movie!Barbara, who is Dr Who's grand-daughter, rather surprisingly. Her primary feature is her enormous hair, which is virtually a character in itself, given the way that it spends most of the film rising and falling and getting neat or messy, all by itself. Otherwise, she isn't given a great deal to do or say, other than cringe glamorously. In fashion terms, she is rather hampered by her unflattering polo neck, but her pink slacks do come into their own in a crisis (see below).

The little one in the middle is Movie!Susan, usually called Susie, who is Dr Who's other grand-daughter. Whether her surname is also Who, we don't get to hear. Now, your instant reaction may well be to assume that she's going to be a Scrappy-like ten-year-old smartarse, but in fact, she's the brains of this entire film and I won't hear a word said against her. She's even sensible enough to put on a jacket before exploring an alien planet, while Barbara simply clutches herself and wishes she'd brought a cardie.

On the right is Movie!Ian (played by Roy "Record Breakers" Castle), who is introduced as Barbara's boyfriend. Say what you like about this universe, but there's no pussyfooting around with unresolved sexual tension here, no sirree. Ian's "skills" are only two. 1) Prancing about like a ninny, and 2) Falling over. Not surprisingly, he is a constant source of disappointment to Babs, who keeps giving him unimpressed looks.

TARDIS in the garden

Meet TARDIS. Not the TARDIS, if you please: just plain TARDIS. Perhaps taking its lead from Barbara's hairdo, it's unusually bouffant at the top. Charmingly, the lights come on whenever the door is opened, as if it were a giant blue fridge.

The entire plot of the movie is set in motion when Dr Who offers to show Ian his TARDIS and Ian falls over on a big phallic-shaped lever when Barbara grabs him for a snog. Perhaps this incident symbolizes a belief that romance on Doctor Who must inevitably lead to disaster? Whatever the cause, it takes them to a planet full of polystyrene trees, where they find a groovy Dalek city.

Barbara is scared of Dalek decor

The Dalek city is full of random bits of shiny multicoloured tat, because hey, the film-makers have COLOUR and they have chosen to cling to it as the one thing that gives them superiority over television. The CCTV cameras that look like Dalek eyestalks are quite cool, but not as scary and ominous as Barbara's big hair.

Dalek blue collar workers, unite!

It doesn't take long for Team TARDIS to get captured and stuck in a prison cell, but at least they get fed and watered. I do hope they remember to give the Dalek waiter a tip, though. Daleks get VERY tetchy when you forget to include service.

Susan admires the Dalek decor

Meanwhile, it transpires that the Thals have anti-radiation drugs, and the Daleks are looking to get their suckers on some, so they decide to send Movie!Susan out to do it. Sending a ten-year-old girl to score drugs for you: now THAT is evil. Incidentally, the Dalek decor reminds me a bit of Platform One from The End of the World.

Just say no, kids!

This is what anti-radiation drugs look like, by the way -- a selection of pink Smarties in a pregnancy testing kit.

Have some drugs, little girl

Back at the TARDIS, Susan meets David Bowie! No, actually it's a Thal. The first thing he does is apologize for trying to touch Susan in the woods. (No, I am not making this up.) Then he hands over the drugs. Note that TARDIS's control room is a health-and-safety minefield, what with all the trailing wires, gold baubles and large Post-It notes everywhere.

A Thal love-in

When not giving drugs to small girls, the Thals like to sit about in the forest, communing with nature and dreaming of being able to afford shirts.

Take a letter, Miss Who

The Daleks make Movie!Susan write a letter to the Thals, saying "THE. DALEKS. WANT. ONLY. TO. HELP. YOU. AND. BE. FRIENDS." Sadly they don't add "P.S. WE. HAVE. LAVA. LAMPS." I'm sure the Thals would have loved those, what with their propensity for far-out staring into space. Note how Susan is using a souvenir Dalek pencil with a big knob on the end. She later steals this and uses it to break a security camera, which is pretty darn clever of her.

Dr Who needs YOU!

Say what you like about Peter Cushing, he gives good pointy finger.

Lots of Thals

Meanwhile, outside the Dalek city, the Thals are all auditioning for a new series of Skaro's Next Top Model, and are waiting for the Thal chairman to read out the winners. They are disappointed when they find out it's just a note from Dalek High Command, asking where they can score some more of the good stuff.

Daleks like a bit of telly

Whenever it's time to explain the plot, Red Dalek and Black Dalek get most of the lines, which they deliver VE. RY. SLOW. LY. IN. DEED. EV. EN. BY. DA. LEK. STAN. DARDS. Touchingly, they only have eyestalks for each other. Here they look as if they are watching a Dalek soap on TV, but it's just the view from their security cameras.

Dr Who and Ian grope a Dalek

While the Daleks are preoccupied, Team TARDIS escape! First, Dr Who and Ian attack a Dalek by groping it manfully. They are aided in this by Barbara who, in her sole demonstration of independent cleverness, has shoved a handful of chocolate mousse all over its eyestalk.

Go on, wear the costume!

Then Dr Who persuades Ian that climbing into a Dalek suit is a cunning escape strategy, not just a personal kink of his own. They escape from the city, and persuade the Thals to stop having a love-in in the fake forest, and march on the Dalek city instead, hoorah! This provides an ideal cue to show painted-on landscapes, polystyrene cliffs, and tightly clad buttocks.

Bottoms in the wild

From left to right: Ian's bottom, Barbara's bottom, a Thal's bottom. Something for everyone, I'm sure you'll agree. Suddenly the point of Movie!Barbara's pink trousers becomes apparent. It's only a shame that they weren't sparkly.

Meanwhile, back in the Dalek city, Dr Who attempts to talk the Daleks out of killing everyone with a great big bomb.
Dr Who: Why can't you live together in peace and share your knowledge?

See, this is why Daleks can't have nice things. Well, apart from lava lamps.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Then for the big climax, the Thals jump on the Daleks and have an orgy a fight. It all gets rather Journey's End, with everyone pushing Daleks into walls, but fortunately nobody knocks over the lava lamps. Anyway, you'll be glad and not very surprised to hear that the forces of evil do not triumph: the Daleks accidentally shoot out their own power supply (silly Daleks!) and their countdown to bomb-related DOOM is stopped at the last second. Phew!

Ian and the number 3

Here, Ian graphically demonstrates the number of braincells he possesses.

Time to put your slippers on

Amusingly, the first thing that Dr Who does when he gets back to TARDIS is put his slippers on! Now, that's real class. Then the team heads for home, but when Ian opens the doors, what's this?

The Romans are coming!

Oh dear, they seem to be half-buried in the ground (the grass is at waist level, look!) and right in front of an unconvincing film of some Roman soldiers! This finally pushes Ian's sanity over the edge and as he capers around the TARDIS in a daze, both the movie and this recap come to an end. Phew!

If you are at all tempted to view this celluloid wonder yourself, it may be an incentive to learn that the same cheapo DVD set also contains Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., also known as The Second Weird Who Film With Peter Cushing In It, Plus Bonus Bernard Cribbins. With luck, that one will serve the same function as this one, of filling a rainy afternoon in a jolly fashion that makes no requirements on your brainpower. I'll let you know how it goes...

* But if you have any idea what the point actually IS, answers on a postcard, please.
Tags: doctor who, movies
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