So, wait a minute, what happened with the Earth/Draconia war? The Doctor calls the Time Lords and they send him to destroy a Dalek army on another planet… that doesn’t really stop the Master’s cunning plan to provoke galactic hostilities, does it? In hindsight, this rather puts a downer on the previous story – not only was six episodes not enough to wrap that one up properly, but the next six pretty much ignore it too, save for a throwaway line. I guess that’s what happens when you change writers without finishing your own story first. Poor show.
The writer of the very first Dalek story, Terry Nation, heads up this one. On the one hand, it’s a delightful throwback to that first Dalek story, reintroducing the Thals, now generations on and capable of interstellar flight. It even name-drops Ian, Barbara and Susan for that extra bit of nostalgia.
On the other hand, sadly, the story is almost a total retelling on that first one, albeit with the details changed (the planet is different, but there’s a forest, a Dalek ‘city’, a doomsday weapon, and a convenient weakness to exploit) and I never felt the original story was all that strong anyway. Still, there are some interesting ideas, like the invisible inhabitants and a planet filled with a molten icy core that spews out frozen goo like lava. Some of the individual moments are quite good, too, like the air-lift sequence in the vent or the moment when the Dalek army starts waking up. The final episode is fairly exciting as everything comes to a head.
The problem with Dalek stories (as with any ‘superpower’ villain; see also Star Trek’s Borg) is that they can become a bigger and bigger threat, but you then have to write them out somehow without it seeming contrived. Massive armies gearing up for full galactic invasion may sound exciting but you end up stuck in a corner. I much prefer the stories where there is a risk of danger, not an ever-present threat, and in this respect, Planet of the Daleks doesn’t quite succeed where, say, The Power of the Daleks, does.
Alternatively, it might be nice to have a story where the Daleks actually win!