Dr. Who and The Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. are the only two feature-length Dr. Who films—and let’s just say that Dr. Who fans are not the biggest enthusiasts about these. There are Daleks, and the TARDIS, and a character called Dr. Who, but it’s not quite right. The lead is a doctor, who is known as Dr. Who, but it’s not clear that he’s actually a Time Lord even though he travels through time and space. You end up saying “What is this?”—and they are definitely not considered part of the Dr. Who canon.
In both films, “Dr. Who” is played by Peter Cushing, who had actually been offered the role for the TV serials after the first Doctor had left the show, but turned it down. Cushing does what he can with the role. I don’t know how much he liked the character. They are both based on TV serials but condensed to an 80-minute film with the pace tightened up, plus some liberties with the story and the characters. Cushing’s character is more of a human scientist who has invented a time and space machine (the TARDIS). The second film is the better one, and closer to the usual Dr. Who components.
In the first film, Dr. Who and The Daleks , Dr. Who ends up on this planet called Skaro with three accomplices: two of his granddaughters and the boyfriend of the older granddaughter. Typically Dr. Who does not have a family in the serials, although he does in “The Daleks,” the serial on which this film is based; however, here one is younger than on the serials. Susan, the youngest granddaughter, is played in both films by Roberta Tovey. Susan is actually quite an interesting character, because she really wants to go on the adventure, while the grown-ups are more unwilling participants in the adventures in time and space. This film is based on the second serial of the series’s first run.
While the filmmakers licensed the Dr. Who characters from the BBC, they did not also get the iconic theme from Delia Derbyshire, one of the important and influential electronic musicians of all time. Therefore the film opens with a groovy ‘60s soundtrack by Barry Gray, who did lots of soundtrack work for Gerry Anderson.
The first film was clearly more low-budget than the second, but the Daleks are of course awesome and there are some beautiful matte paintings. The design for the Daleks in both films have ended up being quite influential on the modern versions, since they were in colourful and were therefore looked at as source material. From the 2005 revival on, you can see the inspiration taken from these films. The planet is cool, and the designs of the people living on it are pretty hilarious—it’s just very heavy eye makeup on both male and female Thals, the people who the Daleks have repressed. The budget for blue eyeshadow must have been impressive!
The second film, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD, is a bit more interesting story-wise. It’s one of those British science-fiction films from the 1960s that’s basically a “what if the Nazis had won the war?” movie, but with Daleks. It’s based on the second serial of the second Dr. Who run. It feels a little more like a Dr. Who story, because they do actually go to a different place and time. Here Cushing also feels more like the “real” Dr. Who.
The storyline is a little darker, but there is some unnecessary slapstick comedy thrown in that hasn’t aged well. This may have been to help promote the cereal Sugar Puffs, which was incorporated into what you see on screen in an early example of product placement. There was a competition along with the film release to win a Dalek by buying Sugar Puffs,
Milton Subotsky, an American screenwriter and co-founder of Amicus, wrote both scripts. Both are directed by Gordon Flemyng, who mainly worked on British television shows like The Avengers and The Saint. He is actually the father of the actor Jason Flemyng.
Both films were made by Amicus under another name, which had bought the right to make three Dr. Who films from the Daleks creator Terry Nation and the BBC—for just 500 pounds! They would have done the third film based on “The Chase,” the eighth serial, if these had been bigger hits.
The films each come in 4K UHD collectors editions, or in steelbooks. The Dalekmania documentary is on both releases. For both releases there is an audio commentary with Kim Newman plus screenwriter/writer Robert Shearman and actor/writer Mark Gatiss. Dr. Who and the Daleks also includes an audio commentary with actors Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey, who played the granddaughters, plus two new featurettes (The Dalek Legacy: Destination Skaro and Restoring Dr. Who in 4K). The two packages are filled out with additional interviews, original trailers and stills galleries. If you buy the big box sets, you get a big booklet, a comic-book replica, a collectable coin, postcards, posters, etc.