Sunday, March 10, 2019

Only Fur can be Seen in the Jungle

DOCTOR: "Well, Jo? Do I pass?" JO GRANT: "You'll do. In a pinch." Get a room, you two. It's not clear why the Spiridons, the indigenous inhabitants of the world featured in Planet of the Daleks, must wear these furry purple cloaks. They're naturally invisible but it seems like they could've been forced to wear something much duller by their Dalek enslavers. I'm not really complaining, it looks really cosy.

This six part Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) Doctor Who serial from 1973 was written by Dalek creator Terry Nation, the first he'd written since the First Doctor era. As part of a larger sequence of linked serials that began with the six part Frontier in Space, the characteristic differences in Nation's writing are marked. Planet of the Daleks has been called a reworking of the first Dalek serial, The Daleks, written by Nation, and there are many reminiscent elements of that serial, welcome ones in my opinion.

I love how much the flora and fauna of the alien planet impact the story, for example. Alien planets too often become interchangeable quarries, here the Doctor, Jo, and their Thal allies must contend with spores that cause irremovable grime to spread over their targets and sinister, glowing eyes and growls from the dark.

Jo (Katy Manning), having been hit by one of those spores, is saved by a floating medicine bowl that turns out to be a Spiradon sans purple fur. The element of fantastic in the serial has a fabulous late 60s/early 70s quality and I do love it so.

When the Doctor and some Thals infiltrate the Dalek base, he throws the purple fur over a double breasted, burgundy velvet sport coat and bow tie with muted green and burgundy. I love that he takes a moment to change into this outfit at the beginning of the serial when the TARDIS is malfunctioning and running out of air. He changes from an all green outfit that would've provided perfect camouflage, even if it was too dressy, into something that sticks out like a sore thumb. But wear the same outfit for two serials? Three knows that would certainly never do. The Daleks would never understand such sartorial sensitivity. Well, we heard in the Tenth Doctor era a Dalek proclaim they have no concept of elegance.

Many developments in Planet of the Daleks depend on the non-Daleks making decisions influenced by love and fear, emotions the Daleks deem useless. The Doctor gets captured in a hasty, obviously futile attempt to save Jo from getting blasted and he's imprisoned with a Thal soldier. The two have a nice conversation about bravery which would be echoed later in the Twelfth Doctor era.

"Courage isn't just a matter of not being frightened, you know," the Doctor says to the Thal who's worried about controlling his own fear. "It's being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway."

This serial also marks the first time the Thals, the ancient enemies of the Daleks, appeared on the show since the first Dalek serial. Sadly no longer wearing their skimpy foam Y outfits. Wouldn't it be great if they brought those back in the new series? I might as well dream big.

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