Dr. Who and the Daleks

Dr. Who and the Daleks is a 1965 British science fiction film directed by Gordon Flemyng and written by Milton Subotsky, and the first of two films based on the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who. It stars Peter Cushing as Dr. Who, Roberta Tovey as Susan, Jennie Linden as Barbara, and Roy Castle as Ian. It was followed by Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966).

Dr. Who and the Daleks
Original theatrical banner
Directed byGordon Flemyng
Produced by
Screenplay byMilton Subotsky
Based onThe Daleks
by Terry Nation
Music by
CinematographyJohn Wilcox
Edited byOswald Hafenrichter
Distributed byRegal Films International
Release date
  • 23 August 1965 (1965-08-23)
Running time
82 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom

The story is based on the Doctor Who television serial The Daleks, produced by the BBC. Filmed in Technicolor, it is the first Doctor Who story to be made in colour and in a widescreen format. The film was not intended to form part of the ongoing story-lines of the television series. Elements from the programme are used, however, such as various characters, the Daleks and a police box time machine, albeit in re-imagined forms.


Dr. Who, his granddaughters Susan and Barbara, and Barbara's boyfriend Ian are accidentally transported to another planet by Dr. Who's latest invention, a time and space machine called Tardis.

While exploring, the travellers see a city in the distance. They also find a small container of drugs which they take aboard Tardis. Wishing to investigate further, Dr. Who fakes a leak in a fluid link, a vital component of Tardis, to ensure that the group will go to the city to search for the mercury supposedly needed to refill the component. Once in the city they are captured by cyborg creatures which refer to themselves as "Daleks", who seize the fluid link for examination. Dr. Who then realises that the group have contracted radiation sickness, and that the drugs they discovered earlier may be their only hope of survival.

While covertly observing the captives, the Daleks discuss their own plight. They are trapped inside their metal casings, and within the city, by the radiation. They wish to leave so that they can destroy all other life and claim the planet for themselves. Hearing the captives discussing the drugs, the Daleks make a proposal to them. If the humans bring the drugs they found to them, they will allow them enough to treat themselves. Susan goes, being the only one still strong enough to undertake the task.

Reaching Tardis Susan collects the drugs and then encounters Alydon, leader of the Thals, a species that fought the Daleks in an atomic war centuries previously. Alydon gives Susan a second container of anti-radiation drugs to use if the Daleks fail to keep their promise.

When Susan returns the Daleks discover the second drug supply, but allow the humans to treat themselves with it. Susan explains to her companions that, according to Alydon, the Thal crops have failed and they have come to the Dalek city, hoping to trade the anti-radiation drug formula for food. Again overhearing this conversation, the Daleks decide that they don’t need the Thals now that they have a sample of the drug. They get Susan to write a letter which they will leave for the Thals, stating that they will provide food, to be collected from the city, as an act of friendship. When Susan finishes the letter, the Daleks reveal that they plan to kill all of the Thals when they arrive.

When a Dalek enters their cell the travellers manage to disable it. Once free, they are able to warn the Thals who are entering the city, and escape with them into the jungle. The Daleks then test the Thal anti-radiation drug but find that it causes disastrous side effects. Thwarted, they decide to detonate a neutron bomb to increase the planet’s radiation to a level which even the Thals cannot survive.

Back at the Thal camp, Dr. Who realises that the travellers are trapped on the planet as the Daleks still have the fluid link, and he will need the Thals’ help to recover it. He urges Alydon to fight the Daleks to save his species but he refuses, insisting that the Thals are now peaceful. In response, Dr. Who pretends to order Ian to take a Thal woman to the Daleks in exchange for the confiscated component. Horrified, Alydon attacks Ian, then realises that the Thals can fight for things they care about. Alydon, Dr. Who and Susan then lead the Thals in an attack on the city, but the Daleks repel the assault and Dr. Who and Susan are recaptured.

Meanwhile Ian, Barbara and a small group of Thals infiltrate the Dalek city from the rear. Once inside they join the rest of the Thals, who have mounted a frontal assault to rescue Dr. Who and Susan. The Thals and humans enter the control room, where the Daleks have started the bomb countdown. During the ensuing struggle the Daleks inadvertently destroy their main control console, which kills them by cutting their power and stops the bomb detonation.

Back in the jungle, with the fluid link recovered, the travellers depart in Tardis to return home.



  • Amicus bought an option to make the story and two sequels from Terry Nation and the BBC for £500.[2]
  • Principal photography commenced at Shepperton Studios, England in April 1965 and took six weeks.
  • The film was produced on a budget of £180,000.[3]
  • Although the planet on which the action takes place is not named in the film, it is retroactively identified as Skaro in the sequel, matching the name given in the television series.
  • The actor Barrie Ingham discussed the production in an interview in Australia in 1976 for the Doctor Who fanzine Zerinza.[4]
  • In 1995, a documentary about the two Dalek films, Dalekmania, was released on video. It revealed details about the productions, spin-offs, and publicity campaigns.[5] It was later included as an extra in many of the home media video releases of the two Dalek films.

Dalek props

The Daleks were redesigned slightly for the film. They had larger base sections, which made them taller and more imposing than the TV Daleks,[6] which were only about five feet high. They had large, red dome lights and some were fitted with a two-jawed mechanical claw instead of a plunger. They also had more colourful paint schemes. Standard Daleks had blue domes, skirt balls and fenders, and gold collars. A Dalek leader was painted predominantly black and a second-in-command in red.

Originally the Daleks were to be armed with flamethrowers, but these were vetoed on health and safety grounds and because they were considered too frightening for a young audience.[6] Instead, the guns produced jets of CO2 gas from internally mounted fire extinguishers. Some of the Daleks used in the background for crowd scenes were constructed from moulded fibreglass, and can be distinguished by the slightly different shape of the collars around their midsections.

Three of the movie Daleks were rented by the BBC and used in the serial The Chase. As the film was not released until after The Chase was screened, this television appearance is the first occasion that these props were seen by the public.

Tie-in products and later coverage

  • Souvenir Press published a tie-in colouring book for children in 1965, with colour photographic illustrations from the film on both the front and rear covers.
  • Dell Comics published a comic book adaptation of the film in 1966.
  • From 1965 to 1967, the TV Century 21 comic featured a one-page Dalek comic strip. From January 1966 onward artists Eric Eden and Ron Turner depicted the Daleks using elements from the film design, including mechanical claws and large bases and dome lights. During the run of the strip the comic cover often featured colour photographs from the films and references to Daleks. It also produced articles about the Daleks and the films, and in Issue 28, published 28 July 1965, ran a competition with three actual film prop Daleks, plus 450 items of other Dalek merchandise, offered as prizes.
  • In January 1984, an article about the two Dalek films appeared in Doctor Who Monthly containing production information, photographs and interviews.[7] Another article about the films appeared in the 1995 Spring Special edition of Doctor Who Magazine.
  • In the 2005 film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (co-written by long-time Doctor Who contributor Bob Baker), a marquee is briefly seen advertising Dr. Hoe and the Garlics, a reference to this film.
  • In the novelisation of the Doctor Who episode The Day of the Doctor, Kate Stewart reveals to Clara Oswald that the movies were inspired by the Doctor's actual adventures, that the Doctor loaned Cushing one of his coats and that the two were "great friends".[8]

Release and reception

The film premiered in London on 23 August 1965.[5]

Marketing and box-office

As part of the promotional campaign, a number of Daleks were displayed at the 1965 Cannes film festival.[9] Single Daleks were also sent further afield, one making an appearance at a cinema in Sydney, Australia.

The film was the twentieth biggest British box office moneymaker in 1965. It did not perform as well in the US, however, where the Doctor Who television series and the Daleks were relatively unknown.[2]

Critical response

Halliwell's Film Guide described the film as "limply put together, and only for indulgent children".[10] John Clute, in the 1995 book Science Fiction :The Illustrated Encyclopedia, gives the film one star out of three and states "Many people would like to see the [Doctor Who] television series back; few mourn the long-gone films".[11] Alan Jones of Radio Times was more favourable, awarding the film three stars out of five and stating "this spin-off lacks the bite and inventiveness that set the landmark series apart, unwisely injecting humour into the sparse scenario, and the cheap art direction is strictly '101 Uses for Pink Plastic Sheeting'. However, despite the many faults, it's still a fun ride for both the uninitiated and die-hard fans alike".[12]

In The Guardian in 2013, Stuart Heritage stated: "Cushing does his best, but he's not exactly given a lot to work with." He described the Daleks as "so pointlessly toothless here" and also criticised the "incredibly tedious" amount of Dalek dialogue to explain their motives, the portrayal of the Thals, and Roy Castle's performance, saying "to call him hammy would be to provide the greatest disservice to pigs."[13] Andrew Nette of the British Film Institute stated the film was "widely derided by many fans and critics", adding it is "certainly an uneven affair. Some scenes [...] still have the capacity to thrill. Others, like the final victory over the Daleks, feel rushed and flat. The Doctor's granddaughters are largely one-dimensional... The aspect of the movie that most antagonises purists is Cushing's Doctor." Nette described the film as having a "wonderfully pulpy sci-fi atmosphere", saying: "The highlight of the movie is its look... Many of the sets [...] are impressive" and "the movie Daleks are more impressive than their small screen counterparts".[6]


According to the BFI, the Cushing films "are often forgotten in the Doctor Who pantheon".[6] Similarly, Stuart Heritage commented in The Guardian in 2013 that "people don't talk about Dr Who and the Daleks any more".[13] In 1975, actor Tom Baker, who was playing the Fourth Doctor in the television series, commented on the flaws of the film and its sequel while discussing another proposed Doctor Who film, saying "There have been two Doctor Who films in the past, both rather poor... There are many dangers in transporting a television series onto the big screen... a lot of things that you could get away with on the small screen wouldn't wash in the cinema."[14]

Home media

Super 8 film

  • Released in the UK by Walton Sound and Film Services in 1977.


  • Released in the UK by Thorn EMI in 1982 and by Warner Home Video in 1988 and 1996.
  • Released in the US by Thorn EMI in 1985, by GoodTimes Home Video in 1989 and by Lumiere in 1994.
  • Released in Australia by Universal in 1990.


  • Both films, plus the Dalekmania documentary, released in the US by Anchor Bay Entertainment as a boxset in 2001 and by Lionsgate as a two-disc set in 2012.
  • Both films, plus the Dalekmania documentary, released in Australia by Studiocanal as a two-disc boxset in 2001.
  • Both films, plus the Dalekmania documentary, released in the UK by Studiocanal as a two-disc boxset in 2002 and 2006.


  • The film, plus the Dalekmania documentary, released in the UK by Studiocanal in 2013.
  • Both films, released in the UK by Studiocanal as a two-disc box set in 2013.
  • Released in the UK by Studiocanal as a Zavi exclusive ‘Steelbook’ limited edition in 2015.


  • Music from both films was released by Silva Screen Records on a CD entitled Dr. Who & the Daleks in 2009 and on a limited edition double vinyl LP in 2016.
  • Selected tracks from both films released by Silva Screen Records as a limited edition 7" EP in 2011.


  1. "Dr. Who and the Daleks (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 16 June 1965. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  2. Bryce, Allan, ed. (2000). Amicus: The Studio That Dripped Blood. Stray Cat Publishing. pp. 32–36. ISBN 978-0-95332-613-6.
  3. O'Brien, Steve (26 May 2013). "The Dalek Movies". GamesRadar. FutureUS, Inc. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  4. Howe, Antony (1977). "Interview: Barry Ingham". Zerinza. Antony Howe (5/6).
  5. Kevin Davies (director), John Farbrother (producer), Nick Elborough (editor) (24 July 1995). Dalekmania (Video). Lumiere Films. ASIN B00008T63Q. LUM2221.
  6. Andrew Nette (2015). "Doctor who? Peter Cushing's Dr Who and the Daleks turns 50". British Film Institute. British Film Institute. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  7. Holliss, Richard (January 1984). "The Dalek Movies". Doctor Who Monthly. Marvel UK (84): 20–34.
  8. Jeffrey, Morgan (6 April 2018). "New Doctor Who novel confirms that Peter Cushing is canonical - sort of". Digital Spy. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  9. "The golden age of the Cannes Film Festival". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  10. Walker, John (1998). Halliwell's Film Guide (13 ed.). HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00638-868-5.
  11. Clute, John (1995). Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia (1 ed.). Dorling Kindersley. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-77157-317-0.
  12. Jones, Alan. "Doctor Who and the Daleks". Radio Times. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  13. Heritage, Stuart (23 November 2013). "Dr Who and the Daleks recap: the non-canon version with doddery Doctor". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  14. John Kenneth Muir (2008). A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television. McFarland and Co. p. 407. ISBN 978-0786437160.
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