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The Chase (Doctor Who)

The Chase is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from May 22 to June 26, 1965. The story is set on multiple locations including the Mary Celeste, the Empire State Building, and the planet Aridius. The serial marks the last appearance of William Russell and Jacqueline Hill as companions Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright and the introduction of Peter Purves as new companion Steven Taylor.

Plot

Synopsis

In the TARDIS, the four travellers are huddling around the Time-Space Visualiser, a television-like souvenir from their recent adventure at the Space Museum, which can pick up on any event in the whole of time and space. They each choose an event to witness: Ian picks Abraham Lincoln giving his Gettysburg Address; Barbara elects to look into Elizabeth I's court, and sees the genesis of two Shakespeare plays (The Merry Wives of Windsor and Hamlet); and Vicki sees the Beatles performing "Ticket to Ride", but is surprised that they should play "classical music"!

The TARDIS then lands, and the Doctor confirms that the conditions are hospitable. Ian and Vicki leave to explore the desert wilderness, the former entrusted with the "TARDIS magnet" in case they should get lost. Vicki investigates some formations which appear similar to seaweed, which Ian knows is impossible. They then find a trail of what appears to be blood in the sand, which Vicki runs off to follow. As they move off, they do not notice a tentacle rise up from the sand where they were standing.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Barbara are sunbathing. Barbara is distracted by the sound of the Visualizer, which has not been shut off. She sees on it a "broadcast" of the Daleks preparing to give a report. The Doctor enters and hears, to his horror, the Daleks' plan to follow "the enemy time machine" (the TARDIS) to the Sagarro Desert on the planet Aridius. The Dalek Seventh Incursion Squad will take the TARDIS, find the Doctor and his companions, and exterminate them. The Doctor and Barbara watch the Incursion Squad embark and dematerialize. The Doctor immediately realizes that these events happened in the past — the Daleks may already be here. They must find Ian and Vicki and leave immediately.

Tiring from their walk, Ian and Vicki take a rest as the "blood" trail ends. In the sand, they find a large metal ring. At first, Vicki is reluctant to disturb it for fear of what might happen (due in no small part to a similar ring from her childhood). However, they decide they should pull it loose, and Ian duly does just that. At first, nothing happens and they prepare to leave, but then an ancient trap door creaks open in the sand. Vicki and Ian go inside the newly-opened cavern to have a look. Once they are inside the trap door closes behind them: they are trapped — and another tentacle looms out of the darkness. It seems the creatures are everywhere.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Barbara have had no luck finding their friends, night has fallen and the wind has begun to pick up, covering all tracks including their own. They decide to return to the TARDIS, not entirely certain of the direction, as the TARDIS may have been covered by the sand. A sandstorm breaks out which lasts all night. When they awake they see a Dalek, buried by the sandstorm, emerging from the sand. Two other Daleks soon arrive as well. They cannot find the time travellers, but they do locate the TARDIS under the sand and begin to have it dug out by a group of native Aridians, whom they have enslaved. The slave force is exterminated when they are of no further value.

The Doctor and Barbara are saved by other amphibious humanoid Aridians, who explain that Aridius was not always a desert, but that the suns have got nearer the planet and destroyed the seas. Only themselves and the hideous Mire Beasts are left, and the Mire Beasts can only be contained by destroying sections of the Aridian city that have become over-run. The Daleks soon contact the Aridians in the underground city and tell them they will leave Aridius if the Doctor and his party are handed over, and the elders agree to this arrangement. The Aridians also find Vicki and Ian, who were injured when a wall collapsed in an explosion used to kill the Mire Beasts that were threatening them. The Mire Beasts soon reappear, killing the Aridian Malsan who was holding the party prisoner in preparation for the handover. The Doctor and his friends flee in the confusion and manage to evade a Dalek scout and get back to the TARDIS.

There now follows a chase through time and space, with the Dalek vessel determined to track down and exterminate the Doctor and his friends. The Daleks are but fifteen minutes behind and the gap is closing. The first stop is the top of the Empire State Building in New York, where a young man from Alabama, Morton Dill, tells them it is 1966. Fortunately for him, neither the TARDIS nor the Dalek time vessel stays long and his life is not imperilled. The Doctor next reaches the Atlantic Ocean and boards a sailing ship. The crew ventures outside and sees the Daleks arrive and either exterminate the sailing crew or force them into the sea. As the Doctor's TARDIS departs, it is revealed the ship is the legendary Mary Celeste.

The next point of landing is a mysterious old house where both Dracula and Frankenstein's monster have come alive. These terrors stalk the building but also attack the Incursion Squad when they arrive. In the confusion to depart, the Doctor, Ian and Barbara leave Vicki behind, never realising they have simply been visiting a futuristic theme attraction called the Festival of Ghana, in 1996. The Daleks are repelled back into their vessel by the monsters (who are in fact robots), and Vicki stows away aboard the Dalek ship. She travels in it to the jungle world of Mechanus, where the Doctor's TARDIS has already landed.

The Doctor, Ian and Barbara are very sad about Vicki's possible fate at the hands of the Daleks, and blame themselves. They decide their only chance to rescue her is to try and take control of the Daleks' own time vessel. On the Dalek ship, Vicki witnesses the Daleks' Replicator machine in action: an android replica of the Doctor is produced and is programmed to kill the original Doctor and his companions. When the Dalek ship arrives on Mechanus, the robot killer is dispatched. The jungle is also hostile, with large fungoid plants which attack humans and only retreat when exposed to light. The time travellers now split up and Barbara stays behind to protect a machine the Doctor has built to defend them from the Daleks. She encounters the robot Doctor, while Ian and the Doctor are reunited with Vicki, who is hiding in the jungle. After a while the four travellers are reunited and the real Doctor unmasks the robot counterpart, disabling it with his stick.

The Daleks have fallen victim to the planet's fungoid creatures as well and call off their search until the morning, letting the Doctor and his party sleep freely in a nearby cave. In the morning, the Doctor notices that there is vast metal city over the jungle, and they all decide to venture into the structure. Within moments, a robot Mechonoid arrives and invites them into the city. It is obviously armed, but says it means them no harm, so they do as they are bidden and enter the Mechonoid city. Other Mechonoids are there too, as is a dishevelled man named Steven Taylor. He is an astronaut from Earth who crash-landed on the planet two years earlier and has been kept as a prisoner by the Mechonoids since then. The city Mechonoids are colonising robots built to make the city for human colonisers that never arrived, and so their current guests will be kept in the city permanently — Steven has not been permitted to leave.

The Daleks now attack the city, so it is time for action. The Doctor and his party and Steven manage to escape from the city down some cables, while the Mechonoids and Daleks become involved in a pitched battle, as shown in the picture above, which devastates both sides as well as the building. The four companions flee to safety but are separated from Steven, whom they presume to have been killed.

For Ian and Barbara it is decision time. The navigable time machine gives them a chance to get back to modern-day Earth. They find the deserted Dalek time machine and persuade the Doctor to show Ian how to operate it. After a tearful farewell, Ian and Barbara return to their own planet at last — and almost to their own time, being two years out in London of 1965. The machine is destroyed using the auto-destruct mechanism once Barbara and Ian are out of it.

The Doctor and Vicki oversee their farewell on the Time/Space Visualizer, glad they made it, but the Doctor is very sad at the loss. Neither of them notices that a new traveller has sneaked aboard the TARDIS…

Continuity

Daleks

It is not explained how, in this story, the Daleks know of the Doctor, his companions, and the TARDIS, nor the specific reason for the execution mission. However, their robot duplicate believes the Doctor's companions to be Ian, Barbara and Susan, indicating that they have knowledge of the events of the previous story, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but not subsequent stories (such as The Daleks' Master Plan).

This is the first story in which Daleks sport solar panels around their midsections, thus making them energy-independent; this feature would remain throughout the rest of the show's history. In The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the Daleks used dishes to receive energy from a central antenna, and in The Daleks, they drew static electricity from the metal floors of their city.

It is strongly implied in this story that the Daleks have the power of flight; they are seen moving on two levels of the Mary Celeste, and the cliffhanger to the first episode shows a Dalek that has been buried in sand free itself by rising vertically. It would not be until Revelation of the Daleks in 1985 that a Dalek would actually be shown airborne.

This is one of the few Dalek stories to incorporate humour, and is the only story to attempt comical performances from the Daleks, including a stammering Dalek who cannot do simple mental arithmetic.

Production

  • Terry Nation's original title for this story was The Pursuers. There were several changes made from his original proposal in the finished serial. In the original storyline, the TARDIS crew would witness on the visualizer Shakespeare discussing with his wife the possibility of allowing Francis Bacon to use his name on Bacon's plays, as well as a speech by Winston Churchill; Ian and Vicki would see through the sands the vast underground Aridian city; and Ian and Barbara would not return home to Earth at the end of the serial.
  • Some of the Daleks appearing in this serial were created by Shawcraft Models for the Dr. Who and the Daleks film in 1965. Although the plan had been to refurbish them to resemble the television Daleks, this proved to be impractical, and the borrowed Daleks were used only in the background of shots. As The Chase was broadcast before the movie was released, this marks the first appearance of the movie Daleks.
  • The shots of Ian and Barbara on Earth in the final episode were made during shooting for the next story, The Time Meddler, and were directed by that serial's director, Douglas Camfield.
  • The clip of The Beatles singing Ticket to Ride is taken from an episode of Top of the Pops from 15 April 1965. In an unusual twist, the original version of the performance has now been junked, and the only surviving footage is the 25 seconds on the episode of Doctor Who.

Casting

  • Morton Dill, the young man from Alabama whom the travellers meet at the top of the Empire State Building, was played by Peter Purves, who would appear in the last episode as Steven Taylor.
  • Earlier drafts of the story used the names "Bruck" and "Michael" for the character of the captured astronaut, before settling on "Steven".
  • The story also features The Beatles in a film clip. It was originally planned for the band to appear as themselves, but under heavy "aging" make-up, to represent themselves in the future; but their manager, Brian Epstein, objected to them appearing on the programme. Thus, footage from the BBC pop music music chart programme Top of the Pops of the group performing "Ticket to Ride" was used instead.

Reception

According to the BBC's Audience Research Report, contemporary reception of this serial was mostly positive. Though a significant minority found the "haunted house" action of the episode "Journey into Terror" ludicrous, most reported finding the episode very entertaining. The battle between the Daleks and Mechonoids in the final episode of the serial, "The Planet of Decision", was particularly well-received, with viewers describing it as "dramatic" and "full of adventure".

Commercial releases

  • In 1966, audio of the final episode was edited together with new narration (provided by David Graham) and released on a 33 r.p.m. vinyl album by Century 21 Records in the UK and by Astor Records in Australia.
  • This story was released alongside Remembrance of the Daleks in a special Dalek tin set on VHS in 1993 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Doctor Who.
  • A DVD release is expected in 2009.

In print

A novelisation of this serial, written by John Peel, was published by Target Books in July 1989. It was the first of several Dalek story novelisations Peel would write after Target came to an agreement with Terry Nation's estate.

Because many of the changes made to Nation's original proposal were for timing and budgetary reasons, rather than artistic ones, Peel restored most of Nation's original ideas in his novelization. The one exception was omitting the fifty-year reunion of the Beatles, since by the time Peel came to write the novel, Beatle John Lennon had been killed.

Footnotes

References

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External links

Reviews

Target novelisation

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