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Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.
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by Jay Seaver

"Sometimes, you need to go to another doctor."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: I'm curious what would have happened had "Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D." been the hit its producers had hoped for. Would the "Dr. Who" film series have overshadowed the television series, or would they have boosted each other? Would it have moved on from Peter Cushing in the same way the character was reinvented every few years on television? No way to tell; this second film in the franchise was the last to be produced for theaters until 2013's "Day of the Doctor", which was part of the original series rather than an offshoot. Like its predecessor "Dr. Who and the Daleks", it's a fun alternate take on the series and not a bad Sixties sci-fi movie in its own right.

Once again, Dr. Who (Cushing) is taking his time-and-space machine built into a police call box out for a new adventure, this time heading for 2150 AD with granddaughter Susan (Roberta Tovey), niece Louise (Jill Curzon), and Tom (Bernard Cribbins), a policeman who thought he was jumping into an ordinary phone booth. Once then, though, they find that the planet has been invaded by the Daleks, cruel aliens so encased in armor that they look like robots. They are occupying London and enslaving humans, either to work in a nearby mine or as "Roboman" enforcers, though there is also a dogged resistance.

The movie starts with a cold opening that the current iteration of the television series would really tip their caps to - start looking like a cops-and-robbers movie, throw the main character for a loop when he stumbles into something strange, sending the action off in another direction. Things continue in that same vein in the future, with director Gordon Flemyng keeping the script by Milton Subotsky (adapting Terry Nation's original BBC teleplays) moving at a brisk pace, especially while concentrating on action that is fairly intense for being intended for kids. Flemyng and company single a bit later on when they veer into slapstick territory; it's well-executed but arguably misplaced in a movie that had been driving forward at a good clip. There's also a sense that Subotsky struggled in the second half, when one can see characters and subplots being added and just a as quickly discarded (perhaps a remnant of the original serial structure) while plot holes are waved away a bit too vigorously.

It's a rather nice-looking movie for the time, not necessarily going in for a lot of visual effects, but having good enough design that is not too much of a problem that the new DCP made for the first movie's fiftieth anniversary let's one see the strings holding the Dalek flying saucer up far more clearly than the old DVD did. The production design crew is actually fairly stingy on futuristic details - London in 2150 looks an awful lot like London in 1966 - but it works, helping the audience focus on the devastation of the Dalek invasion (especially if parents were telling the kids in the audience that it reminded them off the war). It allows the Robomen to retain some of their horror even if their design has aged into kitsch, while the Daleks remain impressively alien, even if placing them in Earthly environments makes them rather less frightening.

Along with the Daleks, Peter Cushing and Roberta Tovey return from the first film, and is a bit odd that while Cushing would only sign on for a second film I'd he got to work with his on-screen granddaughter again, the two characters are actually separated early and reunited late. Cushing's take remains an entertaining alternate version of the character, an absent-minded professor still firmly rooted in the franchise's origins as children's programming, and he plays that affability up whenever he on screen (which is less than one might hope; he was sick during the shoot, necessitating some occasionally awkward work-arounds). Tovey remains one of the genre's more appealing kids sidekicks, playing Susan as precocious without making her annoying. Bernard Cribbins winds up carrying much of the film on his back, but he's up to it, making Tom amusingly out of his element but still capable of being a capable man of action.

Despite this film being entertaining enough, there would be no further sequels - then, as now, it was better to exceed low expectations than fail to meet higher ones, even if the end result was about the same. And perhaps this is for the best; not only because the "real" Doctor Who has evolved into bigger and better things over its multiple lives, but because this version remains frozen as a colorful 1960s artifact that reminds fans of h how there's not necessarily one right way to play an idea out.

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originally posted: 03/24/15 13:34:54
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2015 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 20-Nov-2001

  05-Aug-1966 (U)

  N/A (PG)

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