a form of electricity we know nothing of

i. the van
my family lived in a tiny flat crammed inside a roomy educational institution far out in the country: until i wz five (1965), the only transport was the staff van (actually there were two, white bedford vans, for taking students to relevant marshes or mountains or woods, or just to and from the station at start and finish of their course); and until i wz seven (1967) the only TV wz downstairs in the staffroom… which means that the first DR WHO scene i remember i must have seen down in the staffroom. i remember it bcz it featured a white bedford van, being driven by a rebel, with the doctor’s grand-daughter susan, being chased through a wood by the huge, looming dalek flying saucer — at the last possible moment they jump out and hide in rhododendrons as the van is blasted to nothing… when a staff-member went shopping in the van, i often got to ride along, strapped into the vast three-person passenger seat: in summer we drove with the doors slid open, and i watched the roadwise flashing by between my feet. it wz all very grown-up and exciting, and i wd eye the sky slyly also, alert to be first to spot the flying saucer and calculating how much time we’d need to leap free and skitter to the safety of the rhododendrons (in Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD, the film version of the original tv series, the van is NOT a white bedford van sadly)

(like this except white)

ii. dreams of the blitz
the backdrop to Invasion Earth is a bomb-shattered London, a notion probably more powerful to the young (and not so young) adults involved with the film than we quite take account of, moaning a bit complacently after the fact about the clumsiness and inattention and plain lack of RESPECT the movie shows for the “idea of dr who” blah blah: after all, some reaches of london still lay bomb-shattered into the late 70s… what seems to have worked into the heads of at least sme of the actors is the following question: HOW WOULD BRITONS HAVE REACTED IF THE NAZIES HAD INVADED AND TAKEN OVER? yes yes a fierce indomitable patriotic resistance movement, this goes without saying: but of course the meatier invention happens in the area of collaboration and treachery, and the two best characters are loyal to no one but themselves, committed to their own survival above all, and thus – as played – unreadably ambiguous: the great Philip Madoc’s leather-coated spiv, sinister and unflappably amused, and Sheila Steafel’s “Young Woman”, who works with her mum near the dalek mining project mending clothes for their slaves, and turns Susan and the rebel in for food: so far so standard-issue desperate, but as the dalek leads them away, she suddenly grins and giggles: “They wanted to go to the Dalek mines anyway!” And here for a moment well into a film w/o many emotional surprises to speak of, you feel yrself far far out on the ice of human behaviour, spinning and slipping uncontrollably, confronted with something frightening and true and unaccountable…

iii. the dalek in the thames
daleks were a bit unavoidable in the mid-60s if you were a kid, and i honestly don’t remember when i first saw them (possibly an episode of Dr Duck and the Duck-Leks, in Titch and Kwackers) or what i thought of them (i also remember a cousin having a large and intricate dalek-shaped bath-sponge, which i STILL covet): what’s fun abt the dalek emerging from the thames is that it DOES fuck a little bit w.yr expectation, at least if you’d been paying attention in the earlier movie – they travel by static electricity (“of a form we don’t understand”) hence IN the river is NOT where they’re likely to be lurking… not that this movie ever rises to any such sinister playfulness again,. at least at directorial/designated WhoFoe level. Cushing tamps down his cute goofiness, becoming merely boring, an onlooker in his own adventure until the frankly idiotic ending: but here, momentarily, as the dalek rises from the waters, he is dumb-struck and out of his depth and at most a hapless catalyst. It’s abominably realised but it’s the deepest reading, all the same.

ALL of dr who is abt the swirling together of times past and times future to illuminate time present, and the adventures time present (= US, his companions) have discovering what their perspective is on these futures and these pasts. So far so obvious i guess. The vast wrinkle in all this that the story also now extrudes back into its OWN considerable real-time past (and presumably forward into a distant-ish future, too). Cushing “explains” matters to Cribbins thus: “you see, time is the fourth dimension and space is the fifth!” A prophetic bit of script-writer carelessness: this Dr doesn’t have a CLUE (but that’s perhaps as it should be). I always parsed it thus: TARDIS = T&(RDIS) but i think it’s actually (T&RD)IS. The “relative dimensions” being other kinds of TIME: space (as it happens) can look after itself…