An Unearthly Child got some interest in the new show, but only limited interest to be truthful. All that was to change with the following 7 episode story The Daleks.
The TARDIS crew land on an alien world and are unaware that the ship's radiation detector is registering danger. Outside they find a petrified forest, a dead world. Except, perhaps, for a glittering city. Barbara and Ian want to get back to Earth 1963, but the TARDIS is erratic, the Doctor cannot steer it - this becomes an underlying plot line to many of these early episodes and also becomes a characteristic feature of the TARDIS.
The Doctor is all for investigating the city and so he pretends a mercury filled fluid link in the ship is not working; they must go to the city in order to get more mercury. Susan is touched on her shoulder in the petrified forest; there is life there, but what sort? The creature leaves drugs outside the TARDIS, though.
Down in the city, the crew meet the inhabitants: pepper pot looking, machine creatures, with a sink plunger arm, a ray gun and an eye stalk. They are held captive and discover they have radiation sickness. Susan is allowed out to get the drugs, but because the creatures want those anti-radiation drugs. Back at the TARDIS she meets Alydon, a human looking creature called a Thal. The Thals once fought the city creatures, called Daleks, in a terrible war, which is why the planet is a dead wasteland. The Thals are farmers who are desperate for food because of a drought. They hope the Daleks can help them. The TARDIS crew begin to query the nature of their captors and escape. The Daleks set a trap, killing the Thal leader, which our escapees try to prevent. Back in the petrified forest we learn that the Daleks are evil; but what is more, Ian has had the fluid link confiscated, making escape impossible for the crew. Some Daleks die from the Thal drug and so the Daleks conclude they must release more radiation because they are reliant on it to live. the Doctor, companions and Thals must take the Dalek city. They win in the end by shutting off the Daleks' power source.
The Daleks are the quintessential monster in Doctor Who. The TV ratings for these episodes shot up, reaching the 10 million mark. Terry Nation created the evil pepper pots. (He also wrote other great programmes like "The Survivors" and "Blakes 7".) His legendary monster resulted in 1960s Dalek mania. Such was the popularity, two Dalek fims were made in the mid-60s, starring Peter Cushing as Doctor Who. The films were remakes of this story and the next season episode The Dalek Invasion of Earth. The male companions in those films were the late children's entertainer and record breaker Roy Castle and Bernard Cribbins, respectively. Cribbins, which I thought was nice, returned in newer episodes of Doctor Who as Donna Noble's grandfather - also battling Daleks.
The Daleks capture, without a doubt, all the fear of nuclear war - something the world had possibly been on the brink of during the Cuban Missle Crisis. Whilst not so obvious in this story, the Daleks drew inspiration from the Nazis, their extermination of Jews and their vile race theory.
The first episode is really atmospheric, the petrified forest looks suitably alien, leading up to that classic cliffhanger where Barbara is trapped against a wall, screaming, as we see the shot of a sink plunger move towards her. We get the first propoer glimpse of the Daleks in episode 2. It is what I call "a who moment" - a scene in the show that is simply head and shoulders above other scenes, thus one I would pick for a clip show. Walking out of a room, Susan, the Doctor and Ian find themselves surrounded by Daleks. We hear that metallic, grating voice and see Ian get shot as he tries to run. The Dalek appendages bristle, making them look alive - that was something lacking in later Dalek stories.
The Daleks are just evil from start to end. The good thing is they are devious and cunning, not one dimensional baddies - they would become so later, though. Their demise is unsatisfactory and the Thals irritate a bit. I, like many others, find the later episodes drag on a bit; there is a seemingly never ending trek to the Dalek city.
Bill Hartnell makes one almighty gaff in this. When Carole is back with the Thal drugs he presumes they are anti-radiation gloves. William, Jacqueline and Carole act appropriately. Hartnell quickly corrects himself by saying the correct "drugs" for gloves. The Hartnell era is full of these fluffs. I don't mind them as they are very funny. Part of it was due to the way they made shows back then. They filmed and wrote week in and week out. With such a breakneck speed there was little time for re-shooting and such. Season 1 ran from 23 November 1963 til 12 September 1964; and season 2 started a mere few weeks later! It was only by the time Jon Pertwee had the tenure of Doctor that the show would have a half year between seasons. There are numerous episodes when one of the characters doen't appear at all; the reason being the actor was on holiday. A sadder reason for Hartnell's fluffs was he was developing atriosclerosis.
Apropos electronica, the late Tristram Cary provided incidental music for this story; it's great stuff.
All in all, the Daleks is a good story, which could have been terrific at say 5 episodes in length. It owes much to the monsters in it. ******