Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

This classic episode of Doctor Who, “The Dalek Invasion of Earth,” featured (as the title indicates) the return of the Daleks. When Ian said he thought they had destroyed the Daleks on Skaro, the Doctor pointed out that that was at a different time, presumably in the future, while the Daleks clearly had spread elsewhere prior to that. This device would allow for enemies to return time and again. Having “defeated” the Daleks or the Cybermen or the Master on one occasion wouldn’t be decisive, not only because they might find a way to reappear, but also because it would as a rule be possible to encounter them at an “earlier” point from those enemies’ perspective.

Because at this stage in the history of the show, one simply saw a name for each part and not of an overarching story, the viewer didn’t know that the Daleks were on Earth until the very end of the first part. The episode did a great job of creating a sense of growing menace: a sign prohibiting the dumping of bodies in the river, a London that was in a state of decay and eerily silent, without even the chimes of Big Ben.

For a show with a limited budget, the episode does quite a good job of giving the impression that most of the action is taking place in a largely deserted London.

The story is quite compelling, and still enjoyable even for viewers today.

The most famous element, and one that it is interesting to reflect on in light of the show’s subsequent development of the time lord mythos, is that in this episode the Doctor says goodbye to his granddaughter Susan, who has fallen in love with a man who was part of the human resistance against the Daleks. This was the first time a major character, one of the Doctor’s regular companions since the first episode, departed from the show.

It is crucial to remember that at this point, we knew nothing of time lords, of different biology such as two hearts, of Gallifrey, or of regeneration. If Susan stayed behind, would she have children that were half time-lord? Would Susan regenerate, and if so, what would the result be for her relationship with David? Would she ever find a way back to Gallifrey, and if so, what would the consequences be? The Doctor says in this episode, echoing the very first episode of the first season, that one day he would return to Susan, just as one day they would return to their home time and civilization.

Although the Doctor would later say that he “borrowed” the TARDIS to go exploring, and to run away, there have been many hints that there is more to it than that. Presumably the fuller story will explain why he was on the run with his granddaughter but not the rest of his family (and some novels and fan fiction has tried to fill in some of this story in the past).

Perhaps the story of Susan will see some further exploration in the 50th anniversary special(s)? It seems only fitting that the Doctor would take River Song to meet Susan. And of course, let’s not forget that Susan makes an appearance in “The Five Doctors.”

If you are a fan of the show, what do you think happened to Susan, and what do you think the show might explore regarding her story in the future?

  • tg p

    My theory is that Susan was recalled, like all Time Lords, to fight in the Time War and thus is Time Locked along with the rest of Gallifrey.

  • Chris Sissons

    “the viewer didn’t know that the Daleks were on Earth until the very end of the first part”

    I must have been 9 or 10 years old when I saw these episodes.  We knew the daleks were coming back – they were incredibly popular and the hype was comparable to anything we see today.  Indeed I remember ‘Points of View’ (viewers’ letters) where people complained that we saw only one dalek at the end of the spisode!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    tg p, that’s an interesting idea, and it occurred to me that the woman who appeared in The End of Time could have been Susan, although most have thought it was supposed to be the Doctor’s mother (not that both couldn’t be true, with the right time travel paradox!)

    Chris, thank you so much for sharing your memory of when the episode aired! Things like that are what you miss, just watching it so much later on DVD. 

    • Alfred Vickers

      But if Susan was the Doctor’s mother as well, that would be very creepy. Anyway, I think Susan could have started a family with David. If so, and if she was recalled back to Gallifrey during the Time War, I wonder what happened to her half-timelord children? Or what about this idea: Amy’s life is very strange and never made sense, as the Doctor himself pointed out. River clearly has time-lord in her, with her ability to regenerate. Rory wasn’t surprised at the dimensional aspects of the TARDIS that literally everyone remarks on, and has died/almost died and come back many times, echoing regeneration, and knows certain things somehow (like that they were shrunken in Let’s Kill Hitler; he somehow instantly realized that they were inside the person who was really a vehicle, which they didn’t know before). So maybe Amy and/or Rory are related in some way to Susan? That would still be creepy, though, since that would mean the Doctor’s wife is a descendant of his own granddaughter! O_O

      • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        Yes, either way one ends up with a very interesting but very creepy story! But maybe the aim is to compete with Luke kissing his sister… :)


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