Before this: The Space Museum
Season 2, Episode 8: The Chase
The Chase is the eighth serial of the second season of Doctor Who, and comes in six parts. It marks the last appearance of original companions Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian (William Russell), and the first appearance of Steven (Peter Purves).
The Chase was a story that had more in common with the Keys of Marius than most of the previous Dalek stories so far (The Daleks and Dalek Invasion of Earth). It was more a small series of mini-stories within a general story arc than a single story, and had a wide variety of sets and characters. It was actually quite a funny story, with a variety of very embarrassing Dalek defeats at the hands of some rather mediocre foes, and some rather amusing dialogue (and appalling American accents – you could hear him slip into his English one every now and again), and Ian Chesterton being a massive dork! However, despite the humour, and despite some awesome scenes throughout, the story felt a little bit stretched and aimless at times – it felt slightly more like a story created for the sake of having Daleks rather than a well thought-out story. Not to mention that at times it felt childish and very silly, which felt very peculiar next to the dramatic and sometimes awesome other scenes.
One aspect of the story that was both a positive and a negative was the vast changes in scenery and sets. This meant the tone often changed, from the typical sci-fi aspects of their first landing, to the eerie (but ultimately rather silly) sets of the haunted house, and everything in the between. The changes in tone really loosened up the cohesiveness of the story in many ways – the companions settled down in one place only to be chased to another. This meant that the silly or lesser elements of the story were over thankfully quickly, but at the same time they cheapened the awesome parts of the story, such as the Mechanoids. This mismatched tone really dampened the episode’s viewing pleasure.
That being said, although the Daleks probably shouldn’t be used as such, the comic relief elements were very enjoyable. First of all were the rather humiliating defeats the Daleks experienced throughout their travels were hilarious – being defeated by some mechanical props must be regarded as a particularly low point of the Dalek Empire. Ian’s dancing and singing to The Beatles in the first episode was also chuckle-worthy. Other humorous elements were a little childish and silly, such as the Empire State Building scene and the Mary Celeste debacle – although it was nice to know that the Doctor was responsible for the ghost ship. However, the humour did make the Daleks seem much less terrifying than they probably should and could have been, and they couldn’t quite pull off their scary, relentless genocidal hatred as well as they could have.
The departure of Ian and Barbara was suitably touching – they were giddy with happiness which was rather adorable, and the Doctor’s initial grumpiness at it was rather touching. We also saw the introduction of Steven, a character who we will unfortunately not see much of (due to the fact that we are about to enter most of the missing episodes – I’m very scared of the Dalek’s Master Plan). Oh well. It was a bit of fun!
Doctor Who is always at its most fun when well, it’s having fun. We don’t usually associate Daleks with fun, because in the new series, they’re frankly terrifying. However, while they start off quite menacing in The Chase, they had plenty of chuckle-worthy moments, which is a nice change from their overpowered, evil counterparts in the new series (and also a nice change from their other appearances in the old series). While they are far less sinister in this story which some may not approve of, I think the funny moments are a decent trade-off. Sure, the Daleks are merciless, racist, terrifying machines, but why can’t they have some amusing moments? And hey, if the creator of the Daleks, Terry Nation, wrote this, then surely he agrees with me!
This episode definitely isn’t the height of television, but at the same time, it’s a bit of fun. The Chase is an ambitious undertaking, switching locations almost every episode, including a few famous locations (the Empire State Library and the Mary Celeste being two). In essence, the Daleks are chasing the Doctor and his companions through space and time, and they need to try and escape, or fight. While there are some tacky moments, key among them being the haunted house episode (the time travellers believe they’re trapped in some sort of nightmare realm, when in fact they’re visiting a very advanced haunted house with realistic robots that can take on the Daleks), all in all it was a fast-paced story with some great moments. I do enjoy the small, personal bits of humour, for example Ian dancing along to the Beatles, because there are far less of these quiet, understated bits of humour in the new series.
Speaking of Ian, this is the last time we see Ian and Barbara, which is sad. Of course, they always wanted to get back home, but it’s still sad when they leave. They eventually get back home and there’s a really great, if a bit sappy, montage of them rediscovering London. And with that, the only original character in the show is the excellent William Hartnell. In their stead comes a new companion, Steven, although we don’t see him make it back into the TARDIS with them…
Still, we have the plucky Vicky – she’s probably my favourite so far, and has some more great moments in this story. A particularly impressive move on her part is to sneak into the Dalek’s own time machine when the TARDIS accidentally leaves her behind. In doing so, she discovers that the Daleks have made a double of the Doctor in order to “infiltrate and kill” – definitely one of the creepier moments so far in the series is William Hartnell calmly telling the Daleks that his mission is to “infiltrate and kill.” Very chilling.