Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

The Exterminator

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1990-09-20 Midweek.jpg


"Stop! Do not move! You will watch BSB's Dr Who weekend! Obey the Daleks!"

THAT buggers our plan for world domination!" read the caption on the famous cartoon of a Dalek at the foot of a flight of stairs.

The sink-plunger wielding motorised pepper pot with the Douglas Hurd voice known as a Dalek is now an essential part of British culture. The first episode of Dr Who was screened 27 years ago in 1963 and the series was originally intended only to last for 11 weeks. But the appearance of the Doctor's deadliest foe attracted eight million viewers, causing a whole generation of children to hide behind the sofa. "Dr Who! Hey! The Tardis!" as The Timelords sang on their 1988 number one hit Doctorin' The Tardis. Today the longest running science fiction series in the world is more of a cult than ever; many of the episodes and both films are now available on BBC video and this weekend (22-23 Sept) BSB's Galaxy Channel is devoting an entire weekend to vintage Dr Who.

BSB's coverage begins with An Unearthly Child, the first ever series of Dr Who followed by a visit to the planet Skaro in the next seven part series The Daleks. This is one of the finest ever series of Dr Who. The silver haired William Hartnell is the definitive Doctor, a tetchy, eccentric and at times selfish old man, constantly referring to his companion Ian as "Chesterton", "young man" or in better moods "dear boy". He endangers the whole party when he lies about the Tardis' fluid link as a ruse to visit the Dalek's city, nor does he know where they're going. "I don't say that grandfather doesn't know how to work the ship but he's so forgetful and he likes to work on his own," says his grandaughter Susan. It is noticeable how the Doctor's women companions have changed over the years; today Ace (the admirable Sophie Aldred) runs around hitting Daleks with a baseball bat, but in pre-feminist 1963 Barbara and Susan, though not without strength, spend a lot of time screaming or doing what Ian or the Doctor tell them.

Accentuated by the black and white filming, the scenes in the Daleks' metallic city are genuinely eerie, all sliding doors and the hum of alien machinery. The world's first glimpse of a Dalek is unforgettable. Barbara cowers in terror as a disembodied sink-plunger moves towards her before the brilliant original theme music signals the end of the first episode. Here the classic Dr Who formula was established, lots of chases through corridors and always a countdown at the end where the Daleks are about to destroy the world.

The appeal of the Daleks to more mature viewers is the result of their creator Terry Nation tackling some very adult issues. Skaro is a dead planet, destroyed by neutron bombs that killed all human tissue but left buildings intact, a threat we still face today. The war was between the philosopher race of Dals and the warrior Thals. The surviving Thals, (who look like a race of Norwegians wearing Gary Glitter's discarded shoulder pads) are now peace-loving but the horribly mutated green gunge that is now the Dals, inspired by Davros, have built Dalek machines to live in which run on metal powered through static electricity.

The Daleks can no longer survive without radiation and plan to wipe out the Thals by releasing a massive amount of nuclear waste into the atmosphere. When the Daleks declare "We do not have to control the environment....we will change the environment to suit us..." it is an uncanny prophecy of the folly that led to today's Green movement.

Ian tells the Thals: "The Daleks are afraid of you because you're different". In fact the racism of the Daleks ("We are the superior beings...obey the orders of your masters the Daleks!") is clearly inspired by Nazi Germany. The Black Dalek is later described as like a "commandant", their manic voices sound like Hitler at a Nuremberg rally and in The Daleks they raise their arms upwards chorusing, "Only one race can survive....Tomorrow we will be the masters of Skaro!"

Part of the charm of Dr Who has always been its spectacularly low budget special effects with most series apparently all being filmed in the same 'alien' quarry. By the time of 1964's series The Dalek Invasion Of Earth the Daleks are all sporting what appear to be satellite dishes con their backs which enable them to move on earth (though not climb stairs) and the Dalek's spaceship is unashamedly two upturned saucers on a wobbly piece of string.

BSB will also be transmitting the 1966 film Dalek Invasion Earth 2150 AD, starring Peter Cushing as the Doctor, a constantly startled-looking Bernard Cribbens and a very young Ray Brooks. In full colour we have gold, black and red Daleks with even more manic voices leading an attempt to mine to the earth's core (the mine in question consisting of nothing more than a few allotment sheds) and, ambitious as ever, use the planet as a giant spaceship. The best thing about this film is the appalling Sixties theme music that punctuates every fight scene and the Robomen, humans "robotised" by the Daleks who wander the streets clad in shiny black PVC, crash helmets, silver goggles and carrying whips, looking as if they're all fetishists off to a perverts' ball.

Other highlights of BSB's Dr Who weekend include rare documentaries and series not yet on video, some featuring the legendary Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge Stewart of UNIT and his immortal cry of "Captain Yates, five rounds at that chap with the wings!" There is also a Whose Doctor Who documentary full of interesting Dr Who trivia. Mary Whitehouse has consistently complained about the violence in Dr Who and in 1971 questions were asked in the Houses of Parliament about the programmes's suitability for young viewers. When Michael Grade (having perhaps been robotised by the Daleks?) threatened to take Dr Who off the air in 1985 the BBC's switchboards were jammed and they received a record six filing cabinets full of letters in protest.

But the real highlight of BSB's weekend is the only two surviving episodes featuring the Yeti. During the 27 year saga of Dr Who the most incredible fact of all is that when the BBC changed to colour they decided that no-one would want to watch old black and white programmes and began to wipe the tapes of the episodes and re-use them. Eventually sanity prevailed and a worldwide SOS had to be made to retrieve what episodes they could from collectors and foreign TV companies; tragically only one episode of the classic Yetis in the London Underground series remains. There can only be one fate for whoever committed this act of gross vandalism at the BBC..."The Daleks have no weakness! We are superior beings! You are the enemy of the Daleks! You will be exterminated!"

BSB's Dr Who weekend begins at nine am on Saturday September 22. Selected Dr Who series are now available on BBC video.

Caption: "We are the superior beings!"

Spelling correction: Bernard Cribbins

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to

  • APA 6th ed.: May, Pete (1990-09-20). The Exterminator. Midweek p. 13.
  • MLA 7th ed.: May, Pete. "The Exterminator." Midweek [add city] 1990-09-20, 13. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: May, Pete. "The Exterminator." Midweek, edition, sec., 1990-09-20
  • Turabian: May, Pete. "The Exterminator." Midweek, 1990-09-20, section, 13 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The Exterminator | url= | work=Midweek | pages=13 | date=1990-09-20 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 March 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=The Exterminator | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 March 2023}}</ref>