Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. Review

The Doctor versus his deadliest foes, round two, now on Blu-ray.

When Dr. Who and the Daleks proved to be a success, inevitably thoughts turned to a sequel. So, with largely the same people behind the camera, one year later there arrived Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., based on the television Doctor’s second battle with his deadly foes, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, broadcast in 1964. Its premise already established in the previous film, this second hits the ground running. Peter Cushing and Roberta Tovey reprised their roles as the good Dr. Who and his granddaughter Susan, but Jennie Linden and Roy Castle were not available. So a pre-credits sequence introduces us to Tom Campbell (Bernard Cribbins), a policeman who interrupts a smash-and-grab raid, runs into a police box to report the crime…and finds himself in the TARDIS with the Doctor, Susan, and Susan’s cousin Louise (Jill Curzon). And so we’re off to the mid twenty-second century, to a London conquered and enslaved by the Daleks.

This second film had a bigger budget than its predecessor, which included some funding from Sugar Puffs in return for an early example of product placement as the breakfast cereal of choice in a future under the metaphorical heel of the Daleks. There’s an up in confidence as well, and getting the Doctor out and about on location works very well after the entirely studio-bound first film. Television script editor David Whitaker gains a credit this time (for “additional material”, the script credited to Milton Subotsky) and the storyline is a creditable boil-down of the six-episode original into just under an hour and a half. It reuses some of the more memorable scenes from the television serial, notably a Dalek emerging from the Thames, though why it couldn’t use a bridge like anyone else has always remained a mystery, and Gordon Flemyng and his crew get the most of out a still not-huge budget and keep up a strong pace. Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. was a fixture on the BBC in the 1970s, so for many people of my age (not old enough to have seen the original serial, nor indeed this film in the cinema) it’s hard to shake as the version of this particular story. I didn’t see The Dalek Invasion of Earth until its 2003 DVD release (I’ve linked to my review above), and watching it requires some mental adjustment, especially in the way that the Doctor and his friends save the day. You also have to make allowances for the much more restricted BBC budget and its having been made in 4:3 on black and white 405-line video rather than Technicolor and Techniscope. If you’ve only seen the film panned-and-scanned before, seeing it in its correct aspect ratio will make a big difference.

Peter Cushing’s take on the Doctor is more of a kindly eccentric, and he doesn’t have the irascibility and occasional other-worldliness of Hartnell’s Doctor. Roberta Tovey is as engaging as she is in the first film, but newcomer Jill Curzon unfortunately has little to do. Bernard Cribbins, taking Roy Castle’s place as joint action interest and comic relief, does a good job, played less broadly than Castle did.

Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is the better of the two films, but unfortunately didn’t do as well at the box office as the first. An option for a third film, presumably to be based on The Chase, was not taken up.

The Disc

Like its predecessor, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. comes to Blu-ray from StudioCanal on a BD25 encoded for Region B.

Shot in Techniscope, a non-anamorphic (two-perforation) process, the film has been digitally restored and is given a Blu-ray transfer in the correct ratio of 2.35:1. Techniscope was known as quite a grainy format, and that’s quite noticeable in the pre-credits sequences, set in contemporary (i.e. mid-Sixties) London at night. All told, this is a grainier film, and a grainier Blu-ray than the first film. But it’s grain that is supposed to be there. Skin-tones, look fine – and consistent with the way they tend to look in other colour films of this vintage. Colours in general are more muted, but blacks are solid and shadow detail what it should be.

The film was sound-designed to be in mono and released in cinemas in mono, and that’s what it remains on this disc, in a LPCM 2.0 track. Dialogue, music and sound effects are clear and well balanced, and again thanks to StudioCanal for including optional hard-of-hearing subtitles. Given the number of explosions and other special sound effects in this film, let’s be thankful that no one has decided to remix this into fake 5.1.

There are fewer extras on this Blu-ray than there were on the first film’s disc. “Restoring Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.” (7:11) covers much of the same ground as its equivalent for Dr. Who and the Daleks, in details of the Techniscope process, with some consderation of how Flemyng and DP John Wilcox used it. We also see how the film’s visuals and soundtrack have been digitally restored, from a 35mm interpositive dating from 1969.

There now follow two short interviews. Bernard Cribbins talks to camera (4:02), with some echoey sound, about his memories of the film. He had worked with Peter Cushing previously in She and he tells a story about how chief Dalek operator Robert Jewell’s Australian-accented on-set Dalek voice caused him and Cushing to corpse, much to Gordon Flemyng’s displeasure.

Gareth Owen (4:08), author of The Shepperton Story, does what he did on the first disc, giving a brief overview of the circumstances of the film’s production, much of the London location shoot being done by stealth on Sunday mornings.

The extras are completed by the theatrical trailer (2:37) and a self-navigating stills gallery (1:36).


Updated: May 24, 2013

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