Aired 1 – 22 January 1972
Considering that ‘Day of the Daleks’ marked the return of Doctor’s most famous foes after a multi-year absence and was their first television appearance in colour, it’s a rather forgotten tale compared to other Pertwee classics, but one that nonetheless is a very important one that finally overtly confronts and tackles the time travel element so dear to the franchise.
The Pertwee era, due undoubtedly to the more Earthbound setting, tapped into the social consciousness with allegories to relevant issues more frequently and more directly than any other even as the science fiction elements slowly became more prevalent. The Daleks are, of course, a metaphor for the Nazis, and while the desolation of war had been extensively explored in previous Dalek stories, ‘Day of The Daleks’ presents a new angle for the iconic foes. Possibly because the story was originally written without the Daleks, the story itself is incredibly strong without relying on the Daleks alone to enhance it. Based around the very concept of pacifism as the Sino-Soviet conflict threatens to bring Armageddon, there’s a pervading sense of true international despondency and urgency, the Daleks standing as reminder of a very grim future.
Indeed, as the story tries to shun the notion that violence should be used to stop violence, ‘Day of the Daleks’ is really the first story to really deal with the ramifications and consequences of time travel. The idea of rebels from the future trying to avert their terrible future, only to ensure that it comes to pass, is the first true example of a temporal paradox that the show has presented, in the process showing the cycle of violence causing violence. This is also the first tale to introduce the Blinovitch Limitation Effect to explain why time travelers from the future cannot simply keep trying again and again in the same time period to change what they want to suit their goals. The travelers from the future becoming fixed components of the past is handled well here, and it certainly opens the gate for much more complex time travel stories in the future.
‘Day of the Daleks’ also features Jon Pertwee in absolutely quintessential form, obviously more at home with his Earthly confines as he offers his take on cheese and wine but also able to deftly employee martial arts against a guerilla soldier. It’s a strange dichotomy of action and culture, but Pertwee presents it believably and enthusiastically. His seemingly growing comfort with Earth also shows in his increasing comfort with the Brigadier; although they both share their own philosophical and moral differences, the two seem to now be able to look past those and have a genuine mutual respect for each other that manifests as a burgeoning friendship.
Although the Daleks themselves are not presented in their strongest or most powerful format, they very embody the concept of fascism, and it’s intriguing to see them using the distinctly non-Dalek Ogrons to help them achieve their means as they rely less on action and more on status and repute. ‘Day of the Daleks’ may not quite reach the realms of classic status, but represents the opening of unexplored stories about time travel and its consequences, looking to the past to send the programme into its future while still maintaining its social consciousness of the present.