051 – Flashpoint (The Dalek Invasion of Earth Part 6)

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin

The Daleks are defeated, as we knew they would be.  Susan faces an impossible decision.

The Daleks' Greatest Enemy: Lack of Peripheral Vision

“And don‘t stop to pick daisies along the way!”

There are many things wrong with The Dalek Invasion of Earth.  But there are many things it gets right.  Likewise, Flashpoint has positives and negatives.  As with much of the serial, Flashpoint fails largely where The Daleks are concerned.  The plan is still absurd and the resolution makes about as much sense.  Somehow Ian prevents the bomb from being lowered by placing convenient logs in the shaft.  The Daleks are panicky, almost believing Barbara’s story about a rebellion led by General Lee, Hannibal, and involving The Boston Tea Party.  Also, why were all The Daleks at the mine, especially since they would have enslaved the entire human population?  Wouldn’t there, realistically, been other parties subduing other countries?  However, the story is about adventure, and this was certainly offered.  But what was also given to us is a surprisingly powerful ending.

Susan was a character that didn’t live up to her full potential.  This isn’t entirely the fault of Carol Ann Ford.  She was young, and it takes an incredibly gifted or experienced thespian to take poor scripting and make it into art.  Look at Liam Neeson in The Phantom Menace.  There are many things wrong with The Phantom Menace, but Liam Neeson isn’t one of them.  He shines in that movie.  Carol Ann Ford didn’t have the experience or the talent to rise above what she was given.  However, she did have moments that showed she could.  When Susan was written well, Ford shined in the role.  The Sensorites, while not regarded highly among fans, is one of Susan’s best stories.  She is strong.  She is competent.  Likewise, she was very strong in the premiere story of Doctor Who.  She was other-worldly and mysterious.  It is such a shame that writers didn’t know what to do with her character.

The final eight minutes of Flashpoint are devoted to Susan leaving the show.  First, it is impressive that nearly half the episode is devoted to this scene.  Second, it is incredibly well-written and performed.  I almost wonder if this is the same writer who gave us the five previous episodes.  Maybe David Whitaker invoked the right of script editor here.  Maybe Terry Nation is extremely good at character moments, but chose to primarily write B-movie stories instead.  Whatever the case, Susan’s departure is quite possibly the most moving moment of the series so far.  Keep in mind that part of its power comes from having spent 51 episodes with this character.  That is a journey, whether you like the character or not.  The relationship between David and Susan could have been developed better, but Nation preferred to showcase his Daleks.  In the end, though, all those involved in this final scene brought an amazing amount of emotion and humanity.  The Doctor knows Susan is torn between staying and returning to The TARDIS.  Both characters have difficulty expressing what they want to say.  Then The Doctor enters The TARDIS.  Ian speaks briefly to David and, just like the man he is, doesn’t see what has happened between Susan and David.  Ian keeps asking questions while Barbara tries to urge him to give the two youngsters privacy.  The way William Russell and Jacqueline Hill play this moment is perfect.  Once Barbara is able to get Ian to The TARDIS, we leave Susan and David to work through their feelings.  David is confident about how he feels.  Susan is conflicted, not wanting to leave her grandfather, but being unable to think of being apart from David.  Susan doesn’t want to choose.  So, The Doctor chooses for her.

The Doctor locks The TARDIS from the inside, gives her a parting speech, and leaves.  Carol Ann Ford plays this scene with a good amount of shock, which is probably what Susan would have.  She enters the patch of ground where The TARDIS had stood.  While we have seen people’s perspective of The TARDIS leaving, this is the first time where a character grasps the gravity of the situation.  She will never see her grandfather again.  It truly is over.  When we leave family for the person we choose to spend our life with, we don’t often have such an harsh severing of ties.  If anything goes wrong, there is still home, there are still surrogate families.  Susan’s family (her grandfather) and her surrogate family (Ian and Barbara) are gone.  There is nowhere to go if things don’t work out, there is no one to help her.  She is bound to this broken world.  She is bound to David.

I would like to believe they make it work.

Goodbye, Susan.

3 thoughts on “051 – Flashpoint (The Dalek Invasion of Earth Part 6)

  1. The Doctor’s farewell to Susan makes me cry.
    I don’t know why they stuck it on the beginning of The Five Doctors, though. It’s not like he does come back for her in that story.

  2. Hartnell’s performances in these farewell scenes proves that he is a better actor than some would like to believe. Susan’s departure is so emotional that it almost doesn’t matter that her portrayal was inconsistent. Everything important is said here.

    I understand why they would put a Hartnell scene in The Five Doctors, but it was unnecessary. It starts the whole thing off with a different tone and gravitas than if they went straight for the main story.

  3. It just drew attention to the fact that Richard Hurndall looked nothing like Hartnell.

    I can’t help feeling that it was a bit rotten of the Doctor to never come back to Susan (outside of fan fiction).

    In ‘Curse of Fenric’ the Doctor says he does not know about his family, indicating that he has no idea whether Susan is dead or alive.

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