Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin
After some fun with the Time and Space Visualizer, the Time Travelers arrive on the desert planet Aridia, unaware that The Daleks are close at hand.
“At least its not a pool of acid.”
You know a story is going to be good when a special feature on the DVD is the director giving an apologetic defense of his story. This is not a story that is well-received by fandom. Granted, neither is The Web Planet, and I enjoyed that well enough. The main complaint with The Chase is that the menace and threat of The Daleks is lessened. Okay, that may not be the main complaint. There are other problems with the story.
The Daleks do not have a lot of range, I’ll admit. As much as they have a nostalgic value for me (a factory I used to pass on the way home as a child used to produce Daleks in my mind), I admit that many Dalek stories are just a repeat of things that have come before. The eventual inclusion of Davros breathed new life into their portrayal, but even Davros was overused. With this story, The Daleks are starting to become uninteresting. But we’ll get to that later.
This episode starts with The Doctor trying to repair the Time and Space Visualizer that he took from The Space Museum. Vicki keeps annoying him because she is bored and he won’t let her help. In fact, she moves from character to character, annoying each one due to her boredom. It is fun seeing this dynamic because it is so domestic. This is a quality that is rather unique to the Hartnell era, with The Doctor still being a bit of a grandfather (although that will start to change at the end of this story), Ian being a father-figure, Barbara being a mother-figure, and Vicki being the child. Based on what I have seen in Doctor Who, both classic and new, this is an idea that has never been duplicated. But then, no other actor to play The Doctor has been as old as William Hartnell.
The group spends a few minutes playing with the T&SV, which operates a bit like a television that can tune in to historical events. This is a neat concept, but our characters are standing in a time machine. I guess even The Doctor has moments where he would rather watch TV than experience life. Anyway, we have footage of Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address and William Shakespeare getting the idea for Hamlet. And since I am watching the North American release of The Chase, the clip of The Beatles is not included. Honestly, it doesn’t make a big deal. I’ve seen the original footage and the only thing that is excised is Ian’s goofy dancing and a joke from Vicki about how she is familiar with The Beatles because she has studied classical music. Sure, it would be nice to have the footage, but there isn’t much to miss.
The TARDIS materializes on the planet Aridius, a desert planet (the Terry Nation naming convention is still in use, I see). The planet seems uninhabited (which means it isn’t), so Vicki and Ian go exploring and are soon separated from The Doctor and Barbara, who have chose to sunbathe. Barbara’s repose is interrupted by the grating sounds of the T&SV, and when she goes to shut the machine off, she catches footage of The Daleks beginning to pursue the TARDIS to Aridia. She and The Doctor realize that the chase is on! Unfortunately, they cannot find Ian and Vicki, who have found a bunker in the sand and are trapped in it with a monster.
A sandstorm hits as night falls, and The Doctor and Barbara lose the TARDIS. Presumably, it is buried in the sand. But that is not the only thing buried. They catch sight of a Dalek, rising from a nearby dune! The effect is a cliffhanger similar to the Dalek rising from the Thames in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Personally, I think this is a neat effect, especially as the Dalek rises straight up, rather than moving forward at an angle. While there is nothing that states this, I like to think the Dalek is using some sort of repulsor field, which basically means that the Daleks can fly. All this rubbish about The Daleks not being able to climb stairs or that they only started flying in the new show is outright false. Even if you don’t get the implication of Dalek flight in The Chase, check out Remembrance of The Daleks for undeniable evidence that The Daleks flew in the classic series.
Also effective in this episode is the monster on Aridius. Our first indication of its presence is a tentacle rising from sand. When Vicki and Ian catch sight of it in the bunker, it is effectively shot in the shadows. We can see the barest outline of the creature. Just enough to see something not-human is present, but nothing in detail. So, all in all, an effective start to the story. It isn’t the strongest of beginnings, but it is a good one and compelling enough to keep the enthusiasm up. Just five more to go.