Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin
The Daleks chase The TARDIS through time, making brief stops at The Empire State Building in 1966 and a sailing ship called The Mary Celeste.
“Put on your battle dress again?”
Ah. This is where the plot starts wearing a bit thin for me. As the title suggests (with the help of a line about being chased through eternity), The TARDIS and The Dalek Timeship fly through time, materializing in two different periods where The TARDIS must collate more data before continuing, or something. Each stop enables The Daleks to close the lead The TARDIS has. This episode is really a couple of vignettes where we visit two periods of time, primarily for comic effect. From what I understand of the production of this story, Terry Nation really contributed more of an outline than a full script. It was then up to Dennis Spooner to fill the gaps. Thus, I wonder if this episode has more of Spooner’s fingerprints than Nation’s. I think it is rather telling that season three will have the bloated Dalek Masterplan serial (also by Nation and Spooner), and it will contain episodes that have a similar feel to this one.
Each period the TARDIS lands in has a comic interaction. First is The Empire State Building in 1966 where we see a tour guide that obviously hates his job, a group of overweight Americans, and Peter Purves. What is astounding to me is that Purves not only gives a bad performance (in my opinion), it is thoroughly consistent. He doesn’t give knowing winks to the camera or any other actions that would indicate he is hamming it up. He fully embodies the part, and I can see why Verity Lambert would find the performance striking. It is horrible, yet endearing. There is an earnestness that makes you accept it. Granted, it is hard to understand why The Dalek doesn’t exterminate this man, but the light-hearted tone is consistently held, even if The Dalek portrayal isn’t.
The second landing takes place on the Mary Celeste, which I have always found to be a bit of a waste. Here we have one of the most unusual and chilling stories in maritime history, and we waste it on a throwaway scene in a comic episode. We could have had a really good story with a good writer and an adventure of high adventure and horror as The Doctor explored what really happened with the ship. Instead, we have the crew abandon ship because they see Daleks. No extermination, no threats. The Daleks just want information, and the humans abandon ship. The best I can say of this scene is the ending atmosphere Richard Martin creates. It goes on a bit too long, but it effectively evokes abandonment and an eerie tone. I haven’t been too complimentary of Martin in the past, but I do think he creates good atmosphere. Part one of The Dalek Invasion of Earth is very creepy.
At episode end, we still have no progress made. The Daleks are closer, giving the entire episode the feel of padding. The way stories were commissioned back in this era of Doctor Who didn’t allow for the writers to choose how many episodes they felt were effective. Some stories really should have been shorter, and after this episode, I feel The Chase is one such story. But they needed to fill six episodes. Can’t do much about that.
And in defense of Peter Purves, he will reappear in a few episodes’ time, and he will be much better.