After the success of Dr. Who and the Daleks the year before, it seemed apt for Amicus Productions to continue their Dalek franchise with Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. – an adaptation of the iconic pepper pots’ second TV serial. Set in Dalek-occupied London in the 22nd Century, it’s up to intrepid adventurer Dr. Who, his granddaughter Susan, his niece Louise and hapless policeman Tom Campbell to save Earth before the Daleks reach the planet’s core…
The increased budget for Invasion Earth is almost immediately apparent, boasting some very impressive special and visual effects: the shot of the Dalek saucer flyer over Dr. Who and Tom looks fantastic, while the explosions really pack a punch. Invasion Earth feels less “studio bound” than its predecessor and benefits from some huge sets – clearly designed for the techniscope cinematography. Director Gordon Flemyng takes full advantage of the film’s scope, and while some of the camerawork is a little overambitious, the whole picture looks great.
Much like the first Daleks feature, the issues predominantly lie with the screenplay. The decision to split up the four main leads works well in a TV series where the writers need to vary up the dynamics across multiple episodes, but in an 80-minute film which which introduces two lead characters, this decision feels more like a hinderance. There are very few scenes between Dr. Who and Susan, despite Peter Cushing and Roberta Tovey‘s lovely on-screen dynamic in the first film, and the “new companion” dynamic between Cushing and Bernard Cribbins‘ Tom Campbell is pushed aside quite quickly. Instead, Dr. Who is paired off with David – a character who feels utterly superfluous in this iteration of the story – Susan is partnered with Wyler, and Tom and Jill Curzon‘s Louise are put together without an engaging character dynamic to build on. All of this ultimately results in an ensemble cast that really should have been kept closer together – for this adaptation – to push the narrative forwards.
Bernard Cribbins is wonderful as Tom Campbell – arguably one of the best companions the TV series never had. The prologue with him trying to stop a bank robbery and heading to the TARDIS to call for help is a fun opening that’s neatly resolved at the end (just don’t think too much about the mechanics of time travel). Cribbins is incredibly endearing, with an “everyman” quality that manages to improve on some of his more slapstick moments. Also new on this adventure is Dr. Who’s niece Louise, who takes on the Barbara role but without any discernible character for Jill Curzon to play. Through not fault of Curzon, Louise feels entirely superfluous, and by far the least fun member of the main ensemble. By far the best supporting actor is Philip Madoc as Brockley, brilliantly underplaying his rather sinister role. I love the scene in which he betrays Dr. Who to the Daleks, initially very cool before realising that, because he’s served his use to the Daleks, he’s first on the list for extermination (in a very impressive explosion). This moment also serves as Cushing’s best across both features, having clearly expected Brockley’s betrayal and playing along to get inside the Daleks’ main base of operations.
Strangely, the Daleks themselves don’t have much of a presence over the story. They’re shot very well – and redesigned to match their look from The Chase-onwards on TV – but come across as generic robots, lacking in character. A lot of focus is instead placed on the Robomen, who with their shiny jumpsuits and helmets are less scary and more cartoonish, losing the sense that these were once real people.
Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is in some respects an expected kind of sequel to Dr. Who and the Daleks: its got a much greater sense of scope and scale, the whole film feels much more confident, yet it lacks the ensemble feel of its predecessor, and both films consistently prioritise spectacle over character and story. Still, there’s lots of fun to be had as a “style over substance” adventure film, and its visually completely unlike anything ever seen in the TV series.
For this new release of Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., the film has been re-scanned at 4K resolution, cleaned and colour graded for HDR (High Dynamic Range). While ostensibly limited by the source material – both Dalek features were shot on 2-perf techniscope 35mm film – the remaster is nonetheless very impressive, which combined with the improved, more vibrant HDR colour grade, results in the best presentation imaginable for this over fifty-year-old film. Particular highlights include the various explosions, as well as the vibrant silver of the Dalek drones and the glossy texture of the Robomen’s outfits. Much like its predecessor, Invasion Earth also features a remastered mono sound mix from Mark Ayres, but disappointingly no optional surround mixes.
Also included on the disc – both 4K and Blu-ray – for Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is new featurette The Dalek Legacy: Invasion Earth, looking at the fan response to the film. Much like The Dalek Legacy: Destination Skaro on the first film, this retrospective features Nicholas Briggs (Dalek voice actor), Robert Shearman (writer of Dalek), Mike Tucker (visual effects assistant), Emily Cook (Doctor Who Magazine writer) and Gavin Rymill (Dalek prop expert), although I found this less engaging than the first featurette – perhaps because many of the key topics (notably the controversial nature of the films) had already been covered, and without contributions from any of the individuals involved in the making of the film, just feels like a fairly entertaining fan discussion.
There’s also an audio commentary with Shearman, critic Kim Newman and actor/writer Mark Gatiss, which is new to this UK release (sadly no cast/crew commentary is featured), but otherwise the rest of the special features have been seen before. Frustratingly, StudioCanal appear to have reused the Restoring Dr. Who in 4K and Interview with Gareth Owen extras from the Dr. Who and the Daleks 4K disc, as well as including the old Dalekmania documentary on both releases. This only seems to have been done to fill-up the disc space, as surely fans would buy both films on 4K or neither of them. The original trailer and stills gallery have been transferred over from the 2013 Blu-ray release, alongside a short but sweet interview with Bernard Cribbins.
Overall, this new release of Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is something of a mixed bag. The picture restoration is excellent, and well worth upgrading to, not to mention the new (in the UK at least) sound remaster and audio commentaries, but the fact that extras are reused across both releases makes me wish that StudioCanal had instead packed both films together in a box set – although I could be in the minority. Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D will be released on 4K UHD Blu-ray on 18th July. Two editions of the film are available: a collector’s edition featuring the 4K and Blu-ray discs, 42-page booklet with brand new essays, Exclusive 32-page Titan mini-book, collectable coin, 5 artcards and 2 posters (with new and original artwork); as well as a stunning new steelbook, featuring both discs. Each release features new artwork by Johnny Dombrowski.