The Dalek Invasion Of RAF Finningley
For all that they might have gone on about their collective fear of typecasting, the various 'classic' Doctor Who lead actors didn't half jump at the chance of an in-character tie-in appearance. Whether it was Jon Pertwee tussling with Aggedor at Glorious Goodwood, Tom Baker dispensing pseudo-scientific facts about his favourite best aliens on Animal Magic, or Colin Baker going on a ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach for some reason, costumed-up 'canon'-taxing guest spots were a regular and recurring feature of Doctor Who in its original incarnation. Even Richard Hurndall got to do his "and greetings to you from The Time Lords!" gibberish on a couple of occasions, though nobody has ever been quite sure about what character he was actually 'in'. On rare occasions the companions got in on the act as well, particularly on Crackerjack (don't) for some reason, and that's not even getting started on Celation from The Daleks' Master Plan guest-presenting Points Of View.
Sadly, Celation's little chat - if ever a chat as was - with Robert Robinson no longer exists, but at least it was actually recorded and televised in the first place. During the sixties, before anyone really had the means or indeed the inclination to preserve them in any form, there were literally hundreds of tie-in appearances - particularly at the height of 'Dalekmania' - that came and went and faded into hazy memory with only the odd press cutting to prove they happened, from stage plays to charity events to pop single-plugging to visitors at a Daily Mail-sponsored exhibition being ferried past a collection of Doctor Who aliens in a 'Brainy Train', whatever one of those was exactly. And then there was William Hartnell's disconcerting enthusiasm for making appearances at airfields.
Presumably as an adjunct of his previous starring role in long-running ITV sitcom The Army Game, Hartnell appears to have been invited along to air shows and open days roughly every three minutes, and he also appears to have never turned any of them down. Quite often he would show up in character and costume as The Doctor, sometimes with Daleks in tow, and there was even a vague accompanying 'mini-adventure' narrative of sorts; after his speech is interrupted by an 'Anti-Magnetic Device', The Doctor discovers that the Daleks have constructed a 'fort' on the airstrip, and dashes off to alert his good friends at the RAF who promptly unleash a couple of torpedoes and blow the malevolent interlopers sky high. Terry Nation's feelings on this somewhat off-agenda use of his creations are sadly not recorded, although the escapade did usually involve the nobody-would-ever-suspect-a-thing deployment of a 'double' for Hartnell during the more action-packed moments, which was at least in keeping with the usual mode of practice for his actual television adventures.
Needless to say, very little evidence of any of these events now remains, apart from - staggeringly - some full colour cine camera footage of one of them. On Saturday 18th September 1965 – the same day that Trap Of Steel, the long-lost second episode of the decidedly Dalek-free Galaxy 4 was transmitted by BBC1 – TV’s Doctor Who William Hartnell took part in an RAF Finningley air show along with some Daleks. Well, we say ‘Daleks’, but that's a very loose interpretation of the term. Anyway, we may not have the sights and sounds of that thrill-packed day, but the few existing seconds of moving footage give us a good idea of... well... not very much at all really.
In an unexpected new twist to the big news story of 1963, William Hartnell arrives at Dealey Plaza; controversy and debate will subsequently rage over whether The Thin White Crochety Old Man was giving an 'inappropriate' salute or simply waving to a fan.
Dangling from a helicopter due to some unspecified 'mini-adventure' plot detail, Hartnell's stunt double puts in an unconvincing bid to secure the role of the next Milk Tray Man. Meanwhile, down on the ground, you can just about make out one of the 'Daleks'. Looks pretty convincing from this distance, doesn't it? Well, just you wait.
With full strength undiluted 'Dalekmania' taking full effect, the crowds are clearly enthralled by the unfolding spectacle. So much so, in fact, that they haven't noticed The Queen arriving to take a look. She preferred The Voord anyway.
After someone realises that the audience would probably feel a bit short-changed without one, some sort of cage box thingy that we're probably best off not knowing the real purpose of is hastily redecorated as a vague approximation of a 'Tardis', which some high-spirited youngsters promptly attempt to upend. Clayton Hickman is reportedly 'concerned' by this turn of events.
As everyone knows, Daleks should only be demonstrated to youngsters by qualified experts in lab coats, and the organisers of the air show have gone one better and added to an already star-studded bill by persuading The Prof from Vision On to do the honours. Here he is also introducing some young attendees to a haphazardly repainted diving bell with random number labelling and some kind of lurid red jagged symbol on top. Meanwhile if anyone can identify that crater-festooned planet, please get in touch.
"But how did the Daleks get up stairs? Eh? Eh? The stairs? How did they get up them? Eh?". By walking on their feet. A fact so widely known and recognised that these two youngers cannot even be bothered turning their heads to have a look.
The most convincing Dalek yet achieves speeds in excess of 234.9mph, before breaking off and heading for Brand's Hatch, where it effortlessly beat Lorenzo Bandini and Graham Hill into second and third place.
In a neat bit of cross-promotion, The Mystery Machine tows two reconfigured shuttlecocks past the awestruck crowds. How this fitted into the 'story' is anyone's guess, frankly.
And finally, the fun family day out concludes with a precision-targeted explosion in which everyone's favourite TV villains are seared from existence in a torrent of smoke and flame. In fairness, it's amazing to think that any visual record of an event of this kind exists at all, let alone in colour. In equal fairness, it's also amazing to think that this and many, many, many other examples of harmless yet decidedly off-message ridiculousness were signed off, approved and authorised where nowadays they would be sent packing at the very first hint of a Brand Awareness meeting. Honestly, providing a bit of cheap and cheerful extra-curricular entertainment for average everyday mainstream viewers of a popular television show - what a thought. It's almost worth writing to Points Of View about.
You can read more about Doctor Who's early extra-curricular activities, including a little-known radio appearance by the Daleks, in Not On Your Telly.