It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were getting excited about ‘Power of the Daleks’ being animated. However after the way 2020 has turned out so far, the release in 2016 feels like a lifetime ago!
Why should you invest in this new version?
To answer that question simply; this edition is better. From reading the enclosed booklet you will realise that the 2016 release was rushed. Estimating the animation would take between eight and ten months, the team were instead given five. FIVE months. As 2020 marks the centenary of Patrick Troughton’s birth it seemed fitting that included alongside new animations of ‘The Faceless Ones‘ and ‘Fury from the Deep‘, would be an updated version of his debut adventure as the Doctor. So how much is different from the previous release?
As the information booklet again highlights very few scenes of the original animation remain untouched. However, we shouldn’t believe everything we read these days. So I set up the picture in picture function on my television and played the two different editions simultaneously. You don’t need to go to such efforts because I can confirm that are changes everywhere. The vast majority of these edits are subtle. Some shots are tweaked. For instance, some shots were reversed in the original animation. Now characters are the right way round with the Doctor, Ben and Polly in the correct positions.
Particularly noticeable is a much better smoothness of character movements. Apparently toning down the tartan pattern on Troughton’s trousers assisted with that! The most obvious changes occur in the early TARDIS scenes. Now Ben and Polly actually crouch down to the Doctor on the floor after his ‘renewal’. Shading is also less heavy handed in Episode 5 in particular, such as during the dimly lit scenes of Polly and Valmar within the capsule. Overall, the animation is just so much slicker given more time to get it right. This does mean that Troughton’s jig with the recorder has been cut but it’s hardly vital to the story.
I previously reviewed ‘The Power of the Daleks‘ and praised it, describing animation as “a more than worthy medium for telling tales long thought lost.” That sentiment still rings true but now that animation is even better. Episodes are smoother, sharper and well worth reinvestment. ‘Power of the Daleks‘ remains an absolute classic. A layered story with complex characters and some memorable visuals featuring Doctor Who’s greatest creations.
Another of the big draws to this release is the wealth of additional material. Unfortunately, the previously advertised audio for ‘The Highlanders‘ is not included (and should have been removed from the original press release) because there simply isn’t space on the three discs! As someone of the VHS generation I was particularly excited to watch the ‘Daleks: The Early Years‘ material once again. Clips are used rather than the full episodes, probably to save space on the discs once again. However, all the wonderful linking material of Peter Davison at the MOMI exhibition and interviews with Terry Nation, Raymond Cusick, John Scott Martin and Roy Skelton remains included. Unfortunately, the clip from ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan‘ is still accompanied by ‘I want to spend my Christmas with a Dalek’. Dalekmania cringe of the highest order!
What is perhaps more extraordinary is some of the material discovered from the archive. For instance, an episode of Robin Hood starring Patrick Troughton from 1953 is available to watch. It is one of the earliest surviving performances by Troughton and one of the earliest examples of British TV drama. To have it available to watch at home in 2020 is incredible. Similarly, there is a Whicker’s World programme from 1968. You’ve probably seen the footage of Terry Nation and his Daleks before and it is weird to see it within the context of a discussion on horror full of disturbing imagery. Watching an original Yeti running round at the end is rather nice too. The 1993 BBC audio version of ‘The Power of the Daleks‘ narrated by Tom Baker can also be enjoyed.
The Power of the Daleks: From Script to Screen
‘From Script to Screen‘ is a new documentary for this release, narrated by Toby Hadoke. It is a very thoroughly researched piece, including tip bits of information which I had not known before such as Troughton appearing on stage as Adolf Hitler during the 1950’s. It has been brilliantly put together, I assume complicated by the current global pandemic. Quotes from the main players come from a variety of sources but the audio adds an element of immediacy to them. Graeme Harper, as a former floor assistant, provides a detailed insight into the way a production, such as ‘The Power of the Daleks‘, was put together. The feature is stacked full of material and fascinating information. It is perhaps one of the most detailed accounts of Doctor Who, and television production generally, ever released.
The 2016 documentary ‘Servants and Masters‘ is of course also included. It remains a strong feature, collating a variety of contributors discussing ‘The Power of the Daleks‘. Experts such as Nicholas Briggs, Andrew Beech and Kim Newman provide context to the discussion with actor Anneke Wills, designer Derek Dodd and director Christopher Barry. It’s still worth a watch.
Once again the snippets of the original broadcast episodes that survive are presented. However, some very brief fragments of footage have only been made available recently and so are being seen for the first time by many. They might only be a few frames, some on a loop, but these tantalising glimpses of Lesterson watching the Daleks replicate are hugely exciting. Archive regional news clips which also feature Daleks have similarly been unearthed only recently. As with these clips of Dalek appearances in the real world, there are also modern features from Newsnight and BBC Breakfast regarding the original animation and lost TV.
The work that Mike Tucker of The Model Unit has gone to in order to replicate the original model work to create the Dalek convey belt scene is incredible. Recreating the scene isn’t for inclusion in the main feature. This means that unlike the original transmission, which featured slightly out of proportion Daleks, the animation continues to feature more dimensionally-accurate Daleks. The Dalek miniatures used originally were actually toys, easily available in 1966. So Mike Tucker and his team have gone to the effort to source and adapt a toy from this period purely as a technical exercise. For those, like myself, fascinated by model work it is a fascinating feature. Plus the results are sublime.
Of course, commentaries and photo galleries are also present. The various discs have more than enough to keep a viewer occupied.