Over this week Doctor Who fans have been drip fed an episode a day culminating in the final instalment being released onto BBC Store today.
During the past 50 year’s ‘The Power of the Daleks’ has been widely regarded as one of the best Dalek stories in history. But now that the story is complete once again, in animated form with the original audio, does it still retain it’s prestige? Is it as good as everyone says it was?
This is, of course, Patrick Troughton’s debut story. Had he not made a good impression then viewers could easily have deserted Doctor Who and the programme would’ve faded away. His character was different enough, yet familiar to the Doctor’s previously seen traits to maintain the interest of the viewing public. Ben and Polly mirror the viewer’s uncertainty of the Second Doctor. Fortunately, Troughton’s quirky and likeable nature won over both his companions and the audience.
Later Troughton stories suffered from the simplistic ‘base under siege’ formula. This story however, has the multiple layers and depth more familiar to a Steven Moffat penned tale. In addition to the new Doctor, there is a myriad of other elements. There is the political conflict of the colony, scheming, murder and betrayal. Add to it a scientist’s quest for technical advancement and finally, there are obviously the Daleks.
I am your servant
It is little wonder that this is regarded as one of the best Dalek stories ever. They are calculating. Posing as helpful servants. This is the Daleks at their most chilling. No wonder it would be replicated by Mark Gatiss in ‘Victory of the Daleks’. Even down to some paraphrasing; “I am your soldier”. By episode 6 everything descends into a bloodbath of chaotic extermination. Of course, The Doctor warned them that this might happen. Unfortunately, his new incarnation seems to lack the authoritative clout of his predecessor and the warnings are ignored. Instead, the human colonists prefer to believe the positive messages shared by Lesterson.
Lesterson is an extraordinary character. A brilliant scientist driven by his curiosity. However, even he acknowledges that his experiments are not more important than human life. Sadly this occurs after it is too late and he has reactivated the Daleks. His subsequent descent into madness is brilliantly performed. Wracked with guilt and devastated by the revelation that he’s unleashed duplicating Daleks on the colony he loses his mind. In a chilling turn of events, the Daleks acknowledge that he gave them life and then robbed him of his.
‘The Power of the Daleks’ has been brought to us by animation and it works very well. It is far more effective at telling the story than an amalgamation of the telesnaps would. There are also benefits to having animation instead of the original material. For instance, there is no limit to the number of Daleks. The painfully obvious cardboard cutouts can now be replaced by moving creatures. This project proves that animation is the way forward and is a more than suitable method of representing lost episodes from Doctor Who’s back catalogue. Of course, detailed animations of this nature take time and therefore money. So as long as the project proves profitable there remains more scope for further titles.
All 6 episodes of ‘The Power of the Daleks’ are available now on BBC Store and will be released on DVD later this month.
The Power of the Daleks, the third story of Season Four of Doctor Who, had a lot to live up to both in its original airing between November 5 and December 10, 1966, and its animated recreation now showing in cinemas.
The six-parter, back in 1966, had to seamlessly replace one beloved Doctor with a new one for the first time if the show was to go on. What nobody knew then was whether Patrick Troughton could become as beloved to generation of British children as William Hartnell who he replaced.
That fear was even reflected in a wonderful conversation between companions Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben Jackson (Michael Craze) in the first part of the story: an is it the Doctor or isn’t it conversation which by no means ends definitely. If Troughton couldn’t win the viewers’ hearts Doctor Who would have quickly vanished from television screens and I probably wouldn’t be here now writing about it, nor you reading about it.
Cleverly, however, the powers that be at the BBC chose to make the second Doctor’s first story a Dalek one. Setting the new Doctor against a familiar foe helped the viewer quickly get a measure of the new TARDIS traveller.
The TARDIS lands on the planet Vulcan, home to a human colony where a mysterious capsule had landed. As the Doctor recovers from his regeneration the capsule is discovered to have contained three Daleks, but one is missing. Soon the Daleks are serving humans, but can the Doctor warn them before it’s too late?
At one point in the story Dalek asks a human why humans kill each other. It’s a lovely moment that serves to remind the viewer that humans can be as evil as Daleks.
From the surviving clips of this otherwise lost story, and the audio recordings made during its transmission, it’s clear that Troughton was top of his game from day one and knocked it out of the park with his stovepipe hat and bow tie wearing, and recorder playing Second Doctor. He’s an absolute enigma in the moments following his first regeneration, setting the trend for many more to come.
What wasn’t clear was how a full animation of the story would go down. Previous recreations of lost episodes have been fine given the short amount of time and money allocated for the job, but this one is a step up from those. The Power of the Daleks is a very simple animation providing a decent visual cue to what was on the screen the first time around. Although the director admits it is not a scene by scene clone – about half can be attributed to the original director Christopher Barry.
The animators have done a great job of capturing the likeness of the TARDIS crew, although the animated Daleks are the more familiar squat versions. For some reason The Power of the Daleks used a taller model of the killer Dalek travel machine.
At Hoyts Metro in Hamilton, New Zealand, where I saw it with my 10-year-old son the six parts had been edited into one long movie, extras and all, coming in at 180 minutes. Pacing was a little slow in the first 30 to 45 minutes, but the story really picked up from there and just whizzed along. My son, used to the whiz bang of films like Star Wars: The Force Awaken, was glued to the screen and less critical than me. “It’s not often you get to see something your Dad hasn’t seen,” he said with glee.
Elements of Power of the Daleks show up in other Doctor Who, most notably in the Season Five episode of the new series Victory of the Daleks. Both stories feature subservient Daleks who serve humans while plotting to rebuild the race and dominate the universe.
This will be a must for DVD when it gets its release very soon.