Cybermen Vs. Daleks

I have a guest post up on the Popgun Chaos site. I argue that the Cybermen are better villains than the Daleks. Let the controversy resound!

And be sure to check out Big Finish today. In celebration of this year’s anniversary they are having a sale of The Sirens of Time, Jubilee, and The Harvest for $1.00 as a download or just over $5 for CDs. The Sirens of Time is a multi-Doctor story (5, 6, and 7), Jubilee is a 6th Doctor and Daleks story, and The Harvest is a 7th Doctor and Cybermen story. So in a way, this sale goes along with my post, although I’m sure it is just a coincidence.

Doctor Who – Remembrance of the Daleks

Doctor Who Story 152 – Remembrance of the Daleks

Written by

Ben Aaronovitch

What’s It About?

The Doctor and Ace have returned to Coal Hill School in 1963 to find two Dalek factions fighting over something the Doctor left in England a long time ago.

Unlimited rice pudding

A sinister-looking school girlRememberance of the Daleks is famous for re-inventing the Seventh Doctor era. Season 23 is often dismissed as silly and partially formed while season 24 is where the Cartmel Master Plan era begins in earnest. And while I think the seeds of the new expression are definitely present in season 23, I am struck by the subtle and not-so-subtle act of deconstruction in this season premier. In this story we revisit Totter’s Lane and Coal Hill School. We are given a secondary reason why the Doctor was on Earth, not just running from his people, but hiding the Hand of Omega, a powerful weapon. We see the destruction of Skaro, the Daleks’ ancestral seat. Much has been made of the deleted scene in which the Doctor tells Davros that he is more than just a Time Lord. The Doctor lets slip the possibility that he was present at the creation of Time Lord civilization in its current form. And we are given a military unit which is not-quite-UNIT but functions much the same. All these elements present in the same story mark a redefinition of the show, a grand statement of a new approach, a statement that season 23 was a test run to find our grounding, a warm-up before we open the throttle and begin the journey.

Doctor Who – Revelation of the Daleks

Doctor Who Story 143 – Revelation of the Daleks

Written by

Eric Saward

What’s It About?

The Doctor and Peri arrive on Necros to visit Professor Stengos, an old friend of the Doctor. Necros is also the home of the Great Healer, a savior who found a solution to a galaxy-wide food shortage. But what the Doctor doesn’t know is that the Great Healer is Davros, and this old enemy has been recreating Daleks in secret.

Consumer Resistance

The Doctor and Davros share a moment.By all accounts, I’m not sure “Revelation of the Daleks” should work. But after three or so seasons of watching Eric Saward attempt to capture that Robert Holmes magic, he has done it and put his own spin on it. And all he had to do was write a story in which the Doctor and Peri were largely irrelevant. Most of the story involves the leads wandering around, failing to do anything of importance while other people progress the plot and reveal the secrets. In a way, it is fascinating. And while the Doctor and Peri are hardly significant to the plot, the story is actually compelling and darkly entertaining.

It is the irrelevance that interests me about this story. It is somewhat subversive in that it sidelines the Doctor and Peri, but I almost think it reflects the attitude at the time, namely that Saward and JNT are not entirely sure what this show is about anymore. I read much of the Davison era as a conflict between Bidmead’s vision and Saward’s vision. In the end Saward won out. His vision looked at past successes of the show with particular emphasis on the Robert Holmes approach (specifically a Fourth Doctor approach). With “Revelation” he has nailed it with the dark humor (almost out doing Holmes in this area); the story is overflowing with double acts. Saward and Graeme Harper (who brilliantly directed this story) even play with meta-commentary via the DJ, who flips back and forth between the different plotlines, which are almost different genres in themselves. In this story, the TARDIS doesn’t take us anywhere in time and space, it is the DJ and his cameras that do this. In some ways the central conceit of Doctor Who is laid bare, the idea that Doctor Who is entirely about television. (A box that is bigger on the inside which takes you anywhere in time and space . . . if you substitute TARDIS for television, the metaphor becomes obvious.) We are watching the DJ watching the Doctor. The show has been increasingly self-referential in recent stories, but now it handles this brilliantly and does something interesting with this rather than just patting itself on the back.

“Revelation of the Daleks” is, for me, the story where Saward finally got it all right. He finally wove his voice and ideas into a compelling story. It would have been the perfect story to go out on. But somewhat troubling about this story, and it has been growing throughout this era, is the realization that the best moments of Doctor Who have become less and less about the Doctor. The Doctor and Peri are the least interesting things to watch in this and many other stories of the era. And so the question must be asked, especially given what the next season holds, just how important is Doctor Who to television if the most compelling story we have had in a while sidelines him? And given that this story takes place on a planet of the dead, a planet of corpses, a place where the Doctor has a monument representing his death, I can’t help but wonder if the death of Doctor Who was an unconscious theme of this season.

My Rating

4.5/5

Doctor Who – Resurrection of the Daleks

Doctor Who Story 133 – Resurrection of the Daleks

Written by

Eric Saward

What’s It About?

An army from another time is gunned down by police on an abandoned industrial block in London. When the TARDIS crew arrives, they discover the British military has set up a camp in one of the buildings—a building where Daleks occasionally appear via time portal.

You Are Soft

The Doctor aims a gun at DavrosTo me, the most important development in “Resurrection of the Daleks” is not the establishment of Davros vs. Daleks factions but the toll this story takes on Tegan and, thus, on the Doctor. This story is a turning point in the Fifth Doctor’s development, one that sees him shifting to a darker personality. I’m stealing a bit from Ben Herman here, but I really like his theory, which (as I adopt it) goes like this:

During this past season, the Doctor has increasingly been exposed to a bleak and cruel universe. “Warriors of the Deep ended in a massacre. “Resurrection” sees the Doctor trying to decide if he should assassinate Davros. The moral choices he faces are becoming more difficult, and the Fifth Doctor, who started energetic and more domestic (he took part in an Edwardian costume party after all, something other Doctors would have found uninteresting) cannot handle these situations. He is the wrong Doctor for these stories, the wrong Doctor for a Saward universe. That’s not to say Davison is a bad Doctor or that the stories are all bad. But the Doctor increasingly realizes that he is taking emotional blow after emotional blow. He lacks the elitism or sense of superiority of earlier Doctors. He has been around humans for a long time and is become one of them in temperament. The Sixth Doctor, who is only two stories away now, is a darker, more brutally realist Doctor. He is the hard heartedness that the Fifth Doctor needs but can’t manifest. “Resurrection of the Daleks,” to my reading, is Fifth’s first realization that he cannot handle this universe. Tegan, the last remnant of a simpler time, has abandons him for a normal, quiet life. As she said, “It’s not fun anymore.” (Something Saward didn’t observe about his own conception of Doctor Who.) This comes as a blow to the Doctor, and this dynamic will play out over the next two stories as he tries to adopt a harsher attitude, fails, and is forced to regenerate into a Doctor who can handle the Saward universe. (This is quite similar, I think, to the recently released mini-episode Night of the Doctor.) So, essentially, thank you, Mr. Herman, for your fascinating perspective.

It is hard for me to not read the new series Time War into this story. There is a Doctor Who confidential episode in which Russell T. Davies marks “Genesis of the Daleks” as the origin of the Time War. To review, a member of the Celestial Intervention Agency (according to one fan retcon, a generic Time Lord otherwise) forces the Doctor to go to Skaro during the Davros’s creation of the Daleks. The Doctor is supposed to stop the Daleks from ever being created. He fails, but he does (depending on your perspective) alter Dalek history (maybe). But the key piece of information here is that the Time Lords chose to interfere in history by preventing a race from existing. Said race would, understandably, hold a grudge. (Not that the Daleks needed the excuse.) Along the way, the Daleks got involved in many other wars (specifically the Movellan War), but by the time of “Resurrection,” their focus was on the Time Lords. They had suffered great losses during the Movellan War, but that didn’t stop them from wanting to take on the Time Lords by creating a duplicate of the Doctor who could assassinate the Time Lord high council. By this point, formal declarations of war are only a matter of time.

“Resurrection of the Daleks,” then, fits into to broader narratives: one developing the Doctor into a darker personality and one which sees the escalation of Time Lord/Dalek conflict. This escalation can be seen in many early Big Finish audios. (Which, interestingly, were made prior to the new series, leading me to wonder if the Time Lord/ Dalek war was floating in the collective consciousness of Doctor Who fans, or was a strong theory at the time that Davies wove into the new series. I was not a part of fandom in those late 90s/early 00s years [arguably, I’m in my own corner of fandom right now, but not a part of larger fandom movements], so I’m not sure what ideas were floating in the ether. Also, I live in America, which is a slight insulator from larger DW movements.)

All this said, “Resurrection of the Daleks” is an interesting approach to the Daleks. It is a pivotal piece of Doctor Who’s on-going mythology. Despite all this, however, I am somewhat indifferent toward it.

My Rating

3/5

Doctor Who – Destiny of the Daleks

Doctor Who Story 104 – Destiny of the Daleks

Written By

Terry Nation

What’s It About

Romana, bored with her current form, regenerates. Afterward, she and The Doctor get caught between The Daleks and the Movellans, who are at a stalemate in their long war.

Seek, Locate, Do Not Deviate
Romana 2
Another positive for this story is the clever costume for Romana, which is a play on The Doctor’s costume. (Source: BBC Doctor Who web site. Copyright 2013 by BBC.)

Fan opinion, with a few exceptions, considers “Destiny of the Daleks” to be a poor story. And while I am always happy to go against fan opinion, in this case I would have to agree. “Destiny” has a lot of problems. While it has a few things that I enjoyed, they are not enough to redeem the story for me. Strikes against this story, the regeneration scene (which was a necessary plot point since Mary Tamm had left, but it was played for humor—to mixed results), the recasting of Daleks as logic-based robots rather than anger-based mutants, an overly-simplistic attempt to convey a Cold War stalemate, and a production that was at times extremely half-hearted. The last two items on this list are mixed for me. I like what Terry Nation was trying to do. The Daleks and the Movellans were at an impasse, neither able to gain an advantage against the other since both sides used logic in their strategies. Granted, this would have worked better with the Cybermen, not the Daleks, but overlooking this, it creates an interesting twist on the Cold War: neither side can attack due to nuclear armaments, the only way to gain an advantage is to embrace self-destruction. It is an idea that has been explored in different stories (in film: War Games, Star Trek VI, and in the horrendous Superman IV). It is natural that Doctor Who would give it a shot. In fact, they had just one story earlier in “The Armageddon Factor.” And while I didn’t enjoy that story, it did explore the metaphor better.

As for the half-hearted production, there were a number of things at work here. The sets were a mixed bag, many of the background performers obviously didn’t take the story seriously, Tom Baker varied wildly in his performance, and the money just didn’t seem to stretch as far. But what impressed me is the direction. It wasn’t perfect, but Ken Grieve made great use of the steadicam. This resulted in some great panning shots and Grieve made good use of frame-in-frame. He seems to have done the best he could with what he had to work with. Grieve’s efforts help this story, but not enough to make it a success, as far as I am concerned.

My Rating

1.5/5

Doctor Who – Genesis of the Daleks

Doctor Who Story 078 – Genesis of the Daleks

Davros demonstrates his new creation: A Dalek.
Source: Tardis Index File. Copyright 1976 by BBC.

Who Wrote It: Terry Nation

What’s It About: The transmat beam that was supposed to take The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry back to Nerva is intercepted by the Time Lords. They want The Doctor to undertake a mission to prevent the creation of The Daleks.

Few stories in the classic era inspire as much adoration as Genesis of the Daleks. And, after watching this show in context, it is hard to disagree. This is a story that is quite unlike anything that came before. It is dark and moody; it has a tight plot; the performances are spectacular, with Michael Wisher and Peter Miles dominating the story; and the story brings up an interesting theme about the good that can be derived from hardship. The moral core of this story is summed up when The Doctor is confronted with the reality of destroying The Daleks at such an early state. If you know the future, is it ethical to commit murder (or genocide) to prevent future bloodshed? Or, in preventing this reality, do you create another, as yet unknown reality? Maybe a galaxy without The Daleks would be a better place. Or maybe it would be worse. The Doctor raises a very good point: that the civilizations that found unity in a common goal (survival against The Daleks) would now lack that unifying force. Maybe war would still exist, only now with different sides.

But ultimately, David Whitaker’s version of time travel wins. The Daleks, despite a last-minute attempt to destroy them, continue to survive. The revision of history cannot exist. But now it may be altered. Fan convention states that history was changed so that the early Dalek stories either didn’t happen, or happened differently. I don’t think it is entirely necessary to retcon all the early Dalek stories, but it is an interesting idea. I am especially intrigued by the new series retcon which suggests that Genesis of the Daleks is part of the Time War (perhaps the first shot fired in the Time War). This creates an interesting bit of symmetry as The Doctor was supposed to be the first weapon used in that war. He failed, but ultimately, he did end the war, thus becoming the final weapon.

But all this revisionism is incidental to the story itself. The Daleks are scary again, something they haven’t really been since the Troughton era. But center stage in this story is Davros, the creator of The Daleks. Casting Michael Wisher as Davros was a stroke of genius. Prior to this story, Wisher had been a Dalek voice actor, and he brings that background to this performance. We hear the fanaticism and anger in The Daleks, and we now know it comes from Davros. But even more chilling is the mind that rests in his scarred, devastated body. Davros is cold and calculating. He is hungry for power, but his main expression of power is his scientific supremacy. Davros is not so interested in ruling people; he is interested in proving his scientific theories, even if those theories lead to total destruction. As villains go, this is a completely impractical goal, but it is the strength of Wisher’s performance that, for the duration of the story, you believe it.

Peter Miles also shines as Nyder, Davros’s second-in-command. Why Nyder shows such unwavering devotion to Davros is never stated, but again, the performance never wavers. You never question Nyder’s devotion.

I suppose the question left to ask is: Did we really need an origin story for The Daleks? In truth, not really. I would say that the quality of the story justifies its own existence, but if Genesis had failed, we would lament the very attempt at an origin story. Since it succeeded (spectacularly), it has opened the door to all sorts of other origin stories: Spare Parts, The First Sontarans, countless stories that speculate on the origin of The Master and The Doctor, and the occasional new series episode that fans theorize being the “Genesis of the X” (I remember Waters of Mars being theorized as Genesis of the Ice Warriors; Some thought The Almost People could be the creation of the Autons; and I’ll throw my own hat in the ring with The Snowmen having an almost Genesis of the Great Intelligence vibe). But more than an origin story, we needed a Dalek story that really re-emphasized why we like the little pepper pots. We needed a story to make them scary again, even if we had to visit their creator to do it.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Doctor Who – Planet of the Daleks

The frozen Dalek army on Spiridon.
(Source: Screen Capture from the Dalek War DVD. Copyright 1973 by The BBC

Doctor Who Story 068 – Planet of the Daleks

Who Wrote It: Terry Nation

What’s It About: In the aftermath of the Earth/Draconia conflict, The Doctor and Jo arrive on Spiridon, where they find a Thal taskforce, invisible natives, and an army composed of thousands of Daleks.

It seems strange to say that I’ve missed Terry Nation, but I think I have. He never wrote my favorite episodes, but Planet of the Daleks works for me. Planet stands out from Frontier in Space because Frontier was slow in places. Jo and The Doctor were imprisoned, then escaped, then were imprisoned, then escaped again, and so on. In Planet, however, the story moves along. There is a lot of stuff going on. It’s almost as if Terry Nation discovered pacing at somewhere along the way. Even the Dalek story is interesting and not quite a rehash, although we do have recycled elements: Thals vs. Daleks, The Daleks plan to contaminate the planet. But the idea of a frozen Dalek army is just plain interesting, and knowing that the army is still buried is chilling.

My only real complaint about the story is its relation to Frontier in Space. The connection between the two seems tenuous. Daleks appeared at the end of Frontier as the masterminds behind the Earth/Draconia conflict, but Planet had almost no connection with the previous story. It seems the Daleks were only brought in to Frontier as a good cliffhanger, but not because of any active part in the conflict. The previous story was hardly even mentioned. I guess I had built up a strong connection in my mind since the stories were released together on DVD. Taken on its own, however, this was an enjoyable story. I thought it was fun.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Doctor Who – Season 9

Source: Critical Myth. Copyright by BBC.

My mission to complete a chronological viewing of Doctor Who before the 50th anniversary continues. With the completion of season nine, I’m over halfway through the Pertwee era. Unfortunately, I’m not yet halfway through the classic series.

This season was the most location-diverse season yet for Pertwee, which is a plus. Unfortunately, I struggled to stay interested in some of these stories. However, there were some interesting ideas, specifically the idea that the Time Lords were starting to use the Doctor as an errand boy. This was an inspired idea and brought some diversity to the season. So, let’s get to it.

  1. Day of the Daleks by Louis Marks
    A renegade group from the future go up against the Doctor and UNIT in their attempt to assassinate a diplomat that they believe started a World War which left the Earth defenseless to a Dalek invasion.
    I saw the special edition of this story, which included new visual effects and re-dubbed Dalek voices. The changes were excellent and really enhanced the story. It was a great idea with some wonderful performances by the guest cast. Unfortunately, I found UNIT to be a bit bumbling at times. Have I mentioned that I miss the UNIT and Brigadier from season seven? This complaint aside, this is an enjoyable story and, at four episodes, it doesn’t wear out its welcome.
    My Rating: 3.5/5
  2. The Curse of Peladon by Brian Hayles
    Forced to visit Peladon by the Time Lords, the Doctor and Jo join a conference of delegates who are evaluating Peladon’s desire to join the Galactic Federation. Unfortunately, someone is trying to stymie the efforts of peace.
    I found this story to be a boring experience. For whatever reason, I could not get engaged. Maybe it was the bleak sets (well done, but the planet felt rather sparsely populated) or maybe it was Alpha Centauri’s grating voice. This story was tedium. It isn’t without its good moments, however. The Ice Warriors are in this story, but they are allies rather than villains. I loved this twist and enjoy the idea of the Doctor being prejudiced against a race that he has fought in the past, only to find they are valuable allies. I also enjoyed the Venusian Lullaby. Unfortunately, these elements were not enough to spark excitement for further Peladon stories.
    My Rating: 1.5/5
  3. The Sea Devils by Malcolm Hulke
    Despite being imprisoned, The Master has found a way to contact a colony of Sea Devils, an aquatic race of Silurians. Can the Doctor finally broker a peace between humanity and the Silurians?
    There were many things to like about this story: the setting was amazing, with lots of ocean shots and even a boat chase; excellent performances; the cooperation of the Royal Navy in filming; and the return of a fascinating race. Unfortunately, the main problem with this story is that it is essentially the same story as The Silurians. The main difference is the Master working as an antagonistic force to bring war between humanity and the Sea Devils. I wanted to like this story more than I did, but The Silurians already told this story, and it was arguably better and tighter. The Sea Devils just covered too much ground (so to speak) that we had already covered.
    My Rating: 3/5
  4. The Mutants by Bob Baker and Dave Martin
    On yet another mission for the Time Lords, the Doctor must deliver a container to someone on the planet Solos. The problem, he doesn’t know who. To make matters worse, Solos is about to be returned to its native people, an act that is strongly opposed by the Marshal of Skybase One.
    Did you get all that? This story is nothing if not ambitious and complex. This is a plus. There are some great ideas in this story and the apartheid allegory brings a bit of social commentary and substance to this story. Unfortunately, some of the performances are poor and the dialogue-heavy scenes feel slow and plodding. And at times, the ambition of the story is just out of reach of the production values. Make no mistake, the crew does the absolute best they can with the resources at their disposal. I found myself rooting for them and willing to forgive because, bless them, they were trying really hard. I think that is the biggest tragedy of The Mutants, it is a great script, stuffed with great ideas, and has a thought-provoking subtext, but is let down by a budget that just doesn’t quite make it, and a couple of poor performances. And it is just a bit too long.
    My Rating: 2.5/5
  5. The Time Monster by Robert Sloman
    The Master has reappeared as a professor in charge of the TOMTIT project, a project that theorizes the transportation of matter through time. But his real goal is to gain control over Kronos, a creature that feeds on time itself.
    The season ends on a high note for me. I loved this story. At no point did it take itself too seriously, and as a result, it was a lot of fun. The characters were well-written and performed, the story was fast-paced, and there was a genuine epic quality about it. The Master was at his best in this story. In some ways, this story felt like the equivalent of an RTD series-long-arc, but done in six, tight half-hour episodes. Plus, baby Benton may be my new favorite character. So long as you don’t want your Doctor Who super serious, this is a great story.
    My Rating: 4/5

Doctor Who Story 36 – Evil of the Daleks

Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Derek Martinus

After witnessing the TARDIS being stolen, The Doctor and Jamie must track down an elusive Victorian antiques dealer, rescue an abducted girl in 1866, and unlock they key to the Human Factor, unaware that they are caught up in an intricate web woven by The Emperor Dalek.

Ever since first seeing a photo in "The Doctor Who Technical Manual", I've always been fascinated with the look of The Emperor Dalek.

 “That’s right.  TARDIS is a Gaelic word.”
I wish I could watch this episode with fresh eyes.  It isn’t so much for the surprise about The Daleks, but for the mystery surrounding Edward Waterfield.  I know going in to the story that he is from the Victorian Era, that he has been brought to 1960s England by a third party, and that his heart is not quite in what he does.  I say “not quite” because I know his motivation is duress.  He is protecting his daughter.  But that will be addressed later.  I will say this, however.  I haven’t seen every episode of Doctor Who (otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this blog), so when I get to a new story, I’ll let you know.

Much of this first episode deals with the mystery of Waterfield’s identity and strange behavior.  No, mystery isn’t solved in this episode, but as I already know the answer, some of the intrigue is dispelled. In spite of this, the Avengers-esque espionage is rather fun.  Waterfield has been working quiet effectively at luring The Doctor and Jamie in.  I don’t remember all the details at this point, so I’m looking forward to the refresher over the next six episodes.  This is a long one.

“YOU WILL NOT FEED THE FLYING PESTS OUTSIDE!”
Thankfully, the reveal of Waterfield as a time traveler is addressed quite early in the episode.  And through quick thinking and deception, Waterfield is able to knock out and bring The Doctor and Jamie back to 1866 with him.  They both awake in a Victorian manor with severe headaches.  The Doctor soon meets Theodore Maxtible, who claims responsibility for the abduction.  We also learn that Waterfield and Maxtible are at the mercy of The Daleks, and that Waterfield’s daughter Victoria is being held prisoner to ensure cooperation.  We then cut to a scene in which we see Victoria being menaced by a Dalek who chastises her for not eating enough.

I love the idea of Victorian time travel using mirrors, electromagnetism, and static electricity.  The static, naturally, attracted The Daleks.  There’s something wonderfully Lovecraftian about this, unconventional science drawing otherworldly creatures to the location of the experiments.  I love the image, albeit in my mind, of Daleks bursting out of mirrors.  The Daleks want Jamie.  Maxtible theorizes that The Daleks are attempting to discover what it is about humans that enables them to continually defeat The Daleks.  This idea will be revisited much later, and to much less effect, in 2007 in Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.  But one story at a time.

“I got Mr. Nod here.  He’ll have you snoring as good as ever.”
Do we have some hints of racism in this particular episode with the portrayal of Kemel?  Granted, this story takes place in 1866 and it may be possible to dismiss it, somewhat, as attempting to be accurate to attitudes of the period, but in the very next story we have a similar portrayal with Toberman.  It’s a shame if it is true, but these episodes were produced in the 1960s, and they will reflect 60s ideas, both good and bad.

The experiment is revealed, as is The Doctor’s devious side.  The Daleks are wanting to isolate the human factor, the attitudes and emotions that they believe enable humans to continually defeat The Daleks.  An experiment has been developed where Victoria Waterfield must be rescued by Jamie.  However, Jamie must not know he is in the experiment.  Thus, The Doctor must manipulate Jamie into cooperating under his own free will, from determining to rescue Victoria, to actually succeeding.  Dalek technology will monitor Jamie’s reactions, responses, and feelings, and The Doctor will isolate the important feelings for transfer into a group of Dalek mutants.  It seems somewhat foolish that The Daleks would trust The Doctor with this task, but since they cannot recognize emotions other than anger and hatred, they cannot do it themselves.  The scene where Jamie confronts The Doctor about betraying him and working with Maxtible is quite uncomfortable and effective.  The Doctor and Jamie have never fought like this before.  Jamie is being a character rather than comic relief.  Despite knowing he is being manipulated, Jamie is still convinced to go along with rescuing Victoria.  The Doctor understands how his companion thinks and uses that against him.  It is chilling.

“If you want the human factor, a part of it must include mercy.”
I’m happy to see Jamie’s compassion toward Kemel.  Not only does this help Jamie in the long run (by having Kemel save Jamie’s life in turn), but it is an excellent lesson in motives.  To Jamie, Kemel was attacking with no discernable reason.  He could have easily assumed the man was evil and let him die.  In reality, we know that Kemel had been lied to by Maxtible.  It is easy to make quick, incorrect judgements that can have lasting consequences.  We can’t know the circumstances of those around us, whether they try to kill us in a darkened hallway, or they just drive slowly when we are stuck behind them.  Mercy is a great benefit to humanity because it presumes one’s own humility and finite knowledge.

Waterfield’s complicity is understandable in this story, and he is starting to crack.  The duress of having his daughter kidnaped and being forced to do things against his nature is weakening his resolve.  Waterfield is willing to confess his actions to any authority after he sees his daughter to safety.  Maxtible’s motivations are more selfish.  He seeks the secret of transmutation of metal into gold.  Being motivated by greed, he is considerably more cold and ruthless.

This entire operation of The Daleks seems a bit overly-complicated.  The concept is that by putting Jamie through a series of trials, they can isolate qualities that make humans unique and able to conquer The Daleks.  This is all well and good on paper, but actually sitting through it gets a bit old.  Maybe it would be better if the episode still existed, but I can’t help but wonder if what I imagine is probably better than how it was realized.  Perhaps my boredom with the trials shows my own lack of imagination.  But I also think I’m marred by being part of the generation that grew up with video games, and all I can see is an 8-bit Scotsman making his way through a series of levels, avoiding traps and pits and Daleks.  One level ends with Jamie having to fight a Turkish Wrestler, but if you defeat him, you get the ability to summon him in battle.  If I had any skill with Photoshop, I’d try to recreate this image.  Evil of The Daleks the game.

“You seem to be a devote of Edgar Allan Poe.”
The character of Arthur Terrall has remained rather enigmatic throughout this story.  We knew that he and Ruth Maxtible were an item (either engaged or courting) and that The Daleks obviously had some sort of control over him.  Perhaps this was David Whitaker’s version of The Robomen.  Terrall appeared to be the victim of some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion or mind control.  Every time he tried to act counter to The Daleks’ will, he heard their voices droning on and on “obey.”  I was never quite able to discern his part in this plot, but I found out in episode five.  He was supposed to fight Jamie.  This is a seven part story, and it is feeling a bit long.  I’m sure Whitaker felt similarly, so Terrall was created to lurk in the background until it was time for Jamie to have to fight him.  Seems a good enough use for a character.  I almost expected a reveal that Terrall was a 1960s version of Bracewell from Victory of the Daleks, but it seems he was just a human under Dalek control.

Jamie and The Doctor make up fairly quick as Jamie starts to see that The Doctor was working to inject Daleks with the human factor.  As it stands, it seems the human factor seems to make Daleks into child-like creatures.  They play with rolling chairs and push The Doctor around the lab.  I wish this scene still existed.  I would love to see how they realized it.

“DIZZY DOCTOR!”
The Doctor is giddy over the humanized Daleks.  And why shouldn’t he be.  He has introduced into Daleks the ability to have fun and inquisitive and friendly.  It is a wonderful scene, but you know that the regular Daleks won’t allow this to last very long.

Maxtible and Waterfield finally have a falling out as Waterfield discovers Maxtible’s true motives.  Waterfield now falls firmly into The Doctor’s camp.  Maxtible, however, is on his own.  His greed allowed The Daleks to manipulate him, and now he is totally at their mercy.  They haven’t broken his will, but he is now at a disadvantage.  Maxtible is so far down the road of greed and deceit that he is compelled to keep moving in the same direction, despite now knowing he has lost everything.  The Daleks have destroyed his home and he is trapped on Skaro.

Before the destruction of Maxtible’s mansion, The Doctor, Jamie, and Waterfield were able to escape using Maxtible’s time machine, you know, the one made from mirrors.  Unfortunately, this is exactly where The Daleks want The Doctor.  They have one further use for him.  They want him to use the TARDIS and spread the newly discovered Dalek Factor throughout the history of Earth.  Dalek Factor?  Okay, it seems that while The Doctor was looking for The Human Factor, he was really enabling The Daleks to learn more about themselves.  The qualities that made humans strong could be used to extrapolate what made Daleks strong. The Doctor had hoped that the humanized Daleks (whom he named Alpha, Beta, and Omega) would spread the human factor among the other Daleks by making them question orders and be compassionate.  The Emperor Dalek, seen onscreen for the first time, plans to use the Dalek Factor on Alpha, Beta, and Omega to destroy their humanity.

Oh, and Victoria and Kemel are also on Skaro.  I don’t know if I mentioned that.

So, after a couple of plodding episodes, this one picks up.  This is becoming a pattern.

“I think we’ve seen the end of the Daleks forever.”
Ah, human Daleks.  This was the masterplan.  It makes one wonder if The Cult of Skaro was present during this story and never quite let go of this idea.  It never seems to work, though, does it?  In the end, Maxtible is turned into a human with Dalek tendencies and The Doctor turns all Dalek drones into Daleks with human tendencies.  Those tendencies include questioning orders rather than following blindly.  And then they destroyed each other.  A nice, tidy ending.

Well, except for Kemel and Waterfield, both of whom are killed protecting others.  Maxtible is left on Skaro.  The Doctor and Jamie escape the destruction with Victoria in tow.  This is our new TARDIS crew.  We’ll see how it works out.

Originally, this was intended to be the final story to feature The Daleks.  It was to write The Daleks out of the Doctor Who universe.  So this begs the question, how effective was it?  I think it works well enough.  It certainly isn’t he worst Dalek story, but I don’t think it was as tightly plotted as Power of the Daleks.  I did like the concept of Daleks in the Victorian Era.  I also enjoy the idea of channeling static electricity and using mirrors as the basis of time travel.  Sure, the science is extremely dodgy, but it is imaginative and, dare I say it, magical.  I would love to see this idea revisited, possibly allowing us to see Daleks emerge from mirrors or something similarly eerie.  Overall, I liked it.  I wouldn’t mind if this were the final Dalek story.

And with this episode, I finally complete season four.  It’s strange to think I started this season with William Hartnell.  It was definitely a Troughton season, but it took him a few stories to find his footing (and to team up with Frazer Hines).  But now all the pieces are in place.  It is just up to Victoria to have her first adventure and find her place in the dynamic.  I’m excited to see where this goes.  This also marks the last season I have seen (or heard) in its entirety until the Tom Baker Era.  This isn’t the first time I have attempted a chronological viewing of Doctor Who, but I am determined to make this the successful one.  Previously, I stalled out after completing Fury from the Deep, and my interest was starting to fade earlier than that (and for some reason I skipped The Abominable Snowmen and The Ice Warriors).  It has been my hope that this time, by taking it slow and writing about it, I may actually complete this project.  I’m just a few days away from the one year anniversary of this blog.  So far so good, I think.

Doctor Who Serial 030 – Power of the Daleks

Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Christopher Barry

The Doctor’s body has changed and, it would seem, so has his personality.  As Ben and Polly attempt to understand what has happened and what it could mean for them, The Doctor gets involved in the affairs of a colony on the planet Vulcan and learns that a discovery in the swamp could have disasterous effects on the human colonists.

“I’d like to see a butterfly fit into its chrysalis after it has spread its wings!”

With the passing of the First Doctor, we have a new era of storytelling.   The very dynamic of the show feels altered with the coming of Patrick Troughton, and he is much more aloof than Hartnell ever was.  One can almost sympathize with Ben and his suspicions about who this new man is.  And yet, who else could he be.  Ben and Polly watched the transformation.

Renewal, or as we know it now, regeneration.  But was it always thus?  It would seem not.  I think that David Whitaker may have been trying to get at something slightly different and infinitely more interesting.  Keeping in mind that this is before we have met The Doctor’s people, before we have heard the word “Gallifrey”.  This is a time when The Doctor was very much a mystery.  The Doctor says that he has received a “gift of the TARDIS”, that he has had a renewal.  On the one hand, the implication is that his years have been stripped away so that his body now looks younger.  On the other, the butterfly metaphor implies something more grand and magical.  It implies that The Doctor’s being has changed to such a degree that his old body could no longer contain him.  The implication is a type of evolution, taking him beyond what he once was, changing him into something similar, but new.  It is more than mere body and personality change, it is progress, it is development.  The Doctor, who was somewhat less moral (by human standards) when we met him, is now someone who is guided by a strong sense of morality.  This aspect will stay with the show for decades, but what I find so interesting about how the renewal is handled here in comparison to later regeneration is the idea that this is an implied improvement.  Is this the Second Doctor’s arrogance or was this meant to be a part of the show’s mythology?  Yes, many Doctors would agree that they are an improvement over previous models (Ten and Five aside) but I doubt that there would be much evidence that they were improvements.  Merely changes.

Your author for the serial.

David Whitaker has returned to the show for the first time since The Crusade.  I find this quite interesting as he was the first script editor and he had a strong influence over some of the basic tenants of the show.  He shaped the early mythology of Doctor Who, and now we have him writing the explanation of one of the biggest events to have happened on the show to this point.  Not only that, but Whitaker helped shape the character of The Doctor in the beginning, thus he was possibly the perfect person to write this transitional story.  He could keep the essence of The Doctor while still exploring the ideas of renewal and change.  And of course, should anyone have their doubts, we have the return of The Daleks.

Even The Daleks are in new territory.  They are weak, but they are not defeated.  This show shows them at what is most-likely their most conniving.  They manipulate the human colonists with ease, first Lesterson and his scientific curiosity (and blindness), then later Bragen and Janley as they dream of revolution.  The Daleks seem more effective than ever in their state of weakness.  The Doctor defeats them in the end, but this almost seems a mere afterthought where the story is concerned.  Almost as if Whitaker is acknowledging that no matter how powerful and popular The Daleks may be, The Doctor must win in the end.  Even if it is a last-minute victory.

“Lesterson, listen.  Lesterson, listen.  It exercise the tongue.”

There is an odd exchange as The Doctor, Ben, and Polly depart the planet Vulcan.  As Ben and Polly discuss the events they had witnessed and taken part in, they become uncertain as to how effective The Doctor’s arguments were against The Daleks.  They wonder if he had only half-heartedly tried to convince the human colonists that The Daleks were evil.  When asked out-right, The Doctor merely smiles and winks.  This may have looked good on screen, but the implications are enormous.  The Doctor seems to have moved from curious explorer to manipulative meddler.  Sure, he still seems aligned with what would be considered “good”, but to what ends would he go to achieve what he deems good?  How Machiavellian is this new Doctor?

I really like this story, in part because I think it is not just one of the best Dalek stories, but because it is a six-parter that seems to work.  I enjoy seen intelligent, conniving Daleks as opposed to arrogant Daleks who rely only upon their weaponry.  So often they seem to glide about yelling and shooting, whereas these Daleks add a significant degree of manipulation to their repitoir.  The Doctor’s situation seems completely hopeless, and it never really changes.  Perhaps that is why he doesn’t try too hard in Ben and Polly’s eyes.

There are so many plot threads in this story and it keeps things interesting.  You have The Doctor and his attempts to thwart The Daleks.  Then there is the manipulation of Lesterson by The Daleks.  We also have Bragen’s attempts to overthrow the governor.  There is the mystery of who sent for the Earth inspector and who killed the real inspector (allowing The Doctor to impersonate him).  So much going on, it makes this story crack along at a great pace.  On top of that, we are having to learn about the new Doctor, and I think he wins everyone over just fine.  It is a good start.

Doctor: The Crusades.  Saladin.  The Doctor was a great collector wasn’t he.
Polly: But you’re The Doctor.
Doctor: Oh, I don’t look like him.
Ben: Who are we?”
Doctor: Don’t you know?