Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Power of the Daleks

And so the Doctor Who world was changed forever, as William Hartnell said goodbye to the role he’d play for over three years, his face melted on screen into Patrick Troughton, and to start the new Doctor off they brought in the Daleks. Quite a logical step really.
Patrick Troughton in the stove-pipe hat.

Patrick Troughton’s first story saw a big jump in the ratings, mostly thanks to the Daleks. I am not convinced by his Doctor though, it was all a bit bizarre. There’s an entire scene in the first episode where he speaks with his recorder (which gets a fair work out in this story) and quite frankly it’s all a bit wobbly. This does mimic regeneration I guess, and the story itself is excellent. As good as any William Hartnell story.
The plot is well-layered with many different subplots going on, with interesting characters that develop and change throughout the story. It’s not just a Dalek story, it’s the story of an Earth colony on the planet Vulcan (with Mr Spock nowhere to be seen) who are living in a place full of mercury swamps. Quite a different sort of world.
Robert James and Bernard Archard

There is a rebel group ready to rise up and take power, whilst the rather neurotic scientist Lesterson – play by Robert James – is only concerned with this giant capsule that has been dug up and what might be inside it. Yes, it’s very Quatermass the Pit, and a great springing off point for a Dalek story. As the Daleks inside the capsule are revived they make promises to Lesterson they don’t intend on keeping. Lesterson’s assistant Janley (Pamela Ann Davies) decides to use the Daleks to help the rebels take over.
Meanwhile, Bragen (Bernard Archard) has manoeuvred himself the role of Acting Governor. The Daleks have fooled everyone and have been constructing a Dalek army that turns on everyone and only the Doctor can stop them in the end.

There are a host of themes running through the story – the main message being ‘when you fight among yourselves you leave yourself vulnerable.’ An so the colony was almost wiped out by the Daleks. It’s a nicely intricate plot that is different from most of the stories in the Hartnell era. It’s got plenty of action and Daleks – with huge destruction and fights in the final episode, so the kiddies would have been kept happy. The only bad thing about this tale is that it no longer exists, although there are a surprising number of clips existing from episodes four and five.
The Doctor introduces Polly and Ben to the Daleks.
The recon is well done, but lacks the animated Daleks of early Dalek recons. Still, it’s better than nothing, and the story can be quite easily followed which is the main thing. The script was written by David Whitaker, the original script editor, but then changed by the man who replaced him in that role, Dennis Spooner. Spooner is not credited with this story however apparently a lot of the story is his. Having said that, it feels very different to any Hartnell story.
Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills) are serviceably but have very quickly become one-dimensional characters. Perhaps it was bound to happen but Ben is always angry and Polly, well, is caring and screaming most of the time. The new Doctor, as I mentioned, makes a shaky start, but saves the day in the end to great peril to himself. I understand the look is slowly going to change a bit losing the tall stove-pipe hat and the recorder won’t feature as prominently as it did in this story. He’s a bit like a kid in a sweet shop at times, and there was a feel or experimentation in the air. Hard for the audience to relate or connect with the Doctor in this story I feel.
The Daleks are very sly and clever, making a departure from them invading Earth, or as they appeared in their previous two stories, doing a lot of Doctor chasing. It’s nice that the Doctor knows how evil they are but no one is really willing to believe him. There’s an inevitability with that too which works nicely. You KNOW the Daleks are going to show their true colours at some point, and you wait with baited breath to see when it will happen.
Interestingly enough, this is the first story which is not four parts for a long time, since ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan’ in fact. This six-part adventure is the only one of more than four parts in a long sequence, as the next four stories are again all four parts.
Bernard Archard and Robert James deserve special mention for fine supporting roles, as does Nicholas Hawtrey as Quinn and Peter Bathurst as Hensell. The entire supporting cast did a find job on this one. In summary, although the new character of the Doctor is extremely questionable in this story, the story itself is a fine piece of 60s television indeed, and starts the first NEW Doctor off on the right foot. I regret that this blog doesn’t really explain why I think this was such a good story. Hence I give it only my second (I think) 9/10.

PS Apparently some of MY stories have been televisualised. Please come and watch one or two -
The Adventures of Professor Who

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