Doctor Who Project: The Evil of the Daleks

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Dizzy, dizzy, dizzy Daleks!

Now that’s how you end a season. Doctor Who‘s Fourth Season comes to a close with David Whitaker’s “The Evil of the Daleks,” (Story Production Code LL) a seven-episode story that finds the Doctor on familiar ground: Skaro, home planet of the Daleks. But he gets there through a Dalek time travel device in a London antique shop in 1966 that deposits him in a cabinet of electrified mirrors in a Victorian laboratory, which somewhat explains why it takes seven episodes to tell the tale. Much like the prior story, “The Faceless Ones,” Whitaker’s story feels an episode too long yet still delivers an engaging, if slightly overwrought, plot. Indeed, it’s best not to dwell too much on the absurd fussiness of the Daleks’ machinations here; the real story takes place between the Doctor, Jamie, and, yes, the Daleks as they come to terms with just who the Doctor is, and what it is he truly believes.

A furrowed brow

For “The Evil of the Daleks” very much serves as a re-statement of the show’s theme and purpose, a summing up of four seasons of Doctor Who, tidily wrapped with a neat Dalek bow. The Doctor and Jamie have two extended conversations—fights, really—about the lengths the Doctor will go to for his aims and what he cares about, dialogue that serves less the immediate narrative purpose than the ends of the show as an ongoing cultural entity. In short, Whitaker puts the needs of continuity ahead of the needs of story, or rather, he recognizes that the Doctor’s story is ongoing and not a mere series of semi-linked sequential adventures. His story embraces what has come before like no other story to date has, and though it’s riddled with what we might term continuity errors, he’s grasped the larger continuity, that of the Doctor’s beliefs, his purpose.

So the story picks up immediately from the end of “The Faceless Ones,” with the TARDIS being hauled away from Gatwick on a lorry. The Doctor and Jamie are lured to an antique shop through a series of elaborately laid (and patently obvious) clues about the location of the blue box, all designed with a knowledge of the Doctor’s curious nature. Much of the first two episodes focuses on the trap being laid for the Doctor; the narrative tension comes not from wondering what traps the Doctor will face but instead from how he will unravel them. And just when they’ve found the odd technology (and a dead body) in the back of a shop filled with brand new yet authentic Victorian artifacts, they’re gassed unconscious and wake up in a Victorian drawing room with massive headaches and a helpful servant named Mollie. And there are still five episodes to go.

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Doctor Who Project: The Power of the Daleks

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So he gets himself a new one?

The Doctor might be new, but the foe is not. To usher in Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor, David Whitaker’s “The Power of the Daleks” (Story Production Code EE) relies on the everyone’s favorite aliens to ease the fledgling Time Lord (and the audience) into the new era. Viewers uncertain about William Hartnell’s replacement could still be expected to tune in for the Daleks, last seen some ten months prior. But, as is standard with Dalek stories, we do not see one until the end of the very first episode, leaving room for Ben and Polly to ask questions of this interloper, whose entire appearance and demeanor have changed.

Care is taken to reassure the viewer that there is a strong continuity between manifestations, particularly with a shot of Hartnell’s visage when Troughton looks into a mirror. The Doctor rummages through a chest and pulls out objects from past adventures, such as a dagger from Saladin and, ominously, a chunk of metal that causes him to mutter, “Extermination!” Oddly, though, he does not refer to himself as the Doctor once in the entire story, even referring to the Doctor in the third person during the first episode when asking if the Doctor kept a diary.

Image via http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/photonovels/power/

Viewership figures (as reported in Wood and Miles, About Time 2), come in at nearly eight million per episode for the six-part story, far stronger than those for recent stories like “The Smugglers” (less than five million per) and even “The Tenth Planet” (starting at five and a half million and peaking at seven and a half million as Hartnell exits). The audience, clearly, accepted Patrick Troughton, but do Ben and Polly accept the Second Doctor as the Doctor?

Polly does, almost immediately; her concern is whether this Doctor is so different that he will not want them along. Ben takes somewhat longer to warm to the idea. Clearly, this new figure knows his way around the TARDIS, flicking open the door switch without looking, but Ben calls him out for not checking the monitors to ascertain if it’s safe to leave. The Doctor drilled that notion into all his companions’ heads; if this strange figure doesn’t even bother, how could he be the Doctor? But the reply puts Ben rather in his place:

Oxygen density 172. Radiation nil. Temperature 86. Strong suggestion of mercury deposits. Satisfied, Ben? Now are you two coming or are you not?

The regeneration (a phrase not used in this story) is explained, broadly, as a function of the TARDIS. The exact phrasing—”I’ve been renewed. It’s part of the TARDIS. Without it, I couldn’t survive.”—leaves open the possibility that the Doctor’s life force is connected to the TARDIS not just for regeneration but for his very existence itself, bringing a hint of mystery to the ship that we haven’t seen since “Inside the Spaceship” back in the first season.

Image via http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/photonovels/power/

If “The Power of the Daleks” is known for anything, though, it should not be for the difficult task of selling the first regeneration as much as for making the Daleks scary again. An empire of Daleks can be (and has been) played for laughs; one Dalek is frankly terrifying.

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Doctor Who Project: The Daleks' Master Plan

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Three time machines in one infinitesimal speck of space and time! Tsk. Of course, a coincidence is possible—but hardly likely.

They just don’t make them like they used to. The multi-episode story structure used by Doctor Who allowed quite a bit of flexibility when planning a season, and while most stories of the First Doctor’s era fit into the standard four-episode format, one story in particular stretched the limits: Terry Nation and Dennis Spooner’s twelve-episode epic “The Daleks’ Master Plan” (Story Production Code V), which first aired in weekly installments from November 13, 1965 through January 29, 1966. Nothing like it had been seen in Doctor Who before. Except, um, Terry Nation’s “The Chase” and “The Keys of Marinus,” six-episode stories from which the structure of “The Daleks’ Master Plan” is cribbed.

Both “The Chase” and “The Keys of Marinus” feature whirlwind tours of disparate locations, either climactic extremes (jungles, deserts, acid oceans) or quasi-realistic settings played for laughs (top of the Empire State Building, an animatronic house of horrors). So too with “The Daleks’ Master Plan”—the deserts of ancient Egypt; the lush jungle of planet Kembel; the swamps of planet Mira; northern England at Christmas; the, ah, manicured cricket lawns of The Oval; and 1920’s Hollywood are all stops for the TARDIS in this story. And why does the TARDIS flit from place to place? Because it’s being chased through time and space, not just by Daleks (as in “The Chase”) but by the Mark IV TARDIS of the Meddling Monk, also known as “The Time Meddler,” because, as a Dennis Spooner creation, he’s of course in this one, too. Can’t let Nation and his Daleks have all the fun.

Still, even if we know, broadly, what to expect from a Terry Nation story, “The Daleks’ Master Plan” works, well, masterfully, with but few exceptions. The story starts somewhat slowly, with the usual Nation technobabble—in short order we are introduced to two different types of spacecraft by brand name (the Spar 7-40 and the Flipt T4) and both ultraspace and ultrasonics, neither of which get any explanation. But most importantly, we are introduced to Mavic Chen (Kevin Stoney), the idolized Guardian of the Solar System (essentially the leader of all humans), whom we quickly find to be in league with the Daleks. Why rule a mere solar system, when you can rule whole galaxies?

Today the Solar System, Tomorrow the Universe!

Meanwhile, the Doctor desperately needs medicine for a wounded Steven and lands, by happenstance, on the planet Kembel, last seen as the location of a secret Dalek base in “Mission to the Unknown.” Before long, the Doctor, Katarina (picked up in ancient Troy during “The Myth Makers“), Steven, and a headstrong Earth security agent named Bret Vyon (future Brigadier Nicholas Courtney) stumble into a conference being held by the Daleks with representatives from several different galaxies. It’s at this conference that the Daleks’ Master Plan is unveiled.

Gearon, Malpha, and the Dalek Supreme. Or is that Celation?

And, as with most Dalek plans, it’s actually kind of stupid.

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Doctor Who Project: Mission to the Unknown

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It is done. The seven great powers of the galaxy are one.

Obviously, far too much time has passed since the Daleks last appeared on Doctor Who in “The Chase,” a whole eight episodes ago. And so, to set up their epic return in the twelve-part “The Daleks’ Master Plan” one story hence, we are treated to Terry Nation’s “Mission to the Unknown” (Story Production Code T/A), a one episode “prologue” also known as the Dalek Cutaway but mostly known because there’s no Doctor in it. At all.

From the start, one imagines “Mission to the Unknown” to be Terry Nation’s vision of the Daleks outside of Doctor Who, with neither the Doctor nor his Companions even mentioned in the episode. The music itself seems a departure from the established series norm, with an excessive use of musical “stings”—quick, crashing, slightly discordant sounds more commonly associated with horror or thriller films.

Opposing the cumbersome pepperpots this time is not a Time Lord but Marc Cory, an agent of Earth’s Space Security Service (also called the Special Security Service in this episode). Had Marc Cory survived the episode, I would have suspected an Earth vs. Dalek spin-off series in the making. But one feels nothing for the deaths of Cory and his unwitting colleagues Garvey and Lowery; they are essentially set dressing.

Ultimately, the episode serves as an info-dump more than a teaser. The actors (Dalek and human alike) fairly stumble over big blocks of text as Terry Nation spends most of the story in expositional mode, setting up the scenario (a thousand years after the last Dalek invasion of Earth) and letting us know what the Daleks have been up to in the intervening years (conquering planets millions of light years away). And now they’re back for another crack at Earth, this time in a great alliance with the galaxy’s six other great powers, noted in the script as Gearon, Trantis, Malpha, Sentreal, Beaus, and Celation. And note, too the black dome of the Dalek Supreme.

As is somewhat typical of early (and, who are we kidding, current) Doctor Who, astronomical terms are thrown around with imprecise abandon. One of the delegates at the Daleks’ alliance meeting, from Malpha, proclaims:

This is indeed an historic moment in the history of the universe. We six from the outer galaxies, joining with a power from the solar system: the Daleks.

Universe, galaxy, solar system? Even the location of the planet Kembel, where the action takes place, is unclear. Cory and his fellows suggest that Earth has a huge galactic network, though, so Earth is no slouch in terms of colonization and, perhaps, conquest.

As with “Galaxy 4” before it, “Mission to the Unknown” no longer exists on film, and given the effects work hinted at in the publicity stills and the script, one hopes fervently that a copy turns up at a jumble sale somewhere after decades in an attic, if only to see the giant headed cone alien walk around.

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Doctor Who Project: The Chase

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Barbara, could I, ah, have your cardigan?

Terry Nation and his Daleks return to Doctor Who in “The Chase” (Story Production Code R), with their own time machine, ready to pursue our heroes through time and space with one aim: to exterminate. The possibilities are endless, the potential locales and eras limitless. And we wind up on a desert planet populated by fish people. And also on Earth three times. And then on a jungle planet with hungry fungi and truculent robots. By the end of the story, one mourns not so much for the departure of Barbara and Ian as for what could have been.

Much like an earlier Nation effort, “The Keys of Marinus,” “The Chase” bounces around from place to place, episode to episode, and as a result, far too much screen time is devoted to establishing the when and what of where the Doctor and his companions have arrived. This influx of exposition overwhelms any sense of anxiety about the Daleks who pursue them just minutes behind in the time and space vortex. And, of course, the intrepid travellers must conspire to get themselves separated from one another in each and every episode. That takes effort, drawing away from any depth of plot.

The action, such as it is, starts on the heels of “The Space Museum,” with the Doctor tuning in various moments in history on the Time-Space Visualizer he insisted on liberating from that eponymous institution. The Time-Space Visualizer is curiously heliocentric, with the names of the solar system’s planets around it, and indeed the entire story resounds with references to the Doctor as human, though likely an unintentional rather than prescriptive description. Shakespeare makes his first appearance in Doctor Who on the Visualizer, and the United States is referenced for the first time as well, as Ian requests a peek at Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address.

But then, in a fortuitous bit of channel surfing, the Daleks appear, chanting “TARDIS, TARDIS, TARDIS!” as they roll one after the other into their own time machine, ready to chase the Doctor and chums through time and space as revenge for the foiled invasion of Earth. They don’t seem overly concerned about the Doctor’s seeming destruction of their species on Skaro way back when, just the whole Earth thing. Because turning the Earth into a hollow spaceship to fly it around the galaxy was totally going to work.

Of course, our time travellers can’t just leave, because the party is split up on the desert planet Aridius, adding yet another lazy planet name to the Doctor Who canon. The fishy Aridians, whose planet was once water covered and who live in fear of octopus-like Mire Beasts, don’t seem at all surprised by the sudden appearance of the Doctor or the Daleks, who threaten to destroy the Aridian civilization if the Doctor and his companions are not handed over.

Fish men. In a desert.

Thankfully, a Mire Beast breaks through a wall and eats an Aridian, allowing Vicki, Barbara, and the Doctor to escape and meet up with Ian, who has passed out from the first of two head-beatings in this story.

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Doctor Who Project: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

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What’s worse? The alligators down here or the Daleks up there?

At last, they return! The Daleks appear once more after their resounding first season success in “The Mutants,” invading Earth in Terry Nation’s “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” (Story Production Code K). This time, the Daleks want nothing more than to, um, empty out the core of the planet and replace it with an engine of some sort.

But whatever! It’s the Daleks! And they’re in London!

This story, which Howe and Walker claim “surely ranks as one of the series’ all-time greats” in their Doctor Who: The Television Companion, starts in familiar enough style, which is to say that our travellers leave the TARDIS, become separated from it because of Susan—this time she brings an entire bridge down upon it—and then become separated from each other. Even Ian comments upon the party’s tendency to split up: upon realizing Barbara and Susan are missing from the landing site, he exclaims, “Why, why do they do it?”

Still, the separation works to good effect in this six-part story, as Susan and Barbara are spirited away by the human resistance to the Daleks and Ian and the Doctor are captured by the Robomen, the human semi-cyborgs enslaved as footsoldiers by the Daleks, who are few in number on Earth. The development of the resistance figures adds depth to the story, as thus far in the series, our sympathies have been almost entirely on our travellers finding their way back to the TARDIS. Very few secondary characters have been roundly developed in the series so far, and as will become obvious, the development of one resistance figure in particular takes on real significance.

The capture of the Doctor and Ian gives good reason to explore the Dalek saucers and to see lots of Daleks rolling around. There’s probably a good ten minutes of scenes showing nothing but Daleks moving back and forth in this story. The audience wants what the audience wants.

That said, Terry Nation wisely holds off on revealing the Daleks until the very end of the first episode, where one rises ominously from the murky Thames . . .

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