The Power of the Daleks

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“The Doctor was a great collector, wasn’t he”, the strange little man with the ill-fitting, improvised clothes said as he rummaged through the large chest.  “But you’re the Doctor” exclaimed a confused Polly.  “Oh, I don’t look like him” quipped the man.

So began the journey of the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, as he recovered  from his “renewal” as though he’d been on an LSD trip.  In fact, the reference to LSD  comes directly from the production notes.  This was 1966, of course.  When Ben had told the “old Doctor” that the ordeal in the Cyberman ship was “all over”  (The Tenth Planet) the Doctor had replied by saying “What did you say, my boy?  It’s all over.  It’s all over.  That’s what you said.  No, but it isn’t all over.  It’s far from being all over”.  The “new”  Doctor had strangely chuckled “It’s over.  It’s over” as he scrambled to his feet upon regenerating. Whilst the Doctor’s “renewal” may have been over, his journey to be understood by his companions was only beginning.

Upon renewal the Doctor is in a confused state, as if he'd been tripping on LSD

Upon renewal the Doctor is in a confused state, as if he’d been tripping on LSD

Quietly hostile and prone to referring to himself in the third person, the Doctor evaded answering uncomfortable questions by playing a recorder retrieved from the chest. The sceptic Ben was infuriated by the Doctor’s behaviour  and didn’t believe the man before him to be the same person as the “old Doctor”.  Polly, however, was more willing to believe and recalled the old Doctor’s comment to the effect that perhaps his old body was wearing a bit thin.  No one had exited or entered the Tardis so surely this stranger must be the Doctor. It would take a Dalek to recognize the Doctor by sight, towards the end of episode two, for Ben to finally believe that the “new” Doctor was one of the same as the “old Doctor”.

Ben, Polly and the new Doctor with his 500 Year Diary

Ben, Polly and the new Doctor with his 500 Year Diary

The Dalek’s recognition of the Doctor, and the Doctor’s visible fear of his oldest foe, was a superbly climatic scene which undoubtedly influenced Rob Shearman as he wrote Dalek, the pepper pots’ debut in Season 1 of the 2005 series.  Watch the short clip from Dalek below and marvel at the Ninth Doctor’s fear when he hears the monotone voice of the Dalek say “Dock Toorrr”. The Doctor’s fear as he runs to the door is just palpable. Were The Power of the Daleks not lost and we could watch the serial in its full glory, then I suspect that the Second Doctor’s fear, as he backs into a chair as the Dalek focuses his eye stalk onto him, would be  just as unmistakeable.

That The Power of the Daleks should be an influence on the writers of new series Who should come as no surprise. The serial is critically lauded as perhaps the best Dalek story ever and is undoubtedly held in higher regard as a consequence of its missing status.  The soundtrack is smashing and the few fragment clips of the Daleks absolutely superb. You can even excuse the production team for the reasonably obvious cardboard cut-out Daleks used to swell the numbers in crowd scenes.  We hear much chanting of “exterminate, annihilate, destroy” and  “Daleks conquer and destroy”, whilst also seeing the construction of Daleks for the first time.  Whilst proceeding down the conveyer belt their mutant insides are plonked inside and seen by viewers for the first time in their live state.  The Dalek mutants seen in episode of 12 of the Daleks’ Master Plan were in a regressed form. What makes the Daleks all the more frightening is that they are initially so compliant and obliging.

The Power of the Daleks – Surviving Dalek clips

The similarity between the Series 5 episode Victory of the Daleks and The Power of the Daleks is remarkable.  In both stories the Daleks originally portray themselves as servants of humans.  In Power the Dalek chants “I am your servant”, whilst in Victory their incantation is “I am your soldier”.  In both stories the Doctor is increasingly frustrated at everyone’s refusal to take his concerns about the Daleks seriously.  Wildly cognisant of the Dalek’s evil reputation, similar fear and frustration would be instilled into the viewers as well.  As Toby Hadoke stated in Running Through Corridors, “… with us, the audience, more aware than most of the characters involved in this adventure just how deadly these creatures are.  It’s like watching kids playing with a hand grenade, but being stuck behind soundproofed glass and unable to issue a warning”.

Victory of the Daleks Trailer

Victory of the Daleks bears distinct similiarities to The Power of the Daleks

Victory of the Daleks’ antecedents can be seen in The Power of the Daleks

Many of the humans in The Power of the Daleks are not particularly likeable.  A rebel group within the community are planning a rebellion, however their grievances are unclear.  Unlike the young double eye-browed rebels in The Space Museum whose oppression one could empathise with, even though they were the most useless revolutionaries ever portrayed on TV, these rebels are bullish and ignorant.  Prepared to sacrifice anyone to achieve their ends, they make the Daleks in earlier episodes appear positively gentlemanly. Whereas the humans were unable to fathom the Cybermen’s lack of empathy in The Tenth Planet, it is in The Power of the Daleks that the monsters express the very same disbelief about the humans.  A Dalek innocently asks, “Why do human beings kill human beings?”

The Power of the Daleks - Title Card

It’s invariably the ignorance of humans, and the Rebels’ preparedness to co-opt the Daleks to their cause,  which is the reason for their downfall. After using the humans to acquire the materials necessary to construct new Daleks, they have no further need for humans and destroy them.  The Daleks are at their evil best and it’s a great shame that the visuals have been lost because the telesnaps make the massacre at the end look magnificent.  Ultimately, however, the Doctor saves the day by destroying the Daleks.  Or does he?

The Daleks are at their frightening best in The Power of the Daleks

The Daleks are at their frightening best in The Power of the Daleks

What puzzled me was why the Daleks needed to be charged in Power of the Daleks whenever they were not on metal, yet the Daleks seen in The Chase and The Daleks’ Master Plan didn’t.  Wood and Miles in About Time 2  posit cheekily that these Daleks must have been exhausted from their 200 years spent at the bottom of the mercury swamp or not fully-charged as they were fresh models straight off the production-line.   One wonders how viewers can pick up these continuity discrepancies in the early years of Doctor Who, and yet the writers could not.  Perhaps it was because the serial was written by David Whitaker and was the first Dalek serial in which Terry Nation had no input.

The Power of the Daleks was originally broadcast in the UK between 5 November and 10 December 1966

 Loose Cannon’s VHS cover art for The Power of the Daleks. The Power of the Daleks was originally broadcast in the UK between 5 November and 10 December 1966

 

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

 

REFERENCES:

Robert Shearman and Toby Hadoke, Running Through Corridors.  Rob and Toby’s Marathon Watch of Doctor Who (Mad Norwegian Press, Des Moines, Iowa: 2011),

Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles, About Time. The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who. 1966-1969 Seasons 4 to 6. Mad Norweigan Press, Illinois, 2010.

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5 responses »

  1. That clip with the Ninth Doctor is so well done. So many emotions play into that scene. It’s a shame that the Daleks’ first episodes no longer exist! They are some of the most frightening Doctor Who villains out there.

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