Saturday, 6 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks

Part One

"It's not only his face that's changed- he doesn't even act like him!"

Surely back in 1966 there had never been so much anticipation before the first episode of a new story. I'm certainly feeling it.

Of course, we start with a reprise of Hartnell changing into Troughton, all in glorious footage. Interesting that his clothes, although not his cloak or ring, change as well. Also adding to the tension is that Ben and Polly only enter the TARDIS asfterwards and are unsure of this stranger- and I like the way the captions on the Loose Cannon recon refer to him as such!

Point of continuity: why is it no longer cold inside the TARDIS as it was at the end of The Smugglers? We haven't dematerialised yet.

The early scenes with the new Doctor are most frustrating- if only we could see Troughton's performance- these are visually perhaps the most important few minutes ever of Doctor Who! still, the mirror's a nice touch, as is the Doctor's ring falling off.

The Doctor's been "renewed" ( I must be careful not to use a certain other word whose time has not yet come!), and apparently it's "part of the TARDIS". The post-regeneration stuff is fascinating, but interestingly in doesn't outstay its welcome- during all this the Doctor's set the TARDIS in flight.

Once more we miss what was no doubt a grerat visual gag as the Doctor avoids the deadly mercury swamps without looking up from his 500 year diary. And given the extra job this episode has to do the story's actual plot gets started commendably quickly, and the Doctor being able to pose as the Examiner means there's no need for any tiresome scenes of suspicion.

We finish with Daleks, and that door sound. The first six-parter for ages is off to a great start...

Part Two

"Of course, the real Doctor was always going on about the Daleks."

Nice way of establishing the Dalek threat- one Dalek is "all that is needed to wipe out this whole colony". And early impressions of this Doctor, in spite of the recorder playing, are of an easy-going yet manipulative and machiavellian character who keeps things to his chest. It's fascinating the way the characterisation of this new Doctor is being slowly fed to us.

Up to this point it's been hard to tell the guest characters apart without footage but in this episode things become clear- there are two political factions with the "apolitical" Lesterson in the middle.

Marco Polo gets a reference! And Ben still doesn't quite believe this stranger is the Doctor. It's clever the way Ben's being used as the audience identification figure here- much of the audience would have felt real resentment for this newcomer.

The Dalek recognises the Doctor! And very cleverly drowns out his warnings by creepily repeating "I am your servant...". Top stuff so far.

Part Three

"A Dalek is bet... is not the same as a human."

The Doctor is powerless to argue that the Daleks are dangerous, in a scene which uses the knowledge the audience has of the Daleks to great effect. But by this point Troughton is undoubtedly the Doctor- quite an achievement in such a short time and after such a magnificent predecessor.

So, Quinn sent for the Examiner. And Bragen becomes deputy governor with Quinn out of the way- in no way a suspect then!

It's quite chilling to see, or rather hear, how the Daleks manipulate Lesterson. It's this story, far more than The Daleks' Master Plan, which justifies the reputation of the Sixties Daleks for cunning.

The New Doctor's character continues to develop; his anarchistic streak shows itself in an extraordinary series of vandalisms, and we get our first "When I say run, run". And the conclusion works well; both the Doctor and Bragen have found each other out, and there's a position of stalemate. By this point it's clear how extremely clever the plotting is.

Part Four

"We understand the human mind."

"We will get our power" chant the Daleks- the title of this story is clearly more relevant than those of most "Of the Daleks" stories! Lesterson is by now uneasy around the Daleks and starting to have second thoughts, a stage in the character's gradual evolution which is brilliantly acted right through the story.

I wouldn't have paid any particular notice to the Doctor saying "I would like a hat like that" to Bragen, but I've already seen the first two parts of The Highlanders- it's a phrase 'll be listening out for in future!

The Dalek hovering around as a servant is exremely sinister; the tension is beginning to be ratcheted up. Interesting how they're still powered by static electricity.

Polly's not in this episode- it's been a while sice a companion last had a week's holiday!

This story's about manipulation and power, not only in terms of the Daleks manipulating the humans and needing power to fulfil their aims, but also the power game played out between the humans, who are constantly manipulating and double crossing each other. The plot's actually really complicated, but not too hard to follow- the sign of a good script.

This is the most chilling cliffhanger yet, as Lesterson watches the Dalek assembly line with blobs being put into cases- oh, for more than a couple of seconds of footage here!

Part Five

"We are not yet ready to teach the human beings the law of the Daleks!"

Surely the longest reprise so far, and finally Lesterson cracks up- this is a fine piece of acting. Meanwhile, the imprisoned Doctor is seemingly arsing about with a glass of water, to Quinn's obvious frustration. But interestingly, so far the Doctor's apparent eccentricities come across either as devices to give him time to think (the recorder) or ways of deliberately hiding the fact that he's in control of the situation. The new Doctor is every bit as sharp as his predecessor, if not more, and not really the cosmic hobo figure of myth.

Lesterson is ignored and treated as though he's mad, the Daleks are in control, and the Doctor's facade is gone. The sense of doom and foreboding is building nicely. An interesting line from the Dalek who kills the Governor as Bragen's order (the story's first death); "Why do human beings kill human beings?"

The cliffhanger is brilliant, possibly the best yet, so good in fact that we're treated to some actuakl footage, and arguably good enough even to make us overlook the blatantly obvious use of cardboard cutout Daleks"

Part Six

"Exterminate all humans!"

"Exterminate all humans!"

"Exterminate! Annihilate! Destroy! Daleks conquer and destroy! Daleks conquer and destroy! Daleks conquer and destroy! Daleks conquer and destroy! Daleks conquer and destroy! Daleks conquer and destroy!"

(Sorry, don't know what came over me.)

So, if there hasn't been enough skulduggery already, Bragen double crosses his fellow rebels. Blimey, this story ain't half complicated! And while this is happening hordes of Daleks are unleashed, and the killing starts. Lesterson's completelt lost it by now, insisting that the Daleks are going to replace the human race.

The Doctor's plan involves sacrificing the lives of Bragen's guards, so he's not only manipulative but ruthless with it when he has to be.

Lesterson's death scene is brilliant. From the spot-on intonation of "I am your servant" to the callous attitude of the Dalek. As soon as Lesterson says "But you wouldn't kill me- I gave you life" we know he's going to be shot, for such are the rules.

it's a little unclear whether the final moments of the Doctor's plan work partly by accident or in fact are planned all along- I suspect the latter. This new Doctor is actually quite a layered and interesting character.

Overall, a gripping and very clever script, easily a 5/5, and a great introduction to the new Doctor. The balance between introducing Pat Troughton and getting on with the story was perfectly judged.

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