Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Story 30 - The Power of the Daleks

In which Ben and Polly find themselves confronted by a possible imposter in the TARDIS. The Doctor, suffering from some mental confusion and memory loss, claims that he has been "renewed". He has developed a penchant for stove-pipe hats and the recorder.
The ship materialises on the planet Vulcan - home to a colony from Earth. In the mercury swamps, the Doctor encounters a man who is suddenly shot dead. His badge shows him to have been an Examiner from Earth. A security team, led by Bragen, takes the travellers into the colony. As he has the badge, the Doctor is assumed to be the Examiner - who was invited here by Deputy Governor Quinn. There is mounting disquiet in the colony, and he fears a revolt against Governor Hensell. The Doctor discovers that scientist Lesterson has found a crashed space capsule in the swamps, and it is now housed in his laboratory. The Doctor recognises the design. That night, he, Ben and Polly go to the lab and enter the capsule. Inside are two inert Daleks - and an active Dalek mutant.

Lesterson has removed a third Dalek which he is trying to reactivate. He believes it to be purely robotic - and a potential labour force for the colony. His assistant, Janley, is a leading member of the rebel group plotting revolution, and she sees the Daleks as possible weapons for their movement. The Doctor's warnings that the Daleks represent a threat are not heeded. The Dalek pretends to be friendly and offers to help the colonists. It offers to build for them new and more efficient meteorite protection.
The rebels, whose leader is unknown, abduct first Polly then Ben. Quinn is arrested by Bragen  - accused of sabotaging the communications system and the murder of the Examiner, whose body has now turned up. He finds himself accused of being the rebel leader.

The Daleks, totally trusted, take the resources they are given to set up a production line to create more of their number. Lesterson is almost driven insane when he discovers this. The rebels launch their attack. They try to use the Daleks - but find them working against all the humans. Hensell and Janley are amongst those killed, as the Daleks exterminate everyone who crosses their path. Bragen is unmasked as the rebel leader. The Doctor uses the Dalek power source against them - creating an overload which destroys them all. Bragen is shot dead by one of his own followers, Valmar. Quinn takes over the leadership of the survivors of the colony.

This six part adventure was written by David Whitaker and broadcast between 5th November and 10th December, 1966. The scripts were actually given a final polish by Dennis Spooner, uncredited. Sadly, the story no longer exists in the archives though the soundtrack is available. There are a few brief clips as well as some off-screen cine-film which fortunately covers some of the new Doctor's first moments.
The story is significant chiefly for the first appearance of Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor, and the programme's first proper glimpse of the insides of the Daleks.
Troughton has yet to work out who his Doctor is going to be. There is a hard edge to him - the gentle humour still some way off. With Ben and Polly captured and off screen for an episode apiece (Craze and Wills having holiday weeks), the new Doctor has to carry much of the story.
He has been "renewed" - helped by the TARDIS. He speaks about himself as "he" and at one point sees the First Doctor looking back at him from a mirror. His clothes are different, though based on his predecessor's. I assume we are supposed to think he is a smaller man in the same costume, now too big for him. His ring no longer fits either, and - despite its attributes - he simply dispenses with it. As well as his new-found love for the hat and recorder, he also starts referring to a 500 year diary. His memory has been affected by the change but he recognises the Dalek capsule as having something to do with a piece of metal he has in his pocket - a piece of Dalek lock.

Principal guest actors are Robert James as Lesterson, and Bernard Archard as Bragen. James will return as Hieronymous' chief priest in The Masque of Mandragora, and Archard will play Marcus Scarman in The Pyramids of Mars. James, in particular, gives a wonderful performance as an obstinate scientist whose reason begins to crumble when his certainties are challenged and he realises he has been duped.
Other performances of note are Peter Bathurst as Hensell (he'll return as Chinn in The Claws of Axos), Pamela Ann Davey as Janley, Richard Kane as Valmar and Nicholas Hawtrey as Quinn.
The Daleks are very well served in this tale - making it one of their strongest appearances. In many ways, Whitaker knew his creations better than Terry Nation and realised what worked best for them. In this, they start off devious and sly, infiltrating the minds of key colonists and then the colony itself. A soon as they are strong enough, they emerge from their capsule in huge numbers and begin to kill everyone - rebel and loyalist alike.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. The Doctor and his companions have found their way into a hidden compartment in the capsule and found two deactivated Daleks. Behind them, a Dalek mutant slides under a panel.
  2. The Doctor is trying to warn the colonists but he is drowned out by the Dalek which proclaims "I am your servant..." over and over.
  3. Lesterson is concerned that the Daleks seem overly pleased to be given a power source...
  4. Dozens of new Daleks roll off a production line as a horrified Lesterson looks on.
  5. "Daleks conquer and destroy. Daleks conquer and destroy". Repeat. 
  6. As the TARDIS dematerialises, a wrecked Dalek's eye-stalk feebly rises up...

Overall, a very strong start for the new Doctor. He's not quite the Second Doctor we will come to know and love, having a few abrasive edges. Possibly the best Dalek story ever.
Things you might like to know:
  • Patrick Troughton was working in Ireland on a Hammer historical film - The Viking Queen - when approached by the BBC to take over from William Hartnell. He was initially reluctant - never liking to remain in one part for too long. He also preferred character parts to leading roles. However, his sons' education needed paying for and it was going to be regular work, so he agreed to take the part.
  • Despite the fact he has just regenerated, the Daleks recognise the Doctor - so this incarnation will meet them at some point prior to this in their history. The year for this story is often given as 2020, but never on screen. It comes from a TV trailer.
  • The exterior of the Dalek capsule is clearly seen on screen, yet its interior is far bigger - so dimensionally transcendental like their time machines.
  • Amongst the bric-a-brac of the TARDIS, the Doctor finds Saladin's dagger (reference to The Crusade) and he mentions having met Marco Polo, as little continuity reminders.
  • David Whitaker had already written about a planet Vulcan in 1964's The Dalek Book. He placed it within the Solar System. 19th Century astronomers thought there was a planet Vulcan in close orbit to the sun, to explain the movement of Mercury.
  • Doctor Who gets a planet Vulcan some months before Star Trek's rather more famous one.
  • This story heavily influenced Mark Gatiss when he came to create the Dalek Ironsides for The Victory of the Daleks. He even uses some of their lines. "I am your servant" becomes "I am your soldier"; "Would you like more liquid?" becomes "Would you like a cup of tea?"; and the line "We are the new race of Daleks" appears in both stories.
  • The Hyde Fundraisers have been working on a re-imagined version of this tale. You can see the first part here:

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