Thursday, 14 December 2017
Inspirations - Evil of the Daleks
So, Terry Nation is removing the Daleks from Doctor Who so that he can launch them in a TV series of their own. We've talked about this before, as it seems to have been planned since the time of The Daleks' Master Plan - as it was the Space Security Service who would become the new protagonists.
Well, now it is actually happening - the removal, not the spin-off series. The BBC had a deadline after which they could no longer feature the Daleks. Evil of the Daleks is that final appearance before Nation withdraws his permission. Once again he is too busy to write something himself, so David Whitaker is called upon. He wrote their last outing, which had been deemed a success, and he knew the Daleks from their very beginnings.
Behind the scenes, Gerry Davis is standing down as Script Editor. He goes half way through this story, to be replaced by Peter Bryant, who is going to be with the show until Jon Pertwee's arrival. Bryant had been an actor, appearing in the UK's first ever soap - The Grove Family. It was written by Jon's dad and older brother, and if you want an idea of what it was like then they have been showing its cinema outing It's A Great Day on the Talking Pictures channel recently. Bryant gave up working in front of the camera to go behind the scenes, and was working in radio drama prior to moving onto Doctor Who. Producer Innes Lloyd was making ready to leave the series, and he saw Bryant as a potential replacement. He will try him out on the next story after this.
A word about lead-ins to stories. For much of the Hartnell era, each story - or rather the final episode of each set of related scripts as it was seen as an on-going serial - had the TARDIS crew already commencing on their next adventure. This might have been everyone being knocked to the ground by an explosion as soon as they left Skaro, or the Doctor being rendered invisible. In some cases, the link is more subtle, with the companions seen to be wearing the costume from the previous story. In other cases it is more vague. The Doctor claims he can't see anything on the scanner at the end of Planet of Giants. Next, he's moaning about the scanner not telling him anything as he can only see water. The same event, or two quite separate adventures?
Patrick Troughton's earliest stories are often linked with a lead-in at the conclusion - e.g. the appearance of the giant crab claw as they leave the Moon, or the ship going out of control on leaving Atlantis before reaching Earth's satellite.
Here we have another lead-in, as the last story ended with the Doctor informing Jamie that the TARDIS has been stolen. The first episode and a half of Evil of the Daleks involves us finding out who has taken it, and we see the Doctor and Jamie follow a set of clues to try and recover it.
The Faceless Ones might have been set in the present day, but the airport setting was as alien as another planet. For the first time we see the pair really interact with modern day London. They visit lock-up garages and a trendy coffee bar. It, and Waterfield's antiques shop, suggest Chelsea to us - the swinging-est part of Swinging London.
Coffee bars had come into vogue in the 1950's - popular with that new phenomenon, the Teenager. Nigel Kneale parodies their popularity and ubiquity in the second Quatermass serial, where we see the Professor meet his civil servant friend and the PR man from Winterton Flats in one, and the woman behind the counter complains that everyone is going to tea bars nowadays.
It's a Dalek story, so the titular creatures have made their entrance in the first episode cliffhanger. The Doctor only finds out he's in a Dalek story towards the end of part two, by which time he and Jamie have been whisked back to the Victorian era.
It has taken us a long time to get to the Doctor in the Victorian period. This is the end of the fourth season, after all. For some reason, Doctor Who always had a Victorian feel since its early days - possibly due to the Doctor's attitude and mode of dressing, or simply because we are reminded of Victorian writers as inspirations for the series. It was almost the Edwardian era when H G Wells started to write, but he is closely associated with the Victorian era through the settings for his writings, and their subsequent adaptations. Jules Verne wrote his most famous works between the 1860's and 70's.
Who are the greatest fictional characters ever invented - the ones who have had countless film and stage adaptations? Sherlock Holmes, Count Dracula, and Tarzan - all Victorian characters. Once the Doctor became a national institution, it was alongside these he was placed, so he felt Victorian - even when he wasn't.
It became a bit of a cliche, but the BBC was always said to be world class when it came to producing period drama - mostly Victorian again (e.g. Dickens adaptations). Throughout the history of the so-called "classic" period of Doctor Who, it is the historical-based stories which have the sets and props which no-one could slag off. The BBC simply knew how to do these well, even if they were appearing in a tea-time science fiction / fantasy series.
In January 1967, the BBC began transmitting The Forsyte Saga. This was produced by Donald Wilson - one of Doctor Who's godfathers. The series was derived from the novel cycle of John Galsworthy, published between 1906 and 1921. It was first shown on BBC 2, at a time when not everyone had that channel, but a repeat showing the following year on BBC 1 saw ratings reach 18 million. There is a Giles cartoon of the period which shows a British man and woman climbing over the Berlin Wall into the East, as the wife had missed the last episode and an East German TV station had just bought the series.
Placing the Doctor into a setting reminiscent of dramas such The Forsyte Saga seemed the natural thing to do in 1967.
Unfortunately, these are the bits that, some of the time, are the least rewarding. Ask most fans and they will tell you that Evil is the great lost masterwork of Doctor Who. More than the aforementioned Master Plan, or that final episode of The Tenth Planet. I will only go along with this opinion if I am allowed to jettison four characters from the production. I have always found the sub-plot surrounding Ruth, Toby, Molly and Arthur Terrall tedious in the extreme. I just don't see the point of them. For some bizarre reason Terrall is magnetic, but he just lurks around the background. Toby abducts Jamie, on Terrall's orders, even though the Daleks need Jamie for their experiment.
The bit of the story set in the Victorian period that is of interest is that experiment. The Daleks want to isolate the "Human Factor" - those qualities which have defeated them so many times in the past. Add this factor to Daleks, and they will be invincible. What we get is the latest form of the Quest scenario in the programme. Jamie is set a task - to locate and rescue Waterfield's daughter Victoria, who is being held somewhere in the mansion. To challenge him, and make things more interesting for us, there are a number of lethal booby-traps to avoid, and Maxtible's Turkish servant Kemel has been told to try to stop him. More could have been made of this latter aspect, as Kemel and Jamie end up best pals a little too quickly, after Jamie saves the servant's life.
The draft scripts played out much differently for this section. The Daleks were to have got the Doctor to abduct a Neanderthal (to be named Og) for Jamie to challenge. As it is, we have a hint of Darwin, and survival of the fittest, but more would have been made of this if a prehistoric man had been included in the mix - one from a branch of humanity which became extinct.
The Dalek plan is far from an unqualified success. When the Human Factor is introduced into a trio of dormant Daleks, they develop a playfulness instead of ruthless cunning. They also ask questions, which is a strict no-no for a Dalek. The Daleks all get recalled to Skaro, taking Maxtible, Victoria and Kemel with them. Everyone else is left in the house with a big bomb. It will transpire that the Dalek Emperor needs the Doctor, so this seems to be a funny way of going about things. The Doctor, Jamie and Waterfield have to quickly reassemble the Dalek time machine they used to nip back and forth to the 20th Century, which luckily transports them to Skaro as well. This is the first time, apart from Earth, that the series has seen a visit to the same planet twice. If it was going to be any alien planet, it would have to be the homeworld of the Daleks.
On Skaro, we get to meet the Emperor - a huge Dalek which is immobile - plumbed into the city which surrounds it. This was one aspect of the story which Terry Nation objected to. He did not like the Emperor - just as he had disliked the gold-domed one in the comic strips (also created by Whitaker). Not just the look of them - the whole concept.
The Emperor reveals that the experiment with the Human Factor has just been a sideline to the real plan - the isolation of the Dalek Factor. The Emperor intends to use this to turn people into mental Daleks, and the Doctor is to use the TARDIS to spread this factor throughout Earth's history.
Maxtible has been going along with the Daleks since the beginning, as they have promised him the secret of how to turn base metal into gold. He's an alchemist, and some have seen an interest in this subject throughout much of David Whitaker's writing (chiefly Philip Sandifer, of the Tardis Eruditorum blog / books - who points out the use of mercury in many of his scripts as a for instance).
The Daleks try to convert the Doctor - seemingly unaware of his extra-terrestrial origins. They think he's human, just made special by his travelling in time. This is one very good reason for believing that the civil war - pardon me if I jump ahead - does not take place at the very end of the Dalek time-line, as we will later see Daleks who know he is a Time Lord.
So, the scene is set for the "final end" of the Daleks. The Doctor reverses the machine which is supposed to instill the Dalek Factor so that it instead gives Daleks the Human factor. Those processed start to question orders, and soon the Daleks are fighting amongst themselves.
Innes Lloyd wasn't too unhappy to see the Daleks seemingly wipe themselves out, as he had a new recurring foe in the shape of the Cybermen, who came free, and without Roger Hancock as an agent.
There is a little hint at the end that it isn't the last we are going to see of the Daleks. It was decided that the shattered casing of the Emperor would have a small light continuing to pulse within.
Maxtible is not seen to perish - leading to one particular theory that he becomes the religio-maniac Emperor of The Parting of the Ways. Victorian values, after all.
Waterfield does bite the dust, so Victoria becomes an orphan and leaves Skaro with the Doctor and Jamie, becoming the new regular companion.
And so Season 4 ends, in fairly epic fashion.
Next time: those new Big Bads are back, and we get to go to their home planet and meet their leader...