Doctor Who — The Power of the Daleks

power_of_the_daleks

Season 4 – Episode 3 – (1966)
Doctor: 2 – Patrick Troughton
 
Companions:
 Polly, Ben

Ben and Polly are watching The Doctor, collapsed on the floor. Hartnell’s Doctor is gone- the character changes from a frail, white-haired, Edwardian-styled grandfather to a shorter, scruffier, black-haired hobo.

Ben and Polly are understandably shocked that the Doctor has just changed before their eyes. In fact, they argue about their unconscious friend. Polly argues that The Doctor commented that his body was “wearing a bit thin” but Ben cannot believe that he would get himself a new one. Finally The Doctor regains consciousness…

The Doctor: Slower. Slower. Concentrate on one thing. One thing. It’s over. Hmm, hmm, hmm. It’s over. — The muscles are still a bit tight.

Ben, especially, is not convinced by The Doctor, who is going through a lot that we have come to expect from regeneration. Our eponymous hero refers to “The Doctor” in the 3rd person and acts aloof while examining his previous incarnation’s achievements. Troughton’s Doctor immediately picks up a recorder (the instrument of 5-year-olds and classical music aficionados (seriously if you see a bass recorder played you just want to play it yourself)). The first sequence of the episode has The Doctor regaining his place and chastising Ben for not believing that The Doctor has reformed. He never admits it but we have a new man in our presence.

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Brazenly, The Doctor ventures from the TARDIS and onto the planet Vulcan. Yes we all know the name is from Star Trek but the name shouldn’t be considered new to sci-fi; Vulcan was a popular idea of a planet that is closer to the Sun than Mercury. I have to admit (Philip) that Doctor Who lost on this occasion (by merely a couple of months).

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The Doctor strolls out onto the surface of the planet, with its Mercury pools. He wanders, unaware of the looming plot. A character, later revealed to be an inspector (the examiner), of a colony of humans is murdered and through a mix-up, The Doctor is found by the colonists and assumed to be the examiner sent from Earth. He, Ben and Polly are brought into the base and are allowed to inspect… Unfortunately, in his snooping he comes across a capsule in a lab in which some creatures that are far too familiar: The Daleks are hidden and dormant and a mutant scurries across the floor.

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We’ll take a brief departure here to discuss the Daleks again. It’s the 60’s and in their first year the pepper-pots took everyone by storm. Everyone loved them and their original creator, Terry Nation, knew it. The Dalek episodes were so successful that they were adapted for cinema. Peter Cushing played an alternate conceptualisation of The Doctor in a very different circumstance. The movie’s that were made were rushed out quickly – the Daleks really needed to have staying power.

Terry Nation wanted to get the Daleks their own individual show or film series as a spin-off and so asked that the creatures be written out of Doctor Who… Season 4 was originally to be their last appearance and we’ll discuss that later.

Power is a very different Dalek story from those before. Basically up until this point the Daleks represented a stellar super-power, invading and conquering as the Nazis did. Power on the other-hand represents infiltration and toppling of society from the inside… We’ll move on with the plot.

It’s clear to The Doctor that someone has moved a Dalek shell and he stresses to Ben and Polly the seriousness of the situation. With active Daleks, which just require power, the colony could be wiped out. The Doctor accuses the chief scientist of hiding a Dalek as he is the one who had no reaction to seeing the things.

(So much to unpack) Ben especially has been accusing The Doctor of being a fraud throughout but the mood softens quite early in episode two when the group are escorted to their quarters. The Doctor waxes lyrical in various memories as Ben calls chastises him … Finally, The Doctor reveals a bugging device. They all share a tense moment before relaxing together.

The scientists in the base begin to connect the Dalek up to a power supply, causing it to move and they hypothesise over the purpose of it’s limbs. It begins to move and observe the people in the room. At the same time, The Doctor finds communication lines to Earth have been cut and the Dalek stuns one of the scientists (only for this to be covered over by the scientists removing the weapon. The Doctor speaks to the leader of the base but the scientists force everyone to see the progress they have made. The metal machine obeys orders! Actually to all the audience, this is overshadowed by the Dalek’s obsession with observing The Doctor on his entry. Ben is quick to point out that the Dalek has recognised The Doctor, who naturally begins warning against the creatures.

It’s a key sci-fi moment as our hero warns against the capability of this rudimentary order-obeying machine. As the Doctor warns against the creature, it finally speaks. It actually doesn’t only speak – it repeats and repeats as The Doctor tries to warn against it. The Dalek continues to speak in increasing volume “I am your servant!”

Sorry all! We need to address the pachyderm in the playpen. If any of you have come in from the revived series you will have seen this plot play out with Matt Smith’s Doctor in the episode Victory of the Daleks. I’ve though long and hard about this and would ask you put your forgiveness helmets on but also your cynical glasses. The modern episode was an homage to this lost story and it does gladly depart plot-wise in some instances. It’s not copying, it’s paying respects but if you think the modern counterpart is just as good… Power of the Daleks is creepy! It’s much more layered and one cannot predict how it will progress. Doctor Who wasn’t airing when I was a kid but gosh how I’ve longed to say: “We gathered round the speakers to listen to the stories of days gone past… you kids would love this if you could get away from your Xboxes and Instagrams…”

I would love to abridge but frankly this cliffhanger is broken with The Doctor asking a Dalek if it is his servant and it faulters before playing its part. He orders it to imobilise itself and it does begrudgingly until The Doctor leaves, at which point it begins to try and present logic to the scientists as to why it reactivated. Indeed while The Doctor, Polly and Ben are trying to regain goodwill, The Dalek is presenting it’s vast knowledge of the universe.

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The colony’s politics are key – a group of rebels want to create a coup and the three Daleks can facilitate this. Of course, our Daleks have their own plans and soon there seem to be more than three as all sorts of splinter groups support the use of these Daleks and begin aiding the pepper-pots’ development. The Daleks are hilariously (almost pantomime like) faking servitude; you should see my favourite quotes at the end.

The original Dalek premise of utilising static electricity for power is brought up and although everyone deems this impossible it seems that they have better technology. Yes finally the Daleks create a huge army and they take over the base, toppling all of the authority figures as they go. The Doctor overloads the power as the Dalek invasion begins and with the feedback loop, all Daleks explode.

The colonists are not thrilled and berate The Doctor for destroying the infrastructure of the colony. He actually is surprised that his involvement made such a massive effect and departs with Ben and Polly, who are cottoning on to the fact that the Doctor is maybe hiding his full intentions. He tells them that they should leave before they are: “sent the bill”. Thus ends the second Doctor’s opening story.

So my thoughts: It’s great! Not that anyone can see it as all 6 parts have been junked but the telesnaps and audio survive, indeed it’s been animated and it’s pretty reasonable! I want this story back… It’s a wonderfully sinister Dalek tale that serves to really support the second Doctor. Not everything is clear about the character yet and he has some traits that latch and some that drop. It’s also a bit of your 60s affair in that Polly gets kidnapped and then Ben gets kidnapped and now we look on this and think, well Michael Craze and Anneke Will had time off on those weeks. Still I will reserve my gushings on the second Doctor. Suffice to say it’s a great first outing….

Favourite Quotes:

  • Ben: The Doctor always wore this. If you are him it should fit… That settles it!
    The Doctor: I’d like to see a butterfly fit into a chrysalis case after it spreads its wings.
  • The Doctor: Yes. When I say run, run like a rabbit. Run!

    Pantomime Daleks 
  • DALEK: A Dalek is bet–… is not the same as a human. If I am to help, I must know everything.
  • DALEK: Until now, we have had to recharge from the colony supply. With static power, the Daleks will be twice as … useful.

Score:

9/10 (I love it)

Next time:
Our crew heads back to Earth in Scotland to get wrapped up in the final pure historical adventure until the 80’s. This story isn’t too special unless you count the introduction of one of the most iconic companions in Doctor Who history, Jamie McCrimmon… It’s a so-so first story which continues to enrich our favourite show!

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