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Doctor Who story number 29

When you have a new actor in the title role of your long-running series you get worried about having the viewers come back - the Doctor Who team addressed this issue by simply putting in something guaranteed to draw an audience: Daleks. Terry Nation was busy script editing a series for another TV company, but he gave permission for David Whitaker to write the story - Whitaker had been the script editor for the first season of Doctor Who and had worked with Nation on a Dalek play (no, really) and various other Dalek franchises. This was the best thing that could happen because, frankly, Nation only had about three scripts for Doctor Who that he reused over and over.

As for the character of the new Doctor, there were several options thrown about (Troughton was worried about joining an established show and the team wanted to give him an entertaining job), including a Victorian sea captain and the terrible proposal of slapping on blackface and a turban and pretending to be from India (oh thank god they didn't do this). In the end Sydney Newman, still head of serials and okaying big decisions on Doctor Who, vetoed all of them and asked why they didn't go with one of the earliest vague ideas: "Whatever happened to the cosmic hobo?"

It's a pretty silly outline, and one that gets fired off when anyone wants to decribe Troughton's Doctor - there was a lot more to it than that, but the initial idea was to start with a more amiable figure than Hartnell's grumpy old man characterisation. The second Doctor was much less reserved and cautious, and also more unpredictable. One character trait that works well is the playing of a recorder when the Doctor is thinking - one that didn't work was the idea that the Doctor could use disguises all the time. The Doctor as Master of Disguise was a concept that probably came from a desire to keep Patrick Troughton happy in the role, as he liked getting as much variety out of his acting as possible: "dressing up for roles" is a description of what he enjoyed in acting that makes sense when you look at his resume. It's likely that the wide range of emoting done by Troughton in the role was in part to satisfy his desire to have variety.

As for the story, it's rare to find a six part story that's not overly padded out, but this one is quite good in that there's more than one thing going on - and the different things get interwoven quite well. For once the viewer's insider knowledge that the Daleks will be in the story isn't wasted - the story is that a human colony finds a Dalek craft and reactivates them, thinking they're just useful robots. With the audience in the know you get more tension out of the script. There's also some great moments, like the security chief fitting a Dalek with its gun for an execution and the Dalek asking him afterwards "Why do human beings kill human beings?" - and getting told to get back to work.

Daleks aside there's a lot of scenes with the human characters. The subplot to excuse the Daleks is an isolated colony where the head of security wants to take over. Unfortunately David Whitaker doesn't just throw subtlety out the window - he jumps out after it and starts stomping on its head as it lies face-down in the begonias: As soon as the human villain is in charge he starts dressing and acting like a stereotypical dictator and his troops are all black suited stormtrooper knockoffs. Judging from stills the guest cast was probably overacting at some points (one example: staggering against a wall is a very over the top hammy peice of acting you might recall from old horror movies). However it's still good that the plot isn't just padded out with pointless scenes like some of the other Dalek stories.

The sets are all lovely, but unfortunately when you spend a lot of money on sets you can't spend a lot of money on other things - the Dalek army is an army of cardboard cutouts:

The production line scene was made by using model Daleks, but given the cost involved in making hundreds of Daleks it would have been impossible to do it any other way. The best trick is the way they made the Dalek mutants that go inside the travel machines - tinfoil. Oh, and anyone ready to point out that the Dalek capsule had TARDIS-like internal dimensions should remember that they established the Daleks knew how to build things like that two Dalek stories ago (it's still silly though).

So it's passable Doctor Who, but is it good science fiction? Well I suppose it has some interesting points, and it does have some well thought out concepts - the Govenor of the colony not wanting the capsule opened in case it contains unknown bacteria is good. The mercury swamps are a little unbelievable, but people passing out from the fumes makes sense - surely the main characters would end up with Mad Hatter's Disease? It certainly explains some of the second Doctor's traits....

The story itself is almost completely lost (There are a few clips). The soundtrack exists and will be released on CD by the BBC as part of the Dalek Tin (November 3, 2003). Linking narration will be provided by Anneke Wills.

You can read the script here:

And you can check out the photonovel here:

David Whitaker, Dennis Spooner (uncredited)

This story has 6 episodes.

Plot Overview
The story opens right where the last one left off - the Doctor is now someone else and Ben and Polly are unsure about what's going on. After rummaging around in the TARDIS the new Doctor leaves with the companions in tow. After finding a corpse the Doctor decides he has to find out whats going on because obviously when you find a body lying among bubbling pools of mercury it must be because of foul play.

One knockout-and-drag-to-the-base later the Doctor is posing as the Earth Examiner to try to get to the bottom of the mystery. He is primarily concerned with the strange capsule that's been hauled out of the mercury swamps. Inside are a pair of Daleks - though he is the only one who knows what they are. Needless to say he's a little less than happy with the plans to reactivate the "robots". All the colonists are quite taken with the Daleks though, who seem to be going with a plan of FAS-CIN-ATE!

Of course the humans are not totally stupid, they take the guns out of the Daleks before turning them on. The first Dalek informs everyone that it is their servant, and shouts this over the top of the Doctor repeatedly. EX-CLA-MATE!

The Doctor tries to scheme unnoticed with Ben and Polly, as everyone else is convinced the Daleks are harmless. The Doctor sabotages the power supply the Dalek is using, and it tries to exterminate him even without the paint roller. Er, gun. Meanwhile said paint roller is being shown to the head of the rebels (This is an ongoing plot development but it's so silly and only really gets going now).

Meanwhile poor, nerdy scientist Lesterson is getting all mushy with his Dalek, and foolishly believes that it is going to make a useful machine for the colony - When he leaves the Dalek starts reviving the others. Meanwhile the Doctor is confonted by Bragen, who threatens to expose him as an impostor. Of course the Doctor realises that Bragen is the killer and so they're both pretty much screwed for now.

Lesterson tries to make the Daleks be his bitches, and they pretend to submit by surrendering their paint rollers, but they plan to give him a good whipping later. Bragen promotes himself from Head of Security to Deputy Govenor and starts flexing his authority. When the Doctor confronts him about the missing Polly Bragen doesn't care. Suddenly a Dalek bursts in with drinks and stains everyones clothes, shouting "DIS-COL-OUR-ATE!"

Well okay not exactly. In fact not at all, it just comes in and serves some drinks, but in an intimidating way. Then it leaves and comes back and asks Bragen if he has finished his drink when he hasn't. Woah. Heavy stuff, the Daleks are going to annoy people into submission while shouting "IRR-I-TATE!"

The Doctor and Ben have counted four Daleks by now, and concluding there are now more than before they go off to see Lesterson. Lesterson is having problems though - the Daleks list of required materials seems a bit long to him and they keep shouting "AP-PRO-PRI-ATE!". Not only that but his pretty blonde assistant is evil, so he goes mad. He goes madder when the Doctor bursts in and tells him the Daleks must be making MORE Daleks. Pretty Blonde And Evil gets rid of the Doctor and Ben and drugs Lesterson. The Doctor checks the colony message board and sees there will be a meeting of rebels at 8pm. They decide to go to the really really secret meeting and hide in the corner and see where Polly is being kept.

At the meeting Ben gets captured, and after everyone leaves the leader of the rebels confronts the Doctor. It turns out to be Bragen (who would have thought) and he has the Doctor locked up. Incidentally, 23 out of the first 28 Doctor Who stories have had one of the main characters held against their will. Good to see that in the new era they're keeping one of the great traditions of Doctor Who alive! lazy bastards

Meanwhile Lesterson comes to and sneaks into the capsule and sees the terrible Dalek Conveyor Belt of Doom - "DU-PLI-CATE!" - and the fearsome Cardboard Cutout Dalek Army! He rushes out, shutting the Daleks in (but knowing they won't be held for long) and meets Evil Blonde Girl Janley. She is none too pleased with his plans to cut off the Dalek's power and turn them into slag. She leaves and a Dalek comes out the SECRET EXIT from the capsule, possibly shouting "CON-STER-NATE!"

Lesterson runs off into the colony and Janley arrives with Some Guy and a bound and gagged Polly (Anneke Wills tied and gagged.... Oh baby!). While the ungagged Polly sows dissent with the random males left in the laboratory Janley goes to look for Lesterson. Lesterson tries to find the Doctor, who is (still) locked up. The Doctor is trying to break out - the doors are keyed to a particular frequency of sound, which he is trying to replicate using a glass of water. The Doctor doesn't quite manage to get it right, however he does succeed in annoying the guard. By adding some recorder playing he irritates the guard enough to come into the cell, providing a means of escape.

Lesterson is now going stark staring bonkers as he confronts Bragen - the Dalek laying cable in the office says it is doing so on Lesterson's orders, which confuses the scientist even more. The real govenor returns from his tour of the perimeter and finds Bragen in control. Bragen fits a paint roller to a Dalek and has it kill the govenor. The Dalek is a little confused by this, but Bragen has no answer to its question about humans killing humans.

The Doctor and a fellow prisoner rescue Polly and run for it. Polly has found out all about the Dalek's plans but of course the Doctor has worked it out on his own and doesn't need her to tell him anything at all (yay for 1968 TV!). The Daleks are of course going to wait for the humans to fight each other and then kill everyone in the confusion. Yay, the end of the fifth episode and we finally get to hear them say "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!"

In the meantime Bragen has a rather clever plan. He wants to kill those untrustworthy rebel scum and cement his position. How to do that? Why, tell everyone that the rebels killed the govenor, take over and execute them all. The Doctor, Polly and Quinn find Ben as the announcement is made, but the Doctor doesn't really care about the humans fighting, he just wants to stop the Daleks. They end up hiding in the laboratory where Lesterson is gibbering in the corner.

The Doctor hits on a plan to stop the Daleks from destroying the colony. His plan is apparently pretty clever, and he connects some cables and turns it all on, killing all the Daleks. People are less than happy to find out that his clever plan involved blowing up the power system. The Doctor is quite amused by the destruction of so much stuff, but no one else shares his enthusiasm. The Doctor decides it's time to leave before he gets given the repair bill. Back in the TARDIS Polly comments to Ben that the Doctor really didn't seem to care too much about the danger. Certainly he didn't seem to try hard enough to prevent so many deaths....

Main Cast

  • Martin King - Examiner
  • Nicholas Hawtrey - Quinn
  • Bernard Archard - Bragen
  • Robert James - Lesterson
  • Pamela Ann Davy - Janley
  • Peter Bathurst - Hensell
  • Edward Kelsey - Resno
  • Richard Kane - Valmar
  • Peter Forbes-Robertson - Guard
  • Steven Scott - Kebble
  • Robert Russel, Robert Luckham - Guards
  • Gerald Taylor, Kevin Mansell, Robert Jewell, John Scott Martin - Daleks
  • Peter Hawkins - Dalek Voices
  • Notes

    • Ratings for The Power of the Daleks stayed above 7 million viewers for the duration of the story - these figures had been established in part three of The Tenth Planet by the Cybermen and the double draw of the Daleks and the strange new Doctor helped keep people watching.
    • The colony has a message board people check for posted messages. An actual message board, not a computer one.
    • The Doctor spends a good amount of time stewing over how the Daleks will get around without metal, static electricity conducting floors, obviously forgetting that they haven't needed metal floors since their first story.
    • How do you get an endless line of Daleks coming through a door with only three actual Daleks? You have the operators go in circles around the back of the door and through it again....

    We are your servants. - A Dalek

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