Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"The Evil of the Daleks"

Aired May 20 – Jul 1, 1967

7 Episodes

Story 36

Written by David Whitaker

Directed by Derek Martinus



Synopsis


The TARDIS has been stolen by antiques dealer Edward Waterfield, who lures the Doctor and Jamie into a trap. They are transported back to Waterfield's own time, 1867, where his daughter Victoria is being held hostage by the Daleks to ensure his cooperation in an unknown experiment.

The Daleks force the Doctor to monitor Jamie's performance of a test, the rescue of Victoria, with the supposed intention of identifying “the human factor”: the special quality possessed by humans that enables them always to defeat the Daleks. The Doctor, having succeeded in this task, implants the human factor into three test Daleks, resulting in them becoming friendly and playful!

Everyone is transported back to Skaro where the Doctor discovers that the Daleks' true aim has been to isolate “the Dalek factor”, the impulse to destroy, and implant it into humans, creating a race of allies that will serve their aims. The Emperor Dalek informs him that his TARDIS will be used to spread the Dalek factor throughout all time.

However, through a ruse, the Doctor is able to infect many more Daleks with the human factor. A civil war breaks out between the two Dalek factions and they are apparently all destroyed. As Waterfield has been killed during the battle, the Doctor offers Victoria a place aboard the TARDIS. From a hill-top, Jamie, Victoria and the Doctor watch the Dalek city in erupt in flames as the civil war continues. The Doctor pronounces this as the final end of the Daleks.Though in the rubble of the city, the lights from a lone overturned Dalek begins to pulse…



Analysis

Troughton's inaugural season concludes with an absolute classic, an epic battle against the programme's definitive foes that was meant to kill them off for the foreseeable future. Terry Nation was at this point putting all of his energy into setting up a Dalek TV series with NBC in America, and this meant the implacable monsters weren't going to be available for Doctor Who. The Evil of the Daleks was meant to give them an epic send off, and as Nation was too busy with negotiations to write the story, the scripting duties went to former script editor David Whitaker.



Lucky for all that those duties did fall to Whitaker. Like The Power of the Daleks before it, this story goes a long way to proving that Whitaker understood better than any other writer how to make the most of the Daleks, even more so than Nation himself. The Evil of the Daleks may be my favourite Dalek story, though it's a close call between this and The Power of the Daleks. To me, both succeed because the Daleks are so damn smart, with a clear objective and a capability to be ruthless engines of destruction as well as manipulators of all around them. They even succeed in getting one over on the Doctor in this story, only showing their true purpose in the last episode. With this story's conclusion, the Daleks' greatest period would come to an end. Arguably, they'd never be this interesting or complex ever again, and subsequent years would find them reduced to rampaging thugs, henchmen to their creator, or factions of nearly indecipherable in-fighting. They would disappear from the series for a few years after this, and the rest would do them good, but it's a shame they'd really rarely rise to these heights again.

The story itself is great, with plenty of interesting supporting characters and a bare minimum padding. It's hard to fully comment on the direction without the visuals, but it seems to move like lightning with lots of reversals and constant intrigue and action. The supporting is uniformly good, with special mention going to John Bailey as Waterfield and Marius Goring as Maxtible. Both actually go on a real journey here, and your feelings about them change drastically over the course of the story. Frazer Hines has a great outing here as well, with Jamie being explicitly shown to exemplify all that is best about humanity. How can you not love him after this? Deborah Watling makes a decent first impression as Victoria, but with her limited screen time and her depiction as a fairly standard Victorian girl, we're not really given all too much to go on.

And Troughton is absolutely magnificent here. In Episode 2, when he first encounters the Daleks, he goes through a wide range of emotions that is just amazing. You can see his determination, but also his terror. One of the things that made his Doctor compelling was that vulnerability in the face of his enemies. And then to see him buckle down and scheme and manipulate and plan is a delight. This is a Doctor that was so adept at subtlety and at tricking his enemies into overconfidence, and this story might exemplify that quality.

The Evil of the Daleks may just be the best Troughton story, and it could very well be the single best Dalek story too.  

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