Friday, 3 December 2010

The Power of the Daleks


  1. New Doctor! New Doctor!

    So exciting and I take to the impish "cosmic hobo" straight away. It's a great tribute to the writing and Patrick Troughtons' characterisation that so quickly you're both convinced that despite the differences this is the Doctor that we've come to know and that he has replaced the grumpy old man that we've known for 3 years in my affection virtually completely by the end of episode 1! I adore how playful he is with Ben and Polly about whether he really is The Doctor and the air of mystery over what has happened is totally beguiling. Truly remarkable!!!
    In addition, the story we're dragged into has much more going for it. The plot by David Whitaker is a Dalek tale that once more uses the Tenth Planet scenario of isolated community under attack very effectively. I love the cunning the Daleks show when acting as servants while using the power of the colony to make their army, with the production line sequence being particularly frightening even in audio only. As I think I've said previously, for me the Daleks are always more effective when they are not just robot automatons but give the feeling of the living aliens inside the casing and this story really does come up trumps for me on that score.
    The performances on the whole here are good with some nice nuances in the writing that are not too obvious or overdone - for example the crush on Janley. Robert James as the misguided scientist Lesterson is really excellent and I love the scene where he sacrifices himself to distract the Daleks, echoing their "I am your servant" cries, which allows the Doctor to defeat them. The plot hangs on the fact that Bragen the security chief is hungry for power and will do anything to get it - even to the extent of believing he can control the Daleks - and Bernard Archard is also superb.
    However, this brings me to the big drawback of the story. Which is that The Doctor spends what seems like 4 episodes telling people that The Daleks are evil with no-one listening to him. This really grates on me after a while and just want the action to get on. There is also a fair bit of people getting caught and escaping (with Polly disappearing for episode 4 and Ben for episode 5) which means the middle episodes drag a little.
    I suspect if this was 4 episodes rather than 6 it would be a total classic but on the whole it's very enjoyable, exciting, with a fine supporting cast and a fabulous central performance. Immense promise for the future and I'll give it 8/10

  2. I'm back!

    Yes. i slipped off the mission for a while, but have returned in earnest with 3 2nd Doctor audio stories under my belt.

    here's my review of the first.

    Power of the Daleks - MAGNIFICENT.

    Six parts of tense, ominous and downright brutal storytelling.
    the story features some brilliantly realised characters, which are some of the most fully developed in Doctor Who history.

    The Daleks are unveiled in this new era as devious and deadly creatures. A far cry from the aimless bumbling tin cans that preceeded this story. for once, they are truly terrifying.

    The end of episode two ends with the truly chilling "I am your serrrrrrvant!" cry, which really creeped me out.

    Oh... and a new Doctor!

    This story sees our new Doctor acting very weird. he communicates at times by blowing his recorder. Like a petulant child refusing to play.
    it must have been very disconcerting for viewers of the 1960's to not only lose their lead actor, but to have his replacement appear like a reluctant hero, who even his companions are unsure about.
    Brave stuff. And a better treatment than the disastrous 6th Doctor introduction.

    I could go on and on about Power of The Daleks. it certainly ranks in my top 3 Dalek stories.
    6 episodes of sustained gripping storytelling.

    We have always heard how Daleks are the most cruel and ruthless race in the universe and in episode 6 they demonstrate it in brutal fashiom, wiping out an entire colony. Men, women and children. For me, it was a much needed reminder to the viewers of why they are the Doctors most fearsome nemesis.

    I give Power Of the Daleks a much deserved 8/10.

  3. Wow. That's not the Doctor!

    Disconcerting from the off, this story is more than a little bit freaky and scary. The man that we've come to know and trust is gone. And when Ben asks him "Who are we?" the man who's suddenly appeared in the Tardis just brushes aside the question with a "Don't you know?"

    He continues to wrongfoot us all, answering questions with questions, referring to "The Doctor" in the third person... Can we trust this stranger?

    Oh dear. He really can't play the recorder at all well, can he? And I'm not sure about that hat either...

    Out onto the surface of Vulcan. "Don't touch it, Polly - it's quicksilver, goes through the pores." I suppose it's not technically a pool of acid, but I can't help but feel the same principle applies. It's the same... but different.

    "We saw your rocket" implies that the Tardis has actually landed rather than materialised this time.

    And then... Blimey! I actually jumped in my seat when the Dalek mutant appeared. And it was just a still picture!

    This is such a different Doctor from Hartnell. In the acting, in the writing... Ben doesn't believe it's the Doctor. Polly does. The audience identification is split.

    There's a lot of fantastic writing going on here.

    The story presents Lesterson as Frankenstein. "There must be some way to bring this thing back to life!" And, of course, he is slain by his own creation in the end.

    What I really love about the whole of this story is the audience superior position. We know what the Daleks are, and that Lesterson and Janley are making a terrible mistake in powering them up... but they don't. "I cannot think what this short stubby arm is for," says one of them... while we know exactly what it is and what it can do.

    The story is one of mounting terror throughout, as the Daleks become more powerful and more able to work in the open.

    A Dalek asks "Why do human beings kill human beings?" And there's no answer that will satisfy.

    And then there's the terrifying sight of a Dalek proclaiming eagerly "I am your servant" throughout. A line that's repeated later, pathetically, by the broken Lesterson. Just before he's exterminated.

    Interestingly, when the Doctor meets a Dalek and says "So they've given you the run of the colony, have they..." there's genuine fear in his voice. Something that I never saw in Hartnell's blustery performance.

    It's also nice to hear a reference to the past, when the Doctor wonders how long the Daleks will be able to move around on these non-metal floors.

    By episode four, I'm sold. He is the Doctor. The same, but different.

    "Doctor, you did know what you were doing, didn't you?"

    And personally, I don't think the answer is yes.

    Utterly brilliant.

  4. "I'd like to see a butterfly fit into a chrysalis case after it's spread its wings."

    "Life depends on change... and renewal."

    Power of the Daleks is the best Dalek story since the first one. At least. A classic. The Daleks are at their sly, malevolent best and even the audience aren't sure whether to trust this man wearing the Doctor's clothes.

    The first episode is surprisingly creepy as it deals with the aftermath of the Doctor's "renewal". It seems like the first lengthy TARDIS scene for some time and almost harks back to The Edge of Destruction in the way that it undermines the safety of the Doctor's magnificent timeship.

    The story never feels like it's struggling to fill six episodes. There is a lot going on here and the story zips along. There would be an interesting story on Vulcan even without the TARDIS and the Daleks blundering in.

    There are some terrific performances in this story but it would be remiss not to single out Robert James for special praise. He brings real conviction to Lesterson.

    As for the regulars, Wills and Craze are brilliant as they guide the audience through the change in lead actor. It's great to see the companions given a vital part to play and these two are definitely up to the task.

    Troughton instantly makes his Doctor very different to Hartnell's. The characteristics of the second Doctor were worked out by Troughton, producer Innes Lloyd and story editor Gerry Davis, helped along by Sidney Newman's comment that he should be a "cosmic hobo". The execution though is all Troughton and he is a pleasure to watch.

    I complain about this a lot so I'll try and get it out of the way here, at the start of the Second Doctor's run. What a crime is it that we can't watch these stories as they first appeared on television. Patrick Troughton's work is alive with nuances, tics and visual humour that is lost without the visuals. There are some amazing reconstructions available and the BBC CDs are really very good but it is a travesty that the majority of Troughton's era is lost to us.

    Although the initial scripts were written by David Whitaker, the scripts were apparently heavily rewritten by (an uncredited) Dennis Spooner. Sadly, this was Spooner's last contribution to Doctor Who as he then went back to ITC.

    Better than: The Dalek Invasion of Earth
    Not as good as: The Daleks (probably)