Power of the Daleks

Written by David Whitaker

Directed by Christopher Barry

Today our government in the UK are chucking hundreds of people out of their homes for the heinous crime of haveing some space in it, leading me to wonder how much extra space David Cameron has in his state provided home. Meanwhile, they’ve made this tremendous cunt minister for the disabled. If any conservatives are reading this, Minister for the Disabled is supposed to represent and help disabled people, not hound and persecute them. These, along with just about everything else that they do, is probably not as evil as the Daleks at their worst, but demonstrates an even greater lack of empathy or understanding than the automofashists showed on the last few of their encounters.

Last time the Daleks showed up I spoke at some length about Badass decay. One common way to overcome this problem is to recast the decaying villain as some sort of spanner in the works, while a new villain takes the role of actual antagonist. Grant Morrison did this with the Joker to great effect recently in his run on Batman and Robin, and future Doctor Who villain the Master spent more time in this capacity than he ever did as the main antagonist.

And that is exactly what David Whitaker does here with the Daleks. And he does it to great effect. Power of the Daleks spends the majority of the first five episodes concentrating on the very human murder mystery set up long before the Daleks first appear on the scene, with the pepper pots only taking centre stage in the final chapter.

It’s clear that the production team wanted to make Patrick Troughton’s first appearance as gripping as they possibly could, not only bringing back the most iconic villain of the series, and arguably of television, but also giving it to the superstar writer/director team of David Whitaker and Christopher Barry. And it was well and truly worth it. As Troughton would prove later in some of his less well written or directed stories he didn’t really need it, as he could always deliver, but the Daleks really benefited from such expert handling. Not since their very  first appearance back on Skaro had they been as terrifying as they are here. From their initial appearance as inert  husks through to their rousing chorus of “Daleks Conquer and Destroy” and onto their final devastating assault on the colony they positively ooze threat. Even when they are pretending to be subservient, their cold emotionless voices give us no hint to what they are thinking, rendering them frightening, even while declaring that they are our servants. We, the viewers (or listeners in this case) of course know what they are thinking, and the question on our minds is not so much if they will strike, but when.

But while the Dalek’s return to form is highly welcome, it is Troughton that really steals the show. Not many people could replace William Hartnell, Hartnell himself was quoted as saying that Troughton was the only man who could. The wonderful thing about his performance though, is that he isn’t replacing him. The Second Doctor is a very different kind of genius. While the First Doctor was distant and often severe, the Second is almost always jovial and cheerful. Where the First was upfront about his skills and intelligence, the Second actively hides it behind a facade of flippancy and goofiness, not unlike the was Lord Peter Wimsey could be described as Sherlock Holmes disguised as Bertie Wooster.
So Patrick Troughton quickly proved himself easily up to the task of filling the shoes of William Hartnell, but there was something still missing from the mix. Not many of the Doctor’s incarnations could be linked definitively to any one companion, but though the Second Doctor traveled with a good few people over the course of his three year journey through time and space, there was one who was nearly always by his side. Much as Power of the Daleks was a fantastic story, it somehow felt like it was missing a certain kilted element. Don’t fear though, he’ll turn up next time, in The Highlanders.

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