The Power of the Daleks, the third story of Season Four of Doctor Who, had a lot to live up to both in its original airing between November 5 and December 10, 1966, and its animated recreation now showing in cinemas.
The six-parter, back in 1966, had to seamlessly replace one beloved Doctor with a new one for the first time if the show was to go on. What nobody knew then was whether Patrick Troughton could become as beloved to generation of British children as William Hartnell who he replaced.
That fear was even reflected in a wonderful conversation between companions Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben Jackson (Michael Craze) in the first part of the story: an is it the Doctor or isn’t it conversation which by no means ends definitely. If Troughton couldn’t win the viewers’ hearts Doctor Who would have quickly vanished from television screens and I probably wouldn’t be here now writing about it, nor you reading about it.
Cleverly, however, the powers that be at the BBC chose to make the second Doctor’s first story a Dalek one. Setting the new Doctor against a familiar foe helped the viewer quickly get a measure of the new TARDIS traveller.
The TARDIS lands on the planet Vulcan, home to a human colony where a mysterious capsule had landed. As the Doctor recovers from his regeneration the capsule is discovered to have contained three Daleks, but one is missing. Soon the Daleks are serving humans, but can the Doctor warn them before it’s too late?
At one point in the story Dalek asks a human why humans kill each other. It’s a lovely moment that serves to remind the viewer that humans can be as evil as Daleks.
From the surviving clips of this otherwise lost story, and the audio recordings made during its transmission, it’s clear that Troughton was top of his game from day one and knocked it out of the park with his stovepipe hat and bow tie wearing, and recorder playing Second Doctor. He’s an absolute enigma in the moments following his first regeneration, setting the trend for many more to come.
What wasn’t clear was how a full animation of the story would go down. Previous recreations of lost episodes have been fine given the short amount of time and money allocated for the job, but this one is a step up from those. The Power of the Daleks is a very simple animation providing a decent visual cue to what was on the screen the first time around. Although the director admits it is not a scene by scene clone – about half can be attributed to the original director Christopher Barry.
The animators have done a great job of capturing the likeness of the TARDIS crew, although the animated Daleks are the more familiar squat versions. For some reason The Power of the Daleks used a taller model of the killer Dalek travel machine.
At Hoyts Metro in Hamilton, New Zealand, where I saw it with my 10-year-old son the six parts had been edited into one long movie, extras and all, coming in at 180 minutes. Pacing was a little slow in the first 30 to 45 minutes, but the story really picked up from there and just whizzed along. My son, used to the whiz bang of films like Star Wars: The Force Awaken, was glued to the screen and less critical than me. “It’s not often you get to see something your Dad hasn’t seen,” he said with glee.
Elements of Power of the Daleks show up in other Doctor Who, most notably in the Season Five episode of the new series Victory of the Daleks. Both stories feature subservient Daleks who serve humans while plotting to rebuild the race and dominate the universe.
This will be a must for DVD when it gets its release very soon.