Serial Review: The Power of the Daleks (Season 4)
Since the first time I saw Patrick Troughton as the Doctor in “Tomb of the Cybermen” about two years ago, I have called him my favorite Doctor. The idea of recons didn’t bother me so much, but the thought of novelizations of missing episodes appealed to me more. Already a voracious reader, I figured that tracking down the novelizations would be a perfect way to experience the missing stories.
Unfortunately, most of those novelizations are out of print. Although they are rarely more than five or six dollars, the problem really boils down to actually finding them. Also, no matter how strong a novelization is, it is near impossible to re-capture the quality of Troughton’s performance. He really seems like just about the hardest Doctor to write, with only Steve Lyons seeming to have a perfect grasp of the character among the handful of Second Doctor stories I have read.
It’s a wonder that, considering my feelings towards Patrick Troughton, I didn’t get around to actually seeing “The Power of the Daleks” until now. Reading the wonderful “Wife in Space” blog via Tachyon TV, I saw their review of the serial and couldn’t help but take a look at the link to the reconstruction on YouTube. This is the first reconstruction I’ve stumbled upon that uses narration to fill in the blanks, which makes for a much more enjoyable recon experience. I tried to listen to part one of “The Moonbase” with the audio provided on the Lost in Time boxset, but just hearing the audio is a pretty terrible way to try to follow a story without the benefit of narration.
I’d been told a few times that “The Power of the Daleks” was a story worth seeking out, and had heard from a few people that it is one of the stories they most wanted to be discovered in somebody’s attic. It is every bit as good as “Genesis of the Daleks,” which, along with this serial, is second only to “Remembrance of the Daleks” among Dalek stories. I didn’t expect to like this nearly that much, but I did.
The story begins just after the Doctor’s regeneration into his second form, with Ben and Polly arguing over whether it is THE Doctor or just an imposter. Polly has it right, and Ben spends most of this story doubting the possibility that the Doctor regenerated. Ben is a terribly irritating companion throughout, and by the end of part three, I was hoping the Doctor would carve his recorder into a shiv and drive it through Ben’s stupid face. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, but I suppose you can’t win them all.
Both of the first two parts had some really good cliffhangers, which is unsual. The first has the Doctor, Ben, and Polly stumbling upon a couple of de-activated Daleks covered in cobwebs, and the second has a third Dalek finally speaking up, shocking the people who think the Daleks are merely servants. It is easy to see how much of an influence this story was on the recent Mark Gatiss Eleventh Doctor story “Victory of the Daleks,” especially in the Daleks saying to the silly scientist “I am your serrrr-VANT” much in the same way the Dalek would say “I am your sollll-DIER” in the latter story. The best cliffhanger of all is at the end of part four, when Lesterson discovered the Daleks are multiplying and building an army; really chilling and memorable.
There aren’t any bad performances in this story, aside from Michael Craze, and that is pretty impressive. Robert James (who would later play the High Priest in “The Masque of Mandragora”) is great as Lesterson, Pamela Ann Davy is strong as Janley, and Bernard Archard (the zombie servant Scarman in “Pyramids of Mars”) is great as Bragen.
I don’t think Troughton is quite the Doctor he would become yet in this story, but he’s solid and has a few cool moments. One of the more brilliant scenes is when the Doctor and is locked in a cell with a sonic lock, and uses the glass of water given by his capturer to create a sound at the right frequency to open the lock. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this had no bearing on real science, but it is the perfect example of how clever this story is. It also helps that Polly is quickly becoming one of my favorite companions; she isn’t written that well but she’s spunky and sharp as a tack. I like that in a woman. As I see it, this all adds up to very good. It’s stories like this that make me angry at the BBC for their deletion policy even more. Absolutely a classic Dalek story.