The Cosmic Hobo

Thoughts & reviews about the science fiction series Doctor Who.

Archive for the tag “daleks”

Episode Review: Into the Dalek

DW Into the Dalek

Daleks in general, appear to have run their course. I get why they were an appealing villain early on in the series, but the new series of Doctor Who has essentially done nothing interesting or new with these baddies. The closest they came was “Dalek,” but even that was just a retread of a superior audio story from Big Finish. “Into the Dalek” tries hard to do something new, and occasionally succeeds. It is strong not because of the Daleks themselves, however, but because of the way the Dalek is used to examine the Doctor’s own morality.

Peter Capaldi finally gets to be “his” Doctor for an entire episode in “Into the Dalek,” but Jenna Coleman once again steals the show as she continues to kill it as Clara. Capaldi has flashes of the unfeeling alien-ness of Tom Baker and the pretension of Pertwee, but still feels a bit clumsy and like he is missing the pivotal whimsy that makes the Doctor such an interesting character. Even Colin Baker, who was often criticized because his Doctor was such an asshole, at least had that flair and oddness that made the Doctor who he is. Capaldi, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to have grabbed a hold of that yet, and the end result feels a bit flat.

The episode on the whole, however, is pretty good. There are a few great moments, including some funnier bits with the introduction of future companion Danny Pink. The whole idea of the episode, a “good” Dalek, has been done before in “Dalek,” but it takes a different route here. The Doctor, Clara, and a few redshirts have to be shrunk down with a special machine so they can actually enter the Dalek and see where the malfunction is that is making him appear to have all of that pesky morality. Whereas “Dalek” was a moral quandry brought on by Rose accidentally rebooting its system, Rusty (the name given to the Dalek by the Doctor) is not altered in any way other than a serious malfunction, which makes the conflict feel more like a logic puzzle.

The episode is fun and full of action, with the interesting revelation being that the Doctor’s singular hatred of the Daleks ultimately leads to part of his problem. Without actually spoiling it, I appreciated the ending and thought that it was good enough to justify the rest of the episode, which ultimately feels a little too much like a retread in parts to be really special. Once again, Jenna Coleman is holding things together while Capaldi is finding his feet as the Doctor, but in a series that is only 12 episodes long, he’s going to have to find ’em soon.

Final Grade: B-


Serial Review: The Power of the Daleks (Season 4)

“The Power of the Daleks”
Written by David Whitaker, dir. by Christopher Barry
Featuring the Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Daleks

Rating: B+

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.

Serial Review: Death to the Daleks (Season 11)

“Death to the Daleks”
Written by Terry Nation, dir. by Michael Briant
Featuring the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Daleks

Rating: C

I am apparently some kind of strange statistical anomaly in Doctor Who fandom, as after seeing this serial, I can say that my least favorite Jon Pertwee Dalek serial is in fact “Day of the Daleks.” I didn’t think it was awful, but I really enjoyed “Planet of the Daleks,” and as it turns out, I think “Death to the Daleks” is pretty solid.

Strangely, it starts slow and gets better as it goes on. Generally speaking, I find myself enjoying the first couple episodes of an average serial but end up being disappointed later on. In the case of this serial, it turned out to be the opposite reaction. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a fan of Michael Briant’s direction, especially in the outstanding “The Sea Devils.” There was something charming about the serial for me, which made up for its various short comings.

I can definitely see why people don’t like this one, but I liked a few things about it. Elisabeth Sladen is as good as always as Sarah Jane, and Pertwee is as solid as always. I’m sure someone will tell me I’m an idiot for this, but one of my favorite parts about this story is actually the Exxilon. I think they are a cool alien race and I have a soft spot for stories where the ugly aliens aren’t all bad guys.

I eagerly await your fury, as I work on a Jon Pertwee wrap up post before I get into Tom Baker’s territory.

Book Review: Target Novelizations – The Daleks by David Whitaker

Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker
Target Novelizations #16 – First Doctor
Featuring the Doctor, Susan, Ian, Barbara and Daleks

Rating: D

Doctor Who and the Daleks is a strange novelization in that it deviates from the source episode pretty significantly, including treating the novel as though it were the earliest story in the series. It is complete with the introductions of Ian and Barbara, as they arrive at the junkyard to meet the Doctor under similar but different circumstances. Rather than being transported to pre-historic Earth, they find themselves on Skaro, and then essentially go through the events of the television serial.

The strangest part of all is that the novel is entirely from first person perspective, told from the point of view of Ian Chesterton as he and Barbara travel with the Doctor. It is interesting in theory; there aren’t a lot of Doctor Who stories written from a particular character’s perspective, but once the novelty of that wears off, this novel is actually pretty weak. Whitaker isn’t a bad writer, but nothing about the prose or dialogue really impressed me.

Whereas Terrance Dicks’ An Unearthly Child helped the televised story by providing a bit of depth to the characters while maintaining the feel of the serial, Doctor Who and the Daleks muddies things up a bit while failing to recapture the spirit or general feeling of the story. It is a total failure, as far as I’m concerned. Without the interesting choice in narration, it would be a big stinkin’ F. As it is, its not much better than that.

Serial Review: Planet of the Daleks (Season 10)

“Planet of the Daleks”
Written by Terry Nation, directed by David Maloney
Featuring the Doctor, Jo Grant, and the Daleks

Rating: B-

Among the three Jon Pertwee era Dalek stories, it seems like his first, “Day of the Daleks,” is the only one that gets any consistent praise from the fan base. I usually think most of the serials considered to be classics in Doctor Who are correctly labeled such, but this happens to be a case where I disagree with everybody else. I actually thought “Day of the Daleks” was quite the snooze fest, and I ended up really enjoying “Planet of the Daleks,” despite some flaws.

Like just about all Dalek stories up to this point, “Planet of the Daleks” was written by Terry Nation. He’s essentially managed to really hit it out of the park only once, in the Fourth Doctor serial “Genesis of the Daleks,” but he occasionally comes up with a couple others that are at least very solid, and I would count this among them.

I was a bit surprised watching “Frontier in Space,” another great Malcolm Hulke story, that the plot doesn’t really wrap up in the end, but continues directly on to this adventure. It was uncommon of what I have seen so far of Classic Who to have these sort of cliffhangers, but it turns out to be quite an entertaining set of arcs.

Despite the standard pacing issues of classic stories that are any longer than four parts, “Planet of the Daleks” makes up for these issues with a handful of really cool scenes (pushing the Daleks into the cold spring, slowly floating up that weird hole with the air balloon), and an absolutely outstanding performance from Bernard Horsfall, who played Taron. He had previously been very solid in “The Mind Robber” opposite Patrick Troughton as the Doctor in the role of Gulliver, and one of the Time Lords in “The War Games,” but I really feel like his portrayal carried this serial. I like the Thals in general, but I feel like performances of this quality from supporting cast are really what makes stories like this believable.

The set design is another feather in this story’s cap. I don’t think it is quite as outstanding looking as the jungle set that would later be used for “Planet of Evil,” but it is certainly very strong. There weren’t any moments in this serial in which I was laughing to myself about how ridiculous anything looked. I could see someone thinking the big purple fuzzy blankets that the Spiridons wear are a bit ridiculous, but I actually think it looked kinda cool against the jungle backdrop, despite its simplicity.

I don’t think this is an all time classic serial, but very solid. I’m generally pretty nonplussed by Dalek stories (“Remembrance” and “Genesis” are the classics, “Destiny” and “The Daleks” are also solid), but I think “Planet of the Daleks” is firmly in the category of very solid.

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