Dizzy Daleks

The new animated version of The Evil Of The Daleks is finally available. As far as I’m concerned Doctor Who is no less worth commenting on than The Dark, The Tomorrow War or the various horror films that have already been on this blog. In any case, this story was broadcast in 1967, so if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like “the new version” you ought to know about this one.

You should know that this is a 3-act story, which starts where the preceding The Faceless Ones leaves off, at Gatwick Airport in 1966 (also the same day that The War Machines should have been ending). We have the capers and chases in episode 1, as the Doctor and Jamie try to catch up with the TARDIS being taken away by some rough British small-time crooks who’ve been hired specifically to be bad at the job and lure the two all the way to an emporium of Victorian collectibles, presided over by Mr Waterfield, who is unfamiliar with modern lingo.

Waterfield seems almost vampiric in the animated version (particularly as his first scene has him unwilling to go outside in daylight). The disc version includes the original filmed episode 2 (long available on the Lost In Time collection) and he looks healthier in that one, although his employer Theodore Maxtible really does look like Karl Marx:

At Waterfield’s antique shop our heroes are soon trapped and transported back to Maxtible’s mansion in 1866. We learn that this Victorian experimenter accidentally stumbled on secrets of time travel whilst playing with static electricity and mirrors, but he was immediately visited by demonic machines who took Waterfield’s daughter Victoria hostage and also promised Maxtible what he longs for: the secret of turning base metal into gold. The demonic machines are of course the Daleks, and they have a scheme to discover the secret of the “human factor” which causes them to lose their battles with the humans. The Doctor is coerced into assisting the psychobehavioural study in which they monitor Jamie displaying human virtues in fighting his way to the rescue of Victoria. With the results of this, they travel back to their home planet for the final section, in which we see the Emperor Dalek for the first time in the TV show, and there is a final battle after which the Doctor, Jamie and new companion Victoria travel away.

Fun facts:

1. This was written by David Whitaker, not Terry Nation, who had the credit for devising the Daleks. The Daleks are supposedly destroyed at the end of this story and don’t come back in the series until 1972. Terry Nation was in dispute with the BBC so they wrote his creatures out and this is why the next 2 Patrick Troughton seasons have lots of stories with the Cybermen. They also included new monsters such as the Ice Warriors, the Yeti, and also the rather boring Dominators, invented by a pair of writers who also fell out with the BBC, and one of whom went on to promote the hoax behind the Da Vinci Code.

2. These animated versions usually have a funny little detail inserted in the background. The recreation of The Faceless Ones had crossover references to the 1968 story The Invasion as well as WANTED posters of The Master, and a map apparently showing an independent Kurdistan. The Fury From The Deep remake continued the Master WANTED theme. There is nothing obvious like that here, though notice the period-accurate posters in Episode 1:

And what are we to make of the coat of arms for “Whitaker” in Maxtible’s house?

3. Having the original episode 2 available makes it possible to see some inexplicable slippage between new and old: the animated episode 1 ends with Kennedy opening the safe to see piles of cash, whilst the original just had a deposit box:

4. Also note that the animated Daleks have variable irises in their eyes, just like they do in the current series, but didn’t in the 60s:

5. Of course it’s not really worth worrying about plot holes in a David Whitaker script, but I can’t really take this as a classically-constructed Who story when there are so many bits with barely any attempts at explanation, starting with the scheme to pinch the TARDIS at Gatwick. But then also how exactly can Waterfield be getting any buyers for “Victoriana” that was clearly made yesterday (and thus worthless as “antiques”), and how did a run-of-the-mill thief like Kennedy managed to break into a safe in a Dalek-approved secret chamber? We are told that the bomb that the Daleks leave in Maxtible’s house would need to be thrown “half a mile away” to avoid the blast… so does it cause a lot of damage in 1866? And the bit where our heroes teleport over to Skaro to catch up with the Daleks… how convenient that it gets them where they need to be without any adjustment. An awful lot goes on off-screen when the Doctor agrees to help out on the evil scheme and gets it running the way it needs to be done.

6. This story does go after some big ideas about a “human factor” distinguishing them from mechanical, subservient beings such as Daleks, though it’s not clear whether the magic potion imparts empathy or emotions or just a sense of individual agency. We have a fairly serious moment when Jamie challenges the Doctor about his moral position in the situation they’re in, which is as deep as the more-celebrated “Do I have that right?” sequence in Genesis Of The Daleks. He does he tell us that doesn’t think “the end justifies the means” although we should note that the winning plan he uses in the end is to get his Dalek “friends” to fight and kill the other Daleks and their Emperor in a suicidal frenzy. The main immediate effect of “human factor” is to turn Daleks into malingerers who question their orders, but maybe once the carnage is over, things just stabilised with a new formally constitutional Dalek monarchy. When I had a copy of Terry Nation’s Dalek Special long ago, and read about this story for the first time, I took seriously the idea that it was “the last Dalek story” and the others had to be preceding it in Whoniverse chronology… but that was changed and changed again so many times even before it went off air in 1989.

6. The ideas of the Daleks having individual names, and absorbing human characteristics in order to further develop, were taken up in “the new series”, most obviously Evolution Of The Daleks.

7. This story also features the Doctor mentioning his own planet as a possible hideaway to go to if necessary, and part of the plot turns on the detail that he’s not actually human like the rest of us.

The “dizzy Daleks” moment is not quite as funny as it sounded when I heard the audio only version released on CD long ago. Something is lost when the visuals were added. The “playful Dalek” idea was also brought back this century in Victory Of The Daleks. These Daleks are as easily-destructible as they ever were in the old series, exploding once anyone pushed them off a platform or just into a wall, though I think the feeblest Dalek ever was the one that spontaneously combusted when being slightly harrassed by unarmed natives in Death To The Daleks. It’s the “new series” that insisted on them becoming properly formidable killing machines. The only time they were truly menacing and evil in old times was in the underrated and deeply dark Revelation Of The Daleks.

This is all good stuff, but what I really want is an animated reboot of The Wheel In Space. I also want the new series back and doing simple self-contained stories every week where the Doctor is in genuine peril and doesn’t know immediately what’s going on or can fix it all by pressing a button on the TARDIS control panel. He’s not a comic book superhero, and that’s not what he was like in the comic strips that Alan Moore was writing for Doctor Who Weekly/Monthly long ago. He could have been given a try as show-runner instead of retreading RTD, but never mind about that now.

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