Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Doctor Who 50 Years 50 Stories Project: #4 The Power of the Daleks

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#4 The Power of the Daleks
Second Doctor, Ben, Polly

Three things, first off:
1) This is the fourth consecutive Dalek story in the Top 50. People really, really like Daleks.
2) This story has the odd honour of being the only one in the Top 50 to be completely missing.
3) I’ve watched this story once before, a few months before I embarked on this project. I didn’t like it.

Funny how your opinion of something can change over even a short time, because I really liked it this time around. I think last time I was stressed from moving countries (actually away from the terrible almost-homeless-in-rural-France business) and wasn’t in the mood for six recons in a row. Plus I think I watched a set of recons with terrible sound last time- and when sound is pretty much all you have to go on, that can be catastrophic.

I just really wish this story existed. Okay, so I wish all the lost episodes would magically reappear, but occasionally I watch a story that really is fantastic and it really hits me how desperately sad it is that the original may be beyond recovery. I think this one in particular is going right up there in my mental list of stories I really, really want to be found above all others. Even one measly episode would be better than absolutely nothing. It’s not just that this is Patrick Troughton’s first story and very, very important in establishing not just his Doctor but the very fact that the Doctor can be a new person- though obviously there’s that. It’s that this story is also really, really good.

Firstly, let’s tackle the fact that the Doctor isn’t the Doctor anymore. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like for viewers to deal with. I watched this a week and a half before Peter Capaldi’s debut Deep Breath broadcasted and the internet and my Doctor Who fan friends were all aflutter about Capaldi’s portrayal and whether they’ll like it or not and how that’ll affect their view of the show. And then here, William Hartnell becomes Patrick Troughton, One becomes Two, with really no explanation whatsoever. I seriously think whoever came up with the idea of regeneration in the first place was completely insane. Complete fucking genius, but completely insane.

There’s Ben and Polly acting confused and wary and wondering where their Doctor is, and it’s kind of reminiscent of Rose adapting to Ten, or Clara adapting to Twelve. It's quite lovely, the way some things have never changed.

Two is delightfully weird as well. Yeah, I’ll just casually walk over a mercury swamp, and let people think I’m the guy I just found dead, though I don’t really know why. I kind of love Ben’s exasperation about the recorder too. I love how it’s established so early on that this Doctor is different, not only in appearance, but just about everything else. You definitely couldn’t mistake this for simple recasting.

The wonderful weirdo himself.
I’m fairly new when it comes to the second Doctor- I’ve only seen a handful of his stories- and I think I’m starting to ‘get’ him at last. He seems much less serious and more relaxed than his predecessor, but I get the feeling he can be darker than he seems at first glance. The end of this story is a perfect example. It’s left ambiguous if the Doctor really did knowingly save the day or just struck lucky. It could equally be either one. Then there’s the way that he doesn’t seem especially bothered by the way bodies are piling up as he fiddles with the power supply. I feel like there’s a fine line he could cross over into being properly scary.

The plot’s interesting and kind of different for a Dalek story. The Daleks pretending to be harmless robots who just want to help the colony and no-one believing the Doctor that they are in fact deadly- it’s nice to see the Daleks doing something different and really showing the full scale of their evil.

I love Lesterson. Especially when he kind of slips off the edge and starts talking like a Dalek.

So, there we have it. I think this is definitely my favourite Troughton story that I’ve seen so far. Stone cold classic all around. If only it existed…

Next time: Yet more Daleks! Recons! Victorians! The Evil of the Daleks, coming soon.

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