Doctor Who #165: The Evil of the Daleks Part 1

"Imagination is a virtue, but it can become a vice."TECHNICAL SPECS: Only one episode of this 7-part story exists in the archives. This isn't the one. Though I've listened to the Hines-narrated audio CD in the fairly recent past, I've used a reconstruction for this review. First aired May 20 1967.

IN THIS ONE... Someone's stolen the TARDIS and then left clues for the Doctor to follow. And the Daleks get into the antiques business.

REVIEW: We're still at Gatwick airport, continuing directly from the previous episode's theft of the TARDIS, but it doesn't feel at all like we're in the same story. Where The Faceless Ones was dull and spare, The Evil of the Daleks, even in this prologue episode, is dynamic and exciting. In fact, aside from the place and era, it feels like director Derek Martinus and writer David Whitaker are actively responding to The Faceless Ones and doing everything in the opposite way. For example, where The Faceless Ones gave us stuffy automatons who never changed their tone (as true of the humans as it was of the Chameleons), Evil presents a variety of characters, each with their own mode of speech. There's rough Kennedy, posh Perry, and old-fashioned Waterfield, and the mark of their quality is that their scenes together are as interesting as any with the regulars.

In The Faceless Ones, the Doctor made his usual leaps of logic, but it was all very science fiction and no one would believe him. In Evil, his detective work is more Sherlock than 60s Batman, so his deductions feel earned. And then it all gets turned upside down when it's revealed Waterfield and Kennedy are leaving those clues behind on purpose to lure the Doctor into, what... a trap? It's the sense of mystery that works so well here. The Doctor plays detective brilliantly, but he's meant to. What are the antagonists' ultimate plan? Waterfield is a wonderful creation, a man who only acts like his Victorian attitudes are an act. and the dialog retains a measure of ambiguity to keep us guessing. For example, when he asks Kennedy was "OK" means, it could sound like he thinks the word is too noncommittal, though in hindsight, it's that he doesn't master the 20th-century idiom. The mystery surrounding this character deepens when he walks into a futuristic room behind his Victorian bookcase. Is he from the past, or the future? And how does this all relate to the Daleks named in the title? Somehow, the mysteries are involving enough that the appearance of a Dalek at the end still comes as something of a (pleasant) surprise.

Finally, I have to say a few words about the music. In The Faceless Ones, it annoyed me. Alien whines and no sense of time or place. In Evil, though Dudley Simpson has worked on the program before, he basically sets the house style he'll use on Doctor Who through most of the coming decade. Right off the bat too, making the chase for the TARDIS bouncy, hip and fun. His cues have the appropriate mix of high spirits and mystery that my brain has been trained to understand as "Classic Doctor Who". His greatest success, however, is a Dalek theme which plays twice - when Waterfield talks with an unseen Dalek, and when the Dalek appears at the end - which uses the da-da-da-dum of the Doctor Who title theme as a dark counterpoint, crafting, in what is meant to be a final Dalek story, an unbreakable connection between the Doctor and the Daleks. If the Daleks are the da-da-da-dums of the theme, they are the ones chasing the TARDIS through the vortex. They're in every episode, just outside the scope of the camera. And it's always a matter of time before they catch up to the Doctor.

THEORIES: The Doctor's apprehension here, a sixth sense that tells him enemies are closing in, is similar to what he felt in Part 1 of The War Machines, a story that actually overlaps this one. Is he feeling WOTAN's broadcasts, or was the first Doctor actually detecting the Daleks' influence in the earlier story? Something is definitely in the air.

VERSIONS: The audio CD - or at least the North American release of it was unable to use the music played in the coffee-bar, so it was really nice to rediscover them in the reconstruction. The Seekers' "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" is particularly appropriate to the Doctor and Jamie, and you can't go wrong with a bit of Beatles ("Paperback Writer") to give a sense of the time.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - What could have been a slow build to the Dalek's appearance instead moves at a steady clip, asking lots of questions you want answers to. A great hook.


PCabezuelo said...

Great observation on the War Machines - I've never made that connection before. Now his mention of the Daleks in that story is great foreshadowing.

Siskoid said...

Not that I know for a fact that it was done on purpose, of course.

PCabezuelo said...

Of course. I'm guessing not, but hey, you can't be a Doctor Who fan without speculating wildly : )

Great site by the way, and a fellow Canadian too!


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