Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Doctor Who #308: Day of the Daleks Part 3

"You must not jump to conclusions." "Well, better than jumping from the crack of a whip from some security guard."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.15 1972.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor is reunited with Jo in the future and plays around with a motorized tricycle before the Daleks strap him to a table.

REVIEW: Director Paul Bernard is really making a hash of the opening sequences of this story, isn't he? Once again, the cliffhanger's musical sting returns, and is quickly faded out. And it's especially odd because Bernard's strength is definitely editing, providing once again a large number of dissolves that express irony or contrast. Even the ending is a kind of editorial trick, with the credits sequence laid in as CSO before the screen goes to it completely. I'm not saying it works mind you, but it's at least interesting. If that's the director's strength, then his weakness is action scenes. In this episode we get some dull running around in dark tunnels through two separate centuries, but also an embarrassing trike chase in which the Ogrons very easily catch up on foot and surround it ineffectually. Aside from apparently fulfilling Pertwee's contractual request of driving a new vehicle each story (not an actual clause, but it does feel like it), it's a rather pointless exercise, and it looks silly.

Much more interesting is the Doctor metaphorically running circles around the Controller. He's really got an answer for everything, but of course, he knows there are Daleks about, it's just a matter of how long until the Controller admits it. To Jo, beneficiary of the Controller's hospitality, it just seems rude, of course, but how is that different from how the Doctor usually deals with authority figures? The real authority is the Daleks, of course, and their reaction to the Doctor showing up is interesting for being exactly how they always react to him nowadays (well, until a recent episode) - with a smidgeon of panic. He WAS branded an enemy of the Daleks on occasion in the black and white era, but the last time they appeared (if those events indeed live in these particular Daleks' memory), he caused their "final end". I never believed in that end (a civil war would undoubtedly leave survivors), so they might know him from that already. In any case, their mind analyzer triggers stock photography of the previous Doctors, something that must occur once every so often to remind the current generation of fans that the Doctor's history is long and proud. Because the UNIT era is massively different from what came before and we never got to see Troughton turn into Pertwee per se, this acknowledgement is probably as crucial as the first time they did it in the New Series (and as when the 8th Doctor was shown in the Journal of Impossible Things, for that matter) to confirm the era as part of the same continuum.

But as with the previous two parts, there's rather a lot of lounging around. Jo has a snack. The rebels have a smoke. Pertwee takes a drive. Where's the story? A lot of that dead air could have been used to answer the questions multiplying before our eyes. Is this a "What if?" story based on the Dalek Invasion of Earth, and if so, what is the pivotal moment the alternate timeline is hinged on that apparently involves Sir Reginald? (This, at least, has a good chance of getting an answer.) Why are the Controller's people faintly android-like? They even have the same skin tone as Star Trek's Data. Are they modified humans, perhaps a new type of Roboman? But if so, how can they have a traitor in their midst? How do the handheld time machines work? They have a similar circuit to the TARDIS', but allow a person to fly naked and unprotected through the time vortex. Is this a precursor to the Cult of Skaro's emergency temporal shift? Doesn't it seem like powerful and dangerous technology for them to have, and for the rebels to simply pick up and retro-engineer? I don't need everything explained to me, but if after ¾ of the story, the Daleks are still trying to establish the Doctor's credentials, I think some of that time could have been put to better use.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The story is merely ok, so it's the Doctor's battle of wits with the Controller and the editing (bar the opening sequence) that are the real stars. It's all up to Part 4 now to do what Parts 2-3 should have already started doing.


Mitchell Craig said...

Conversation between two Ogrons:


"Yeah, Carl?"

"Did you even notice that tricycle?"

"Now that you mention it, no."

Craig Oxbrow said...

According to DWM's behind-the-scenes feature, the motor-trike they were expecting to arrive was turbo-charged and could go up to about forty. The one that arrived... was not.

Siskoid said...

I've also read the alternative story that the trike was a recent purchase by Mr. Pertwee himself, and he asked if it could be used. I half believe it based on his track record.

Lentil said...

According to The Handbook ("the unofficial and unauthorized guide to the production of Doctor Who") Pertwee so liked driving (and collecting) new vehicles, and the show was popular enough, that he would go around to the manufacturers of anything he found interesting and ask if he could have one to use on the show. Then they got publicity on a popular show, and he got to keep the vehicles after filming. He ended up quite a collection, some of which he later auctioned off for charity.