Sunday, November 25, 2012

Doctor Who #369: Death to the Daleks Part 2

"You’ve got an idea, haven’t you?" "Yes. And it’s not one of my favourites. In fact I don’t care for it at all."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.2 1974.

IN THIS ONE... The Marines make an alliance with the powerless Daleks, and the Doctor and Sarah Jane narrowly avoid getting sacrificed by the Exxilons.

REVIEW: There sure is a lot of "incident" packed into this episode, and some details fall through the cracks from under-attention. The Daleks are, as was obvious from the previous episode's cliffhanger, as drained of power as the TARDIS or spaceships, but for some reason, only their weapons systems are affected. The Doctor later claims they move on psychokinetic power, which is an interesting tidbit, but what powers the psionic interface? (Or are Dalek mutants naturally telekinetic?) De-powered, they seem pretty easy to blow up as well. We might also wonder where they got their target practice TARDIS model. At least these Daleks are grade-A devious. Their alliance with the humans is a triple deceit (will get rid of them at earliest opportunity, have more Daleks than they say, don't want the chemical to cure a plague), and Nation doesn't make us wait before revealing the Dalek force testing more traditional projectile weapons. The quickly-developing plot means the Daleks actually work at cross-purposes, the B-team's raid on the Exxilon temple giving the Doctor and Sarah Jane a chance to escape AFTER the A-team has brokered an agreement with the Exxilons.

The Exxilons themselves are variably represented. Their priest has a very good speaking voice, but most of the rest just do silly, ape-like "ook ook" sounds. That seems a big class divide. We also hear about a dissident group the Daleks agree to help exterminate (though why should they once the B-team jails or kills the whole lot?), no doubt who Sarah Jane meets in the sacrificial pit. Their attack with bows and arrows is, like the fights in the previous episode, extremely dull even if arrows seem to be hitting very close to the actors. Maybe it's because it's edited so loosely, it plays out in real time. Or maybe it's because there's no music or atmosphere. The sacrifice scenes are much better, with exotic music and the red glow of flames on everything. The way shots dissolve into one another give us the sense that Sarah Jane has been drugged by Exxilon incense, and the massacre at Dalek gunpoint, is effective and violent. Down in the pit, everything is candle-lit and moody (who's the poor soul whose job it is to light candles in a monster pit?), and the big snake down there is acceptable in such lighting.

And then there's the PEOPLE. Lis Sladen plays Sarah's fear and worry (and occasional lifting of her spirits) in such a way that you just want to take her in your arms and protect her yourself. And yet, the Doctor thinks she can handle herself, in stark opposition to the way he treated Jo and other female companions. (Even in Part 1, he never told her to STAY in the TARDIS, just to go get her clothes. The fact that he took off without her only shows more of that lack of over-protectiveness in her case.) She and the Doctor have got some good banter going, his self-deprecating humor a nice reaction to her pointed questions. "Who are you kidding?" "Myself, chiefly." and his assessment of his latest idea (above) are stand-outs, especially in a Terry Nation story where people tend to speak in butch/damsel in distress clichés. Jill is a prime example of this kind of dialog, and though she's a pretty girl, I find her delivery of those lines grating in the extreme. The other Marines are better acted, I suppose, though Galloway's turn as an ambitious glory hound ready to collaborate with the Daleks' genocidal plans seems to come out of left field given the gruff career soldier performance given up to that point. Note how we're TOLD this is what he is before he actually becomes it, but it's not a bad series of scenes. But is it one subplot too many?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Relative to much of the era, the story's moving at a break-neck pace. Some of it works, some of it doesn't.

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