Feel the Power

Review of Power of the Daleks (#30)
DVD Release Date: 24 Jan 17 [Region 1]
Original Air Date: 05 Nov - 10 Dec 1966
Doctor/Companion: Two, Ben Jackson, and Polly Wright
Stars: Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills
Preceding Story: The Tenth Planet (Two, Ben, Polly)
Succeeding Story: The Highlanders (Two, Ben, Polly, Jamie)

Although we've had some brilliant windfalls in recent years in terms of recovered "lost" episodes of Doctor Who, there are plenty that are still missing in their entirety. Perhaps the most famous/famously sought-after is Marco Polo, but Patrick Troughton's first serial Power of the Daleks is also high on many peoples' lists.

Perhaps that is the reason that BBC Worldwide took the unusual step of animating all six episodes of Power. While they have previously commissioned animations for missing episodes of stories that are incomplete in the archives, this is (correct me if I'm wrong) the first story to be reconstructed in its entirety with no surviving visual material but a few minutes of clips and stills.

Although the animated reconstruction was released on the BBC Store last November (fifty years to the minute from the original broadcast of its opening episode), a physical version (DVD, rather than digital download or BBC America broadcast) was not made available in the US until late January. Being the obsessive collector I am (and refusing to pay for it twice), I therefore didn't get to see it until just recently.

The story begins with the first-ever regeneration. As a fan fifty years out, it feels oddly portentous watching that moment, even animated (though I still find the original surviving footage more moving). Troughton's skill and the lampshading of the wildly radical concept of the lead character's complete change of not only body but personality through the Companions' reactions to him paved the way for everything that followed.

And yet it's also merely the opening scene of a new adventure. The TARDIS crew find themselves on a planet with a human colony that's experiencing some political turmoil (surprise), as evidenced by the fact that the very first thing that happens to the Doctor as he peruses the mercury swamp (which, by the way, OMG—why wasn't everyone more concerned about toxicity?) is that he witnesses the murder of an off-world Inspector.

A classic case of mistaken identity ensues, with the Doctor posing as the Inspector for most of the story. Meanwhile, when he lets his curiosity get the better of him (as usual), he's in fine company as colony scientist Lesterson is obsessively fascinated with the strange vessel made of a mysteriously strong metal that was recently pulled from the swamp.

Any viewer paying attention will instantly realize there are Daleks aboard, and the majority of the adventure is a combination of the usual "the Daleks are evil!"/"no, they're here to help us!" back-and-forth and local politics playing out against that backdrop. Fans of the Matt Smith era may particularly appreciate the Episode 2 cliffhanger, which serves as a direct precursor to Dalek behavior in Victory of the Daleks, when the humans are assured by the first Dalek out of the craft, "I am your servant."

Given that this is a pretty early Dalek story (the sixth, including the Dalek Cutaway/Mission to the Unknown), there is still some talk of the static electricity they originally (in broadcast terms) needed for propulsion. In fact, finding a different energy source for themselves is the titular goal. The rest of the plot feels pretty prosaic to those of us familiar with the Daleks' methods, as we the viewers can see what they're up to coming from a mile away.

That's not to say the story is boring in its predictability. Troughton is always a joy to watch, even if it is in moderate-quality animation, and as so few of Ben and Polly's stories remain (especially complete ones), it's enjoyable from a sheer fan-of-the-era standpoint. If Daleks are your jam or if you generally enjoy Troughton, definitely watch this one. If, on the other hand, you're tired of Daleks or you already have a hard time watching the black-and-white era, this probably isn't the serial for you.

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Comments

You seem to have been spammed by a retailer. Can you get rid of that?

I did enjoy Power of the Daleks. It was available in both color and black and white. I chose to view it in black and white. That was the way the original was broadcast and I felt it was more authentic.

The animation was a little basic but I can forgive that. The Daleks were wonderful and it was nice to experience Ben and Polly for the first time. Patrick Troughton wore a hat so stupid that it made Matt Smith's fez look chic.

I felt the story was kind of standard for Doctor Who. I'm not that familiar with the work of the first two Doctors as few of their episodes have survived. I do know that the base-under-siege story was a common trope of the Troughton era. But as this was his first episode perhaps it seemed fresh at the time.

I did like the tricky Daleks and the sequence where the scientist spied on the Daleks reviving more of their crew and seeing each step of the revival was quite chilling.

I thought the music and sound effects were quite nice. There was a strange sound played intermittently in the background that gave it an alien feel.

All in all, it was a nice treat between seasons.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Sorry; I do get spammed now and then. I try to keep on top of it (usually I find them before a real reader has to see them), but sometimes I don't check back in time to catch it early enough.

I watched in black and white, as well. As someone who really enjoys the first two Doctors, that seems like the only "right" way to do it. ;)

It's interesting to read your perceptions, too, as someone less familiar with the era. There's some good stuff in this story!

By mrfranklin

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