Here’s something I never thought I would write…. I watched The Power of the Daleks tonight.
Three hours of classic Doctor Who bliss. Before I begin my gush-fest I will address the one real negative. Actually seeing Patrick Troughton’s first story in motion, but animated, makes you really appreciate how great a story it is and how utterly heartbreaking it is that this story was lost. The impact of the BBC’s shortsighted policy on its archive feels like a fresh kick in the teeth today. But even that darkest of clouds has a silver lining as the animated release is an utter joy to watch.
I have seen some complaints over the animation used, particularly the way the human characters walk. For me that is a non issue because the atmoshphere, tension and sheer quality of the story far outweigh this gripe and make it easy to forgive and overlook. The real success of the animation is of course the Daleks themselves. they are beautifully recreated and at times have a very realistic quality. From the first moment we see the cobweb bound Daleks in the space capsule they exude a foreboding presence. This is maintained throughout the story, clever lighting enhancing the threat of these malevolent creatures.
The bonus of animation is of course that they can enhance the original, indeed making the Daleks production line and growing army a truly terrifying prospect in a way that four props and a cardboard backdrop can’t. It allows for beautifully lit scenes too. Shots of the Daleks emerging from the darkened interior of their capsule, lit only by the light from their eyestalk are truly sinister.
Of course the really important aspect of the story is its historical nature, being a game changer in that it succesfully changed the lead actor in a TV show, not with a look alike but with a completely different actor with their own take on the character. Patrick Troughton is totally compelling throughout, and even in his first story we get a good idea of how this Doctor will develop. He has a marvelous deceptive quality, and his insistance on referring to his previous incarnation in the third person adds to the mystery of what has happened to the Doctor. He also displays that innocent ignorance that would become something of a trademark, feigning innocence at the storys conclusion to his actions, followed by his trademark disappearing act.
I won’t go into detail of the plot, suffice to say it is a lovely piece of writing by David Whitaker (who I personally find handles the Daleks better than their creator Terry Nation) and a story that builds from the start to its inevitable cataclysmic conclusion…. my only complaint is that for a scientist Lesterson is a blithering idiot.
The audio reconstruction is pretty spot on also, with only a couple of dips in quality or balance and its always nice to hear the atmospheric ‘Dalek score’ from their original story, as this this adds to that oppresive, almost noir feel.
I also have to give special mention to the lovely pre titles scene of the the regeneration, or renewal, at the beginning of episode one. Beautifully done.
Coming on two discs with extras galore and a nice information pamphlet and art slipcase this is definitely a release worth shelling out for. It is a must buy for any fan of the classic era.
Who knows, if enough of us buy it, it may encourage the Beeb to release more complete reconstructions, because as the years go by it becomes more and more likely that this will be the only way we get to ‘see’ those lost classics.
Anyhow, thanks for reading… Jeff.