Dr. Moo isolates the human factor.
The Evil Of The Daleks begins as The Faceless Ones before it ended – with the Doctor and Jamie at Gatwick Airport looking for the TARDIS, which has vanished. It turns out that it’s on the back of a truck being taken away from them. What follows is one of the greatest Dalek stories ever made and one of the best Doctor Who serials ever broadcast. Such a damn shame that only one of the seven episodes still exists. But when you’ve got Patrick Troughton with a David Whitaker script then you know you’re going to get something good, adding the Daleks is a bonus!
The Daleks themselves do take their sweet time showing up though, remaining totally absent from the first episode until the cliffhanger – starting that great Who tradition of revealing the titular character as a cliffhanger – and then spending most of the six that follow reduced to skulking around in the background and hiding away in the shadows. The action takes us from 1960s London to Victorian London where the Doctor and Jamie find themselves in a Victorian manor where the Daleks have based themselves for their latest scheme, using time travel to capture the Doctor and manipulating Victorian gentlemen Edward Waterfield into doing their dirty work for them because they have his daughter Victoria held captive.
Speaking of Victoria, she’s the subject of the biggest criticism I can really find with the story. The poor girl is reduced largely to the damsel in distress role, not even meeting the Doctor until the last episode, but Deborah Watling is brilliant anyway and rises above the material. She’ll have to do that a lot for the next couple years as the third wheel to the Doctor and Jamie, who both get plenty of time to shine here.
Jamie is finally put in the spotlight after the joint departures of the underrated Ben and Polly. Throughout the middle section of The Evil Of The Daleks, Frazer Hines becomes the effective lead actor as Jamie is sent on a quest through the mansion to rescue Victoria. We see him being heroic and we have him outsmarting a mute Turkish wrestler that he later teams up with (Kemel is an unfortunate racial stereotype, complete with fez) and dodging booby traps. This is Jamie’s story for the middle third of its total combined runtime and Hines proves himself the perfect companion to the Doctor regardless of incarnation. It’s maybe one more episode of this than was needed, but it’s done so well that I can forgive it.
Meanwhile the Doctor is stuck with the Daleks, Waterfield and Maxtible, all of these watching on as Jamie goes on his way. Maxtible is the human villain of the piece, here as a willing servant to the Daleks, in hope that they will teach him the secret of alchemy. In return they need to have the Doctor isolate “the human factor” by putting Jamie through his task. This human factor results in one of the greatest ever Dalek moments in all of Doctor Who when three of them are given it and become like children. “Dizzy Dizzy Daleks”, they sing while ferrying the excited Doctor around the room. It sounds silly but it makes sense in context.
It seems fitting that Maxtible, out to turn base metals into gold, should ultimately fall victim to the Daleks’ treachery when they reveal that the purpose of finding the human factor was to by default find the dalek factor, with which they can turn anything into a Dalek. This is what happens to Maxtible, talking in monotone shouts and stretching out his arms like many a schoolchild had been doing for the last three and a half years.
Once the human factor is revealed (and the dalek factor thus identified) they proceed to blow up the house, much to Waterfield’s horror, and the action shifts to Skaro. This is where we finally meet the Emperor Dalek for the first time.
And this Emperor is a seriously impressive bit of design work! With a much bigger casing and a big dome on top, implying a much larger Dalek than most lives inside (make what symbolism from that that you will), and a much deeper voice. The whole thing comes together to make a serious and credible threat. That Russell T Davies’s first Dalek story he wrote should feature, among other things, a return for the idea of an Emperor Dalek is telling of how effective this character is. How incredible it must have been in 1967 to see this ultimate Dalek for the first time!
And the Doctor appears to give in to his demand to hand over the dalek factor immediately. We are lead to believe that this is a hugely threatening Dalek as a result of how well Patrick Troughton can convey the Doctor’s fear at seeing it for the first time. At one point it seems the Doctor has been given the dalek factor to make him comply with orders, although it turns out to be a trick to get away with him secretly giving the unwitting Daleks the human factor. Such a move is pure Second Doctor! It’s just the sort of thing you could imagine seeing the Seventh or Eleventh Doctors doing as well; both Sylvester McCoy and Matt Smith cite Troughton as their inspiration so perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise.
The Doctor sneakily giving the Daleks the human factor triggers a big war among the Dalek race and the story ends with him and his companions watching on from afar as the Dalek city goes to war with itself (Did Steven Moffat take inspiration when writing The Witch’s Familiar?). The Doctor gives his assessment of the situation as “the final end” for the Dalek race. He’s wrong of course. It’s strange to think nowadays that the Daleks were almost retired in 1967, but that’s what happened. Indeed, after this they wouldn’t be seen again until a full five years later.
The Evil Of The Daleks wasn’t the departure that it was intended to be for the Daleks, but if it had been then you’d be hard puched to find a better one. This story has everything you could want from a good solid Dalek story: Daleks in a Victorian house, a trip to Skaro, Daleks and humans turning into each other, a new companion, good use of time travel, and the first time we see an Emperor of the Daleks.
While it’s an episode too long, Victoria’s introduction is somewhat underwhelming, and the character of Kemel is borderline racist caricature, the fact is that aside from these fairly minor issues The Evil Of The Daleks is the perfect bit of ClassicWho. With the exciting release last year of the other Dalek story from The Patrick Troughton Years in animated format to allow us to see it in motion at last, we can only hope that this one is being eyed-up for the same treatment sometime soon. The Power Of The Daleks is, as many found out for the first time recently, a masterpiece. But this story is even better!
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The
Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the
latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.