The Evil of the Daleks
"Another excellent review, Mr A: your iconoclasm, as ever, does you justice." - Craig Hinton
This is taken up here, with the Doctor's genius being promoted to terrifying heights. Never mind Sherlock Holmes, there's nothing elementary about the Doctor piecing things together from an old matchbox, though this is something that's addressed by Pat himself. This being Whitaker, there's lots of nice lines, such as "I had a choice between the sun or noise, Mr.. Perry. I regret shutting out one, but at least I keep out the other." Okay, it doesn't read so great on paper (or computer screen) but it's a colour to the dialogue that you don't get in every single Doctor Who story. Or every Dalek story, come to that, given that most of them were written by Terry Nation. I'll make the obligatory "Terry didn't like David Whitaker's Dalek stories" reference only to point out Whitaker is by far the best writer of the creatures, intrinsically understanding what makes them so terrifying.
There's a notably higher than average number of line fluffs and hesitations in this one, which doesn't detract from the enjoyment, but is worth mentioning. Anyway, speaking of Daleks, they feature only scarcely in this opening instalment, which is a good thing. Too often stories really on their appearance alone to sell a tale, whereas all the best Dalek stories have them as a single component in a mixture of plot strands.
Anyway, the episode itself - it just rocks hard, and rocks like a daddy. A Dalek glimpsed over a shoulder from a mirror, and shot from low angles, an antiques shop full of brand new items, silent cinema homaging make-up, wipes to separate scenes, Dudley Simpson on fine form. Best of all, though, is The Mighty Trout confronting a Dalek. One of the ten greatest moments in the entire season, just look at Pat's face when he turns round and sees the Dalek for the first time in the story. Fear, anger, realisation - they all play over his face like Bob Hoskins at the end of The Long Good Friday. It's absolutely classic, marred only slightly by Pat talking over the Dalek's lines straight after. A real series highlight, just a few seconds of television that cement the episode as a classic work.
One problem I do have with Evil is the plot illogic and inconsistent pacing. I can overlook the conceit of the anitique shop (it's a brilliant idea, but if a dunderhead like Jamie can work it out in seconds then how could the shop stay open?) and the nonsense science of mirrors. However, while still first class at this stage, the middle section of the story is at least an episode overlong, and the final two episodes have an ultimately ridiculous plot with an unsatisfactory motivation - all criticisms I'll return to later. For now, this is still superb.
The impetus of the first two parts has now slowed, with Jamie about to spend twenty minutes over the next three episodes rescuing Victoria. It's spelt p-a-d-d-i-n-g. Also added to the mix is a mute Turkish muscleman, an odd racial stereotype, especially bearing in mind that the next story (The Tomb of the Cybermen) also features one. And that's not even questioning why Windsor Davies goes around smacking Jamie over the head with what looks like a dildo and telling him it's called "Mr. Nod".
Yes, the Doctor claiming the Daleks are trying to create a race of "Super Daleks" isn't subtle (Hitler's Super Race, geddit?) but here's where I totally contradict myself halfway through a review by saying that it is, in fact, a classic episode. And it's all due to the confrontation scene between Jamie and the Doctor, followed by the Doctor's revelation that he's manipulating him. A one-off for their relationship, and quite exceptional.
But this is, sadly, very much a drop in the quality of the story. That said, a drop from perfection is still a decline into brilliance.
Perhaps most importantly, this is the first time I've engaged with the story with my visual imagination. Rather than just observing a series of stills and listening to the soundtrack, I've envisaged just how good they could look, and the heights the actual articles probably attained. A fair appraisal? Perhaps not, but how can any appraisal of something that doesn't exist be deemed "fair"?
I've never realised this before, but the implication is that Maxtible's room full of mirrors isn't actually the time machine, but that the Daleks are tricking him by hiding their own in it. Call me thick, I know, but it's a common misconception, isn't it? Anyway, let's talk about pronunciation. Maxtible's description of "Skaros" is curious, though even more so is the cliffhanger. I've spoken before about how words can look better on paper when I discussed the climax to The Armageddon Factor. Here Troughton gets "I've beaten you… and I don't care what you do to me now." I'd read it as one of Who's great strident if slightly melodramatic moments. However, the actuality is that he underplays the line, making it come over as a little flat.
In a break from the usual characterisation, The Mighty Trout uses physical force to hurl a Dalek off a cliff. Also on the subject of characterisation, then the previously likeable Victoria is now rapidly becoming the simpering sap she always was in season five, while the previously dependable Marius Goring has become as hammy as Hell. Oh - and Jamie gets a "look at the size of that thing!" innuendo when he sees the Emperor Dalek.
The Doctor talks about other universes here, but in that embarrassing sloppy science of the 60s way it appears he really means galaxy. The mention of his home planet is also notable, though this anti-climatic episode is taken up with "Dalekised" humans, the sort of thing that's so unsophisticated that even Peter Cushing would have turned round and told it "bollocks". The Doctor's way of escaping such a dastardly plot - "I don't come from Earth, Jamie" - is just an absolute contrived cop-out guff, while Goring, and even TMT giving it the full ham in nauseating.
Many remember the final battle of the Daleks as being spectacular, though some of the dribs and drabs that have gradually been appearing on the DVD releases strongly suggest that it wouldn't be as impressive as its reputation attests. In fact, I was being polite - it looks f****** awful! Maybe Gerry Davis departing as story editor at the end of episode 3; hinders things, Peter Bryant editing the rest of the story. Without Gerry's influence on the subtler nature of the second Doctor's character, it's clear that he began to marginally decline, his cosmic masterplans of season five (and here) being crushingly obvious to all but the simple minded. Still not so bad an episode that it can slip below a four-star rating, this is nevertheless the weakest episode of the seven, and illustrates a steep decline into kid's show territory. A Shame.
Almost a classic in spite of itself, the same people that slate the 80s stories for nonsensical stories are invariably the same sort of people who praise this one. "Seeing" it a third time I enjoyed Evil of the Daleks more than ever, though it's best not to think of the wider issues of plot logic and drive - things happen in this one for entertainment purposes only, and entertain it does… I still prefer Power though.
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