The Evil of the Daleks

Written by:
David Whitaker
Directed by: Derek Martinus
Starring: Patrick Troughton
Year: 1967
DVD Availability ("Final Battle" clips only): Try Amazon

"Another excellent review, Mr A: your iconoclasm, as ever, does you justice." - Craig Hinton

With the serial format of the 60s, the beginning of this story actually featured in the closing stages of The Faceless Ones. Ben and Polly get an ungracious nudging out from the series, with Pat and Frazer then finding someone has nicked the Tardis on the back of a lorry.

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.
* * * * ˝

Second only to the questionable memories of elder fans, this episode is the major reason why Evil is still so revered. Everything about this one looks and feels so right, a rare instance of perfection in Who that makes you believe that the rest of the story could be as good. I doubt it. Even taking into account that the remaining episodes are a step down in terms of plot and incident, recovery of shots from "the final battle" look appalling, and perhaps speak more about fans recalling something 35 years later rather than any intrinsic quality in the story itself. It's a constant debate over the missing episodes, with the ultimate question - would the stories be as well regarded if they weren't missing? - unanswered. Yes, Tomb may have slipped in the fan polls, but that was never Evil of the Daleks now, was it?

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 Daleks have their best-ever voices in this story, and with the gorgeous Victorian house sets there's every chance that an existing episode three would be a classic. But without the images it does begin to take a minor dip from this stage on.

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.
* * * * *

Dudley's on cymbal overdrive in this one as the first five minutes are virtually silent - quite innovative I suppose. And the Daleks using psychological tests is a step up from their usual lowly characterisation. Plus, the title of this story is the best ever for them. "Evil". It sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

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.
* * * *

The middle act of this story (episodes 3-5) have been a lot better than I previously gave them credit, causing me to contradict myself. That's one of the downsides of doing an episode-by-episode guide, u-turns often go with the territory. There are lots of clever psychological moments and Pat and Fraser are on first-rate form.

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"?
* * * * ˝

With The Power of the Daleks Whitaker turned the concept of the Daleks on its head by having them behave out of character. By pretending to befriend humans but secretly plot to kill them it took their sense of threat to a greater level. Here Whitaker tries to repeat the trick by having them giggle, play trains and earnestly claim to be "frieeeeeiend." Sadly, the trick doesn't quite come off the second time around. Actually, I take that back too, because it really does have a sinister undercurrent. Wow, the third time I've "watched" this story and it's making me backpeddle all across the board.

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.
* * * * ˝

Let's be honest - one of the main reasons why Evil of the Daleks doesn't fully satisfy is that the plot is just so dumb, even by Who standards. At the climax of episode six we find out the entire scheme was to trick the Doctor into discovering the Dalek Factor. So the Emperor Dalek wants to find out what it is that makes a Dalek tick? Err… he is one, isn't he? What a stupid f****** plan! What next - Pertwee says he wants someone to locate the lisp factor? Exciting new story - Colin Baker says discover the ham factor for me? It's cobblers, I tells ya!!! I mean, all the buggers do is exterminate the f*** out of everyone, how hard can it be? So thanks to the Doctor's help they realise that Daleks aren't compassionate? I mean, surely the fact that they spend their entire lives murdering people would give them a bit of a hint? Okay, maybe they wanted to know what the fundamental differences between humans and Daleks were, in order to infect them, which is sort of like a vivisection statement. But really it hangs about as well together as compulsory diarrhoea and sex with a chimp.

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.
* * * * *