Directed by Terry Martinus and Timothy Combe
Written by David Whitaker
As we come to the close of another season of Doctor Who, it’s time to look back again to the First Doctor’s run. It’s been a bit of a running theme this season to compare things to the First Doctor’s run but this has been simultaneously a transitional year and a rebound year, freshening things up from a Season 3 which was all over the place in quality (aside from a B, I gave every grade from D to A- that year at least once). They’ve transitioned to a new doctor, turned over the companions, shed the pure historicals, redone the intro, and introduced the Cybermen. But there is one last vestige, and arguably the most important one at that, of the First Doctor’s run that we haven’t yet said goodbye to.
The Daleks were introduced in the second serial of the show and quickly became a huge sensation and largely defined the early years of Doctor Who. They are largely responsible for the whole alien focused stories the show is now built on and responsible for making the show popular. Over the rest of the First Doctor’s run, the Daleks would show up again in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”, “The Chase”, “Mission to the Unknown”, and “The Daleks’ Master Plan”, a period when only The Monk got more than one appearance (and even then his second time was in subservience to the Daleks). They even were the villains in the two noncanonical Doctor Who films which loosely adapted two of the aforementioned serials. They were the archenemies of the First Doctor responsible for many of his best stories and even were the first to face off against the Second Doctor in “The Power of the Daleks”.
But now we must say goodbye to the Daleks. Granted history has proven that a bit laughable as they would make ten more appearances in the classic series, the TV movie, and become a yearly staple of NuWho, but for a time, this was meant to be the final Dalek serial. It was a decision that stuck until Season 9’s Day of the Daleks five years later. By that point though, we are in the Third Doctor’s era so this would be the last time we saw Patrick Troughton square off against them.
It feels almost minor at this point to mention it, but after saying goodbye to Ben and Polly in “The Faceless Ones”, it’s time for a new companion to go alongside Jamie, Deborah Watling as the teenaged Victoria Waterfield. Like Vicki before her, Victoria joins up with the Doctor and his current companion(s) after the death of the last of their parents. The similar names along with the fact that they are both teenage girls feels a bit too close to be accidental but we’ll get into their similarities or differences later since this is hardly a big debut for her. She’s mostly shunted to the side having been kidnapped prior to the start of the serial and not even meeting one of our leads until over half way through.
Picking back up from the last serial, we see the Doctor and Jamie trying and failing to chase down the TARDIS as it is driven away on the back of a lorry in 1966 London. The TARDIS has been procured by a collector with a mysterious motive. The Doctor gets to show off some detective work, figuring out that the man is lefthanded from the way he took out his matches and his local bar (I’ve been watching a lot of Batman lately and I love when both characters are given the chance to show on their detective skills). Of course these were planted to throw him off and it becomes clear there is more to this than a simple collector or robbery and it is eventually revealed to be the work of one Edward Waterfield (father of Victoria) acting under the orders of the Daleks who are holding his daughter hostage.
The first two episodes here are the highlight with the first being a fun mystery for both the audience and the Doctor, and the second as we start to try to piece together just how the Daleks fit into all of this. The episode takes a bit of a slip as it heads back 100 years in the past and the serial piddles about for a while. The basis of all this intrigue is that the Daleks intend to test on Jamie with the help of the Doctor in order to isolate the “human factor” and use this to finally defeat the humans (even though it is really only the Doctor that has stopped them in the past as they pretty well won in The Dalek Invasion of Earth and they were less powerful/intelligent then). Jamie is the chosen one for having travelled through time though oddly enough the reason given for why the Doctor can’t be the one they test on is not that he’s an alien (or half-alien as it were), it is because he traveled too much through time.
The two questions this immediately raises (Why would the space Nazis concerned about the purity of their race want to be infected with the human factor and shouldn’t they be bringing up the fact that the Doctor isn’t even human?) are ingeniously tied back into later as the human factor is really only needed by them to figure out what defines themselves and the Doctor uses his non-human nature to prevent himself from being converted and trick the Daleks into defeat.
Jamie spends much of the episode on his own (or at least away from the Doctor) hiding from the Daleks which is a bit disappointing but fun to watch him stand out on his own. The show even fakes out a “The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve” style fight between Jamie and the Doctor over the Doctor’s ceding to their demands and living in fear of the Doctor, only for the show to reveal that he is merely playing off Jamie’s fiery nature as he cleverly puts the idea of rescuing Victoria (and where she can be found) into Jamie’s head and allowing the Doctor to stay around the Daleks and pretend to help while Jamie (who is still presumed missing) can have freedom to operate. It’d be a perfect set up for a shorter serial, but here it just gets stretched out too far.
We do get to see some delightful moments with some humanoid Daleks play with the Doctor and become his friends and the episode smartly ties this friendship (which at the time seemed like merely a wacky interlude) into a conflict with the pure breed Daleks who wish to destroy their friends. As the Doctor infects more of the Daleks with the human factor, he is able to start a civil war. We also return to their homeworld of Skaro for the first time since “The Daleks” and are introduced to the Dalek Emperor who gives us a unique and standout Dalek for the first time.
It’s a great serial that could have used some paring down in the middle because the beginning is a ton of fun and the end of the Daleks is a great karmic punch. It’s the kind of episode that really begs to be found though since I’d imagine it would liven that middle up. Still, they sent the definitive Doctor Who villain out with a definitive bang. Their end may not have lasted for better and worse, but if it had, it’s a satisfying conclusion.
Season Grade: B- (and a slightly higher B- than previous record holder Season 2)
– Of the seven episodes, only one (episode 2) remains intact
– At seven episodes, it is also the longest serial since The Daleks’ Master Plan. The Daleks always had a way of commanding longer serials. Deservedly so but it does leave them more padded than necessary.
– At the end of the first episode it is revealed that his secret room possesses a Dalek which has materialized inside and we are treated to a nice echo of the original first episode cliffhanger with a lone Dalek menacing someone who just discovered them.
– The recorder makes a return appearance in this episode after some time away.
– Both the Daleks and the Doctor show off some great long form planning with the Daleks manipulating all the events setting things up the serial and of course the Doctor’s ultimate plan. These are the kinds of things I’ll miss the most while they are away.
– There’s a subplot about alchemy with one character betraying the human race over it and being so obsessed that he will do anything to help the Daleks (and root for them) just so they can live long enough to tell him. I get that it’s a mad scientist trope but seems a bit silly to sell out your race in order to get something (gold) you won’t have any value for if they are gone. His entire presence is incredibly extraneous and I’d probably have boosted up the grade a notch if they didn’t waste their time with him.
– This Week in Cliffhangers: Nothing here as the episode pretty abruptly ends after declaring the Daleks likely dead forever.
Next Up: Star Trek: TOS continues with “Dagger of the Mind” and “Miri” on Friday while Doctor Who starts off Season 5 with a third Cybermen story, “The Tomb of the Cybermen” on Monday as we finally have an intact serial.
“Mission to the Unknown”
“The Myth Makers”
“The Daleks’ Master Plan”
“The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve”
“The Celestial Toymaker”
“The War Machines”