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Evil of the Daleks. Believe the Hype.

December 1, 2015


Now I know there’s not much of this you can actually watch.  Only episode two (out of seven) survives.   But a reasonable extrapolation can be made from various reconstructions.  The soundtrack with accompanying still photographs gives a strong sense of what you’re missing out on.

And this extrapolation suggests something very special indeed.

Various things are going very very well for this David Whitaker story.  It looks great throughout.  The Victorian interiors are haunting and ethereal. Seeing Daleks glide up and down these corridors is haunting.  And the sets for the Dalek city on Scaro are similarly effective – cold, steely, metalic modernist in the best tradition.  Meanwhile,  Dudley Simpson offers one of his most imaginative and evocative of scores.

The acting is completely assured and  committed.  Securing Marius Goring represents one of the greatest casting coups in the franchise’s history.  Marius Goring played defining roles in the two best movies ever made in Britain – A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes.  His character of Theodore Maxtible succeeds in being sinister, despicable, and pathetic all at the same time.  Convinced that the Daleks will give him the alchemical secret of turning base metals into gold (did nobody ever stop and consider the inflationary consequences of this discovery – even assuming it were possible), he becomes a progressively degraded creature.  Wedded to the notion that Daleks can be bound by reciprocal or contractual obligations, he sacrifices every human tie he has to his delusion.

And Jamie is tested here to an ordinate degree.  Literally “tested”.  It turns out that the supreme “human factor” that the Daleks seem to crave consists of eighteenth-century Jacobitism.  Yes, a dash of eighteenth-century Jacobitism is all the Daleks need to become the unquestioned rulers of the universe.

He tries to rescue Victoria Waterfield – demonstrating considerable courage, compassion and initiative on the way – but all just so that these qualities can be extracted and distilled.  However, Jamie gets properly resentful and appropriately bitter.

“No, Doctor. Look, I’m telling you this. You and me, we’re finished. You’re just too callous for me. Anything goes by the board. Anything at all.”

The Second Doctor is unusually serious – even sinister.  His secrecy while he apparently assists the Daleks with their experiment is reminiscent of the habitually secretive Seventh Doctor or the truly disturbingly collaborative Fourth Doctor during the first few episodes of Invasion of Time.

There’s a bold seriousness to Evil of the Daleks (“dizzy dizzy Daleks!” notwithstanding) that means there’s just about no story that deserves to be reclaimed more.  In a delicious twist, it turns out that the Daleks were never after the human factor at all – they only wanted to isolate and reject it in order to more accurately define the Dalek factor (turns out the way to conquer the universe is to be the opposite of an eighteenth-century Jacobite).

Yes, there are plot holes and absurdities.  The notion that you could build a time machine in the mid nineteenth century – essentially just by arranging a whole bunch of mirrors – is never really demonstrated.  The infantilised Human-factored Daleks – Alpha, Beta and Omega – are sort of cute enough to work, but they are a borderline success. More troubling is the patronising orientalism that informs the “noble savagery” of the gentle giant mute Turk.

But the truth is, you can swallow a great deal of what is (by any objective criterion) nonsense, if you are offered music, hypnotic visuals and acting that is completely straight faced and committed.

Note a very early TV appearance by Windsor Davies – but without his signature Welsh accent.

So successful is this story that when the Doctor announces “the final end of the Daleks” you are inclined to believe him.  This adventure begins on July 20th 1966- “the Doctor’s busiest day”.  It would be nice to see him return there.  Given a basically loopy attitude to time travel, you can still believe that the Second Doctor destroyed the Daleks for all time.  It’s just that time is still ahead of us.

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  1. I just wish somebody would find it – and the other missing episodes – so we can see the whole of this story.

  2. ….Or they could animate the missing episodes like in “The Invasion”.

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