DOCTOR: I’m going to show Zoe the sort of thing that she may be in for.
ZOE: Thought patterns?
DOCTOR: Yes. Only I’m going to weave them into a complete story for you. Have you ever heard of the Daleks?
DOCTOR: Then watch.
DALEK: Who are you? Who are you? Answer!
And so begins The Evil of the Daleks, or at least it did for the repeat showing. Once upon a time repeats were so rare that one of them had to be woven into the narrative of the current series, so people wouldn’t get confused about why a companion who had just left was suddenly being reintroduced. How times have changed. So for the first episode there was this bit of voice over:
DOCTOR: Now as I remember, Zoe, it all started when Jamie and I spotted someone making off with the TARDIS.
ZOE: But what about those Daleks you showed me?
DOCTOR: We’re coming to that, Zoe. Just let me show you the story from the beginning…
And then we’re off to near-contemporary London, whichever version the viewers were watching. But we won’t be there for long because this is one of those stories that jumps about through time. When I say “one of those stories”, it is actually something very new, because the only time we have seen this kind of approach was with the Daleks pursuing the Doctor through time in The Chase and the remake of The Chase for a few episodes of The Daleks’ Master Plan. This time round the Doctor travels without the TARDIS, by some interesting technology to say the least, and it is far from being just an arbitrary location jump; the two time periods are connected by the same mystery.
That mystery makes for a compelling first episode where everything is set up for us at a fairly sedate pace, before we get the obligatory “look’s there’s a Dalek in this story!” cliffhanger. The Doctor and Jamie are such a fabulous double act that this episode is a simple pleasure that doesn’t actually go on for long enough despite the slowish build-up. With seven episodes to fill, it would have been great to have more screen time devoted to the idea of the Doctor and Jamie playing detectives on contemporary Earth, because they are brilliant at it. Nowadays we are used to the Doctor and his companions crossing over into everyday life, having chips in a cafe or whatever, but in the Classic series it was extraordinarily rare, so just being able to see the Doctor and Jamie sneaking around an antiques shop with all those ticking clocks is a novelty. But a lesson was obviously learnt from how brilliant this is, with a few subsequent Second Doctor stories on contemporary Earth. The Invasion does what the first episode of The Evil of the Daleks does, but a lot more of it.
Then we are whisked off to the Victorian era to meet Victoria, our new companion, who is immediately and predictably orphaned, in the days when writers seemed to think the only reason for a young woman to travel in the TARDIS was because they needed the Doctor to adopt them. But how does the Doctor and Jamie get transported there? Well, it’s quite simple:
MAXTIBLE: Yes. Now this is my theory. A mirror reflects an image, does it not?
MAXTIBLE: So, you may be standing there, and yet appear to be standing fifty feet away. Well, following the new investigations twelve years ago by J Clark Maxwell into electromagnetism and the experiments by Faraday into static electricity.
MAXTIBLE: Correct. Waterfield and I first attempted to refine the image in the mirror, and then to project it. In here, Doctor, are one hundred and forty-four separate mirrors.
WATERFIELD: And each is of polished metal. Each is subjected to electric charges, all positive.
MAXTIBLE: Like repels like in electricity, Doctor, and so next, Waterfield and I attempted to repel the image in the mirrors, wherever we directed.
DOCTOR: You mentioned static electricity.
WATERFIELD: That was our last experiment. Negative and positive electricity had failed, so we tried static.
Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? You know, that simple method of time travel – static electricity and mirrors? I mean, I have to be careful when I take my socks out of the tumble dryer to make sure I don’t have a shiny surface anywhere near them, because one spark of static and, zap!, I’m back in the middle ages and searching for some knitwear to rub together in front of a mirror just so I can get back home.
But if you want Doctor Who to make scientific sense then you are in for a world of disappointment, because this is one of many, many occasions where the series simply has things function on a magical level. And this is just the start, because things get a lot weirder from here: Waterfield has been taking new objects into the future to sell as antiques (don’t think too hard about that), the Daleks are on the scene, and they have a plan: they are going to blackmail the Doctor into tricking Jamie so he can isolate some kind of special quality that makes him human, but secretly they are double-crossing the Doctor while he is double-crossing Jamie, and want to switcheroo it all to make the “Dalek Factor”, the reverse of the “Human Factor”. Jamie is not amused by being a pawn in this convoluted plot:
JAMIE: Anyone would think this was a little game.
DOCTOR: No it is not a game.
JAMIE: Of course it isn’t, Doctor. People have died. The Daleks are all over the place, fit to murder the lot of us, and all you can say is you’ve had a good night’s work.
JAMIE: 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.
This is a stunning moment because nothing quite like this has ever happened before. The closest precedent is the argument between Steven and the Doctor at the end of The Massacre, but there is a marked difference now in the Doctor/companion relationship. The Second Doctor and Jamie have what we might nowadays term a “bromance”. They are already the best of friends. What’s more, the First Doctor’s morality or methods being called into question seemed quite natural, as he always had moments of seeming to be self-serving, but the Second Doctor is at this point unequivocably heroic. He might be heroic in an understated, Troughtonesque sort of way, but he’s most definitely our hero. This is the Doctor who spoke about fighting evil in the universe in The Moonbase. And in a story that shows us the consequences of helping the Daleks with the eventual fates of Maxtible and Waterfield, having Jamie compare the Doctor to game players like Maxtible is shocking.
So this is a story that raises issues and makes us think: is the Doctor right to manipulate Jamie? Does the end justify the means? Just how much of a betrayal is it? And as if that weren’t enough, while Jamie is playing the role the Doctor places him in, he has an adventure with Kemel, who is our second positive subversion of racism within a single series of Doctor Who (the first being Williams in The Tenth Planet).
Finally, we get another change of location and we are back on Skaro, bookending the whole Dalek saga with their final appearance, back on their home world. At least that was the intention at the time, although somebody couldn’t resist ending on a shot of a Dalek that is not quite as dead as it should be. After the TV Century 21 comics whet our appetite for an Emperor Dalek and flying Daleks, the television series was relatively quick to put the only one of those two it could manage on screen, and it is an epic moment (it would take a while to get the second of those two wishes), until finally the story reaches a point where the ambition outstretched the money and we get a big battle with badly proportioned toy Daleks. Maybe we will get an animation one day, and that “final end” will come to life once more. With the visuals almost entirely missing, for now it lives in our imaginations as the climax to one of Doctor Who’s most amazing stories. RP
The view from across the pond:
In an attempt to illustrate the criminal negligence behind the BBC, Evil of the Daleks was once voted as the Best Doctor Who story ever but we can’t see it, because the BBC destroyed it. I’d call that gross negligence, but then so many of my toys that we threw away have become collectors pieces over the years, so it just goes to show: you never can tell! Life is full of surprises. But someone should create an episode called Evil of the BBC where they go about destroying all good things. (Of course, that would entail the sequel being The Power of the Fans where all of the lost episodes get animated!) I’m also willing to concede that another of life’s little surprises is that Daleks learned the secret of mirrors before humans, since they use them to travel in time. Donna uses mirrors in Turn Left as a time travel medium so it’s disappointing the Daleks got there first, but the idea makes complete sense! It very clearly explains why I look older in the mirror than I feel outside the mirror; I’m obviously seeing a future me!
The Daleks must have picked up a transmission of the Outer Limits episode The Human Factor (Nov 1963) and come to the realization that they were missing this crucial element in their genetic makeup. They set out to find it, which leads to war with their own kind, as it does for humans too. Like they will eventually try again later with the Cult of Skaro, they want whatever it is that makes humans resilient but end up realizing we want to find our own kind all the time too. To help them with their plans, they hire a far more evil looking Professor Kettlewell, in the form of Theodore Maxtible complete with evil looking cigar. Everything about Maxtible exudes evil, but especially his hair… and cigar. Like an evildoer worth his salt, he gets to have a weak minded assistant. Poor Victoria; her dad never stood a chance.
The episode introduces Victoria which is a great addition to the TARDIS crew and it serves as a final end of the Daleks. (Well at least until the next Dalek story, but that’s not until 1972 with Day of the Daleks, so it really did look like an ending for more than 5 years!) It also introduces the idea of an Emperor Dalek which looks like he may have inspired FX-7, the medical droid who worked on Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. The emperor is a great idea but is tossed around like a chronovore in the time winds; it’s gone from FX-7 looking machine, to bobble-headed Davros, to stadium-sized Dalek over the years, but like all the most amazing ideas in Doctor Who, we have Troughton’s era starting it off. Thanks be to Pat.
And this episode is a milestone because it both ended and launched an epic era of the shows history. It was a season finale with a big villain and when the show came back for the next season, it came back stronger than ever. It incorporated that infamous plot trope where, maybe, the Doctor was playing for the wrong side only to learn he had a trick up his sleeve. Troughton opens his first season and closes it with Daleks and it makes for fabulous bookends to a great season. Ben and Polly are gone but Jamie and Victoria are in and they make an amazing crew. This was an incredible time for the show and it breaks my hearts over and over again that it’s lost to time!
It’s hard to talk about Patrick Troughton’s era with anything less than reverence. He was an amazing Doctor and his adept acting gave us a renewable format that is a critical part of the series to this day and may keep the series going for decades to come. I just wish the Human Factor that the Daleks were looking for gave them the desire to paint or serve tea and jammie dodgers. If this story came first, one might have wondered if the Daleks in Power of the Daleks were left-overs that had actually been converted. Life is full of surprises, huh? ML
Read next in the Junkyard… The Tomb of the Cybermen