March 12: The Power of the Daleks Episodes Five & Six

The Daleks are reproducing, making new Daleks from the materials the colonists have provided them.  Witnessing this process sends Lesterson over the edge, and he spends episode five in hysterics, desperately trying to cut the power to the Daleks and to have them destroyed; but no one will listen to him, and the Doctor is currently in prison, put there by Bragen to stop him exposing Bragen as the true leader of the rebels.  And in fact Janley is against the idea of destroying the Daleks, as she thinks the Daleks will aid the rebels in their revolution and is ruthless in her commitment to that goal.

Governor Hensell is exterminated on Bragen's orders. (The
Power of the Daleks
Episode Five - from Doctor Who
Photonovels: The Power of the Daleks - Episode Five
) ©BBC
So although the Daleks have been making new Daleks, as one of them says, they "are not yet ready to teach these human beings the law of the Daleks!"  So they continue to bide their time, letting the humans continue their power struggles. And things are changing: having gotten Quinn out of the way, Bragen proceeds to usurp Governor Hensell's position, which he then consolidates by having a Dalek kill Hensell.  "Why do human beings kill human beings?" the Dalek asks Bragen, and Bragen doesn't answer it.  As About Time 2 points out, this is an important moment for the story: the humans are engaged in petty power struggles with each other, unable to provide a unified front; the Daleks, on the other hand, work together as a unit and are only concerned with exterminating all lesser creatures, rather than fellow Daleks.  And that's what makes the Daleks so dangerous; they won't turn on each other, and they're all dedicated to the cause of Dalek supremacy.  Combine that with the deviousness of the Daleks on display here -- they've even got people helping them set up a new source of power, under the pretense that with their own power the Daleks "will be twice as...useful."  Although you get the impression that the Daleks aren't actually that great at being this cunning, but the humans are so thick that they never notice anything amiss.

"Daleks conquer and destroy!" (The Power of the Daleks
Episode Five) ©BBC
It's episode six that sees Whitaker finally unleash the Daleks upon the colony.  There seems to have been a successful revolution while the Daleks are chanting at each other, oddly; Janley runs into Bragen's office to tell him that "We've won!  The revolution's over!" despite the fact that there was no evidence that the revolution had even begun.  (Apparently the revolution wasn't televised.) But Bragen's not done; he orders Janley to wipe out the rebels as well.  It's into this scene that the Daleks finally show their true colors, exterminating the populace of the colony indiscriminately.  It's a brutal affair; from the telesnaps alone you can see at least a dozen bodies lying in the corridors.  The Power of the Daleks sees the Daleks not only at their most devious, but also at their most deadly; although we've been told before how ruthless the Daleks are, we've never actually seen them quite this lethal, as seemingly almost the whole colony is wiped out by their guns.  It's only a plan by the Doctor which defeats them -- a plan which not only involves sending Bragen's guards to be killed as a delaying action, but also seems to involve destroying the colony's main power supply in the process.  Yes, the colony is safe from the Daleks (albeit with only two of the guest cast surviving to the end), but they don't seem happy about it.  "It'll be months before we can get things back to normal," Valmar complains.  The Doctor takes this as his cue to leave, and the TARDIS dematerializes next to a melted Dalek -- whose eyestalk twitches upward as the TARDIS departs...29

The Power of the Daleks is an exercise in mood.  It sets up the Daleks in the first episode, but it waits until the last to finally set them upon the unsuspecting colonists.  This means that their presence dominates the intervening episodes, even though they're doing little more than insinuating themselves into the colony's workings and routines.  It's therefore the human drama that drives this story forward, and fortunately this is one of David Whitaker's strengths.  He makes the conflicts interesting, so that you can't help but be drawn in, even while you know that the Daleks are dangerous and can't they see that?  Whitaker sets up the contrast between the Daleks and the colonists in such a way that the pointlessness of the politicking is made eminently clear.

And it's into this environment that the new Doctor Who is dropped.  I've mentioned a couple of differences between Troughton's Doctor and Hartnell's earlier (such as Troughton's decision to get on with destroying the Daleks without convincing the authorities he's right), but what's most striking is how quickly we come to accept this new man as the same as the old.  By putting the new Doctor up against the Daleks, we're shown how, even though he may look different and act different, at heart he's the same man, dedicated to fighting injustice and stopping an evil force like the Daleks.  (Although stop and ponder for a moment how the show's focus has changed since its beginning; there's nothing to suggest in An Unearthly Child that the Doctor wants to stop evil, but by this point it's a natural aspect of the Doctor's character -- and it'll be overtly stated as such in just a few episodes' time, in The Moonbase.)  Like Polly and then Ben, we come to accept that this new man is the same Doctor as before, so that by the end of the story, Patrick Troughton is the Doctor.

So The Power of the Daleks is a wonderful story, full of strong characterization and a sense of impending doom.  This story remains high on my wish list of "stories I'd like to see returned to the archive" (even if it's very low on the list of "stories likely to be returned to the archive", with only two copies of the prints known to have been sold overseas, one of which was returned to London and (presumably) destroyed).  A fabulous story to introduce the new Doctor with. 

29 Or so we're told.  There's no evidence of this in the telesnaps, but presumably it's mentioned in the scripts.