Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks

I'm writing this shortly after Peter Capaldi has announced his departure as official Doctor Number Twelve, with his replacement yet to be confirmed. There may well be, and are, arguments over the number of regenerations the Doctor or other Time Lords are allowed. (See The Deadly Assassin and The Brain of Morbius for more of this.) But nowadays, we're used to the idea that Doctor Who is a show which changes its leading actor and leading role's characterisation at intervals, usually every three years or so, though Doctors Three and Four were in post for longer than that. Yet in 1966, with William Hartnell – at fifty-eight not as old as you might think – clearly unable to continue in the role due to increasing ill-health, the show could well have ended there and then, after three successful years. If that had happened, we would be remembering a SF show from the 1960s, with no doubt a following amongst vintage-genre-TV cultists. However, series creator and BBC Head of Drama Sydney Newman and the then producer Innes Lloyd had other ideas.

Patrick Troughton was forty-six, twelve years younger than Hartnell. He had had a career of two decades by this point, having first appeared on British television – then just the one BBC channel – shortly after the service restarted following World War II, in 1948. These plays were broadcast live and not recorded, though Troughton can be seen, playing three roles, in one of the earliest surviving television dramas, The Passionate Pilgrim, shown two days after the Queen's coronation in 1953. He worked in films as well as in television and was filming the Hammer production The Viking Queen when he was offered the role of the Second Doctor. He was reluctant at first, but one reason he was swayed was that the regular work would help pay for his sons' education. It was something of an insurance on the part of the show's producers that Troughton's first story in the role brought back the Doctor's most memorable adversaries, the Daleks. They had not been seen since the twelve-part epic The Daleks' Master Plan in 1965/1966. The Daleks' creator and co-owner of the rights to them with the BBC, Terry Nation, was not available to write the story, so The Power of the Daleks became the first Dalek story that he neither wrote nor storylined (Dennis Spooner had written six episodes of Master Plan from Nation's outline). The writer was the show's original script editor David Whitaker, who had therefore done rewrites to Nation's scripts for his first two Dalek stories. Whitaker's scripts were rewritten by Spooner, mainly to tweak the new Doctor's characterisation. However, Whitaker has sole credit on screen.

After a pre-credits reprise of Doctor One regenerating as Doctor Two, the Doctor, Polly and Ben land on the planet Vulcan (two months after Star Trek first aired, the name no doubt being a coincidence). Shortly afterwards, they witness the murder of an examiner secretly sent from Earth to investigate the actions of rebels at the Earth colony on the planet. Meanwhile, Lesterson (Robert James) has found a crashed space capsule. Inside are some dead Daleks, and he is working on reactivating them...

The change from Hartnell's irascible old man to Troughton's “cosmic hobo” (in Newman's words) must have come as something of shock to viewers settling down to watch The Power of the Daleks on its first, and as it turned out, only UK broadcast, beginning on 5 November 1966. Certainly some were impressed and others were not, with Radio Times publishing letters both for and against, with a Mrs Estelle Hawkins asking, “Why turn a wonderful series into what looked like Coco the Clown?” As it happened, viewing figures for all six episodes exceeded those for the previous serial, The Tenth Planet. Troughton does play the Doctor somewhat broadly – and he didn't really “settle” until two stories later, The Underwater Menace, perhaps realising the serial's villain, Joseph Furst, was going so far over the top that it would be best for him to underplay more. Yet there are shadings in Troughton's performance that may not have been clear now, but are in hindsight: he can be serious when he needs to be. Polly and Ben are the capable companions they had always been, but their days were (in retrospect) numbered, and a much more longlasting companion would appear in the very next story: Jamie, who would stay in post until the end of Troughton's tenure. Polly does not appear in Episode Four and Ben is absent from Episode Five, so that Anneke Wills and Michael Craze could have a week's holiday.

The Power of the Daleks was broadcast once only by the BBC, in November/December 1966. The first five episodes had been shot on 405-line video in Riverside Studios, with some film work at Ealing Studios. There was no location work for this story. The final episode was, more unusually, but not uniquely, output and edited and broadcast from 35mm film. Documentation suggests that for this episode 625-line cameras were used. BBC2 had launched in 1964 broadcasting only on 625 lines, in preparation for colour broadcasting, which did arrive in 1967. This meant that any viewers wanting to watch the new channel had to buy a (more expensive) dual-system television set, as BBC1 and ITV were still broadcasting in 405 lines only. However, BBC1 programmes were beginning to be made in 625 lines: for example, the 625-lines-to-35mm method was used for most of the first series of Adam Adamant Lives! the same year. The first all-625-line Who serial was The Enemy of the World, the following year. 16mm telerecordings were made of al six episodes and offered for sale to overseas television companies. However, sales were down from the first Hartnell series, and it appears only two film copies were made. Australia showed one, and New Zealand showed the other, with the latter being sent on to Singapore for showing there. The Australian print was returned to the BBC and subsequently junked, the latter was not but no longer appears to exist. The broadcast videotape copies of the first five episodes had been wiped by the end of the decade. The ten episodes from the 1960s which were transmitted from 35mm prints had a better survival rate than other episodes, but Episode Six of The Power of the Daleks was the only one to be junked, and that was also the fate of the 16mm telerecording prints and negatives. By the mid 1970s, the BBC held no copies of any of the serial's six episodes. What did exist were telesnaps (a set of still photographs, taken by John Cura, by positioning a camera in front of the television set) and, as with all the missing episodes, recordings of the soundtrack made by fans at the time of broadcast.

Some fragments do exist. An Australian fan set up an 8mm camera in front of his television set and filmed some brief clips from the first two episodes. Footage from the Dalek production line sequence was found in a 1974 Australian programme, Perspectives: C is for Computer. Some material from the same sequence also showed up at the BBC in an episode of Whicker's World. And some more, included in an episode of Tomorrow's World, spotted during a 2005 programme Sunday Past Times. Some exploding Daleks were found in the telerecording of a 1968 BBC programme, Tom Tom. And finally, a copy of a 1966 programme, Beyond the Freeze – What Next? was found to begin with a trailer for the first episode of The Power of the Daleks.

As I write this, in February 2017, ninety-seven episodes of Doctor Who are missing from the archives. Prompted by the discovery of one episode (the second of The Daleks' Master Plan), the DVD set Lost in Time gathered together all the “orphaned episodes”, those surviving from stories of which fifty percent or more episodes are lost. Since then, there have been DVD releases of all but one of the stories where fifty percent or more survive, with animation or telesnap reconstructions or both, tied to the off-air soundtrack recordings, have been used to replace the missing episodes. The only one that has not yet had this treatment is The Crusade, which at present can be seen on Lost in Time, with the two surviving episodes, the audio of the two missing ones, and the video introductions and missing-episode-bridging recorded in 2000 by William Russell, in character as Ian Chesterton. I do not know if there are plans to release this as a separate release.

The Power of the Daleks is one of ten stories where no episodes survive other than the off-air soundtracks and in many cases fragments. That ten includes the single-episode Mission to the Unknown, featuring none of the regulars, really a curtain-raiser for The Daleks' Master Plan which began four weeks later after the also completely missing The Myth Makers. Animating a whole serial is less precedented, though the inspiration for this project was animating a missing episode from another show with a likely audience to warrant it (“A Stripe for Frazer”, one of three missing from Dad's Army and the only one with an off-air soundtrack recording known to exist, available from the BBC Store). So if you are going to have an animated entire serial, let's have the one with the selling point of the show's most famous monsters. Maybe in time we will see animated versions of the other nine stories. I'd certainly like to see one of Fury from the Deep, and while I'm at it, the partly-surviving Daleks' Master Plan (nine episodes missing, ten if you count Mission to the Unknown) and The Evil of the Daleks (six episodes missing out of seven).

The Disc

2 Entertain's release of The Power of the Daleks has been released in two editions. The black and white version (more about that in a moment) was released to buy on the BBC Store from 5 November 2016 with a DVD released on the 21st of the same month. The present Blu-ray is a steelbook limited edition with four discs, two Blu-rays and two DVDs. The first disc is a Blu-ray of the black and white version with the commentary and extras. The colour version is on Blu-ray on Disc Two with a telesnap reconstruction of the serial as its only extra. Disc Three is the original DVD – black and white, with the commentary but no other extras. The fourth disc is a DVD of the colour version, with extras available as PDFs. Each disc has an audio-descriptive menu option and a Play All option as well as episode and scene selection menus. The Blu-rays are encoded for Region B and the DVDs for Regions 2 and 4. As the episodes were originally made for PAL television at twenty-five frames per second, and the soundtracks synchronised at that rate, the Blu-ray transfers are 1080i50 and the DVDs PAL format.

The credits at the end of each episode are not those which appeared on screen. Non-speaking roles (such as the Dalek operators) are not listed. Delia Derbyshire is credited for realising Ron Grainer's iconic theme and Raymond Cusick for designing the Daleks, which was never the case on any broadcast episode. In addition, each episode has credits for the animation and sound remastering.

Previous animated episodes have been made to tie in with the surviving episodes, which were all in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in black and white. With The Power of the Daleks, that obligation no longer applies. This animation is in the more recent widescreen ratio of 1.78:1, and as well as the black and white version there is a colourised version. Being a purist in these things, I watched in black and white – and mono sound, of which more shortly – and dipped into the colour version. But you pay your money and make your choice, and both look fine Screengrabs follow, from each.

The soundtrack is derived from an off-air recording made by fan Graham Strong, remastered for this release. It's presented in three versions: the original mono, Dolby Surround (2.0) and 5.1 (DTS-HD MA on the Blu-rays, Dolby Digital on the DVDs). The surround versions spread the music (stock cues by Tristram Cary, reused from the original The Daleks and from The Daleks' Master Plan) over the surround channels. The 5.1 track is the default on these discs, but I would have complained if the mono track, which is how these episodes were intended by their makers to be heard, was absent. English subtitles are available for the hard of hearing.

Audio commentaries are available on the black and white version. These are moderated by Toby Hadoke, a familiar voice on vintage-TV commentaries who does a very able job. The commenters are a revolving cast. Episodes one and six feature Anneke Wills, designer Derek Dodd and production assistant, later Who director Michael (E.) Briant. All have good memories of their work from fifty years prior, to the month, when this track was recorded. Wills retells the story of what she did on her week off (while Episode Four was being rehearsed and recorded). She and Michael Craze had T-shirts printed for recording day of the final episode: COME BACK BILL HARTNELL ALL IS FORGIVEN. Unfortunately for them Troughton did not find that funny and it was a joke that backfired. Edward Kelsey, who played Resno in episode two, joins Wills and Briant, while Derek Dodd takes a break. For episode three, Hadoke interviews Nicholas Hawtrey (who played Quinn) at Hawtrey's home in France and, via Skype or maybe over the phone, conducts a shorter interview with Australian resident Alexandra Tynan who, under the name Sandra Reid, was the costume designer for this serial. Episode Four features three men with more recent Dalek connections: David Hankinson (a Dalek operator in the Eccleston/Tennant era), Nicholas Briggs (the new-Who Dalek voice) and Robert Shearman, writer of the 2005 episode Dalek. Episode Five concentrates on the animation, featuring Adrian Salmon (cel shading), Martin Geraghty (character art) and Charles Norton (producer and director), which gives a fair amount of insight into the production process for animation such as this, especially on a very short timescale.

“Servants and Masters” (22:36) is the making-of documentary. Anneke Wills, Derek Dodd and Nicholas Briggs are interviewed here, so inevitably there's some overlap with the commentary. However, also on hand are Andrew Beech and Kim Newman representing viewers and, via archive interviews, the late Christopher Barry, Bernard Archard and Tristram Cary.

There follows a self-navigating animation and stills gallery (15:29), which ends with some shots from the commentary recording, and animation test footage (6:05), with explanatory captions. This also includes live-action reference footage featuring two actors, Nick Scovell and Rob Thrush. Next up is an HD-restored version of a print of the title sequence, prefaced by a caption (1:07). The surviving material from the serial, listed above, plus the trailer, is next (7:44). Finally, we hear part of a recording session from 12 September 1966 with Peter Hawkins recording his Dalek voices for Episode Six, and fluffing his lines a few times (5:14).

Disc Two (the Blu-ray of the colour version) also features a telesnap reproduction of the serial (148:49) with the original soundtrack, plus narration by Anneke Wills and linking narration by Sue Cowley.

Disc Four (the DVD of the colour version) contains as PDFs, the camera scripts for all six episodes and three items of production paperwork: a description of “the new Dr Who”, an audience research report on Episode Three (with an apology for the print quality, though it's quite readable) and the programme-as-broadcast (PasB) paperwork for the Saturday evenings for each episode, in reverse order. As it was the programme which immediately followed Doctor Who, you also have details of each week's episode of Dixon of Dock Green, all recorded on 405-line video and all now wholly or partly lost.

Finally, included in the package is a sixteen-page booklet featuring an essay by Andrew Pixley, which takes us exhaustively through the making of this serial, including accounts of each episode's recording session, plus the serial's overseas sales, wiping and junking. The back cover lists the cast and crew credits for the serial, as shown on screen in 1966.



out of 10

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