Blu-ray Review: Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks - Special Edition

Blu-ray Review: Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks - Special Edition

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 sci-fi 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 in 1947 – then just the one BBC channel – shortly after the service restarted after World War II. One previous science-fictional role was as a robot in the 1948 production (broadcast live, never recorded) of Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R. 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 story lined. 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 current script editor Dennis 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 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 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 that 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 hindsight) numbered, and a much more long-lasting 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. 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 (see below). And some more, included in an episode of Tomorrow's World, were 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.

The Power of the Daleks is one of ten stories where no complete episodes survive, and it was the first to be fully animated, from the off-air soundtrack. It was followed by the also completely missing The Macra Terror and the partly missing The Faceless Ones (two episodes survive, but the animation reconstructed all six episodes). With the latter, and the forthcoming completely missing Fury from the Deep, this new edition of The Power of the Daleks makes up a trio of releases for Patrick Troughton’s centenary year.




THE DISCS



The above is a revised and updated version of the review I wrote in 2017 for the original disc release of The Power of the Daleks. Now the story appears again on Blu-ray as a Special Edition, comprising three discs encoded for Region B. The original extras have been carried forward and there are some new ones. The story itself has a PG certificate, but the package is raised to a 12 by the inclusion of the Whicker’s World episode. All three discs have audio-descriptive menus available.

The previous release was an initial DVD with the animated episodes in black and white, followed by a steelbook release of four discs, dual-format, that is two DVDs and two Blu-rays, with both colour and black and white restorations of the episodes. Of course, the original episodes were black and white, as were every other 1960s Doctor Who episode, but the colour version was included to make the package more commercially appealing. Likewise, the animations were widescreen when the original broadcast episodes were 4:3. The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones also had both colour and black and white animations. However, this special edition of The Power of the Daleks has the episodes in black and white only, and drops the DVDs. It also has additional extras. Another reason for revisiting this story was that the original animation in 2016 was done to a short timescale and was never wholly satisfactory.

As mentioned above, the animated episodes are black and white and in a ratio of 1.78:1. As this project, apart from the soundtrack, was digital from start to finish, there shouldn’t be anything untoward and there isn’t. Needless to say, if the original episodes existed or are still out there somewhere, they would be in the form of film telerecordings as the original videotapes were wiped, so other than inventing time travel or developing broadcast-quality memory retrieval and testing it on someone who saw the original showing, this is the best we can have. 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. The transfer is 1080i50, reflecting the fact that the serial was made for a television service broadcasting in PAL, so at twenty-five frames per second.

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, and on the extras too.

Disc One features all six animated episodes with commentaries available and a Play All option. 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 commentary 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 the 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. 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.

Also on Disc One is an animation gallery (10:38). There is, however, an Easter Egg. Click right on “Animation Gallery” in the special features menu and you will find a deleted scene (1:41). This is a short scene of the Doctor playing a recorder, which was found too complex to animate satisfactorily in the time available in 2016 and remained so in 2020. There is no dialogue, just the recorder music and sound effects of the Doctor tapping his foot. It is presented with explanatory text and the shots which are immediately before and after it.

Disc Two has a reconstruction of all six episodes via telesnaps with some CGI enhancement and captions where necessary, tied to the off-air soundtrack with an optional narration by Anneke Wills with links by Sue Cowley.

Next up is an audiobook version of the story, again with the soundtrack and narration by Tom Baker. This was released in 1993 on two cassette tapes, and is reproduced here in full. It is in four sections (34:41, 34:01, 31:47, 31:50) for each side of the two tapes.

On 1 November 1966, BBC1 ran a trailer for the story which began four days later, and it’s presented next (0:50). The surviving footage mentioned above (7:17) follows, including some fragments from Episodes Four and Five which have been returned to the BBC since the first release, of which more below. After that is an unedited and restored copy of the full title sequence (0:51). Next, 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). Following that on the same disc is a complete compilation of Tristram Cary’s music cues for the serial (15:30).

Photogrammetry is a technique where photographs taken from various angles can be computer-animated to make a 3D represention of, in this case, some of the studio sets at Riverside (2:15). A self-navigating stills gallery (10:56) includes some colour shots never before released. Click right on this item in the special features menu and you will find the second Easter Egg. Derek Dodd passed away in 2019 and in his collection were found still photographs and also some very short film extracts from Episodes Four and Five. This featurette (3:16) details how the film clips, all less than a second long, were scanned and digitally cleaned up. They are then presented: here silent, but in the compilation mentioned above they are married to the soundtrack.


Disc Three begins with a new featurette, "The Power of the Daleks: From Script to Screen" (45:45). Toby Hadoke presents this look at the making of the story, from original conception to the finished story, with input from the original cast and crew.

“Behind the Scene” (10:29) shows special effects artist Mike Tucker recreating a scene from the serial, using the equipment and techniques available at the time, including replicas of the original models.

“Servants and Masters” (22:36) is a making-of documentary from 2016. 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.

Alan Whicker was a major name in non-fiction television in the 1960s and 1970s, and his manner and way of speech was famously parodied by Monty Python. In the Whicker’s World edition “A Handful of Horrors: I Don’t Want My Monsters to Have Oedipus Complexes” (37:14), our roving reporter with the constant air of ironic detachment takes a look at horror on screens large and small, interviewing several people along the way, including Christopher Lee, Terry Nation and Milton Subotsky, producer of the two big-screen Doctor Who films, both featuring the Daleks. This was broadcast once only, on 27 January 1968 on BBC2. As that channel was the only one in the UK then broadcasting in colour, and the majority of the population had black and white sets, this may well be the first time most people will have a chance to see this in colour, even if they saw it first time round.

“Daleks: The Early Years” (38:54) is a 1992 featurette made for VHS release. Former Doctor Peter Davison gives us a runthrough of the Dalek adventures of the 1960s, with extracts from telerecordings where they existed, stills where not. This also features interviews with four men now no longer alive: Terry Nation, Dalek designer Raymond Cusick, longtime Dalek operator John Scott Martin and voice artist Roy Skelton. The featurette was put together by someone else no longer with us, Doctor Who’s longest-serving producer John Nathan-Turner.

Next up is Patrick Troughton’s earliest surviving television footage. This comes from Robin Hood, a serial for children, starring Troughton as the leader of the Merrie Men. The surviving footage comes from episode two, “The Abbot of St. Mary’s”, broadcast live, once only, on 24 March 1953. This runs 8:37 with an introductory caption. There are clearly parts of it still missing and the picture quality is inevitably nothing to write home about. That said, be grateful this exists at all. The earliest surviving complete television drama, the play It is Midnight, Dr. Schweitzer, was broadcast only a month earlier.

After this is footage from the archives of BBC South (2:24) and BBC Wales (5:26), both found by researcher Richard Latto, who provides a narration over the silent footage. These are film of items on regional news programmes, including a BBC Week exhibition at the Southampton Guildhall in May 1966, and other events in Wales attended by Daleks.


Blue Peter is a programme long associated with Doctor Who, and this extract from 1966 (3:25), presented by the trio of former Who companion Peter Purves, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes, includes a look at The Power of the Daleks and also features a competition to design a monster which could defeat the evil machines.

From nearer the present we have items on BBC’s Newsnight (6:46) and BBC Breakfast (4:13) about the then-new animated release of The Power of the Daleks. Next up is a trailer for the animation (1:21), test footage (6:18) and animatics, that is storyboard videos (3:21). Finally, there are extracts from four BBC local radio programmes. On 3 November 2016, Radio Tees interviewed animator Rob Ritchie (31:06), who talked about animating this serial and also the lost “A Stripe for Frazer” episode of Dad’s Army. The following day, Anneke Wills featured on Radio Norfolk (8:09), Radio Solent (3:12) and Radio Tees (10:08), on the last-named with former Who score composer and soundtrack remasterer Mark Ayres.

Disc Three also 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. In addition, there are Radio Times cuttings for each episode and for the Whicker’s World and Robin Hood episodes also on the disc, and the viewers’ letters mentioned above, plus two reviews from The Listener during the serial’s run. Also available is an expanded version of Andrew Pixley’s viewing notes for the previous release, updated to take in the new animation. Running forty-six pages, it is as detailed as you would expect from its writer.

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