The Power of the Daleks *****

Patrick Troughton debuts as the second Doctor, facing his archenemies on Vulcan

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Doctor Who story guide
Mark Braxton
Mark Braxton
The Power of the Daleks *****

Season 4 – Story 30

"Marvellous creatures. You have to admire them. They're the new species, you see? Taking over from homo sapiens. Man's had his day… finished now" - Lesterson

Storyline
The transformed Doctor explains that he's "been renewed" by "part of the Tardis", but Ben and Polly remain suspicious of the newcomer. Their next landing site is the Earth colony Vulcan. Having witnessed the murder of a visiting examiner, the Doctor uses the dead man's access pass to investigate. He meets a scientist called Lesterson, whom he is appalled to learn has found inert Daleks in a crashed space capsule. Lesterson activates them in the hope that they can help improve productivity. But while the Daleks feign submission, they are covertly manufacturing more of themselves and are in league with a rebel faction of humans secretly led by head of security Bragen…

First transmissions
Episode 1 - Saturday 5 November 1966
Episode 2 - Saturday 12 November 1966
Episode 3 - Saturday 19 November 1966
Episode 4 - Saturday 26 November 1966
Episode 5 - Saturday 3 December 1966
Episode 6 - Saturday 10 December 1966

Production
Filming: September 1966 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: October/November 1966 at Riverside 1

Cast
Doctor Who - Patrick Troughton
Ben Jackson - Michael Craze
Polly - Anneke Wills
Bragen - Bernard Archard
Lesterson - Robert James
Hensell - Peter Bathurst
Janley - Pamela Ann Davy
Quinn - Nicholas Hawtrey
Resno - Edward Kelsey
The Examiner - Martin King
Kebble - Steven Scott
Valmar - Richard Kane
Daleks - Gerald Taylor, Kevin Manser, Robert Jewell, John Scott Martin
Dalek voices - Peter Hawkins

Crew
Writer - David Whitaker (final scripts by Dennis Spooner)
Incidental music - Tristram Cary
Designer - Derek Dodd
Story editor - Gerry Davis
Producer - Innes Lloyd
Director - Christopher Barry

RT Review by Mark Braxton
What an extraordinary event: a beloved TV character falling seriously ill and reviving in a totally different form. A spectacular concept, as important to the show's popularity (and longevity) as the initial man-in-a-time-machine premise. It was one that garnered scant attention at the time, however - try to imagine a Tennant-to-Smith transition passing virtually unnoticed! The RT cover for 5 November 1966 depicted only Daleks, while the featurette inside focused on Ben and Polly and casually mentioned en passant that Patrick Troughton was the new Who. A small drop-in picture of him accompanied the episode two listing.

So the change in the Doctor's appearance must have been discombobulating for the audience. The mixed feedback from RT readers in the 26 November 1966 issue (see below) seemed to reflect this. But two aspects of an accomplished story by writer David Whitaker (with uncredited co-writer Dennis Spooner) tell us this was anticipated. First, the very presence of the Daleks provided viewers with some vital familiarity. And second, the companions, more than ever before, represented the viewer in their reactions, in their suspicion and curiosity. But more of them later...

Patrick Troughton used a variety of distraction techniques while a nation mourned the disappearance of William Hartnell. And although Trout's performance is intriguing: mischievous, comical and necessarily different from Hartnell's, existing material (get used to that phrase) betrays an actor finding his feet - and his voice - as the Time Lord. Yes, it's yet another lost story and arguably the one that's most sought after by fans. Especially as all the other regenerations are amply covered by print, picture and moving image.

Troughton's rumpled, recorder-tooting galactic vagabond had a few image problems initially. It's amusing to think that someone thought a battered stove-pipe was a good idea. But if it was a rubbish look, it did at least stick in people's minds: look at comic-strips of the time and you'll see that tall, battered hat perched on the 2-D Doctor's head. On TV he only wore it sporadically for three stories.

As fans grew accustomed to this short, dark stranger, so too did the companions, even in the space of one story. Anneke Wills and Michael Craze were already the perfect team as posh Polly and chippy Ben. From opposite ends of the social spectrum, they naturally had varied viewpoints, and their differing attitudes to the Doctor here are superbly rendered. While Ben says, "You, my old China, are an out-and-out phoney," Polly warms to the new-look time traveller in a charmingly loyal way, countering with "Don't listen to him, Doctor, I know who you are" - this after joining in with the Doctor's childlike tongue twister ("Lesterson, listen").

The return of the Daleks further sweetens the regeneration pill, but their use is far from one-dimensional. Whitaker employs them in unexpected ways, and even though their motives are rather tipped off by their quizzical intonation of the story's catchphrase -"I am your ser-vant?" - for a long time the Daleks don't seem like the enemy. Their juxtaposition with the backstabbing colonists is startling, notably when one Dalek asks, "Why do human beings kill human beings?" It would be many years before their integration to a plot would be quite so stimulating.

After the universe-conquering scheme of The Daleks' Master Plan, Whitaker wisely went in the other direction. The claustrophobia of Vulcan's corridors works well, and Lesterson's descent into insanity is genuinely frightening. The Daleks' conveyor belt of doom was another brilliant creation, and stuck in the minds of many young viewers, as did the sight of a naked, tentacled Dalek.

The Power of the Daleks presents us with an intelligent, logical set of scripts that don't over-reach. It was and is top-drawer Who.

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Radio Times archive material

RT's stalwart photographer Don Smith went on set at Riverside for the first episode, resulting in this striking Dalek cover. The introductory feature clearly didn't intend to dwell on the new Doctor or reveal him in costume. 

RT billings
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

The letters page reflected a mixed response to Troughton's debut. And there was a small trail to The Highlanders.

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Annekedote
“I have this very strong memory of Patrick walking in with his red cardigan and Greek bag and we all stood up and clapped. He was so anxious. He was beside himself with anxiety that he was going to kill Doctor Who off. I think that’s why he went too far with his Harpo Marx wig.” He actually tried one? “Yes, he did and Michael Craze said, ‘I’m not acting with you if you’re wearing that. That’s it!’ ” (Talking to RT, March 2012)

[Soundtrack available on BBC Audio CD]