Last Christmas, “The Time of the Doctor” marked the end of Matt Smith’s reign as the Eleventh Doctor in the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who. This fall, the BBC will kick off a new series featuring Peter Capaldi in the role. Today, we take a look at the first regeneration from First Doctor William Hartnell to Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, “Power of the Daleks.”1
Due to the BBC’s horrible archival policies in 1960s, this isn’t a story people can “watch.” This is one of several stories that are completely missing on video and the only way they can be enjoyed is as audio dramas using the TV soundtrack recorded by fans and narration by a star from the series..
Without belaboring the point, in “The Tenth Planet,” the last First Doctor story, it was clear that William Hartnell was pretty well played out in the role. The four-episode story featured almost no action from the Doctor in the first, second, and the fourth episode, and the third episode was spent with the doctor asleep. The fourth ended with the Doctor changing into Patrick Troughton.
Troughton dives right into the role. Long-time Whovians have seen newly regenerated doctors go through the process of picking out a new wardrobe and getting used to new appearances. Troughton was the first and does it quite well. His character is fun and clever. The Second Doctor plays a recorder, which is another nice bit of characterization.
Of course, his companions, who were with the First Doctor, are skeptical that this is really the same Doctor, with Ben being far more skeptical than Paulie.
The Second’s Doctor’s inaugural adventure is a blast. The TARDIS lands in the future on Earth’s colony Vulcan, where they discover the murdered body of a government official called an examiner. The Doctor assumes the examiner’s identity and is determined to uncover why the Examiner was killed and what was going on in the colony.
In the course of his investigation, the Doctor comes across his most dangerous enemies, the Daleks. One of their ships has crash landed and a scientists is studying the dead Daleks. The Doctor wants them destroyed. To his horror, the scientist who discovered the Daleks is trying to revive one and he succeeds.
The revived Dalek’s gun arm has been removed, and he insists, “I am your servant.” The Doctor doesn’t buy it and is trying to stop the crazy scientists from reviving more Daleks. However, a web of political intrigue has more than one person thinking they can use the three revived Daleks as pawns. Some consider the small numbers of Daleks to be minor matter, but the Doctor warns that one is enough to destroy the entire base.
This is wonderful serial works on every level: it has intrigue, mystery, suspense, and fantastic sci-fi action. It illustrates the true power of audio storytelling. The early writers of Doctor Who had great imaginations, but lacked in special effects. That’s no problem here. The music and the dialogue tell the story powerfully.
The setup for “Power of the Daleks” makes this a different Dalek story. Reduced to only three members and disarmed, the Daleks play a different game. They pretend to be mankind’s servants and promise to do good for them. However, despite their promises, the aim of the Daleks is still to exterminate. Whether this was the writer’s intent or not, it’s a story about the seductiveness of sin and evil.
The humans are so busy fighting among each other and jockeying for power and position that they never realize who the real enemy is. They truly believe that they are the Dalek’s masters but are proven tragically wrong. Perhaps the most powerful moments come when the Daleks are gaining the upper hand and Doctor Lesterson, the scientist who empowered them, says to the Daleks, “I am your servant,” the same way they had spoken to him.
“The Power of the Daleks” packs a powerful punch. It does a fantastic job introducing a new Doctor with a story that’s often dark, but also brilliantly conceived and executed.