So I was away on holiday last week, hence the lack of updates. It also means I’m slightly behind on my reviews.
Having said that, the next story on the list – The Evil of the Daleks – took me a fair amount of time to watch.
Evil of the Daleks is often rated among the top 10 stories of all time whenever there’s a Doctor Who poll. This is something I struggle with generally, as I don’t think a large enough proportion of the people who vote in these polls will either have seen it when it was on (or repeated, which was unique for the time) or seen a reconstruction.
So why is this story rated so highly, and is it as good as people suggest?
Doctor Who – The Evil of the Daleks Review: What’s This One About?
Following directly on from the Faceless Ones, the Doctor & Jamie go looking for the TARDIS, which has been stolen.
It happens to be in the possession of Edward Waterfield, a Victorian Antique salesman who is actually from Victorian Times and has been brought to the 1960s with Dalek time technology in an elaborate plan to capture the two time travellers.
Once the action moves to a Victorian Manor – owned by rich eccentric Theodore Maxtible – in the mid 1800s, the Daleks tell the Doctor they have his TARDIS and in exchange for it, they want him to run a test on Jamie to establish the ‘Human Factor’, which the Daleks blame all their defeats on. They feel that if they have the ‘Human Factor’ implanted in them, then they will become more powerful, while the Doctor believes it might improve the Daleks for the better.
The test is that Jamie must rescue Victoria Waterfield (Edward’s daughter) from the Daleks, overcoming a variety of obstacles (including a mute Turkish wrestler complete with stereotypical Fez) in the process.
Once he’s done that, the Daleks blow up the house (much to the chagrin of Maxtible, who has been nefariously helping the Daleks in exchange for the secret of Alchemy) and the action moves to Scaro. When they get there, the Doctor gets to meet the Emperor Dalek for the first time, and is informed that by doing the test to establish the Human Factor (which, – when given to the Daleks – turns them into nicer, child-like beings who question orders), what he’s really done is help them establish what the Dalek Factor is, and that he must spread the Dalek Factor through time to establish them as the true force of the universe.
As you’ve probably guessed, this doesn’t happen, and by exposing more Daleks to the Human Factor, the Doctor sets off a civil war that supposedly signals the end of the Daleks for good.
As you also probably know, Victoria joins the TARDIS crew at the end after her father was killed saving the Doctor.
Thoughts – So Why Is It So Popular?
The first thing to say is that Evil of the Daleks is undoubtedly a good story, but I don’t think it deserves the reputation it has garnered over the years.
I think what makes it so popular is the idea of it. Before I’d watched the reconstruction of it or listened to the BBC Audio CD I’d heard about some of the stuff it contained and thought it sounded amazing. It ticks a lot of the boxes that people would tick to come up with a ‘cool’ Doctor Who story.
- Daleks in a Victorian House
- A return to Skaro
- ‘Good’ Daleks who play with the Doctor
- The Doctor shoving a Dalek off a cliff
- The Emperor Dalek
- A Scary-looking guy with a crazy beard (Maxtible)
- A New Companion
- The Idea that it’s the ‘Final End’ of the Daleks
- Jamie fighting a Turkish Wrestler
It all sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
But Is It Really That Good?
In truth it’s not as good as it sounds, and a lot of that has to do with the length of the story.
The first part is less relevant to the rest of the story than the first part of the Mind Robber was (and that was written as an afterthought) and just has the Doctor & Jamie asking a bunch of different people if they know where the TARDIS is.
Then probably twice as long as is needed is spent in the Victorian House. This is compounded by a fair amount of time devoted to a character – Arthur Terrell – who is pretty much irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Terrell is the suitor of Maxtible’s daughter Ruth and is being controlled mentally by the Daleks. So he has mood swings where he tells Windsor Davies (not playing himself for once, I should add) to do nasty things then forgets he ever told him to do it in the first place, and he also has fallouts with a variety of people from the Doctor and Jamie all the way through to Molly the Maid.
But nothing ever really comes of it. The Doctor realises he’s being controlled and instructs Ruth to take him as far away from the Manor as possible. That was it.
There are other issues as well.
The Daleks don’t really do anything until episode 6 other than come in and out of a cupboard and issue general threats, while Jamie’s test takes up the plot of half of episode three, all of episode four and most of episode five.
Naturally I’m aware that a story like this was originally intended to be watched once a week over the course of a couple of months, but still, it would have been better if it was slightly shorter.
Again, I should emphasise that I do like the story despite it’s flaws. I just feel that when people put it up on a pedestal like they have done, you look for flaws more than you otherwise might.
There are plenty of positives about the story.
On the whole, the general plot is good, and the acting is of a high standard, most notable the wonderfully named Marius Goring’s portrayal of Maxtible. To me, he embodies the sort of Dickensian Victorian character and acts it well. He also does humorous/scary job of acting possessed in Episode 7.
When they finally come to the fore, the Daleks are also entertaining, and there is just something awesome about the Dalek Emperor. I can only imagine how cool it would have been for viewers to see the King of All The Daleks for the first time. He did of course come back again in
Parting of the Ways, but seeing as he was voiced to sound exactly like Nicholas Briggs (funny that, eh?) it wasn’t as good.
And naturally, since it’s a BBC production set in Victorian times, the sets and costumes are of a higher standard than usual.
If this had been the end of the Daleks, it would have been a logical and fitting way for them to depart the series. I’m undecided whether it’s a good or bad thing that this isn’t their final appearance…
- Throughout the story, the phrase ‘The Power of the Daleks’ keeps cropping up. That would have been a better name for the story. Oh…
- The idea that Maxtible and Waterfield managed to create a Time Machine using hundreds of mirrors is so fantastically Victorian in its nature that it’s a terrific addition to the story.
- How exactly did the Daleks come by publicity photos of the Doctor & Jamie to give to Waterfield? And more to the point, why don’t they also have publicity photos of Ben & Polly? How could they know that the two of them decided to stay on Earth mere hours earlier?
- Why did the Doctor not just ask the Commandant of Gatwick Airport for help finding the TARDIS?
- The basis of the whole Dalek plan seems to depend upon Jamie fancying Victoria Waterfield.
- The Dalek that appears at the end of the first episode seems to have a very strange accent. “Who eh ewe” it asks.
- Speaking of that Dalek, this is something about Dalek stories that really bugs me. The story is called ‘Evil of the Daleks’, and therefore it’s not going to be a surprise that the Daleks are in it. So why is a Dalek appearing a cliffhanger? This happens in The Daleks Invasion of Earth, The Chase, Evil of the Daleks, Day of the Daleks, Planet of the Daleks (which is the most ridiculous of all), Genesis of the Daleks and Destiny of the Daleks. It’s so stupid.
- In his narration on the audio CD of the story, Frazer Hines describes Perry (Geoffrey Colville) as a man in his twenties. He’s the oldest looking 20-something in the world in that case.
- This is probably something that we could understand slightly better if the story existed, but how does the TARDIS get about? It starts off in the yard of Waterfield’s shop but then moves from there to Maxtible’s house (who moved it?) and from there, despite the cupboard not being big enough to fit the TARDIS, it gets to Skaro. Then at the end of Episode 6 the TARDIS is on display in the Dalek control room, yet by Episode 7 it’s made its way to a plateau on the outskirts of the Dalek City. Confusing stuff.
- Why are the Daleks so obsessed with Victoria’s weight?
- One thing I love about this story is the music.
- One thing I don’t love about this story is the way half the Daleks sound like Zippy. Sadly we’re stuck with that for the long haul as Roy Skelton is one of the lead Dalek Voice Artists from here until the end of the ‘Classic’ Series. Peter Hawkins – the true voice of the Daleks – makes his final appearance in this story, and will only appear again as the voice of the Cybermen in the next series.
- But here’s an interesting fact for you – Peter Hawkins was actually the first voice of Zippy – while John Leeson (most famous for voicing K-9) was the original – and incredibly scary – Bungle. See the attached video.
- One thing you will gleam from watching that video is that the Peter Hawkins managed to make Zippy sound nothing like the Daleks, in the same way that he made the Cybermen sound nothing like either of them. So why is it that Roy Skelton and Nick Briggs make every voice they do sound the same?
- If I had a choice of the episode I’d like to survive from this story, it would probably be episode 6.
Doctor Who – The Evil of the Daleks Review: Final Thoughts
I feel that this review is almost a bit too negative about what is a classic Doctor Who story. While it’s true to say that people have put it up on a pedestal without probably having seen it, the fact is that the reasons for doing so – which I have detailed above – are relevant. It does have all that going for it.
The problem is that despite all of these iconic moments, it is probably two episodes too long and could have made a first class five-part story.
As it is, it’s a good story and one that I’d recommend, but in my view it’s not one of the all time greats, despite what others may opine.
As You’ll See in this video, Bungle is just scary. He looks like he would maul you as soon as look at you.
Catchy tune though.