Doctor Doctor Who Guide

The first thing I think anyone who is attempting to review this story is bash your head against your desk at the prospect of having to add anything of consequence to one of Paul Clarke’s stupefyingly comprehensive reviews. So I will take an alternate track and approach it from an entirely different angle. However, I still think it’s really good.

I experienced the story from the audio soundtrack on mp3, the version narrated by Frazer Hines, who I would never have recognized since I only know his work from Doctor Who. This is why the only voice I can associate with him is that thickly overdone Scottish accent. I suspect this weirdness is shared by the rest of you whose Frazer experience is limited. Viewed in conjunction with the slide shows of the story on the BBC website, as well as an active imagination, is almost as good as bringing a VCR back to 1967 and taping the story as it was broadcast. If only TARDISes were more readily available to the Doctor Who fandom. 

As a side note, I expect most of the TARDIS travellers would ignore the salvation of the missing shows and instead a legion of horny high school fans would descend upon young Deborah Watling in whatever ways their own active imaginations could muster. But anyway . . . 

Characterization of everyone involved in this story, from the regulars and major guests (Edward Waterfield and Maxtible), to the bit players (Molly the maid, Kemel the wrestler, Perry the antiques dealer) is superb. The plot is intricate, and nothing ever feels like the filler that is almost necessary for seven episodes, simply because there are no moments without purpose. The first episode is probably most likely to be labelled filler, which I think is undeserved for the following reason.

The plot of Evil of the Daleks is a strategy game played by the Doctor and the Emperor Dalek. The Emperor aims at the destruction of humanity, and the Doctor aims at the destruction of the Daleks. These seven episodes are a game of chess with the fate of two species hanging in the balance. The suspense comes not only from watching these brilliantly portrayed characters, but from watching the different levels of this battle of wits unfold, plus the strange joy that both these master manipulators get from putting their schemes in action. 

Thinking of the plot in these terms, the Doctor’s detective work in the twentieth century is the start of the game. The Emperor has taken advantage of Waterfield and Maxtible’s time travel experiments, set up his Daleks in the mansion, and is using Waterfield as a pawn to lure the Doctor into their trap. And the Doctor waltzes into danger without even realizing it. So begins the Doctor’s manipulations of the Daleks. He learns their plan to isolate the Human Factor, but he understands what it will do to the Daleks when it is introduced. 

At the start of episode six, when the humanized Daleks first speak, the Doctor sees his plan coming to fruition. The Daleks have sown their own destruction by introducing the ability to question orders to their race. One of the first things the Doctor said when he discovered the Daleks had lured him to 1866 for the experiments was “I will not be your slave!” The Daleks treat their human captives as slaves. During the behavioural experiments on Jamie, Victoria is paraded about as bait and expected to obey without question. When Arthur Terrall, Maxtible’s prospective son-in-law, is fully enslaved to his Dalek control device, he bullies everyone around him into obeying him. He dominates by making people his slaves. And what phrase do the Daleks say more often even than “Exterminate” in this story? “You will obey.”

When Edward Waterfield comes to rescue the Doctor from the Dalek capital, crumbling in flames of civil war between the slave Daleks and the free – humanized – Daleks, the Doctor is inspiring one last group of the humanized to rebel and fight the Emperor for their lives. As the Daleks disappear down the corridor and Waterfield begs the Doctor to leave, what response does he get? “That’s all right. I’m finished.” This was his checkmate over the Emperor Dalek. 

Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor has the reputation as the grand schemer, the manipulative one for whom even his best friends are pieces in a strategy game. But Patrick Troughton here gambles with his friends’ lives just as much as McCoy did in the darkest of the New Adventures. In fact, his deviousness comes out even more in Evil of the Daleks, as we can see the plan forming from the start, then marching almost inevitably to the conclusion: the total destruction of an entire species. And what was the foundation of the Doctor’s plot? The essential part of the human spirit that questions, that will not obey. Maxtible dies at the end of the story, blown to bits with the Dalek city, but he really died when he was implanted with the Dalek Factor, when he lost his individuality. I find it quite appropriate that the Doctor defeated his greatest enemies, formless blobs in tanks indistinguishable from each other, with the spirit of rebellion. That was the spirit that motivates the Doctor from the start. 

Evil of the Daleks has wonderfully drawn characters. Its script and plot is fast-paced and engrossing even over seven episodes – three hours in one sitting. At the centre of it all, it is impossible to take your eyes (or ears) off the Doctor, so phenomenal is Troughton’s performance and so complex does his character appear here. It has a thematic depth that can be inspiring. All these factors make Evil of the Daleks one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time, no matter what form it may take.

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