The Power of the Daleks

This story is not known to exist in its original format
(6 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes)
in its entirety.
Region 1 U.S.
Region 1 Canada
Region 2 U.K.
(Doctor Who Story No. 30, introducing Patrick Troughton)
  • written by David Whitaker
  • directed by Christopher Barry
  • produced by Innes Lloyd
  • music from "The Daleks" by Tristram Cary
  • 6 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: Ben and Polly are at odds trying to decide if the new, younger, dark-haired man in the TARDIS with them could really still be the Doctor....

Having landed on the planet Vulcan, the trio soon discovers a human colony with a murder mystery to be solved. What soon becomes even more worrying are the colony's robotic servants, reactivated survivors of a crashed alien ship who repeatedly chant, "I am your servant." Have these Daleks malfunctioned severely, or do they have some insidious long-term reason for their strange behaviour?

2-disc DVD Features include:

  • Six animated recreation episodes (#1 - 6), synchronized to the original television sound. (Disc 1: Colour; Disc 2: Black and White)
  • Audio options: original mono, or 5.1 surround
  • Alternate "telesnap" version - using over 400 telesnap photos by John Cura and the CD story soundtrack with narration by Anneke Wills.
  • Plus extra features:
    • Audio commentary for all 6 animated episodes (on both colour and black and white discs) by combinations of
      Anneke Wills (Polly), Nicholas Hawtrey (Quinn), Edward Kelsey (Resno),
      designer Derek Dodd, production assistant Michael Briant, costume designer Sandra Reid,
      the animation crew, and a few fan professionals. Moderated by Toby Hadoke.
    • making-of documentary for the original 1966 production (22 min.) with Wills, Dodd, Bernard Archard (Bragen),
      director Christopher Barry, composer Tristram Cary, and several fan viewers.
    • surviving footage & original trailer (8 min.)
    • animation & photo gallery music montage (15 min.)
    • archive audio track of the Dalek voice recording session (5 min.)
    • animation test footage (6 min.)
    • clean opening titles footage (1 min.)
    • DVD ROM .pdf files include:
      • Archive Production Note booklet by Andrew Pixley
      • 1966 Production documents
      • 1966 Camera scripts

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

A new Doctor's first story should always be able to re-introduce the entire Doctor Who series to new viewers, even more so than season openers or classic single stories. Unfortunately, they usually have the added disadvantage of an incoherent Doctor, who must struggle to overcome the effects of his recent regeneration, and this generally does not help.

"The Power of the Daleks" had the greatest burden in selling the concept of regeneration, as no viewer had any knowledge of it yet. To this end, the final scenes of "The Tenth Planet" (the previous story) ought to be repeated in their entirety, beginning with a bit that easily demonstrated the essentials of the TARDIS. Thankfully, the new animated version you can buy on DVD makes a good attempt at some of this, but all was not so smooth on the original episodes. There, all we got was some weird "re-shoot" of the regeneration effect, which probably did not involve William Hartnell, and if the telesnaps at the end of Jeremy Bentham's "Doctor Who: The Early Years" are any indication, the "up-the-nose" camera angle is less than ideal. There is far too much empty silence in the opening scenes of this story, and the lack of straight answers from the new Doctor is poorly motivated, not helping his situation or his companions, and doing little to sell regeneration, or the series as a whole, to the audience either. Time enough to drop in Hartnell's last scene, and a proper materialization for the TARDIS on Vulcan - these are crucially important missing elements.

Patrick Troughton soon takes command of the episode, the story, and the series as Hartnell has never been able to before. Not that I think his portrayal of the Doctor is better, mind you, but suddenly the writers are less afraid to do the Doctor justice. Perhaps they feel more comfortable scripting heroics for a younger actor? Curiosity captures the Doctor, in and out of the TARDIS, and before you know it, he's got himself involved with the affairs of the human colony on the planet Vulcan. Spearheaded by David Whitaker's example here, the scripts will now cater to the Doctor's last minute heroic finishes as well, with near clock-work regularity.

Mistaken identity is the order of the day in these first episodes. Ben and Polly argue over whether the Patrick-Troughton-figure before them really is the Doctor, and his needlessly enigmatic answers fuel Ben's harsh disbelief. If that isn't enough, an official "Examiner" from Earth has been secretly murdered by an unknown villain, and upon discovering the body and credentials, the Doctor proceeds to impersonate him. Why? Who only knows. I guess it seemed like a fun thing to do at the time. The Doctor could have maintained much higher integrity throughout the adventure had he gone in being himself, but maybe he's not really sure himself Who he is at the moment.

Early scenes in Lesterson's laboratory are among the best in the story, where detailed, methodical explorations of both Dalek technology and character are detailed, and we get some insights that we've never had previously. Lesterson and many of his fellow colonists fail to sustain charisma and audience sympathy as things progress though, until it becomes easier to cheer for the Daleks. This is a dangerous trap for the writers and production team, I think.

The music is perfect, of course. Why else would Tristram Cary's Dalek Stock be getting its fifth airing? It is tremendously effective at setting up a creepy atmosphere, and it is by now associated with the Daleks as well. Good stuff.

Background Music in "The Power of the Daleks"
is primarily re-used material from
"The Daleks" (story no. 2) and
"The Dalek Masterplan" (story no. 21)
by Tristram Cary which has been
made available on:
Audio CD
Doctor Who - Devils' Planets:
The Music of Tristram Cary

More info & buying options

The Saward Touch

Writing Tom Baker's narration for the audio cassette version of this story is early 1980's script editor Eric Saward, who does not fail to leave his stylish mark on the story. In his version, there seems to be much emphasis on pain, callous lack of caring, and violent carnage. This time around, Whitaker's story seems to be typical of the type Saward liked to write himself - full of unlikeable, unsympathetic pathetic characters who you can't wait to see exterminated just to be done and rid of them. Not my cup of tea, but Saward's passive-aggressive touch seems to be well-matched for this particular original story.

There's Something About Janley...

The Vulcan colonist guest characters themselves are not much more than a bland bunch of morons. There's an easy comparison here with the film "There's Something About Mary", only the version we get in "The Power of the Daleks" is easily far less entertaining and more cheesy. Enough said here.

However, as we graduate from audio-only versions of this story to look at animated and telesnap versions, several of the colonist guest-characters begin to pop out much better. In particular, Bernard Archard, who had also played Marcus Scarman in "Pyramids of Mars" (story no. 82), suddenly seems much better at owning the role of Bragen in this story. Also, Peter Bathurst, who had also played the humorous bureaucrat Mr. Chinn in "The Claws of Axos" (story no. 57) is far easier to recognize and enjoy as he tackles the role of the colony's Governor Hensell here in this story. Indeed, simply being able to see who says what turns out to make everything far more clear and enjoyable, though sadly, these characters still aren't truly great ones.

The animated version on DVD presents a strange mixed bag of quality. A lot of obvious effort and passion went into the Daleks for sure - rendered quite smartly in 3D and on top of that visually directed to squeeze out a maximum of fear, tension, and apprehension, which is only enhanced by all the music and atmospherics getting laid down a-fresh from the Radiophonic archives by Mark Ayres into a 5.1 surround sound audio mix. Great. But it is then a bit sad that the animation of the humanoid characters lags so far behind. In terms of facial expressions, they're all fine and done well. But there are a lot of really odd movements for these characters in this story. Sometimes the animators just don't seem to know how to fill time during all those "empty" moments in the soundtrack, and put excessive (and distracting) random movements on the characters. But it seems everyone's lower body was done on the cheap, with a single pair of hinged static legs, instead of a fully drawn set of walk-cycle frames. Episode one suffers the most, because there's hardly any Dalek in it, and a LOT of empty air on the soundtrack.

You know, it's a bizarre thing that with most continuing animated series, whether it's Scooby Doo, or Inspector Gadget, or Futurama, or The Simpsons, there exists a sort of bible template for the way in which each character should be drawn, so that they consistently look the same from one episode to the next. But as we now get animated versions of all these lost Doctor Who stories coming from so many varied animation companies, we end up with a set of "regular" characters that look wildly different from one story to the next. It requires that we continually update the ideas in our heads about what each character should look like, in animated form. Do we get so attached to any one version that it prejudices us against whatever the next company might do? Hmmm. The animators do a fair job with Patrick Troughton in this adventure, given that it's his first story and he hasn't quite found many of his most iconic traits yet. But to me, Ben's face just isn't round enough here - he looks a bit too long and gaunt. They did manage to capture Bernard Archard's likeness close enough though, which I really did appreciate.

Additionally, one may wonder how it was possible to squeeze the black and white 6 half hour animated episodes and the 6 half hour telesnap episodes all onto disc 2 of the DVD set, along with all the other bonus featurettes. Well, it seems the telesnap episodes are very, very highly compressed - to the degree that any full motion would not work very well. It's okay for any still image, but even the odd fade in from black or out to black breaks up into distracting mosaic patterns. As such, you won't find properly moving title graphics here, or any of the full motion clips properly incorporated. But the telesnaps remain a nice way of watching the story which reveals what the original acting would have looked like.

There is much more to say about honesty's role in making a good plot, but I'd best save that for the in-depth analysis version of this review to avoid too many spoilers here. There are quite a number of disappointments as the story goes on, however, the Doctor does get his due, and the story finishes fairly well.

In the end, Patrick Troughton does alright in this adventure. However, this time around, it seems that a little more honesty, proactivity, and responsibility to making intelligent arguments could have made for a better drama.

"The Power of the Daleks" is not known to exist in its original format (6 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes) in its entirety.

An entirely animated version, synchronized to the original audio from the TV episodes,
and a telesnap photo version, synchronized to the original audio with narration by Anneke Wills, are now available on DVD:

Region 1 U.S.

NEW for
2017 Jan. 31
Region 1 Canada

NEW for
2017 Jan. 31
Region 2 U.K.

NEW for
2016 Nov. 21
Alternate Artwork

Doctor Who: Lost in Time - Patrick Troughton
2 DVD discs

(also included in Lost in Time Boxed Sets)

Coverage on The Power of the Daleks includes:
  • Trailer for episode 1 (1 min.)
  • 8mm off-screen clips from episodes 1 & 2 (2 min.)
  • Dalek clips from episodes 4-6 (2 min.)
More details & buying options for "Lost in Time" DVD's
Audio CD - Doctor Who - The Power of the Daleks.

This audio CD set features the complete audio tracks of all 6 television episodes of this story, narrated by actress Anneke Wills (who also played Polly) to help listeners follow what used to be visual aspects of the story. This version is playable in any normal audio CD player.
Audio Cassette - The Power of the Daleks (2 tapes). This earlier release of the audio from the television episodes features actor Tom Baker (the 4th Doctor) reading narration produced by early 1980's script editor Eric Saward.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Highlanders"

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