David Whitaker is very good with character, as usual, however there does seem to be a bit too much dialogue at many times, making the same points over and over again in a rather haphazard order, slowing the story down a bit too much in some places. Unfortunately, because the makers of the BBC Audio cassette tape release couldn't get copyright clearance for background music in the scenes in the Tricolour Bar, we have to make do with getting the less effective scenes covering some of those points in their version. This is a great pity, as some choice comedic dialogue defining Pat's Doctor was left out, although Pat's delivery on these lines was not altogether great and can be easily missed. Frazer Hines is much more on form for these scenes. BBC Audio also seems to agree with me that the dialogue in other scenes worked better with some re-arrangement and trimming in their cassette version.
Although the plot is generally satisfying, it does appear to have a few holes in its logic, some of which may have been brought on by holiday scheduling for some of the main cast. Other niggling things include the obscure relationships between various rooms in the house, and where the characters can or should be at any moment.
On that note, I must say that the bulk of episode six is quite disappointing, in that between excellent, important opening and closing scenes, there is a great opportunity to create trademark Who-ish conflicts and action, and yet we are delivered some of the silliest nonsense imaginable. Trimming and re-structuring are in order here, at the very least. To avoid any spoilers here, I'll save my numerous specific questions and examples for the in-depth analysis version of this review.
Victoria does not get a great character treatment in this story, as she plays the damsel in distress most often and has virtually no impact on the plot through her own volition. This is probably the most stereotypical Whitaker archetype. Many of her scenes seem to exist only to remind Jamie and the viewers of her captivity. A "Samantha Briggs" type character (see the previous story), capable of giving the Daleks the sharp end of her tongue and perhaps vainly attempting to escape with some small degrees of success would make much more worthwhile scenes. Personally, I think Whitaker was behind the times in giving female characters their due - his tendencies belong to the pre-1920's and earlier, if indeed they ever really applied. Mollie and Ruth fair much, much better in the middle episodes, but while Victoria does not yet work as a character in her own right, her situation works extremely well in giving the male characters much dramatic substance to deal with, which is Whitaker's real purpose.
Indeed, although Jamie already came to the forefront as lead sidekick in the previous story, this is the story in which he truly develops and takes serious command of his adventures with the Doctor. The story features very dramatic, in-depth examinations of his relationship with the Doctor, particularly where their values do not appear to agree, which you will not find in any other Pat Troughton/Frazer Hines story. A find of pure gold (if only Maxtible was keen enough to notice it)!
Derek Martinus has largely found his feet as a director by this point, and does well with the dramatically driven story. There seem to be more close-ups than usual for a Doctor Who story, which in this case is quite effective in drawing the viewer into the character's minds and thoughts and motivations. Visual effects are simple, but work well, although sorely lacking is a sound effect for the Dalek methods of time-travel.
It's hard to believe that this story was scored by the same Dudley Simpson who did "The Macra Terror" (story no. 34), a story whose chances of building atmosphere were severely sabotaged by the music. Simpson greatly redeems himself here, lifting his calibre up to the level of his Tom Baker stories for the most part, and going beyond even that in his creation of a new theme for the Daleks which is somehow appropriately familiar, as well as a beautiful theme for Victoria. While I consider the scenes of her being moved in episode three to be an utter waste of plot-time, these scenes at least allow Victoria's theme to get a full airing with minimal interruptions from her and the Dalek.
Gaining familiarity with this story mainly through its soundtrack, and letting my imagination go while listening, I must say that I find the new sets and props for the planet Skaro to be extremely disappointing every time I come across a photo, or recreation. No nostalgia for me there. Something closer to what appeared in the Peter Cushing movies would have satisfied better. On the plus side, the Emperor Dalek gets one of the best voice performances from Roy Skelton and the techs who apply the effects to him.
For episode seven's conclusion to be believable, you have to assume that the Daleks are much poorer judges of human character and deviousness than the average viewer - not too hard considering the complexities they went to just to study Jamie. Perhaps the Doctor, taking into account all of Jamie's recent grievances, was careful to make his deceptions only convincing enough to fool the Daleks, but not enough to fool human viewers. Still, it's quite tempting to wonder why the Daleks are so easily fooled in this one, as a disappointed Terry Nation must have done.
Marius Goring's performance as Maxtible begins as a tour-de-force of eccentricity in episode two, but as we get into the later portions of the story, it has decayed into something much more hammy, although still mostly reasonable and watchable. Maxtible's final moments in the adventure are some of his worst and most idiotic.
All minor flaws asides, the importance of a certain style of ending is cemented into the fabric of Doctor Who formulae here in this story, delivering satisfying dramatic resolution to all the major characters, humanoid or Dalek, defining a blue-print for many future stories to come.
Rankings for Patrick Troughton's Season Four Stories
Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page: