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. Having Waterfield explain every minute detail of how Perry should meet the Doctor, followed by him doing exactly that, is a bit of a waste. A good rule of thumb that one can learn from the pattern of "Scooby-Doo" cartoon plots is: only show the discussion of the plan IF something unexpected will happen. If everything will go according to plan, leave out the discussion and let the audience be surprised. 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 hearing the plans instead of the act itself 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, particularly as many of Jamie's best "Human Factor" moments - featuring qualities that the Daleks are least likely to prize - are not monitored by the Doctor, who goofs off to go have an excellent scene with Terrall - I just don't like the timing of the scene's placement in the story. Other niggling things include the obscure relationships between various rooms in the house, and where the characters can or should be at any moment. Is the cabinet the entrance to a time-corridor that leads directly to Skaro as soon as you enter, or is there a transcendental-dimension engineered Dalek control room inside? Would this be the room where the Doctor monitors Jamie's progress in episode four? Where exactly do Waterfield and Maxtible go, if they neither follow the Doctor to this room, nor wait in the workroom, so that Toby can find the workroom empty and get exterminated there? If the Doctor and Jamie meet Alpha, Beta, and Omega in the workroom, how can we cut to the workroom after this scene to show Waterfield and Maxtible in the middle of an argument?
On that note, I must say that episode six is quite disappointing, in that between the exploration of Human-Factor-Daleks' character at the beginning, and the historic meeting of the Doctor and the Dalek Emperor at the end, there is a great opportunity to create need-vs-barrier conflict while moving our characters from Canterbury 1866 to Skaro, in the wonderful time-space mediums that Doctor Who can do so well, and yet we are delivered some of the silliest nonsense imaginable. The Doctor is apparently still a vital, crucial element of the Daleks' plans, they want him on Skaro in one piece, yet they set up a bomb to destroy the house BEFORE taking him into custody, and then lock him out of the time cabinet. Just what exactly are they thinking? The final, run-on scene in the workroom is just WAY, WAY too long, having Maxtible and Waterfield running around in circles and shouting silliness, while the Doctor and Jamie are out of sight with nothing to do. The plot is equally lame on Skaro, with its arm-twist screaming and bawling, and other nonsense. If the Daleks can send a fake Omega to greet the Doctor's party, surely sending an armed squad to escort them makes much more sense! Trimming and re-structuring are in order here.
Victoria does not get a great character treatment in this story, as she plays the damsel in distress throughout and has virtually no impact on the plot through her own volition. This is probably the most stereotypical Whitaker archetype. Her scenes in episodes 2, 3, 4, and 6 seem to exist only to remind Jamie and the viewers of her captivity. A "Samantha Briggs" type character, 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. I mean, it's bad enough that the Emperor Dalek doesn't have the same freedom of movement as any normal Dalek, like the ability to roam through time and space, or more basically, just to cross the room, but he seems to have trapped himself in one of the tiniest, most uninspiring corners of the Skaro Capitol, where they can't afford to build proper walls, and visitors are forced to enter and exit through corridors that run directly behind him, where he is exposed. Seriously pathetic, in my opinion. 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 by episode six it has decayed into something much more hammy, although still mostly reasonable and watchable. The final moments of episode seven contain the worst Maxtible moment of all, as he and a Dalek begin chanting, "kill" like a pair of idiots well beyond Goring's running out of breath.
Even with idiocy such as that, the importance of pyrotechnic endings is cemented into the fabric of Doctor Who formulae here in this story, as a mayhem of explosive action ensues involving heavy use of model work and 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
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