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Read Blogtor's review of the latest event, featuring Tom Baker and The Robots of Death, HERE.
Thanks to the BFI.
Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 142: The Power of the Daleks, Episode One
I've always found that the events immediately following a regeneration are the bits of that event I enjoy the most. I mean, sure, it's fun enough watching the Doctor take his final few steps and head toward the end, but then you get to start fresh and new! It's exciting! At the end of yesterday's entry, with William Hartnell laying on the floor of the TARDIS, as the picture grew brighter and brighter, I was really, truly, sad to watch him go. Ten minutes into this episode, and Hartnell is old news.
I was worried that it would take me a while to get used to having Troughton around. I've always ranked him as my favourite of the 'classic' Doctors, but having spent so long with only William Hartnell in the role (and Matt Smith, when I watch the new episodes, but really it's so far removed from what Doctor Who is doing in the 1960s that it may as well be a whole different programme), I feared that accepting another Doctor would be a problem. A few days ago, I saw a trailer for Seventh Doctor story Battlefield, and it just looked wrong. That wasn't Doctor Who. For a start, where was the Doctor? My Doctor? The original?
Troughton really does hit the ground running here, doesn't he? With the benefit of watching it 40-something years on, I know that he's one of the best, and that he'll do three seasons and a number of return appearances. I know how good he can be… but there doesn't even seem to be a period of settling in. From the second he sits up in the TARDIS, he simply is the Doctor. Everything he says, everything he does, he's the Doctor. And that's fantastic! Especially in light of the fact that they really aren't trying to reassure you with any of this, are they?
I said yesterday how surprised I was that they were playing the changeover in the Doctors as something to be frightened of, and making it as un-cosy for the kids watching at home as they possibly could. This is carried on completely here into this story, with the Doctor acting more than simply odd… he's really bloody sinister! There's a moment when he mutters out loud to himself 'It's over! It's over!' and he gives a little laugh. That laugh is one of the creepiest things we've ever heard in the programme! It's also a nice counterpoint to Hartnell's line in yesterday's episode ('It's far from being all over!'), which helps to tie it all together a bit.
We get the shot of the Doctor holding the mirror, and the appearance of the First Doctor's face showing up (which thankfully exists among the tele snaps for this episode), but aside from that we're really given very few things to latch onto. This strange little man continues to refer to 'the Doctor' in the third person - even after Ben snaps at him about it - and simply refuses to answer questions, choosing to play on his recorder instead. There's a lengthy scene set inside some guest quarters on the base, in which the Doctor responds to his companions by blowing a few times into the instrument, and it's brilliant. He's very funny, while still remaining very creepy.
I'm also pleased to see that Ben and Polly's characters are still being drawn so clearly as we move into the Second Doctor's era. Polly is far quicker to accept that they're faced with the same man, whereas Ben is still sceptical at the end of the instalment. I'm hoping that it gradually dies away as the story goes on, rather than just disappearing now that we're out of the 'first' new Doctor episode. It's nice to hear the Doctor disregarding Ben, too, as though it's not worth interacting with him until he'll accept that it's still the Doctor in there, somewhere.
The whole episode has been a brilliantly enjoyable experience, and I'm so pleased that I've moved so seamlessly into this new phase of the programme. I was dreading the thought of just not taking to a new Doctor, so it's lovely to find that it's not the case. It helps that the episode itself is a very good one, too. There's a risk that all the stuff outside in the mercury swamp could become a bit tedious, as the new Doctor unwittingly dodges obstacles, but it all feels fresh and different. You just can't imagine Hartnell doing that scene. It's strange that it should feel so far removed from the programme I've been watching since January, but introducing Troughton really does make a difference. It probably helps that I'm listening to this on audio, and while I've the tele snaps of the swamp to guide me, I can imagine it as I like. It's orange in my head, since you ask. Always has been, since the very first time I saw that image of the Doctor walking along, reading from his diary.
And then there's the final scene, as the Doctor and his companions make their way inside the capsule and come face-to-face with the Daleks. It's helped by Anneke Wills' narration on the soundtrack, as she described Polly and Ben deftly sneaking along behind the Doctor, who doesn't even turn round as he utters the first line to be spoken in minutes - 'Polly… Ben… Come in and meet the Daleks…'
The tele snaps for this sequence makes it look gorgeous, too, with the cobwebs hung between the dead (?!) Daleks and the real sense of gloom that fills the scene. There's a great shot of Troughton close up as he inspects one, and it simply looks beautiful. Then we've got the realisetion that we're missing one of the creatures, and a real look at a Dalek mutant for the first time. I think, if I'm being totally honest, this might be the best Dalek-related cliffhanger since the lone creature rising from the waters of the Thames a full two seasons ago.
A great start - even better than I could have ever hoped for!