Skip to main content

All we can do is marvel at the creatures who are now taking our place.


Doctor Who
The Power of the Daleks: Episode Six


Like the final episode of The Smugglers, the absence of the last part of Power from the archives is felt more strongly due to being so action-orientated. It’s a bit of a slaughter, actually, with only two supporting characters surviving the carnage. There are a couple of points where I scratched my head over plot developments, the first of which involved the rebellion.


Early on, Janley appears before Bragen, a gun slung over her shoulder (a bit proto-Patty Hearst) and announces that the rebels are victorious.

Janley: We’ve won. The revolution is over.

But what exactly did this off-screen take-over entail? Bragen has already taken charge of the colony, so what more needs to be done? Taking out a few supervisors? Bragen’s personal guard remains unaffected, and they’re the ones in the previous episode who won’t take orders from Hensell.

Bragen: The revolution is not quite over yet. You mentioned Kebell, Valmar and that rabble. Well, now they must be dealt with. They rebelled against Hensell yesterday. Tomorrow it will be my turn. Well let them rebel. Tell them the guards have taken 
control. Let them attack and then we can crush them utterly.

It’s Bragen’s utterly ruthless pragmatism that holds together a rather underdeveloped plot thread. In a particularly nasty touch, he reveals that he was ready to gun down Janley there and then if she didn’t agree to his plans for the rebels. Good as Archard is, Christopher Barry can never quite sell the idea that this is a large colony that takes its Governor days to tour. The script is mindful enough to reference the off-screen masses though, as in Bragen’s announcement.

Bragen: People of Vulcan, this is your new Governor talking to you. I have to announce that Governor Hensell has been murdered by the rebels. I have taken control temporarily until order is restored. People on the perimeter and the interior should stay calm. We know who the murderers are. I shall keep you informed of events as soon as I am able.


What works very well is Bragen’s gradual realisation, but refusal to accept, his loss of control. First comes the news that the Daleks are aiding the rebels (of which more in a moment) and then the complete lack of response to his orders (“I’m their Governor. Why don’t they answer?” – it seems there’s a montage of the devastated colony at this point, as there’s only silence accompanied by funereal music for a spell). Right until the last he continues in his attempt to hold sway.

Bragen: Daleks, listen to me. I’m the Governor. You must work with me. Do not trust the rebels. I will give you whatever you want. But, immobilise your guns. This is the Governor speaking.

With the Daleks destroyed, he corners Quinn.

Bragen: Now I shall restore law and order to this planet.

Except that Valmar shoots him.


The Daleks appear to reconsider their strategy in this episode for no good reason. At the end of Episode Five they’re swarming around screeching that they will “Exterminate. Annihilate. Destroy. Daleks conquer and destroy” but now they offer their aid to the rebels in dealing with Bragen (Valmar overheard Bragen’s instruction to Janley).

Dalek: We will fight for you. You will lead us to the middle of your party of human beings. We are your friends. We will serve you.

It may be that they consider it more economical to mop up the rebels in one place, but they hardly represent a realistic threat now that the Daleks are on the rampage. It doesn’t make much sense either that a scene or two earlier we hear “Orders received. Daleks to commence extermination”. Wouldn’t the rebels have picked up that this was going on?

There’s a sense that the whole “Power” of the Daleks premise, in respect of their becoming autonomous, would not have been conceived much beyond the ‘60s. We’re now used to Daleks being self-powering, pretty much, but in Episode Six they still haven’t quite sorted out their system.

Dalek: Static circuit is nearly complete. Soon we can abandon the power we are using.

There’s another reference here to “the law of the Daleks” which is now “in force”. Of the supporting cast, they exterminate Kebell, Janley and, with something approaching irony, Lesterson.


Lesterson resurfaces when the Doctor returns to the lab. His transition to madness is now complete, and it’s an extraordinary performance from James, helped considerably by wonderful dialogue.

Lesterson: You must be absolutely quiet. They know everything that’s going on. They even know what you’re thinking.

He comments that one has to admire them, that they are marvellous creatures (which echoes the respect the Doctor has for their capabilities in earlier episodes) and that there is nothing that can be done.

Lesterson: They’re the new species, you see. Taking over from homo sapiens. Man’s had his day. Finished now... All we can do is marvel at the creatures who are now taking our place.


When he’s later accused by aggy Ben of being responsible for all this, he is utterly unruffled, disassociatively acknowledging the point (“Well, I could control it, you see”) and suggesting that the Doctor find out from the Daleks where their power supply is located (“Yes, you should ask the Daleks”). Then, in a stroke of chilling brilliance, he pledges allegiance to the new masters.

Lesterson: I want to help you.
Dalek: Why?
Lesterson: I am your ser-vant.

His mimicking of the Dalek intonation is even more chilling than the Daleks themselves coming out with the line in the second episode. And, as mentioned, his comes across as a somewhat grizzly joke on the Daleks’ part.

Dalek: We do not need humans now.
Lesterson: But you wouldn’t kill me. I gave you life.
Dalek: Yes. You gave us life (exterminates Lesterson)


The Doctor and the companions are characterised either intriguingly or generically. In the case of the latter, Polly is ill-served. Gone is the conviction towards doing the right thing she displayed in the final episode of The Smugglers. It’s replaced by screamer companion terror, needing Ben to protect her, and the attitude Ben previously held (asking to go back to the TARDIS).  That said, she is more mindful than Ben of all that the colonists have been through (“Think of all those poor people. All killed”) when the latter begrudges them a lack of gratitude.

The Doctor adopts a “needs of the many” morality (consistent with his prioritising the Daleks over Quinn’s incarceration earlier) and doesn’t agonise over sending Bragen’s guards to their deaths (as a distraction while he can get on with sabotaging the Daleks’ power supply). It’s surprising, as the show doesn’t often force the Doctor into a position where he is required to make such a decision. He’s usually allowed a get-out, either through someone else volunteering or events overtaking him. Even Bragen considers it to be too much (“I will not allow my guards to be sacrificed”).

And one might suggest that the method adopted to defeat the Daleks is borne out of vanity. Asked by Valmar why he doesn’t just cut the power, he replies “Because I prefer to do it my way”. His way leaves the colony even more crippled than it would otherwise be.

Valmar: You may have stopped the Daleks. But do you have any idea of the damage you’ve done to the colony?... Did it have to be this way?

A reasonable question. But this is a new Doctor, with a streak of anarchy. He’s not remotely contrite about what he has done.

The Doctor: I think we’d better get out of here, before they send us the bill.


There’s an interesting tug between a neat wrap up and a more open sense of “What happens next?” Quinn and Valmar burying the hatchet seems a bit too sudden (“We shall rebuild together”). But the weird final shot, where a crumpled Dalek’s eyestalk rises to observe the dematerialising TARDIS, appears to reject Ben’s assertion that it is “Just a heap of old iron now”. Perhaps because the “final end” is a few stories away.


Overall:


If it weren’t for the slightly threadbare rebels plotline, this would get full marks. Troughton makes a mighty debut, swinging from zaniness to etching out a moral code distinct from that of his predecessor. The Daleks make their most cunning and developed appearance, before or since, while Robert James’ performance as Lesterson is an unsung great supporting turn. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.

Sorry I’m late. I was taking a crap.

The Sting (1973)
(SPOILERS) In any given list of the best things – not just movies – ever, Mark Kermode would include The Exorcist, so it wasn’t a surprise when William Friedkin’s film made an appearance in his Nine films that should have won Best Picture at the Oscars list last month. Of the nominees that year, I suspect he’s correct in his assessment (I don’t think I’ve seen A Touch of Class, so it would be unfair of me to dismiss it outright; if we’re simply talking best film of that year, though, The Exorcist isn’t even 1973’s best horror, that would be Don’t Look Now). He’s certainly not wrong that The Exorcistremains a superior work” to The Sting; the latter’s one of those films, like The Return of the King and The Departed, where the Academy rewarded the cast and crew too late. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the masterpiece from George Roy Hill, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, not this flaccid trifle.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

You had to grab every single dollar you could get your hands on, didn't you?

Triple Frontier (2019)
(SPOILERS) Triple Frontier must have seemed like a no-brainer for Netflix, even by their standards of indiscriminately greenlighting projects whenever anyone who can’t get a job at a proper studio asks. It had, after all, been a hot property – nearly a decade ago now – with Kathryn Bigelow attached as director (she retains a producing credit) and subsequently JC Chandor, who has seen it through to completion. Netflix may not have attracted quite the same level of prospective stars – Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum were all involved at various points – but as ever, they haven’t stinted on the production. To what end, though? Well, Bigelow’s involvement is a reliable indicator; this is a movie about very male men doing very masculine things and suffering stoically for it.

Our "Bullshit!" team has unearthed spectacular new evidence, which suggests, that Jack the Ripper was, in fact, the Loch Ness Monster.

Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)
Cheeseburger Film Sandwich. Apparently, that’s what the French call Amazon Women on the Moon. Except that it probably sounds a little more elegant, since they’d be saying it in French (I hope so, anyway). Given the title, it should be no surprise that it is regarded as a sequel to Kentucky Fried Movie. Which, in some respects, it is. John Landis originally planned to direct the whole of Amazon Women himself, but brought in other directors due to scheduling issues. The finished film is as much of a mess as Kentucky Fried Movie, arrayed with more miss sketches than hit ones, although it’s decidedly less crude and haphazard than the earlier picture. Some have attempted to reclaim Amazon Women as a dazzling satire on TV’s takeover of our lives, but that’s stretching it. There is a fair bit of satire in there, but the filmmakers were just trying to be funny; there’s no polemic or express commentary. But even on such moderate terms, it only sporadically fulfils…

Everything has its price, Avon.

Blake's 7 4.1: Rescue

Season Four, the season they didn’t expect to make. Which means there’s a certain amount of getting up to speed required in order for “status quo” stories to be told. If they choose to go that route. There’s no Liberator anymore as a starting point for stories; a situation the show hasn’t found itself in since Space Fall. So where do they go from here? Behind the scenes there’s no David Maloney either. Nor Terry Nation (I’d say that by this point that’s slightly less of an issue, but his three scripts for Season Three were among his best).

What lit the fire that set off our Mr Reaper?

Death Wish (2018)
(SPOILERS) I haven’t seen the original Death Wish, the odd clip aside, and I don’t especially plan to remedy that, owing to an aversion to Charles Bronson when he isn’t in Once Upon a Time in the West and an aversion to Michael Winner when he wasn’t making ‘60s comedies or Peter Ustinov Hercule Poirots. I also have an aversion to Eli Roth, though (this is the first of his oeuvre I’ve seen, again the odd clip aside, as I have a general distaste for his oeuvre), and mildly to Bruce when he’s on autopilot (most of the last twenty years), so really, I probably shouldn’t have checked this one out. It was duly slated as a fascistic, right-wing rallying cry, even though the same slaters consider such behaviour mostly okay if the protagonist is super-powered and wearing a mask when taking justice into his (or her) own hands, but the truth is this remake is a quite serviceable, occasionally amusing little revenger, one that even has sufficient courage in its skewed convictions …

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).