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

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

You guys sure like watermelon.

The Irishman aka I Heard You Paint Houses (2019)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps, if Martin Scorsese hadn’t been so opposed to the idea of Marvel movies constituting cinema, The Irishman would have been a better film. It’s a decent film, assuredly. A respectable film, definitely. But it’s very far from being classic. And a significant part of that is down to the usually assured director fumbling the execution. Or rather, the realisation. I don’t know what kind of crazy pills the ranks of revered critics have been taking so as to recite as one the mantra that you quickly get used to the de-aging effects so intrinsic to its telling – as Empire magazine put it, “you soon… fuggadaboutit” – but you don’t. There was no point during The Irishman that I was other than entirely, regrettably conscious that a 75-year-old man was playing the title character. Except when he was playing a 75-year-old man.

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

The guy practically lives in a Clue board.

Knives Out (2019)
(SPOILERS) “If Agatha Christie were writing today, she’d have a character who’s an Internet troll.” There’s a slew of ifs and buts in that assertion, but it tells you a lot about where Rian Johnson is coming from with Knives Out. As in, Christie might – I mean, who can really say? – but it’s fair to suggest she wouldn’t be angling her material the way Johnson does, who for all his pronouncement that “This isn’t a message movie” is very clearly making one. He probably warrants a hesitant pass on that statement, though, to the extent that Knives Out’s commentary doesn’t ultimately overpower the whodunnit side of the plot. On the other hand, when Daniel Craig’s eccentrically accented sleuth Benoit Blanc is asked “You’re not much of a detective, are you?” the only fair response is vigorous agreement.

You're skipping Christmas! Isn't that against the law?

Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
Ex-coke dealer Tim Allen’s underwhelming box office career is, like Vince Vaughn’s, regularly in need of a boost from an indiscriminate public willing to see any old turkey posing as a prize Christmas comedy.  He made three Santa Clauses, and here is joined by Jamie Lee Curtis as a couple planning to forgo the usual neighbourhood festivities for a cruise.

Do forgive me for butting in, but I have a bet with my daughter that you are Hercules Porridge, the famous French sleuth.

Death on the Nile (1978)
(SPOILERS) Peak movie Poirot, as the peerless Peter Ustinov takes over duties from Albert Finney, who variously was unavailable for Death on the Nile, didn’t want to repeat himself or didn’t fancy suffering through all that make up in the desert heat. Ustinov, like Rutherford, is never the professional Christie fan’s favourite incarnation, but he’s surely the most approachable and engaging. Because, well, he’s Peter Ustinov. And if some of his later appearances were of the budget-conscious, TV movie variety (or of the Michael Winner variety), here we get to luxuriate in a sumptuously cast, glossy extravaganza.

I am constantly surprised that women’s hats do not provoke more murders.

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
(SPOILERS) Was Joe Eszterhas a big fan of Witness for the Prosecution? He was surely a big fan of any courtroom drama turning on a “Did the accused actually do it?” only for it to turn out they did, since he repeatedly used it as a template. Interviewed about his Agatha Christie adaptation (of the 1925 play), writer-director Billy Wilder said of the author that “She constructs like an angel, but her language is flat; no dialogue, no people”. It’s not an uncommon charge, one her devotees may take issue with, that her characters are mere pieces to be moved around a chess board, rather than offering any emotional or empathetic interest to the viewer. It’s curious then that, while Wilder is able to remedy the people and dialogue, doing so rather draws attention to a plot that, on this occasion, turns on a rather too daft ruse.

I’m the famous comedian, Arnold Braunschweiger.

Last Action Hero (1993)
(SPOILERS) Make no mistake, Last Action Hero is a mess. But even as a mess, it might be more interesting than any other movie Arnie made during that decade, perhaps even in his entire career. Hellzapoppin’ (after the 1941 picture, itself based on a Broadway revue) has virtually become an adjective to describe films that comment upon their own artifice, break the fourth wall, and generally disrespect the convention of suspending disbelief in the fictions we see parading across the screen. It was fairly audacious, some would say foolish, of Arnie to attempt something of that nature at this point in his career, which was at its peak, rather than playing it safe. That he stumbled profoundly, emphatically so since he went up against the behemoth that is Jurassic Park (slotted in after the fact to open first), should not blind one to the considerable merits of his ultimate, and final, really, attempt to experiment with the limits of his screen persona.

Of course, one m…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

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.