Skip to main content

I’d rather fight a hundred of his sort than just one Dalek.


Doctor Who 
The Power of the Daleks: Episode Three


The third episode is essentially the battle of wits between the Doctor and the Daleks, the former attempting to out them or do for them at every opportunity while they gain ground by taking the path of least resistance.

The Doctor first tries to gain the upper hand through logic. If they are their servants, they will respond to any command.

The Doctor: Very well, immobilise yourself.

Which the Dalek apparently does, with a drooping eyestalk. Later, he attempts to dupe Lesterson (“I’d like to be friends”) in order to deactivate the Dalek. And it looks like he will succeed until he’s forced from the room.


Then he takes the opportunity to enter Lesterson’s lab but beats a retreat when faced with two armed Daleks.

The Doctor (to Ben): When I say run, run like a rabbit.

The Doctor of this story uses deductive reasoning sharply, concluding that whatever he does (destroy the Daleks and incur the reprisals of the colony or allow the Daleks to take over) the outlook is bleak.


The fall-out from this obsessive attention towards his nemeses is that Polly’s plight is ignored. Ben is worried about her and wants to find her, and he’s right to. But the Doctor dismisses his concerns, telling him that she is just exploring; “She is interested. I like that”. 

And, aside from some more tootling on his recorder, he’s dropped most of the more comedic flourishes of the first couple of episodes, establishing clear priorities. This is most clear in his comment on Quinn’s plight.

The Doctor: A little injustice is better than wholesale slaughter.

It’s an example of tidy plotting that Polly, whom he ignored, should be the leverage for stopping his action against the Daleks later; the message relayed to him being that she will be safe as long as he leaves the Daleks alone.


Meanwhile, the Dalek(s) run rings round Lesterson and generally prove highly adept at manipulating the colony under the pretext of servitude. When the Doctor leaves, the immobilised Dalek resumes its previous state.

Dalek: His order was wrong. I cannot serve human beings if I am immobilised. You gave me power. Your orders are right. I serve you.

Likewise, they tell Lesterson a load of porkies to get the materials they need for their production line, claiming they need them to manufacture a computer for meteorite detection. I like the near-trip up the Dalek makes when in conversation with Lesterson.

Dalek: A Dalek is bet-...  is not the same as a human.

So it’s a little disappointing that, after they play the trump card of revealing two more of their number at the climax sans weaponry, they revert nearly to type for demands of a cliffhanger. Surrounding Lesterson, they rant in unison “We will get our power”.


Throughout this, Robert James really sells Lesterson’s lack of discernment. Lesterson has his eye only on the horizon he thinks lies ahead, and from scene to scene he shows a complete lack of judgement. He smooths over Hensell’s concerns at the Dalek’s powers of reason.

Lesterson: Now there is no cause for concern, Governor. Wait until you see the amount of work it can do.

Which is just what a beleaguered governor wants to hear (later he comments “I have every confidence in Lesterson” and provides a permanent guard for the lab). And when told of the 100% accuracy of the Daleks’ meteorite detection he fixes on how it will be “an enormous saving for the colony” and no doubt bring enormous accolades for him too. Later, he exhibits the same failings with the Doctor.

Lesterson: You’ve done nothing but meddle and interfere since you landed on Vulcan.

Quite an accolade for the Doctor, but as soon as he offers friendship Lesterson buckles (“Very well. You may stay”). Notably, though, the Doctor makes a point of telling Ben that Lesterson is a first class scientist, and should not be underestimated.

The Quinn plotline is something of a damp squib after he reveals that he sent for the Examiner, because of the threat of the rebels. It provides Polly with slightly mundane motivation followed by kidnapping. Maybe she fancies Quinn? She pleads “Leave him alone” as he is marched off to confinement. Her kidnapping by Janley and Velmer feels a bit clumsy, though. Get a companion out of the way for an episode.  And the rebels’ short-sighted planning, not to mention the question of just what the oppression they are amounts to, involves using a Dalek gun (it “could win us the revolution”).


That said, the revelation that Janley is playing the rebels, working for Bragen, adds a layer of intrigue.

Bragen: I don’t want to take over a colony of rebels, do I Janley?

But it seems like a rather convoluted and risk method for attaining the governorship (he’s been promoted Deputy Governor just through a bit of clever arguing). Janley stirs them up, such that Hensell is undermined and loses his position. Then Bragen crushes them.

Bragen: The whole colony will be grateful and then I’ll be Governor.

Bragen has already shown his true colours in accusing Quinn of murdering the Examiner in order to blame it on the rebels and usurp the Governor. Which doesn’t take a lot of effort to come up with, as later Bragen (see above) reveals that this is essentially hisplan. It’s a consistent theme with the colonists, that personal goals blind them to the threat of the Daleks (because otherwise we the viewers wouldn’t buy into the scenario). Even the calculating Bragen doesn’t recognise what they are capable of, siding with Lesterson in order to keep the Doctor at bay (the real threat in his mind).


His scene opposite the Doctor lays his cards on the table, each calling each other’s bluff. He informs the Doctor that a body has been found in the swamp.

The Doctor: What is that to do with me?
Bragen: You’re the Examiner. Or maybe you’re not. Who are you?
The Doctor: There’s only one possible way that you could know I’m not the Examiner.

It appears that an impasse has been reached between them in respect of the consequences  of either telling the Governor their different truths.

Ben: He’d make a right Father Christmas, wouldn’t he.
The Doctor: I’d rather fight a hundred of his sort than just one Dalek.



Sustaining a scenario where the Daleks remain relatively impassive three episodes into the story is no mean feat, and Whitaker/Spooner largely succeed. Mainly because the battleground of the episode is an intellectual one between them and the Doctor, very much a rarity until Davros showed up to rant cerebrally. There can’t help be a bit of “I can’t believe they’re falling for it” because we know them so well, but for the most part the performances (Hensell, Lesterson) and the underlying motivations of the humans sell it. Most of the characters have ulterior motives and see the Daleks as only incidental or instrumental to their goals. The rebel plot remains lacklustre at this point; it can’t hope to be as compelling as the main thread, and it isn’t, with Polly’s kidnap coming across as filler material (and a holiday for Anneke). 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016) (SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

You know, I think you may have the delusion you’re still a police officer.

Heaven’s Prisoners (1996) (SPOILERS) At the time, it seemed Alec Baldwin was struggling desperately to find suitable star vehicles, and the public were having none of it. Such that, come 1997, he was playing second fiddle to Anthony Hopkins and Bruce Willis, and in no time at all had segued to the beefy supporting player we now know so well from numerous indistinguishable roles. That, and inane SNL appearances. But there was a window, post- being replaced by Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, when he still had sufficient cachet to secure a series of bids for bona fide leading man status. Heaven’s Prisoners is the final such and probably the most interesting, even if it’s somewhat hobbled by having too much, rather than too little, story.

Oh, I love funny exiting lines.

Alfred Hitchcock  Ranked: 26-1 The master's top tier ranked from worst to best. You can find 52-27 here .

Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody loves a tax inspector. They’re beyond the pale!

Too Many Crooks (1959) (SPOILERS) The sixth of seven collaborations between producer-director Mario Zampi and writer Michael Pertwee, Too Many Crooks scores with a premise later utilised to big box-office effect in Ruthless People (1986). A gang of inept thieves kidnap the wife of absolute cad and bounder Billy Gordon (Terry-Thomas). Unfortunately for them, Gordon, being an absolute cad and bounder, sees it as a golden opportunity, rather enjoying his extra-marital carry ons and keeping all his cash from her, so he refuses to pay up. At which point Lucy Gordon (Brenda De Banzie) takes charge of the criminal crew and turns the tables.

Well, it must be terribly secret, because I wasn't even aware I was a member.

The Brotherhood of the Bell (1970) (SPOILERS) No, not Joseph P Farrell’s book about the Nazi secret weapons project, but rather a first-rate TV movie in the secret-society ilk of later flicks The Skulls and The Star Chamber . Only less flashy and more cogent. Glenn Ford’s professor discovers the club he joined 22 years earlier is altogether more hardcore than he could have ever imagined – not some student lark – when they call on the services he pledged. David Karp’s adaptation of his novel, The Brotherhood of the Bell is so smart in its twists and turns of plausible deniability, you’d almost believe he had insider knowledge.

They wanted me back for a reason. I need to find out why.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) (SPOILERS) I wasn’t completely down on Joss Whedon’s Justice League (I had to check to remind myself Snyder retained the director credit), which may be partly why I’m not completely high on Zack Snyder’s. This gargantuan four-hour re-envisioning of Snyder’s original vision is aesthetically of a piece, which means its mercifully absent the jarring clash of Whedon’s sensibility with the Snyderverse’s grimdark. But it also means it doubles down on much that makes Snyder such an acquired taste, particularly when he has story input. The positive here is that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the luxury of telling the undiluted, uncondensed story Snyder wanted to tell. The negative here is also that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the luxury of telling the undiluted, uncondensed story Snyder wanted to tell (with some extra sprinkles on top). This is not a Watchmen , where the unexpurgated version was for the most part a feast.

Now all we’ve got to do is die.

Without Remorse (2021) (SPOILERS) Without Remorse is an apt description of the unapologetic manner in which Amazon/Paramount have perpetrated this crime upon any audiences foolish enough to think there was any juice left in the Tom Clancy engine. There certainly shouldn’t have been, not after every attempt was made to run it dry in The Sum of All Our Fears and then the stupidly titled Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit . A solo movie of sometime Ryan chum John Clark’s exploits has been mooted awhile now, and two more inimitable incarnations were previously encountered in the forms of Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. Like Chris Pine in Shadow Recruit , however, diminishing returns find Michael B Jordan receiving the short straw and lead one to the conclusion that, if Jordan is indeed a “star”, he’s having a hell of a job proving it.

A drunken, sodden, pill-popping cat lady.

The Woman in the Window (2021) (SPOILERS) Disney clearly felt The Woman in the Window was so dumpster-bound that they let Netflix snatch it up… where it doesn’t scrub up too badly compared to their standard fare. It seems Tony Gilroy – who must really be making himself unpopular in the filmmaking fraternity, as producers’ favourite fix-it guy - was brought in to write reshoots after Joe Wright’s initial cut went down like a bag of cold, or confused, sick in test screenings. It’s questionable how much he changed, unless Tracy Letts’ adaptation of AJ Finn’s 2018 novel diverged significantly from the source material. Because, as these things go, the final movie sticks fairly closely to the novel’s plot.

To our glorious defeat.

The Mouse that Roared (1959) (SPOILERS) I’d quite forgotten Peter Sellers essayed multiple roles in a movie satirising the nuclear option prior to Dr. Strangelove . Possibly because, while its premise is memorable, The Mouse that Roared isn’t, very. I was never that impressed, much preferring the sequel that landed (or took off) four years later – sans Sellers – and this revisit confirms that take. The movie appears to pride itself on faux- Passport to Pimlico Ealing eccentricity, but forgets to bring the requisite laughs with that, or the indelible characters. It isn’t objectionable, just faintly dull.

I don't think this is the lightning you're looking for.

Meet Joe Black (1998) (SPOILERS) A much-maligned Brad Pitt fest, commonly accused of being interminable, ponderous, self-important and ridiculous. All of those charges may be valid, to a greater or lesser extent, but Meet Joe Black also manages to attain a certain splendour, in spite of its more wayward impulses. While it’s suggestive of a filmmaker – Martin Brest – believing his own hype after the awards success of (the middling) Scent of a Woman , this is a case where all that sumptuous better-half styling and fantasy lifestyle does succeed in achieving a degree of resonance. An undeniably indulgent movie, it’s one I’ve always had a soft spot for.