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

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…

What do you want to be? Rich or dead?

Blake's 7 1.3: Cygnus Alpha

Well, the quality couldn’t last. Vere Lorrimer does a solid job directing this one, and the night shooting adds atmosphere in spades. Unfortunately the religious cult on a prison planet just isn’t that interesting (notably, big Brian Blessed was about the only well-known British thesp who wasn’t cast in the similarly themed Alien 3).

It’s Who-central from the off with lovely lovely lovely Kara (Pamela Salem – The Robots of Death and Remembrance of the Daleks) and the Caber, I mean Laran (Robert Russell, Terror of the Zygons) noting the incoming London. Which reuses a shot from Space Fall (the spinning object is a planet, clearly one with an unhealthy speed of rotation).
The length of journey issues in this story don’t bear much analysis. It’s now four months since the events of Space Fall, and poor old Leylan has clearly been affected badly by what went down. But he’s only now sending his report? Useful for the wayward viewer, but a bit slack otherwise.

So.…

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…

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…

Isn’t Johnnie simply too fantastic for words?

Suspicion (1941)
(SPOILERS) Suspicion found Alfred Hitchcock basking in the warm glow of Rebecca’s Best Picture Oscar victory the previous year (for which he received his first of five Best Director nominations, famously winning none of them). Not only that, another of his films, Foreign Correspondent, had jostled with Rebecca for attention. Suspicion was duly nominated itself, something that seems less unlikely now we’ve returned to as many as ten award nominees annually (numbers wouldn’t be reduced to five until 1945). And still more plausible, in and of itself, than his later and final Best Picture nod, Spellbound. Suspicion has a number of claims to eminent status, not least the casting of Cary Grant, if not quite against type, then playing on his charm as a duplicitous quality, but it ultimately falls at the hurdle of studio-mandated compromise.

She's killed my piano.

Rocketman (2019)
(SPOILERS) Early on in Rocketman, there’s a scene where publisher Dick James (Stephen Graham) listens to a selection of his prospective talent’s songs and proceeds to label them utter shite (but signs him up anyway). It’s a view I have a degree of sympathy with. I like maybe a handful of Elton John’s tunes, so in theory, I should be something of a lost cause with regard to this musical biopic. But Rocketman isn’t reliant on the audience sitting back and gorging on naturalistic performances of the hits in the way Bohemian Rhapsody is; Dexter Fletcher fully embraces the musical theatre aspect of the form, delivering a so-so familiar story with choreographic gusto and entirely appropriate flamboyance in a manner that largely compensates. Largely.

You ever heard the saying, “Don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in three counties”?

2 Guns (2013)
(SPOILERS) Denzel Washington is such a reliable performer, that it can get a bit boring. You end up knowing every gesture or inflection in advance, whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy. And his films are generally at least half decent, so you end up seeing them. Even in Flight (or perhaps especially in Flight; just watch him chugging down that vodka) where he’s giving it his Oscar-nominatable best, he seems too familiar. I think it may be because he’s an actor who is more effective the less he does. In 2 Guns he’s not doing less, but sometimes it seems like it. That’s because the last person I’d ever expect blows him off the screen; Mark Wahlberg.

Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict... breeds catastrophe.

The MCU Ranked Worst to Best

Move away from the jams.

Aladdin (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was never overly enamoured by the early ‘90s renaissance of Disney animation, so the raves over Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin left me fairly unphased. On the plus side, that means I came to this live action version fairly fresh (prince); not quite a whole new world but sufficiently unversed in the legend to appreciate it as its own thing. And for the most part, Aladdin can be considered a moderate success. There may not be a whole lot of competition for that crown (I’d give the prize to Pete’s Dragon, except that it was always part-live action), but this one sits fairly comfortably in the lead.

The world is a dangerous place, Elliot, not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on, and do nothing.

Mr. Robot Season One
(SPOILERS) With all the accolades proclaiming Mr. Robot the best new show of the year, the tale of a self-styled “vigilante hacker by night and regular cyber security worker by day”, intent on bringing down E/Evil Corp, the largest conglomerate in the world (as opposed to multinational Comcast, the 2014 “worst company in America” which owns the USA Network, home of Mr. Robot), I expected something a little more substantial than a refitted Fight Club, “refreshed” with trendy (well, a few years old) references to Occupy, Anonymous/hacking incidents and a melange of pop cultural signposts from the last fifteen years. There are times when the show feels entirely suffused with its abundant derivations, rather than developing into its own thing, its lead character’s pervasive alienation a direct substitute for Edward Norton’s Narrator. And yet, it has a lot going for it, and the season concludes at a point (creator Sam Esmail’s end of first act) where it has the potential…