Skip to main content

Melt them down. I’m going to melt the Daleks down to pools of metal!


Doctor Who
The Power of the Daleks: Episode Five


I’ve been praising Robert James’ performance in this story, and I’m going to have to continue repeating myself. His escalating hysteria is utterly gripping, particularly when faced with those who are actively seeking to undermine his credibility. James’ voice increasingly resembles a deranged Gussie Finknottle

Lesterson: I know what I’m going to do. Laser torches. Melt them down. I’m going to melt the Daleks down to pools of metal!
Janley: You won’t, Lesterson.
Lesterson: Do you think I care what you can do? Go on! Tell everybody I was responsible for Resner’s death. I don’t care. I’m going to wipe out the Daleks! Yes, tell everybody all about Resner’s death.

The revelation that he can no longer wield the threat of cutting off the Daleks’ power (which they can now store) sends him scurrying first to the Doctor and then Bragen. Both the Dalek present and then Janley and Bragen treat him as if he is losing it, alleging behaviour or instructions that he did not issue.

Lesterson: What are you doing?
Dalek: Laying the new emergency power supply as you ordered, master.

Whittaker and Spooner deserve credit for devoting as much time as they do to Lesterson’s deteriorating mental state, which in this scene reaches a place of tangible surreality. It’s probably not until Hindle in Kinda that we again see such a fully-fledged depiction of someone losing it. He claims, “I’m perfectly well”, which he clearly isn’t, but unlike those around him he does now perceive the enormity of the threat of the Daleks.

Janley: You ought to be in hospital. You promised you’d report there.
Lesterson: I promised nothing of the kind.

And then:

Bragen: Pity. It’s probably only temporary.
Lesterson: You’re trying to say I’m mad.


Bragen instructs that Lesterson be placed under restraint, and it’s this episode where the character comes into his own. Bernard Archard makes the most of the opportunity, and his scene opposite Peter Bathurst (Hensell) is a master class in cool menace. Hensell has returned from his trip and Bragen barely acknowledges him, returning to his writing after looking up from his desk. He informs Hensell of the imprisonment of the Examiner.

Bragen: As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing more to be said. So if there’s nothing further...
Hensell: Nothing further? Who the devil do you think you’re talking to? Stand up when you’re speaking to me, man!
Bragen: I prefer to remain seated.


Bragen is utterly confident that he has the upper hand, and the casual manner in which he undermines Hensell makes for a fine scene.

Hensell: I am the Governor!
Bragen: No, not now. I am.

Hensell’s death is only the third in the story up to this point (it becomes a Saward bloodbath in the final episode) and its impact comes from being so offhand. Bragen attaches a gun stick to the Dalek.

Bragen: I’ll arrange a demonstration for you. Do you still refuse my offer?
Hensell: I will not be intimidated.
Bragen: No, of course not. In character to the last, Hensell. Kill him.

It’s probably because much of the characterisation and plotting is so deft that a more typical Who villain line sounds somewhat clumsy. So “From now on, I’ll have complete obedience from everyone” seems like it’s been put in to underline what a villain Bragen is, rather than it being something he would actually say.


The Daleks are as cunning as ever, despite having recovered from their faux pas at the end of Episode four.

Dalek 1: No more than three Daleks are to be seen together at any one time.
Dalek 2: I obey.
Dalek 1: We are not ready yet to teach the human beings the law of the Daleks.

The “law of the Daleks” is mentioned twice in this story. Given the rampage they embark on in the final episode, I can only assume the “law” is akin to Judge Dredd’s; guilty of being humans, instant sentencing, which is death. They cannily decide to wait to make their move “until the humans fight among themselves. Then we will fight”.

We see the resurfacing of a Dalek having to stop itself from putting it’s foot in it too, fighting its “better” instincts when instructing Valmar regarding the static electricity cable.

Dalek: With static power the Daleks will be twice as... useful.

Their most memorable moment of the episode, more than the big cliffhanger, is the chillingly astute observation one makes after killing Hensell.

Dalek: Why do human beings kill human beings?
Bragen: Get on with your work.
Dalek: Yes, master. I obey.


With regard to the cliffhanger, there are a few clips of this sequence in existence, leading one to conclude that it would have been varyingly effective. Chris Barry inventively sells the appearance that there are untold numbers of Daleks spilling from a doorway, through the use of tight framing. But the cardboard cut-out Daleks used to add numbers behind the real ones confirms that the “less is more” approach the story has been taking so far is the more effective one. And, as with Bragen, having them revert to generic chanting undoes much of the good work that showed just how intelligent they are (“Exterminate. Annihilate. Destroy. Daleks conquer and destroy”).

There’s a bit of get-out writing concerning the specifics of the Daleks’ science; by drawing attention to what is apparently unscientific you can say, “It may seem like nonsense but they are very advanced”

The Doctor: They’re powered by static electricity. It’s like blood to them. A constant life stream.
Quinn: Static isn’t workable.
The Doctor: It is to the Daleks. They’ve conquered static, just as they’ve conquered anti-magnetics.


Aside from breaking out of prison, the Doctor doesn’t have very much to do here, although his attempts to elicit the correct tone to unlock the door by rubbing his finger around the rim of a glass is quite amusing. He’s also reunited with Polly, who seems remarkably well-informed about the Daleks’ natures.

Polly: Human beings can’t be friends with Daleks. They don’t have friends.
Valmar: I don’t see why not.
Polly: It’s a kind of hatred for anything unlike themselves. They think they’re superior.

It’s Ben’s turn to be absent from an entire episode, although it’s not as if Polly gets much to do on her return. But she does make it clear that she considers Ben to be a real man when she takes Kebble to task for pushing her around.


Fine work from Archard and James, such that the backseat taken by the regulars doesn’t feel like being short-changed. All of the action has been delayed for Episode Six but, due to the deliberate pace, it doesn’t come across as a story that has hit a dull patch. Even well-worn devices such as locking characters up haven’t managed to dilute it. Indeed, the machinations of Bragen justify the plot thread in this episode even if the rebels themselves lack focus.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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.

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.

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.

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.

What do you want me to do? Call America and tell them I changed my mind?

  Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021) (SPOILERS) The demolition – at very least as a ratings/box office powerhouse – of the superhero genre now appears to be taking effect. If so, Martin Scorsese will at least be pleased. The studios that count – Disney and Warner Bros – are all aboard the woke train, such that past yardsticks like focus groups are spurned in favour of the forward momentum of agendas from above (so falling in step with the broader media initiative). The most obvious, some might say banal, evidence of this is the repurposing of established characters in race or gender terms.

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.

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.

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you got yourself killed.

Bloodshot (2020) (SPOILERS) If the trailer for Bloodshot gave the impression it had some meagre potential, that’s probably because it revealed the entire plot of a movie clearly intended to unveil itself in measured and judicious fashion. It isn’t far from the halfway mark that the truth about the situation Vin Diesel’s Ray Garrison faces is revealed, which is about forty-one minutes later than in the trailer. More frustratingly, while themes of perception of reality, memory and identity are much-ploughed cinematic furrows, they’re evergreens if dealt with smartly. Bloodshot quickly squanders them. But then, this is, after all, a Vin Diesel vehicle.