Skip to main content

The final end.


Doctor Who
The Evil of the Daleks: Episode Seven


The Doctor: No, you can’t make me do it. You can’t.

The Doctor’s reaction to a cliffhanging ultimatum is fairly standard stuff, but Whitaker structures the final episode so that, while there’s the prerequisite “blow things up” climax, it hinges on twists and turns and cunning shown by both the Daleks and the Doctor.

The Doctor: You see, there isn’t a persuasion strong enough. Not even the offer of all the lives in this room. Five lives, against a whole planet. That’s not a choice, is it?

The series generally cops out when it comes to really testing the Doctor’s mettle in the face of an ethical quandry. Usually, the Doctor will opt to save his companions/friends and so buy time to come up with a means of avoiding the more terrible action he has agreed upon. This story at least proves an exception to the norm, since the Daleks believe they have converted him with the Dalek factor. 


Whilst the script has laid sufficient groundwork to head-off potential plot holes (we are told that they believe him to be “more than human” because of his travels, whereas he informs us that he is not human), it’s another area where, given what they know, you’d expect them to be a little more careful and a little less credulous when the Doctor emerges from the conversion process and proves to be full of good ideas.

There’s a diverting speculation on possible means of surviving the current predicament. The sort of thing that you won’t encounter post-The War Games as so much has been revealed. But, prior to that, the Doctor’s nebulous comments on his origins are intriguing for the detours of the imagination they provoke. He comments that, even if he trusted the Daleks and they set him free, they still could not return to Earth (as it would be full of Dalek Humans, presumably).

The Doctor: I suppose I might try to take you all to another universe. I might even try and take you to my own planet.
Jamie: Your own?
The Doctor: Yes. I live a long, long way from Earth.

Returning seems more of an option than it did in the Hartnell days, although the Doctor comes across as daydreaming rather than seriously considering the option. The important point is that the exchange is needed for to validate what comes later. Having said that, the great strength of The Evil of the Daleksis how its inventive plot is underpinned by moral quandaries for the characters and especially for its hero.

The attempted take-over of the Doctor had not really been explored at this point in the series, although he had been deleteriously affected on several occasions. Whitaker doesn’t spend much time letting us think the Doctor might have been converted into a Dalek, but needs-must in terms of progressing the story.

Maxtible becomes the chosen representative for the effects of the Dalek Factor. It has to be said that the Daleks’ ruse for converting him is of the most unsubtle “Ha, fooled you!” variety but they are using persuasion.

Dalek: The machine is yours.
The Doctor: Maxtible, if you value your life don’t go near that machine.

But Maxtible is like a donkey chasing a carrot, the object of his desire (apparently) almost within reach. Jamie thinks alchemy is an old wives’ tale.

The Doctor: Oh, I don’t know. The alchemists of the middle ages made transmutation their main aim in life. Even in the twentieth century it’s still considered scientifically possible.

Presumably this is a yardstick Jamie can understand, as they have just been to that time, centuries on from his own. If I thought the new series could handle such a task, it would be interesting for the Doctor to visit Paracelsus; his fantastical claims would be ideal fodder for the show.


To an extent Maxtible is the broadest of characterisations, with a performance to match; shambling, hirsute and cartoonish. But he is effective nonetheless. The broad strokes of his performance are well matched with those of the Daleks (both are equally obsessive). Accordingly, Goring’s performance as a Dalek is highly pronounced, and is suggestive of a disturbingly manic screen presence.

As noted, the Daleks resort to subterfuge rather than force. This is interesting, as for such a demonstrably in-your-face species they seem quite aware that they can get the results that they want through psychology rather than threat.

Jamie: They’ve turned him into a Dalek.
The Doctor: Yes. The Dalek Factor.

A similar ruse is then tried on the Doctor.

Maxtible: I have come to help you. Look at the box. I have had your TARDIS placed outside the city. Rise, and follow me.

The Doctor does so, and the remaining humans are left briefly in doubt, concerned that he has succumbed to the Dalek Factor. Curiously, Maxtible indicates further work on the Factor is necessary.

Maxtible: We will work together on the Dalek Factor. Follow me.
The Doctor: I obey.

Perhaps he just means the processing, as more of Whitaker’s crazy science comes into play when we are told that the Dalek Factor will be transformed into a steam and then be sprayed into Earth’s atmosphere.


The Doctor’s switcheroo could be argued as a bit too simplistic, but it is satisfying; to ensure that the Human Daleks are converted back to proper Daleks, all Daleks must pass through the archway door that imbues the Dalek Factor. Which he has replaced with the Human Factor.

Jamie: Why didn’t it effect you, then?
The Doctor: I don’t come from Earth, Jamie.


The spread of the Human Factor occurs just as the Doctor predicted in the previous episode, helped along a little by his own meddling. The simple question “Why?” becomes the Human Daleks’ mantra for the final part and word gets back to the Emperor.

Dalek: Emperor, a Dalek questioned an order.

There are also further rehearsals of “Dizzy, dizzy, dizzy Daleks”.

Dalek: Continue working.
Human Dalek: Why?
Human Dalek: Yes, why?
Dalek: Do not question.
Human Dalek: Why?
Human Dalek: Why?
Human Dalek: Why not question?

It’s a capitalist critique in a nutshell, and one that resonates during the era (and especially the year) in which the story was made.  The outcome of which is civil war. Whether such benign-sounding Daleks would really get behind destroying their fellows is debatable, but I suppose they are human and the Doctor cannot onlyhave introduced the human virtues to the formula he referenced in previous episodes. Perhaps, if he did, this is why the Doctor finds it necessary to give them a little pep talk.

The Doctor: Defend yourselves. Destroy the Emperor. Or destroy yourselves.


Consequently, the Emperor’s state of disarray evokes memories of Dr. Strangelove.

Emperor: Do not fight in here. Do not fight in here.


While he is left to opine that “The Dalek race will die out completely”, as the city begins to erupt, the focus shifts back to the humans. We have already said goodbye to Waterfield, who would inevitably not last out the story as justice for his reluctant-but-knowing complicity (Whitaker was kind to Terrall, but there are limits it seems).

The Doctor: You saved my life, didn’t you?
Waterfield: Yes, a good life to save. Please, you must… Victoria…
Doctor: Don’t worry about Victoria. We’ll look after her.


We don’t see the fate of Maxtible, however. He calls Kemel over and then unceremoniously pushes him over a cliff. This seems rather unnecessary. Presumably the producer didn’t want a silent, hulking, Turkish gentleman as a member of the TARDIS crew. It comes across as if Whitaker only remembered at the last moment that he was a loose end requiring attention.

Maxtible: The race will survive. The Daleks will live, and rule, forever.

So, who knows if he survived and formed a part of their future development? It’s an unusually open-ended position for a character in the series, but Maxtible embodies a striking illumination of the consequences of greed; an empty shell, devoid of humanity awaits.

It doesn’t make enormous sense that Maxtible actually had the TARDIS placed outside the city, but it was certainly handy of him to do so.


The Doctor is both consoling and reflective as he leaves the Daleks to destroy themselves. Of Waterfield, he has words of comfort for Victoria (we can only be grateful that the episode didn’t fade out with her blubbing and wailing).

The Doctor: But he didn’t die in vain. I think we’ve seen the end of the Daleks forever.

And for Jamie, the perma-hard Scot, he promises a busty playmate.

The Doctor: We’re not going to leave her. She’s coming with us.


Then there are the last words of possibly the most inventive Dalek story of them all:

The Doctor: The end. The final end.


A stunning, decisive ending. Unlike The Daleks’ Master Plan, the only Dalek story this can compare to in terms of scale, we end on a hopeful note (well, depending upon how positive you see the addition of Victoria to the TARDIS crew). But, like that story, the death, devastation and carnage are profound.


Overall:


It’s easy to forgive the slightly moribund fourth episode when the rest the story is of such high quality. Evil has been extolled as a classic since forever, and it’s a lauded status that did Tomb of the Cybermen no favours when it was retrieved from Hong Kong. But (just about) everyone agrees that Episode Two is something special, so there’s no reason to think that the rest of it isn’t of a similar high standard. Derek Martinus’ work on the series was consistently excellent, and he deserves more accolades than he gets. The only question mark is the model work finale, where toy Daleks were blown up in abundance, and rather obviously. I expect I could forgive it, should Episode Seven ever materialise, as Power’s cardboard cut-out Daleks fail to dent the standing of that story.

There has been a bit of a re-evaluation over the past few years as to which of Whitaker’s Dalek stories is superior; the slow-burning, more low-key Power or the high concept, purposefully epic Evil. I prefer the latter; I like the oddity of the setting, the strangely mystical scientific dabblings of Maxtible, the bizarreness of Human Daleks and the totality of the climax. Whitaker creates a rich, varied an immersive world(s).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

There are times when I miss the darkness. It is hard to live always in the light.

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…

I had that Christopher Marlowe in my boat once.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)
(SPOILERS) You see? Sometimes Oscar can get it right. Not that the backlash post-announcement would have you crediting any such. No, Saving Private Ryan had the rug unscrupulously pulled from under it by Harvey Weinstein essentially buying Shakespeare in Love’s Best Picture through a lavish promotional campaign. So unfair! It is, of course, nothing of the sort. If the rest of Private Ryan were of the same quality as its opening sequence, the Spielberg camp might have had a reasonable beef, but Shakespeare in Love was simply in another league, quality wise, first and foremost thanks to a screenplay that sang like no other in recent memory. And secondly thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow, so good and pure, before she showered us with goop.

The Statue of Liberty is kaput.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)
(SPOILERS) William Goldman said of Saving Private Ryan, referencing the film’s titular objective in Which Lie Did I Tell? that it “becomes, once he is found, a disgrace”. “Hollywood horseshit” he emphasised, lest you were in doubt as to his feelings. While I had my misgivings about the picture on first viewing, I was mostly, as many were, impacted by its visceral prowess (which is really what it is, brandishing it like only a director who’s just seen Starship Troopers but took away none of its intent could). So I thought, yeah Goldman’s onto something here, if possibly slightly exaggerating for effect. But no, he’s actually spot-on. If Saving Private Ryan had been a twenty-minute short, it would rightly muster all due praise for its war-porn aesthetic, but unfortunately there’s a phoney, sentimental, hokey tale attached to that opening, replete with clichéd characters, horribly earnest, honorific music and “exciting!” action to engage your interest. There are…

What you do is very baller. You're very anarchist.

Lady Bird (2017)
(SPOILERS) You can see the Noah Baumbach influence on Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, with whom she collaborated on Frances Ha; an intimate, lo-fi, post-Woody Allen (as in, post-feted, respected Woody Allen) dramedy canvas that has traditionally been the New Yorker’s milieu. But as an adopted, spiritual New Yorker, I suspect Gerwig honourably qualifies, even as Lady Bird is a love letter/ nostalgia trip to her home city of Sacramento.

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.

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.

I’m the spoiled toff who lives in the manor.

Robin Hood (2018)
(SPOILERS) Good grief. I took the disdain that greeted Otto Bathurst’s big screen debut with a pinch of salt, on the basis that Guy Ritchie’s similarly-inclined lads-in-duds retelling of King Arthur was also lambasted, and that one turned out to be pretty good fun for the most part. But a passing resemblance is as close as these two would-be franchises get (that, and both singularly failed to start their respective franchises). Robin Hood could, but it definitely didn’t.

I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
When your hero(es) ride off into the sunset at the end of a film, it’s usually a pretty clear indication that a line is being drawn under their adventures. Sure, rumours surfaced during the ‘90s of various prospective screenplays for a fourth outing for the whip-cracking archeologist. But I’m dubious anyone really expected it to happen. There seemed to be a natural finality to Last Crusade that made the announcement of his 2007 return nostalgically welcome but otherwise unwarranted. That it turned out so tepid merely seemed like confirmation of what we already knew; Indy’s time was past.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …