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

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.

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.

So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman.

Casino Royale (2006)
(SPOILERS) Despite the doubts and trepidation from devotees (too blonde, uncouth etc.) that greeted Daniel Craig’s casting as Bond, and the highly cynical and low-inspiration route taken by Eon in looking to Jason Bourne's example to reboot a series that had reached a nadir with Die Another Day, Casino Royale ends up getting an enormous amount right. If anything, its failure is that it doesn’t push far enough, so successful is it in disarming itself of the overblown set pieces and perfunctory plotting that characterise the series (even at its best), elements that would resurge with unabated gusto in subsequent Craig excursions.

For the majority of its first two hours, Casino Royale is top-flight entertainment, with returning director Martin Campbell managing to exceed his excellent work reformatting Bond for the ‘90s. That the weakest sequence (still good, mind) prior to the finale is a traditional “big” (but not too big) action set piece involving an attempt to…

They literally call themselves “Decepticons”. That doesn’t set off any red flags?

Bumblebee  (2018)
(SPOILERS) Bumblebee is by some distance the best Transformers movie, simply by dint of having a smattering of heart (one might argue the first Shia LaBeouf one also does, and it’s certainly significantly better than the others, but it’s still a soulless Michael Bay “machine”). Laika VP and director Travis Knight brings personality to a series that has traditionally consisted of shamelessly selling product, by way of a nostalgia piece that nods to the likes of Herbie (the original), The Iron Giant and even Robocop.

Welcome to the future. Life is good. But it can be better.

20 to See in 2020
Not all of these movies may find a release date in 2020, given Hollywood’s propensity for shunting around in the schedules along with the vagaries of post-production. Of my 21 to See in 2019, there’s still Fonzo, Benedetta, You Should Have Left, Boss Level and the scared-from-its-alloted-date The Hunt yet to see the light of day. I’ve re-included The French Dispatch here, however. I've yet to see Serenity and The Dead Don’t Die. Of the rest, none were wholly rewarding. Netflix gave us some disappointments, both low profile (Velvet Buzzsaw, In the Shadow of the Moon) and high (The Irishman), and a number of blockbusters underwhelmed to a greater or lesser extent (Captain Marvel, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Terminator: Dark Fate, Gemini Man, Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker). Others (Knives Out, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum) were interesting but flawed. Even the more potentially out there (Joker, Us, Glass, Rocketman) couldn…

It’s like an angry white man’s basement in here.

Bad Boys for Life (2020)
(SPOILERS) The reviews for Bad Boys for Life have, perhaps surprisingly, skewed positive, given that it seemed exactly the kind of beleaguered sequel to get slaughtered by critics. Particularly so since, while it’s a pleasure to see Will Smith and Martin Lawrence back together as Mike and Marcus, the attempts to validate this third outing as a more mature, reflective take on their buddy cops is somewhat overstated. Indeed, those moments of reflection or taking stock arguably tend to make the movie as a whole that much glibber, swiftly succeeded as they are by lashings of gleeful ultra-violence or humorous shtick. Under Michael Bay, who didn’t know the definition of a lull, these pictures scorned any opportunity to pause long enough to assess the damage, and were healthier, so to speak, for that. Without him, Bad Boys for Life’s beats often skew closer to standard 90s action fare.

I'm reliable, I'm a very good listener, and I'm extremely funny.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
(SPOILERS) When I wrote my 23 to see in 2019, I speculated that James Cameron might be purposefully giving his hand-me-downs to lesser talents because he hubristically didn’t want anyone making a movie that was within a spit of the proficiency we’ve come to expect from him. Certainly, Robert Rodriguez and Tim Miller are leagues beneath Kathryn Bigelow, Jimbo’s former spouse and director of his Strange Days screenplay. Miller’s no slouch when it comes to action – which is what these movies are all about, let’s face it – but neither is he a craftsman, so all those reviews attesting that Terminator: Dark Fate is the best in the franchise since Terminator 2: Judgment Day may be right, but there’s a considerable gulf between the first sequel (which I’m not that big a fan of) and this retcon sequel to that sequel.

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…

They seem to be attracted to your increasing nudeness.

Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was put in mind of Shazam! watching Pokémon Detective Pikachu, another 2019 tentpole that somewhat underperformed based on expectations. Not particularly due to any plot resemblance, but because both movies fall apart under the weight of an overblown and underwhelming finale. In the case of Shazam! that may be more damaging to its prospective sequels (if they keep the team of super-adult kids), whereas Detective Pikachu will simply have to struggle with a whole heap of unnecessary expositional baggage attempting to imbue the proceedings with emotional resonance.

This is one act in a vast cosmic drama. That’s all.

Audrey Rose (1977)
(SPOILERS) Robert Wise was no stranger to high-minded horror fare when he came to Audrey Rose. He was no stranger to adding a distinctly classy flavour to any genre he tackled, in fact, particularly in the tricky terrain of the musical (West Side Story, The Sound of Music) and science fiction (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Andromeda Strain). He hadn’t had much luck since the latter, however, with neither Two People nor The Hindenburg garnering good notices or box office. In addition to which, Audrey Rose saw him returning to a genre that had been fundamentally impacted by The Exorcist four years before. One might have expected the realist principals he observed with The Andromeda Strain to be applied to this tale of reincarnation, and to an extent they are, certainly in terms of the performances of the adults, but Wise can never quite get past a hacky screenplay that wants to impart all the educational content of a serious study of continued existence in tandem w…