Skip to main content

They will enslave us for all time.


Doctor Who
The Evil of the Daleks: Episode Five


The episode kicks off with another destroyed Dalek (crashing over the bannisters).


Not only are these incredibly easy to overcome (a far cry from the Doctor’s warning that one Dalek could take over the entire Vulcan colony), but also the Daleks don’t seem remotely concerned by the destruction of their fellows. Are they purposefully weedy cannon fodder Daleks, engineered purely for the test?


Victoria’s very pleased to see her silent guardian, who is presumably so noble that he has a purely platonic interest in response. Victoria’s okay when she’s not whinging. Unfortunately, this is very infrequent. Fortunately, she is rendered unconscious and the devoted Kemel spirits her away to Skaro (at the Daleks behest).


Terrall’s plotline comes to a head, and we’re none-the-wiser why the Daleks devised his tangential role on top of Maxtible’s machinations. Possibly they were just dabbling with human control (like the Robomen) but as it caused potential foul-ups of their plans you’d have thought they’d be more careful.


The Doctor’s a bit more playful in his company, offering pestering him and offering him a drink.

Terrall: I very rarely touch it.
The Doctor: Oh, how very unsociable.

But it’s a means to ascertaining the truth about the man. The Doctor notes that he has never seen Terrall eat or drink, to which Terrall responds that the Doctor has been reading too much Edgar Allan Poe. He also notes that Terrall has magnetic properties (which is curious to say the least; another example of the fantastical – and appealing – nature of Whitaker’s version of science).

Terrall: No doubt you are a keen student of human nature. But there are some things best left alone.
The Doctor: No, Mr Terrall, I am not a student of human nature. I am a professor of a far wider academy of which human nature is merely a part. All forms of life interest me.


It’s a classic bit of Doctor dialogue, setting out the scope of his “mission”. Left alone, Terrall struggles with his conditioning. Fortunately, far more believably than Stein in Resurrection of the Daleks.

Later, following his sword fight with Jamie, Terrall breaks down completely. The Doctor removes the black control box from under his collar.

The Doctor: Do you want to save this man’s life?
Ruth: Yes.
The Doctor: Then take him away from here, as far as possible.


Terrall’s parting concern, with his senses returning (“Wait… Victoria Waterfield. I feel I have harmed her in some way”), highlights that the only character in the story with less than salubrious motives (aside from the now deceased Toby) is Maxtible. It’s a welcome gesture that Whitaker doesn’t feel the need to have Terrall exterminated for his role as an unwilling Dalek agent.

Messing with minds is a recurring theme in Season Four, be it straightforward brainwashing (The Macra Terror) or emotionless facsimiles (The Faceless Ones). Then, Season Four was broadcast during a period that widely embraced mind-altering substances. One might argue that, if there’s a subtext within the show, Doctor Whopresents such experimentation in a negative light. But at no point are the victims in the series willing participants and the influence is as likely to promote conformity with the presiding social structure (The Macra Terror) as disruption (The Moonbase).


Maxtible reveals that Victoria’s abduction was achieved through the hypnosis technique he now practices on Molly (again, Maxtible shows himself to be such a resourceful fellow that his falling prey to good old fashioned avarice is an even greater disappointment).

Terrall: I’d no idea that mesmerism was one of your skills.

He continues to delude himself that he is partnering with the Daleks (“I prefer to call them my colleagues”) but that’s hardly surprising given the alternative.

We finally see a glimmer of the Doctor’s hope that he will find a path through his collaboration with the Daleks, resulting in their defeat. This comes by way of his conversation with Waterfield, who is posing many of the same moral concerns he expressed to Maxtible in the previous episode.


The Doctor informs him that he has synthesised the better emotions (“Courage, pity, chivalry. Even compassion”) within a positronic brain (that thing again; see Power of the Daleks). The Doctor conjectures that the Human Factor might drive the Daleks insane, but Waterfield – ever fearful – wonders that they may become super beings (surely that’s exactly what these “devils’ are to him right now?) The Doctor even invokes the earlier admonishments of Maxtible when he comments, “It’s no use having a conscience now”.

The Doctor: I can’t help feeling there is more to this than meets the eye.

So he has his wits about him, yet he is unable predict the Dalek Factor reveal of the final episode.

Waterfield: They will enslave us for all time.
The Doctor: That, Mr Waterfield, remains to be seen.

Waterfield goes on:

Waterfield: And sacrifice a whole world.
The Doctor: Yes, it may come to that. It may well come to that.
Waterfield: I don’t think you quite realise what you are saying.

But what the Doctor has in mind, a glimmer of hope, is clearly the sacrifice of a world other than Earth; Skaro (I don’t think he’s literally thinking about the Thals being wiped out, but effectively the Human Factor will wipe out the Daleks there).


Speaking of which, the climax of the episode is one of the series’ most unique and bizarre. Disturbing precisely because it seems so unthreatening. Whitaker takes Dalek compliance a step further than in Power (“I am your ser-vant”) as an initially reluctant Doctor engages in a ride on a Dalek (“It’s a game!”)

I expect Maxtible’s sinister parting shot was designed to make the cliffhanger slightly more traditional, but it doesn’t really rein in the oddness.

Maxtible: A rather amusing little game. Don’t you think Jamie?

The highlight of the episode is the conversation preceding this, however. Jamie takes the Doctor to task for his behaviour.

The Doctor: I’ve been up all night, but it’s been worth it.
Jamie: Don’t touch me.
The Doctor: Now, what’s the matter?
Jamie: Anyone would think this was a little game.
The Doctor: No, it’s not a game.
Jamie: Of course it isn’t, Doctor. People have died. The Daleks are all over the place, fit to murder the lot of us. And all you can say is,  “You’ve had a good night’s sleep”.
The Doctor: Jamie…
Jamie: No, Doctor. Look, I’m telling you this. You and me, we’re finished. You’re just too callous for me. Anything goes by the board, anything at all.
The Doctor: That’s just not true, Jamie. I’ve never held that the end justifies the means.
Jamie: Words. What do I care about words? You don’t give that much for a living soul except yourself.
The Doctor: I care about life. I care about human beings. You think I let you go through that Dalek test lightly?
Jamie: I don’t know, did you? Look Doctor, just whose side are you on?

There’s real emotional heft here. This kind of altercation hasn’t been seen since Steven’s tirade against the Doctor at the end of The Massacre (which had a strong build up, with The Daleks’ Master Plan littered with heavy losses of companions and friends). It’s the more powerful because of that infrequency.

Without needlessly invoking the spectre of the current version of Doctor Who, one of the problems is that the impact of this sort of scene is diluted by making it a fairly regular occurrence. The companion is called upon to doubt and question the Doctor, at which point we are asked to dwell upon his status as a “lonely god”. It becomes a rather tiresome trope. So too with McCoy’s incarnation; the Doctor’s actions were part of the grand scheme of an arch-manipulator, with Ace as his puppet. Here, because Troughton’s Doctor larks about so much, because Jamie is such a good-natured trooper all the time, because there’s no persistent agenda, it really is shocking.


But it’s notable too that the next story will also call upon the Doctor to display slightly inscrutable motives, leading the archeological expedition forward rather than imploring them to beat a hasty retreat.


Back on it’s A-Game, Episode Five is a outstanding. Discarding plot threads that have run their course (Terrall and Ruth), paying-off others (Jamie’s journey) and then turning the Daleks on their heads at the cliffhanger. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

If you never do anything, you never become anyone.

An Education (2009)
Carey Mulligan deserves all the attention she received for her central performance, and the depiction of the ‘60s is commendably subdued. I worried there was going to be a full-blown music montage sequence at the climax that undid all the good work, but thankfully it was fairly low key. 

Alfred Molina and Olivia Williams are especially strong in the supporting roles, and it's fortunate for credibility’s sake that that Orlando Bloom had to drop out and Dominic Cooper replaced him.
***1/2

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 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.

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).

Everyone who had a talent for it lived happily ever after.

Empire 30:  Favourite Films of the Last 30 Years
Empire’s readers’ poll to celebrate its thirtieth birthday – a request for the ultimate thirty films of the last thirty years, one per year from 1989 – required a bit of thought, particularly since they weren’t just limiting it to your annual favourite (“These can be the films that impressed you the most, the ones that stuck with you, that brought you joy, or came to you at just the right time”). Also – since the question was asked on Twitter, although I don’t know how rigorous they’re being; does it apply to general release, or does it include first film festival showings? – they’re talking UK release dates, rather than US, calling for that extra modicum of mulling. To provide more variety, I opted to limit myself to just one film per director; otherwise, my thirty would have been top heavy with, at very least, Coen Brothers movies. So here’s they are, with runners-up and reasoning:

You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances.

A Few Good Men (1992)
(SPOILERS) Aaron Sorkin has penned a few good manuscripts in his time, but A Few Good Men, despite being inspired by an actual incident (one related to him by his sister, an army lawyer on a case at the time), falls squarely into the realm of watchable but formulaic. I’m not sure I’d revisited the entire movie since seeing it at the cinema, but my reaction is largely the same: that it’s about as impressively mounted and star-studded as Hollywood gets, but it’s ultimately a rather empty courtroom drama.

You're always sorry, Charles, and there's always a speech, but nobody cares anymore.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
(SPOILERS) To credit its Rotten Tomatoes score (22%), you’d think X-Men: Dark Phoenix was a travesty that besmirched the name of all good and decent (read: MCU proper) superhero movies, or even last week’s underwhelming creature feature (Godzilla: King of Monsters has somehow reached 40%, despite being a lesser beast in every respect). Is the movie’s fate a self-fulfilling prophecy, what with delayed release dates and extensively reported reshoots? Were critics castigating a fait accompli turkey without giving it a chance? That would be presupposing they’re all sheep, though, and in fairness, other supposed write-offs havecome back from such a brink in the past (World War Z). Whatever the feelings of the majority, Dark Phoenix is actually a mostly okay (twelfth) instalment in the X-franchise – it’s exactly what you’d expect from an X-Men movie at this point, one without any real mojo left and a variable cast struggling to pull its weight. The third act is a bi…

What happens at 72?

Midsommar (2019)
(SPOILERS) Ari Aster, by rights, ought already to be buckling under the weight of all those accolades amassing around him, pronouncing him a horror wunderkind a mere two films in. But while both Midsommar and Hereditary have both received broadly similar critical acclaim, his second feature will lag behind the first by some distance in box office, unless something significant happens in a hitherto neglected territory. That isn’t such a surprise on seeing it. While Hereditary keeps its hand firmly on the tiller of shock value and incident, so as to sustain it’s already more than adequate running time, Midsommar runs a full twenty minutes longer, which is positively – or rather, negatively – over-indulgent for what we have here, content-wise, and suggests a director whose crowned auteurishness has instantly gone to his head.

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.

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…