Doctor Who Reviews: The Evil Of The Daleks

Supposing the Daleks went away? Forever? Let’s say that in 2017, you’d got bored of the pepperpots turning up time and time again, but never actually achieving anything? They say that familiarity breeds contempt, and if that really is the case, then the Daleks had better watch out.

Amazingly, the ploy of getting rid of the Daleks once and for all was touted back in 1967. It looked like we’d seen the last of them, until 1972, when it was decided that they’d be used as a big season opener. By 1967, though, there had been lots of Dalek stories, mostly of a very high standard. But how could you keep the standard up? The latest Dalek stories in the 21st century revival have had decidedly mixed reviews, but even back then, it must have occurred to the production team that the Daleks could get boring. So what better plan than to see them out in a blaze of glory? Fortunately, a blaze of glory was exactly what viewers got in the form of The Evil Of The Daleks.

What’s great about The Evil Of The Daleks is the way in which David Whitaker achieves that sense of the epic. Evil is as big and bold as you can get, taking in three different time zones, different locales and a long list of characters. What’s all the more impressive is that Whitaker pulls this off to great effect, adding a real sense of threat and terror in to boot.

Starting off in '60s Britain, Evil picks up where The Faceless Ones left off, as The Doctor and Jamie try to fathom out the location of the missing TARDIS. Before you know it, we’re in the company of a flustered antiques dealer called Edward Waterfield, a man with sideburns big enough to make Noddy Holder jealous. We all know that there’s something up with Waterfield - he’s clearly not of the 1960s, and what’s more, has a habit of apparently talking to thin air in a state of panic - like a kid telling his imaginary bogeyman friend to leave him alone.

Of course, all is revealed in the impressive cliffhanger to Episode 1, in which Waterfield’s grubby henchman Kennedy stumbles upon an angry Dalek, who’s apparently been in the middle of playing Guess Who. The sequence is made all the more ominous by Dudley Simpson’s creepy Dalek theme, a threatening riff on the Doctor Who theme that makes Murray's Pompous Choir’s hysterical shrieking laughable by comparison. Simpson’s score throughout is absolutely fantastic, the brass, woodwind and keyboard all coming together to illustrate every scene and every emotion pitch perfectly.

The first couple of episodes are excellent and set the scene well. The Doctor and Jamie seem to blend in better with the Swinging '60s than the First Doctor: The scenes of Jamie drooling over the dancing girls’ legs are hilarious - poor old Jamie’s missing Polly already by the looks of things, the big perv.

The Doctor and Jamie continue their sci-fi tribute to Holmes and Watson, taking in each clue that they’re given, and working out every scrap with relish. Just look at them in the grimy warehouse or in Waterfield’s antiques shop - they take in every bit of surrounding and deduce any notable clue at their disposal. Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines give some of their best performances here. Troughton really sells the threat of the Daleks when they are first revealed to him in Maxtible’s laboratory. In the build up, every successive line of The Doctor’s contains a shade more panic - he knows very well that he could be up against the Daleks, but doesn’t want to believe it. When a Dalek does burst out of the cabinet, the expression on Troughton’s face says it all - sadness, weary resignation and absolute terror. It’s superbly acted by Troughton, who also gives his best in the scenes where he’s forced to trick Jamie.

We’ve rarely seen The Doctor this duplicitous before, as he is forced to comply with the Daleks, and Frazer Hines is also excellent in the scenes when Jamie reacts with genuine rage and sorrow at his friend’s apparent betrayal. Oddly, this would never be mentioned again during Jamie’s time aboard the TARDIS - and there would never be the same sort of friction between the Second Doctor and his companions. But it’s a logical progression of the Second Doctor’s more mysterious persona, and is a brave experiment that succeeds.

The Doctor’s duplicity is only part of the tension that pervades the 1866 sequences. There are lots of memorably atmospheric set pieces here: The rather odd Arthur Terrall’s rapid mood swings. Toby coming to grief at the lethal egg whisk of a Dalek. And of course, the plight of Victoria, who starts as she means to go on in Doctor Who - screaming and crying.

It’s odd, The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria generally work well as a team, indulging in naughty banter and facing fearful odds. But somehow, Victoria’s character never really gels for me. Every single story she’s in, she’s crying, wailing, getting hypnotised, or blundering about. The problem is that’s all there is to Victoria - unlike Zoe or Jo, she doesn’t get any character progression at all. She enters the show as a screamer and leaves the show as a screamer. Deborah Watling’s performances are strong enough to compensate though, and she makes a strong début in Evil Of The Daleks, playing the part of the trapped heroine very well.

In fact, all of the acting is strong across the board. John Bailey is perfect as the put-upon Waterfield, a man who’s forced to comply with the Daleks for the sake of his daughter. His final sacrifice is rather touching, and it’s totally in keeping with his character of quiet heroics. Marius Goring provides another stand-out turn as the bluff Theodore Maxtible, starting out as an eccentric, wealthy scientist and then degenerating into a crazed madman who’s obsessed to the point of blindness with wealth, power and status - which he inevitably never gets from the Daleks.

Even the smaller roles are well brought to life, including endearing chirpy maid Mollie Dawson (nicely played by Jo Rowbottom), snooty Daddy’s Girl Ruth Maxtible (Brigit Forsyth from Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads) and even greedy urchin Toby (Windsor Davies, in the days before shouting at Lofty and making number one records). David Whitaker provides the characters with real depth, but you also need good, strong actors to bring them to life. Luckily, Derek Martinus made some astute casting choices on this occasion.

In fact, this is one of Martinus’ best stories. He brings Whitaker’s story to life with ease, and maintains a gripping atmosphere all throughout the story. Such a shame that six episodes no longer exist, but judging from Episode 2, there’s some strong directorial flair at work. Big, dramatic close-ups. Evocative set design. Even artsy screen wipes 10 years before Star Wars made them fashionable.

He handles the Skaro sequences well, as the Daleks are revealed to be as cunning as they were in Power Of The Daleks. The Daleks actually want to achieve the reverse of their original aim, and implant the Dalek Factor into humans. The Doctor of course, manages to reverse this, and so this leads to a great big shootout in the domain of the dreaded Emperor Dalek. Again, the lack of Episode 7 makes this sequence difficult to judge, but sadly, the Louis Marx toy Daleks don’t inspire much confidence. The great big booming pleas of the Emperor to the fighting Daleks are well done though, and from the stills and soundtrack, it looks like quite a spectacular sign-off for the dreaded tinpots.

The Final End, as The Doctor calls it, never happened, but taken on its own, The Evil Of The Daleks achieves its own alchemy - it’s a perfect combination of suspense, action (the conflict between Jamie and Kemel the mute), humour (the Daleks playing trains) and big drama. A cracking end to an all-important season which made Troughton’s Second Doctor a justified favourite.

* More Dalek stories reviewed here in these ebook guides!