DVD Review: ‘Doctor Who’ – “The Power of the Daleks”

Starring:  Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills, Bernard Archard, Robert James

Written by: David Whitaker and Dennis Spooner / directed by: Christopher Barry

What’s it about?

Whilst Ben and Polly try to come to terms with the sudden change in the Doctor’s form, their arrival at a human colony on the planet Vulcan leads to a terrifying discovery that brings the Doctor face to face with an old enemy…

In review

As fans are all too aware, the BBC – with a painful lack of foresight – wiped their original master tapes of almost 100 episodes of classic Doctor Who.  Over the years fan recordings of video and audio have allowed these lost stories to be restored and live on either as audio books (with linking narrations) or remastered home video releases of various serials, some of which have been completed using animated versions of missing episodes.

Arriving in time for the 50th anniversary of its original (and only) television broadcast, The Power of the Daleks is brought to life thanks to a combination of the remastered audio track with animation and for die-hard fans of classic Who it’s quite a treat.  The story is iconic for various reasons, most significantly that it introduces the Second Doctor and that it pits him against his greatest foe – the Daleks.  Troughton’s performance as the ‘renewed’ (the term regeneration would not be established until Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Third Doctor) version of the Doctor is sublime as he effortlessly switches between mumbling eccentricity, sparks of intellectualism and sporadic instances of the downright barmy – all to the befuddlement and even frustration of companions Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills).  There’s a real sense of growth in characterisation across the serial’s six episodes, with Troughton establishing a satisfying rhythm as the Doctor settles into his new form and likewise, Ben and Polly start to become familiar with and trusting of their new – yet old – friend.

Beyond characterisation, writers David Whitaker and Dennis Spooner craft an atmospheric and, in later instalments, reasonably tense tale as the Daleks utilise deceit, masquerading as ‘servants’ to exploit the scientists and bureaucrats of Vulcan to their own devious ends.  This is certainly one of the great Dalek stories and a strong Doctor Who adventure overall.

In terms of the animation itself, it’s fairly limited (and if you own DVDs of The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase or The Invasion then you’ll know what to expect) yet this often works in the favour of The Power of the Daleks providing it with a level of old school charm that evokes the period from which it originates and the blending of CGI with traditional hand drawn cell animation gives the Daleks themselves a slick range of motion that actually eliminates some of the clunkiness that the manually operated live action studio models would tend to produce.

Fans of modern Doctor Who will find The Power of the Daleks to be a strange and markedly different experience and it’s drawn out pace and moments of inaction will likely be testing.  Admittedly, like a lot of classic Who serials the story could have been tightened to four episodes but it’s an ultimately gripping and enjoyable journey thanks to some great acting from Troughton and the building of tension and excitement as the Daleks’ latest plan for conquest gradually unfolds.

On the DVD:  Various special features are included, comprising episode commentaries, a making of documentary, animation and photo gallery, PDF extras, surviving footage reel, telesnap reconstruction and more.

The bottom line:  One of the most iconic classic Doctor Who stories is lovingly restored thanks to a wonderfully kitsch presentation combining audio with animation.  Although modern viewers will struggle with its slow pace, every fan should check out The Power of the Daleks.

The Power of the Daleks is available on DVD in the UK now.  The serial is also being broadcast by BBC Worldwide.

"The Power of the Daleks" : a lost classic 'Doctor Who' story now restored by the BBC via a combiation of animation and original audio.

“The Power of the Daleks” : a lost classic ‘Doctor Who’ story now restored by the BBC via a combiation of animation and original audio.

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9 thoughts on “DVD Review: ‘Doctor Who’ – “The Power of the Daleks”

  1. This actually seems more interesting than the upcoming modern Doctor Who Christmas special, especially with all the rumors that Peter Capaldi won’t be long for the role of the Doctor.

    • I’m pretty downtrodden about the rumours of Capaldi’s exit, I honestly think he’s the strongest of the modern era Doctors and would love to see him do at least another series but it wouldn’t be surprising if the introduction of new showrunner Chris Chibnall would instigate a change in casting and a new ‘fresh start’.

      • Capaldi is a pretty good Doctor, the problem is that the recent scripts for the program haven’t been as strong as in the past and is a symptom of Moffat running out of steam.

      • I felt there were some strong episodes last year but hopefully the extended break between series will make Moffat’s final run a consistently good one…fingers crossed!

  2. Great review. I’ve always loved listening to The Power of the Daleks on audio, so its been great to see this classic lost story come to life in animated form. I think they’ve done a great job with it, the animation is very good, and its nice the story was available for the 50th anniversary of the 2nd Doctors debut story. Modern viewers might find the pace a bit lax in places, but even so, this Dalek story is still one of the strongest from the 60’s IMOP. Although its difficult to judge because no episodes exists, this is about as good as having those actual episodes, and I hope they animate more of the missing classic stories in the future. Awesome collections of extras with this story as well 🙂

    • Thanks Paul, totally agree with what you say and it’d be great if this release is successful enough to warrant further lost stories being brought back to life in animated form. Surely “Evil of the Daleks” would be a no-brainer?

  3. Interesting review. I’ve heard about the original Doctor Who and how iconic it is for so many fans. I also see the newer reboot A LOT around the world and the crazy fanbase around it. I’ve tried the first episode of this new reboot and… I honestly didn’t understand how the show became so popular. The pilot definitely didn’t make me want to continue the series, although I would’ve liked to see what David Tennant (cause he’s awesome in Jessica Jones!) does in the show. Do you also follow the rebooted Doctor Who?

    – Lashaan

    • Oh yes, I’m definitely a fan of the modern Doctor Who (the most recent couple of series starring Peter Capaldi have been excellent). David Tennant was great but the series has arguably gotten bigger and better since.

      Doctor Who is certainly beloved by so many the world over, but it’s not necessarily for everyone and I can see how viewers of the modern version of the series might find this release more of a crude curiosity. It’s only really since modern Who began screening worldwide that it’s become more of a phenemonen but the classic series shouldn’t be overlooked, despite it’s technical shortcomings.

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