Wednesday, June 6, 2012

See Little Evil



STORY 036: THE EVIL OF THE DALEKS

It's just a lack of foresight on the part of the BBC that of a seven-part story, only one episode survives, and it's no thanks to them.  The Evil of the Daleks suffers greatly because of that, but the one episode we do have (Episode 2) indicates that it is among the better if not best Dalek stories.

Due to the lack of episodes, we'll have to cover the whole story, then discuss the individual episode, followed by a general overview of where the story goes.

We pick up right after the last episode of The Faceless Ones.  The Doctor  (Patrick Troughton) and Jamie are basically stranded in 1966 London, since the TARDIS has been stolen.  They soon find it, along with the mysterious antiques dealer Edward Waterfield (John Bailey).  He is an expert on Victoriana, but why would he want the TARDIS?  When Jamie and the Doctor go to his shop sooner than scheduled, they find that all the antiques are original, but also new.  How can this be?

Mystery solved: Waterfield is a Victoria-era expert...because he IS a Victorian!  He travels back and forth in time, and he abducts the Doctor and Jamie to Victorian times.  Waterfield explains that he and the scientist Theodore Maxtible (Marius Goring) have been experimenting with time travel.  Unfortunately, their work has brought the Daleks to their time.  The Daleks hold Waterfield's daughter Victoria (Deborah Watling) prisoner to keep them working.  The Daleks have ordered them to take the Doctor and force him to do their diabolical work.

What is this work?  It is to isolate the "Human Factor", that special quality that allows humans to defeat Daleks time and time again.  The Doctor does not want to do it, but then appears to be in league with Maxtible and Waterfield. 

I should stop to point out that while Watefield is working under duress, Maxtible collaborates to aquire the alchemist's dream of turning base metals into gold, which the Daleks tell him they will show him how. 

Jamie is able to rescue Victoria, thanks in part to the mute Turkish servant/guard Kemel (Sonny Caldinez).  The Doctor's experiment with the "Human Factor" didn't quite work to the Dalek's satisfaction: rather than make the Daleks invincible, he has made them child-like.  The Daleks capture them and take them to their home world of Skaro, along with the collaborator Maxtible.  Professor Waterfield and the Doctor narrowly escape a bomb and find themselves on Skaro.

Here, the Doctor meets the Dalek Emperor himself, who informs him that He has been using the Doctor not just to find the "Human Factor", but to find the "Dalek Factor" and spread it across time and space.  This does put the Doctor's original plan to 'humanize' the Daleks in a pickle.  Never fear: while the Doctor is forced to work with the Daleks, he tricks them yet again:  the "Dalek Factor" which the Emperor thinks is being implanted in the Daleks is really the "Human Factor". 

Civil war and chaos erupts.  The duplicitous Maxtible gets his just desserts, but Professor Waterfield also falls, sacrificing himself for the Doctor.  With the Daleks seemingly defeated (the Doctor declaring it "The Final End"), Victoria is left all alone, and The Evil of the Daleks ends with her joining the crew as the newest Companion.  In the rubble of the fallen Dalek city, in the darkness, one Dalek light begins blinking...

It's a strange thing that even in its incomplete form The Evil of the Daleks is an amazingly thrilling story.  I ventured to watch reconstructions, particularly of Episode Seven, and the work is quite impressive.  However, let me tackle the actual episode we still have.

Episode Two starts building up the mystery from Episode One and brings the Daleks into full form (given they only appeared at the end of Episode One, although we should know that the Daleks would feature in something called The Evil of the Daleks).  What one can see is just how well Hines and Troughton work together, allowing comedy to flow seamlessly into the story without being silly.

The Doctor warns Jamie to be careful in the antique shop and not break anything, then proceeds to nearly knock over a clock, which Jamie quickly and quietly prevents from dropping.  The timing is so brilliant, and Jamie's expression is priceless: one of annoyance mixed with tolerance for this rather peculiar man he's gotten himself working with. 

I think this is why Jamie makes for one of the Best Companions: there was never any sense that he was his Assistant, but more like his Partner in Crime.  Certainly never as smart as the Doctor, Jamie still had great qualities of courage and honor befitting his Highland roots.

We also get the beginnings of the ultimate Victorian girl in, who else but Victoria.  We see what kind of person she is when we first meet her.  Despite being held prisoner by the Daleks, she still gives what food she has to feed a bird at her window. 

Of course, I digress to say that as part of her imprisonment, she has to be weighed.  I imagine that must be awful for a girl: to be weighed daily and be forced to gain weight. 

Now, if I go over the whole Evil of the Daleks, I see that writer Terry Nation has continued, perhaps consciously, perhaps not, to use the Daleks as symbolic of the Nazis.  Just like their Third Reich counterparts, the Daleks are wildly xenophobic, intolerant, and most importantly collective.  There is no room for individuality in Skaro or in the Dalek worldview.  To have individuality means having individual thought, which is unacceptable to Daleks (and to Nazis).  The survival of any totalitarian regime (and that is what Daleks ultimately want, with them as Overlords to All Creations) is to have uniformity: of purpose, of thought. 

If I'm allowed a digression, the murderous, barbaric, and ultimately Satanic Baathist regime of the Assads in Syria is very Dalek-like, with Bashar Assad as the Dalek Emperor in this case.  The Emperor/Assad rules by fear and by implanting on the Daleks/Syrians that not only are they better than everyone else (certainly the case with Israel and the West), but that it is always "us against them".  If there were such as thing as 'the individual', it would be the "final end" to the Daleks/Syrians, because it would lead to thoughts and opinions that differ from the leadership.  This in turn, would have those under them question the very reason for the Emperor/Assad's authority over them.

All dictatorships, be it Dalek, Nazi, Baathist, Communist, depend on the complete subjugation of the individual to the collective (or state if you like), and to basically make it impossible for all those beneath the power to question why things are the way they are.  This is implanted from youth, and with the Daleks, it is part of their DNA so to speak: they never question that they are Daleks, not "A" Dalek, an individual Dalek, and they never question that they are in it together, and they never stop to think that because this is the way it has always been.

It is in the questioning that is the beginning of all revolutions.  Why do we pay taxes to the Crown when we have no representation at Parliament?  Why are we holding one group of people enslaved for the benefit of others?  Why can we not have elections to pick our own leaders, or why do we have these leaders for 30, 40, 50 years? 

This is what makes The Evil of the Daleks a brilliant allegory to the future fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring.  The Doctor has given the Daleks something they've never had: individualism.  When he implants the Human Factor into them, they not only become child-like but they gain something else: names.   With this, they begin to question why the Emperor rules.  Like all bad dictators, from Caesusescu right on down to Assad, the leaders decide this idea of the Individual must be crushed.  Hence the chaotic battle between Daleks in Evil of the Daleks.  The Dalek Emperor not only wanted to conquer all the known universes, but wanted the Daleks to stay in their place.  When they did the unthinkable, refused, he did what all bad dictators do: send in the troops.  However, he failed to realize that the Humanized Daleks were not only growing but also armed with the same weapons.

I figure I went on a tangent, but I think it illustrates just how well The Evil of the Daleks is, even with only one of seven episodes known to exist.   The Evil of the Daleks is still remarkably relevant and perhaps prophetic, although I'm sure Nation or director Derek Martinus had any idea that this science-fiction story could be interpreted in such a way.

If we go further into the Dalek/Nazi connection, we can Maxtible as the Ultimate Collaborator.  Like all those who work with evil forces against their people, his purposes were thoroughly mercenary: he had no real interest in Waterfield's more benevolent hopes for time travel.  Instead, he wanted wealth via the ultimate fantasy: alchemy.  At the end of The Evil of the Daleks, we see he is so deranged that he, not the Emperor, is the one calling out that the Daleks must never die, but live on forever.

Maxtible has gone from someone who is trying to use the Daleks to someone who has been converted to being almost a Dalek himself, a willing slave to their evil (no pun intended).  He can therefore be seen to represent all those collaborators, from Lord Haw-Haw and Quislings to those in Russia who see nothing wrong with Houla, who are as reprehensible if not more for what their overlords do.

Sadly, one cannot judge the overall performances in The Evil of the Daleks, but as I've pointed out earlier, Hines and Troughton make a great double-act, and Watling plays Victoria perfectly as the innocent caught up in this wicked scheme.

If I were to quibble with anything about The Evil of the Daleks, is that Episode Three as described doesn't really add much.  I'd argue that Jamie and Kemel fighting and Jamie being taken stretches the story just a touch.  This is a danger in early Doctor Who, but usually long Dalek stories are worth their length...usually. 

It's such a great loss that The Evil of the Daleks does not exist, while Love & Monsters will always be around.  I can speak to the surviving episode that it flows well, has clever moments of comedy mixed in with strong drama (I digress to point out that the comedy done here is much better than almost anything in the NuWho Matt Smith Era, with his mugging and River Song just being thrown in for some unknown reason), and that the overall story, despite its lost status, really stands out.    

9/10

Next Story: The Tomb of the Cybermen

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