Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 172: The Evil of the Daleks, Episode Three
Oh dear. I think I've taken the same kind of issue with this story that I did back with The Highlanders - I've decided early on that I'm simply not impressed and now that's all my mind can focus on. Things are even worse here, though, because I'm going in with the pre-defined notion of this being a real classic that can do no wrong…
Whereas actually it's just a bit of a plodding bore that can do no… well… anything, really. Seriously, we're almost 75 minutes into The Evil of the Daleks, and very little has happened. The TARDIS is stolen. The Doctor and Jamie are kidnapped and taken back to 1866. Turns out the Daleks are there, and they want the Doctor to perform experiments on his young friend. Oh, and now there's a Turkish man in a fez and a series of elaborate traps for Jamie to get through so that the Doctor can actually undertake these steps.
Really, though? Really? This story was voted top 18 in the last big fandom poll? (I've yet to see how it's faring in our own large-scale poll of Doctor Who episodes, so I don't know if it's retaining its position, or if it's following its previous form and slipping down the table.)
Oh, all right. It's not all bad. Certainly, it's not reached the point where I'm dreading the throughout of having to go on and start looking for an alternative way of finishing the story (Hello, The Highlanders, again). I think the only thing that's keeping me going at this stage is the promise that things are going to get better. I don't often seem to agree with received fan wisdom, but they can't have been this wrong for so long, surely? The Evil of the Daleks is going to become fantastic any minute now, yeah?
There's one or two little pockets of things peppered throughout the story that are keeping my interest up, and today's thing of interest has to be Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines. Again. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I've praised them to the high heavens plenty over the course of Season Four, but they really are something special, aren't they? Today, we get to watch (hear) them having a blazing row, and it's enough to make the ones the earliest Doctor used to have with Barbara look like a minor play fight.
And then, it's all revealed to be a part of the Doctor's plan - a way of tricking his companion into taking part in the experiment, so that they have a chance further down the line. People often single the Seventh Doctor out as the arch manipulator, but this is a perfect example of it being used much earlier on in the programme's run. I've commented before that this incarnation is very good at dropping the right word or the right action at just the right moment to get the results he wants, but it's never used better than this.
Aside from that scene, which comes fairly late on in the episode, I'm afraid that things just aren't grabbing me. I was going to be rating this one a little lower than I have, but that scene alone is so good that it deserves to bring the score up just a little bit…