Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 174: The Evil of the Daleks, Episode Five
My favourite Beatles Album (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) was released in June 1967, while The Evil of the Daleks was being broadcast (between Episodes Two and Three, to be precise), and watching through the series in order, it's easy to draw some comparisons between the evolution of both the band, and Doctor Who's greatest foes. Although it's not as black and white as I'm about to paint it, I've always thought of the Beatles as being split into their early, very '1960s' stuff, and their later more abstract music.
Similarly, The Daleks have evolved since their earliest days in the series, and I think it's fair to say that they can be divided into the early stuff where they're just 'evil' pepper pots, who come along and invade/kill/shout a lot - essentially, every William Hartnell Dalek story. Or to put it another way, every Dalek story that Terry Nation had a real hand in - and the later Daleks who are more experimental: the two Whittaker stories.
They've not really had a massive presence in this story so far, and I don't think I'd have missed them had they not arrived until this episode in the narrative. Now that the story is shifting its focus back onto them, though, we're given that more abstract kind of Dalek scene that Whittaker is so good at - the episode closes on three Daleks playing a game. It sounds so simple, but it would have been unthinkable for the series to do something like this two years ago. Even the 'comedy' Daleks in The Chase ultimately get restored to shouting 'exterminate!' a lot and chase the Doctor and his companions.
This is the kind of cliffhanger that I've been waiting for from this story - one which takes the Daleks and does something interesting with them. Even when Power of the Daleks was left to show us a group of Daleks amassing an army, they did it on such a scale as to make a real impact. Cliffhangers like the one we had yesterday (two Daleks approach Jamie! Oh no!) just don't pack a punch any more, whereas this kind of thing is fantastic.
I think it's fair to say that the store has a whole has turned around a bit for me today - certainly I've been far more receptive to it. It helps that after several episodes in which we watch people move from 'A' to 'B' to 'C' and back again, things seem to be reaching a kind of point now. The idea of identifying the 'Human Factor' was introduced back in Episode Two, but it feels like so long since then that it had almost become irrelevant in my mind (Of course, it's the whole point of everything that has happened in Episodes Three, Four, and Five, but to my disconnected mind, I couldn't care less).
It might just be because I'm feeling more generous towards the episode, but I've picked up on a lot more sparkling dialogue today than in the rest of the story - it's the first time that I've written quite this many notes for a few days' There's obviously Troughton's speech about being a professor of a wide academy (of which human nature is merely a part), which has seeped into being one of those quotes you often see associated with the Doctor. There's also his discussion about the human emotions and how useful they can be, and his sheer delight when the Daleks push him around the room on a spiny chair. It's another thing I just can't imaging Hartnell's Doctor doing: for all his giggling and light-hearted moments, I can't imagine him being pushed around on a chair by a group of Daleks. Something about that image doesn't seem right in the way that picturing Troughton doing it does.
Perhaps my favourite dialogue from today's episode comes from the Doctor and Jamie's argument. I praised the earlier one they had in which the Doctor tricked Jamie into doing what he needed, but that one was partly play acting, at least on the Doctor's part. Today's argument is real, and you can tell from the way it's played. It's much lower-key than the earlier example, and it feels far more real. In many ways, it's reminiscent of the final scene of The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve, and there's a number of beats in both those arguments that are the same.
I didn't know that the Doctor and Jamie ever had a discussion like this - I always thought they spent all three years together as the absolute best of friends, with never a cross word between them, so it's brilliant to see that there's more to their relationship than all that, and to know that Jamie is capable of being fleshed out in such a way. 'Look, I'm telling you this - we're done, you and me. You're too callous for me,' Jamie tells his friend, and it ties in nicely with my thoughts about the Doctor being seen to manipulate his friend earlier in the story. As always, it's a little thing, but it really works.
I'm hoping that the goodwill I've built up over this episode is a good sign, and with another two to go I may yet figure out why this story is held in such high regard. It's good to know that we're three characters shorter now, as I have to confess I was starting to get a bit lost as to who was who. Now that we've got Daleks acting very differently, and the story seemingly headed somewhere, things are looking up…