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23 May 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 143: The Power of the Daleks, Episode Two

Dear diary,

It's always something of a joke among Doctor Who fans that when you've got a story with a title that ends …of the Daleks, then the cliffhanger to episode one will be the shock reveal of… Dun Dun Dun! You've guessed it. Sometimes it works really well, and this story is one of those times. I praised the cliffhanger enough yesterday, even going so far as to call it the best cliffhanger we'd had since the start of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and now today's episode has gone and topped it!

It's a bold move, still at the tail end of the Dalekmania craze, to make the audience wait this long for some proper Dalek action. We're now 50 minutes into this story, and we've only just heard one of the creatures speak for the very first time (though he repeats himself enough to make up for it). And yet, you know what? It works! If anything, it's making the Daleks here seem like more of a threat, because I'm anticipating a moment when they'll stop playing dead and just massacre the whole bloody colony!

There's a great scene in this episode, where Lesterson is experimenting by hooking up small amounts of power to the Daleks and recording the results. In the middle of one experiment, the Dalek gun goes off and shoots another scientist. It's terrifying! It comes only a few moments after they'd been wondering what the shorter arm might be for, and it comes so out of nowhere that it really did surprise me. There's a real sense of tension to this story that we've just not had with the Daleks before.

So then, when they've finally managed to revive one of the pepper pots properly, it comes along, fixes its eye square on the Doctor, and then announces to the room that it's their servant! I've joked about the repetition above, but it really does work, and it helps to build up the tension. We know what the Daleks are really like, so what's actually going on here!?! We've even been given a handy reminder from the Doctor that a single Dalek is more than enough to wipe out all the life in the colony. It's a clever move to bring the Doctor's greatest enemy back for the first story with a new actor, and it looks like the Dalek's recognition of him may start to swing Ben's opinion a little, but they've never been used in such an odd way before! I love it.

Elsewhere, Troughton is continuing to win my affections with pretty much everything he says and does. We've another scene of him answering questions with a recorder (it's amusing me now, but I'm glad it's not something he'll do for the full three years - it could wear thin very quickly!), and plenty of other humour from him. There's a great moment when he points out that his badge says he's allowed full access, and adds that it doesn't then exclude the laboratory. It's played spot on, and really did raise a smile.

Also brilliant was the reference to China, and the Doctor's vague memory that he'd been there once, and met Marco Polo. There's starting to be more and more of these little nods to the First Doctor throughout this episode, and it feels like they're easing you into accepting this new fellow as the same man. It's interesting to see tis happening as a sideline to the main story, as opposed to getting it out of the way, before going on to do the rest of the plot (Castrovalva, I'm glaring at you…).

Now, it's either going to go one way or another with the Dalek reawoken. There's a real danger of things going off the rails, and leaving us with a standard Dalek runaround. Equally, there's a slim chance that they might be able to sustain the tension built up so far and keep it going for a little longer yet. I'm guessing you can guess which camp I'm firmly hoping for…

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