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25 June 2013

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

Day 176: The Evil of the Daleks, Episode Seven

Dear diary,

I spent a fair bit of time during The Faceless Ones talking about the way Samantha Briggs was being set up as a companion, with a proper back story that served to show off all the aspects of her character – she was plucky, inquisitive, unafraid to dive right in to potential danger (she’d come all the way down from Liverpool, too, you know) and there was a real connection between her and Jamie. She was so very clearly the new companion… right up until the end of the story, at which point she wasn’t.

I’ve then spent plenty of time in this story actively waiting for the chance to show Victoria being signposted as the companion… but she isn’t, until the latter half of today’s episode – six after she was introduced. Victoria has come across as just a bit of a damsel in distress, and although much of the story has revolved around her (or, at least, around Jamie’s attempts to rescue her), she hasn’t really made much of an impact on me. Certainly, I couldn’t tell you very much about her character at all, whereas Sam Briggs was fully rounded by the time she kissed our highlander goodbye.

It’s surprising, then, that her being accepted onto the TARDIS as the new companion carries as much weight as it does. I’d forgotten that her father died during the course of this story, so his sacrifice to save the Doctor came as a pleasant surprise, and it was very movingly done. ‘You’ve just saved my life,’ the Doctor tells him. ‘It’s a good life to save,’ Waterfield replies, before asking the Doctor to look after Victoria for him. Jamie later muses that they can’t just leave Victoria (alone on Skaro, with her father and her best friend dead? I should think not!) and the Doctor confirms that she’s leaving with them. It’s a lovely moment, and oddly emotional, considering my lack of attachment to her up to now.

It’s odd to think that this is it (barring the odd cameo) for the Daleks until quite some way into the Third Doctor's era. They'll be absent from the series for the next five years, and absent from The 50 Year Diary for the next five months, rather fittingly returning for me just around the time of Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary. It was at this point Terry Nation started to really look at selling the Daleks as their own series, and this is probably the more logical placement for Daleks: The Destroyers to sit, but it felt like 'the final end' was a good point to leave the creatures on for now.

I wonder, though, what it would have been like if the Daleks hadn't turned up again to face off against Jon Pertwee? It's definitely true to say that without them, the programme wouldn't have gotten out of the First Season (possibly not even that first 13-episode commission), but by this point in time, it really has picked up it's own following, and losing the Daleks here and now possibly shows that they're not really needed for Doctor Who any more. Imagine a world in which the return of the Daleks, those pepper pot creatures from the 1960s were being revived for the new series as a slightly more obscure monster, in the same way the Macra and the Ice Warriors have been in recent years!

On the whole, I'm sad to say, The Evil of the Daleks hasn't been the barn-storming end to the Fourth Season that I was hoping for. The story's reputation within fandom has always been very high, but it really hasn't delivered for me. Lots of very nice moments, but it's felt like the Daleks leaving the series with more of a whimper than a bang, a real shame. I'm almost tempted to read the Target novel at the end of Series Five (when this serial was repeated on television) to see if I can improve my opinion on it - worth doing?

Aside from that, and The Highlanders, Season Four has been very strong. I've really loved it. I worries so much about these 'middle' seasons of the 1960s, since there was just so much missing, but it wasn't until after I'd finished with today's episode that I realised - we've not had a complete story all season! THat's about to be changed, with the release of The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase with animated episodes, but for me, every single story has been supplemented with the soundtracks. I think it's a testament to the season that it's managed to make such a great impression with so little visual material to go on.

But forget all that! We move onwards, and into Season Five! Not only that, it's my first complete Troughton story, and it's the classic tale I've always considered my favourite Doctor Who story. Little bit excited? You bet I am!

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