The Power of the Daleks: Episode Six
Like the final episode of The Smugglers, the absence of the last part of Power from the archives is felt more strongly due to being so action-orientated. It’s a bit of a slaughter, actually, with only two supporting characters surviving the carnage. There are a couple of points where I scratched my head over plot developments, the first of which involved the rebellion.
Early on, Janley appears before Bragen, a gun slung over her shoulder (a bit proto-Patty Hearst) and announces that the rebels are victorious.
Janley: We’ve won. The revolution is over.
But what exactly did this off-screen take-over entail? Bragen has already taken charge of the colony, so what more needs to be done? Taking out a few supervisors? Bragen’s personal guard remains unaffected, and they’re the ones in the previous episode who won’t take orders from Hensell.
Bragen: The revolution is not quite over yet. You mentioned Kebell, Valmar and that rabble. Well, now they must be dealt with. They rebelled against Hensell yesterday. Tomorrow it will be my turn. Well let them rebel. Tell them the guards have taken control. Let them attack and then we can crush them utterly.
It’s Bragen’s utterly ruthless pragmatism that holds together a rather underdeveloped plot thread. In a particularly nasty touch, he reveals that he was ready to gun down Janley there and then if she didn’t agree to his plans for the rebels. Good as Archard is, Christopher Barry can never quite sell the idea that this is a large colony that takes its Governor days to tour. The script is mindful enough to reference the off-screen masses though, as in Bragen’s announcement.
Bragen: People of Vulcan, this is your new Governor talking to you. I have to announce that Governor Hensell has been murdered by the rebels. I have taken control temporarily until order is restored. People on the perimeter and the interior should stay calm. We know who the murderers are. I shall keep you informed of events as soon as I am able.
What works very well is Bragen’s gradual realisation, but refusal to accept, his loss of control. First comes the news that the Daleks are aiding the rebels (of which more in a moment) and then the complete lack of response to his orders (“I’m their Governor. Why don’t they answer?” – it seems there’s a montage of the devastated colony at this point, as there’s only silence accompanied by funereal music for a spell). Right until the last he continues in his attempt to hold sway.
Bragen: Daleks, listen to me. I’m the Governor. You must work with me. Do not trust the rebels. I will give you whatever you want. But, immobilise your guns. This is the Governor speaking.
With the Daleks destroyed, he corners Quinn.
Bragen: Now I shall restore law and order to this planet.
Except that Valmar shoots him.
The Daleks appear to reconsider their strategy in this episode for no good reason. At the end of Episode Five they’re swarming around screeching that they will “Exterminate. Annihilate. Destroy. Daleks conquer and destroy” but now they offer their aid to the rebels in dealing with Bragen (Valmar overheard Bragen’s instruction to Janley).
Dalek: We will fight for you. You will lead us to the middle of your party of human beings. We are your friends. We will serve you.
It may be that they consider it more economical to mop up the rebels in one place, but they hardly represent a realistic threat now that the Daleks are on the rampage. It doesn’t make much sense either that a scene or two earlier we hear “Orders received. Daleks to commence extermination”. Wouldn’t the rebels have picked up that this was going on?
There’s a sense that the whole “Power” of the Daleks premise, in respect of their becoming autonomous, would not have been conceived much beyond the ’60s. We’re now used to Daleks being self-powering, pretty much, but in Episode Six they still haven’t quite sorted out their system.
Dalek: Static circuit is nearly complete. Soon we can abandon the power we are using.
There’s another reference here to “the law of the Daleks” which is now “in force”. Of the supporting cast, they exterminate Kebell, Janley and, with something approaching irony, Lesterson.
Lesterson resurfaces when the Doctor returns to the lab. His transition to madness is now complete, and it’s an extraordinary performance from James, helped considerably by wonderful dialogue.
Lesterson: You must be absolutely quiet. They know everything that’s going on. They even know what you’re thinking.
He comments that one has to admire them, that they are marvellous creatures (which echoes the respect the Doctor has for their capabilities in earlier episodes) and that there is nothing that can be done.
Lesterson: They’re the new species, you see. Taking over from homo sapiens. Man’s had his day. Finished now… All we can do is marvel at the creatures who are now taking our place.
When he’s later accused by aggy Ben of being responsible for all this, he is utterly unruffled, disassociatively acknowledging the point (“Well, I could control it, you see”) and suggesting that the Doctor find out from the Daleks where their power supply is located (“Yes, you should ask the Daleks”). Then, in a stroke of chilling brilliance, he pledges allegiance to the new masters.
Lesterson: I want to help you.
Lesterson: I am your ser-vant.
His mimicking of the Dalek intonation is even more chilling than the Daleks themselves coming out with the line in the second episode. And, as mentioned, his comes across as a somewhat grizzly joke on the Daleks’ part.
Dalek: We do not need humans now.
Lesterson: But you wouldn’t kill me. I gave you life.
Dalek: Yes. You gave us life (exterminates Lesterson)
The Doctor and the companions are characterised either intriguingly or generically. In the case of the latter, Polly is ill-served. Gone is the conviction towards doing the right thing she displayed in the final episode of The Smugglers. It’s replaced by screamer companion terror, needing Ben to protect her, and the attitude Ben previously held (asking to go back to the TARDIS). That said, she is more mindful than Ben of all that the colonists have been through (“Think of all those poor people. All killed”) when the latter begrudges them a lack of gratitude.
The Doctor adopts a “needs of the many” morality (consistent with his prioritising the Daleks over Quinn’s incarceration earlier) and doesn’t agonise over sending Bragen’s guards to their deaths (as a distraction while he can get on with sabotaging the Daleks’ power supply). It’s surprising, as the show doesn’t often force the Doctor into a position where he is required to make such a decision. He’s usually allowed a get-out, either through someone else volunteering or events overtaking him. Even Bragen considers it to be too much (“I will not allow my guards to be sacrificed”).
And one might suggest that the method adopted to defeat the Daleks is borne out of vanity. Asked by Valmar why he doesn’t just cut the power, he replies “Because I prefer to do it my way”. His way leaves the colony even more crippled than it would otherwise be.
Valmar: You may have stopped the Daleks. But do you have any idea of the damage you’ve done to the colony?… Did it have to be this way?
A reasonable question. But this is a new Doctor, with a streak of anarchy. He’s not remotely contrite about what he has done.
The Doctor: I think we’d better get out of here, before they send us the bill.
There’s an interesting tug between a neat wrap up and a more open sense of “What happens next?” Quinn and Valmar burying the hatchet seems a bit too sudden (“We shall rebuild together”). But the weird final shot, where a crumpled Dalek’s eyestalk rises to observe the dematerialising TARDIS, appears to reject Ben’s assertion that it is “Just a heap of old iron now”. Perhaps because the “final end” is a few stories away.
Overall: If it weren’t for the slightly threadbare rebels plotline, this would get full marks. Troughton makes a mighty debut, swinging from zaniness to etching out a moral code distinct from that of his predecessor. The Daleks make their most cunning and developed appearance, before or since, while Robert James’ performance as Lesterson is an unsung great supporting turn.
(Episode rating is the same as for the overall story.)