The Evil of the Daleks: Episode Five
The episode kicks off with another destroyed Dalek (crashing over the bannisters).
Not only are these incredibly easy to overcome (a far cry from the Doctor’s warning that one Dalek could take over the entire Vulcan colony), but also the Daleks don’t seem remotely concerned by the destruction of their fellows. Are they purposefully weedy cannon fodder Daleks, engineered purely for the test?
Victoria’s very pleased to see her silent guardian, who is presumably so noble that he has a purely platonic interest in response. Victoria’s okay when she’s not whinging. Unfortunately, this is very infrequent. Fortunately, she is rendered unconscious and the devoted Kemel spirits her away to Skaro (at the Daleks behest).
Terrall’s plotline comes to a head, and we’re none-the-wiser why the Daleks devised his tangential role on top of Maxtible’s machinations. Possibly they were just dabbling with human control (like the Robomen) but as it caused potential foul-ups of their plans you’d have thought they’d be more careful.
The Doctor’s a bit more playful in his company, offering pestering him and offering him a drink.
Terrall: I very rarely touch it.
The Doctor: Oh, how very unsociable.
But it’s a means to ascertaining the truth about the man. The Doctor notes that he has never seen Terrall eat or drink, to which Terrall responds that the Doctor has been reading too much Edgar Allan Poe. He also notes that Terrall has magnetic properties (which is curious to say the least; another example of the fantastical – and appealing – nature of Whitaker’s version of science).
Terrall: No doubt you are a keen student of human nature. But there are some things best left alone.
The Doctor: No, Mr Terrall, I am not a student of human nature. I am a professor of a far wider academy of which human nature is merely a part. All forms of life interest me.
It’s a classic bit of Doctor dialogue, setting out the scope of his “mission”. Left alone, Terrall struggles with his conditioning. Fortunately, far more believably than Stein in Resurrection of the Daleks.
Later, following his sword fight with Jamie, Terrall breaks down completely. The Doctor removes the black control box from under his collar.
The Doctor: Do you want to save this man’s life?
The Doctor: Then take him away from here, as far as possible.
Terrall’s parting concern, with his senses returning (“Wait… Victoria Waterfield. I feel I have harmed her in some way”), highlights that the only character in the story with less than salubrious motives (aside from the now deceased Toby) is Maxtible. It’s a welcome gesture that Whitaker doesn’t feel the need to have Terrall exterminated for his role as an unwilling Dalek agent.
Messing with minds is a recurring theme in Season Four, be it straightforward brainwashing (The Macra Terror) or emotionless facsimiles (The Faceless Ones). Then, Season Four was broadcast during a period that widely embraced mind-altering substances. One might argue that, if there’s a subtext within the show, Doctor Who presents such experimentation in a negative light. But at no point are the victims in the series willing participants and the influence is as likely to promote conformity with the presiding social structure (The Macra Terror) as disruption (The Moonbase).
Maxtible reveals that Victoria’s abduction was achieved through the hypnosis technique he now practices on Molly (again, Maxtible shows himself to be such a resourceful fellow that his falling prey to good old fashioned avarice is an even greater disappointment).
Terrall: I’d no idea that mesmerism was one of your skills.
He continues to delude himself that he is partnering with the Daleks (“I prefer to call them my colleagues”) but that’s hardly surprising given the alternative.
We finally see a glimmer of the Doctor’s hope that he will find a path through his collaboration with the Daleks, resulting in their defeat. This comes by way of his conversation with Waterfield, who is posing many of the same moral concerns he expressed to Maxtible in the previous episode.
The Doctor informs him that he has synthesised the better emotions (“Courage, pity, chivalry. Even compassion”) within a positronic brain (that thing again; see Power of the Daleks). The Doctor conjectures that the Human Factor might drive the Daleks insane, but Waterfield – ever fearful – wonders that they may become super beings (surely that’s exactly what these “devils’ are to him right now?) The Doctor even invokes the earlier admonishments of Maxtible when he comments, “It’s no use having a conscience now”.
The Doctor: I can’t help feeling there is more to this than meets the eye.
So he has his wits about him, yet he is unable predict the Dalek Factor reveal of the final episode.
Waterfield: They will enslave us for all time.
The Doctor: That, Mr Waterfield, remains to be seen.
Waterfield goes on:
Waterfield: And sacrifice a whole world.
The Doctor: Yes, it may come to that. It may well come to that.
Waterfield: I don’t think you quite realise what you are saying.
But what the Doctor has in mind, a glimmer of hope, is clearly the sacrifice of a world other than Earth; Skaro (I don’t think he’s literally thinking about the Thals being wiped out, but effectively the Human Factor will wipe out the Daleks there).
Speaking of which, the climax of the episode is one of the series’ most unique and bizarre. Disturbing precisely because it seems so unthreatening. Whitaker takes Dalek compliance a step further than in Power (“I am your ser-vant”) as an initially reluctant Doctor engages in a ride on a Dalek (“It’s a game!”)
I expect Maxtible’s sinister parting shot was designed to make the cliffhanger slightly more traditional, but it doesn’t really rein in the oddness.
Maxtible: A rather amusing little game. Don’t you think Jamie?
The highlight of the episode is the conversation preceding this, however. Jamie takes the Doctor to task for his behaviour.
The Doctor: I’ve been up all night, but it’s been worth it.
Jamie: Don’t touch me.
The Doctor: Now, what’s the matter?
Jamie: Anyone would think this was a little game.
The Doctor: No, it’s not a game.
Jamie: Of course, it isn’t, Doctor. People have died. The Daleks are all over the place, fit to murder the lot of us. And all you can say is, “You’ve had a good night’s sleep”.
The Doctor: Jamie…
Jamie: No, Doctor. Look, I’m telling you this. You and me, we’re finished. You’re just too callous for me. Anything goes by the board, anything at all.
The Doctor: That’s just not true, Jamie. I’ve never held that the end justifies the means.
Jamie: Words. What do I care about words? You don’t give that much for a living soul except yourself.
The Doctor: I care about life. I care about human beings. You think I let you go through that Dalek test lightly?
Jamie: I don’t know, did you? Look Doctor, just whose side are you on?
There’s real emotional heft here. This kind of altercation hasn’t been seen since Steven’s tirade against the Doctor at the end of The Massacre (which had a strong build up, with The Daleks’ Master Plan littered with heavy losses of companions and friends). It’s the more powerful because of that infrequency.
Without needlessly invoking the spectre of the current version of Doctor Who, one of the problems is that the impact of this sort of scene is diluted by making it a fairly regular occurrence. The companion is called upon to doubt and question the Doctor, at which point we are asked to dwell upon his status as a “lonely god”. It becomes a rather tiresome trope. So too with McCoy’s incarnation; the Doctor’s actions were part of the grand scheme of an arch-manipulator, with Ace as his puppet. Here, because Troughton’s Doctor larks about so much, because Jamie is such a good-natured trooper all the time, because there’s no persistent agenda, it really is shocking.
But it’s notable too that the next story will also call upon the Doctor to display slightly inscrutable motives, leading the archaeological expedition forward rather than imploring them to beat a hasty retreat.
Back on its A-Game, Episode Five is outstanding. Discarding plot threads that have run their course (Terrall and Ruth), paying-off others (Jamie’s journey) and then turning the Daleks on their heads at the cliffhanger.