The Black Dalek is having a bad day. In an earlier episode we saw how he dealt with failure from some of his hapless Dalek subordinates (he permanently puts them out of his misery). He’s still in a foul mood and Mavic Chen is now in his sights.
Chen’s not prepared to go down without a fight though and manages to turn the argument around by claiming he diverted the Doctor to Mira on purpose. “You make your failure sound like an achievement” rasps the Black Dalek ironically.
Chen is unable to stifle a smile when he learns that the Doctor and his friends have stolen the Dalek ship on Mira. Naturally, this sends the Black Dalek into another tizzy!
The Black Dalek in Coronas of the Sun is probably the most sharply drawn Dalek we’ve seen since their debut story. He’s not content to simply bark out orders, there’s a touch of character and individuality about him.
Was this due to Dennis Spooner’s input? This was the first of his six scripts for DMP (although it was based on a Nation story outline). Nation famously hated the way David Whitaker later wrote for the Daleks in Power and Evil (somewhat missing the point by believing that the Daleks in Power were too subservient) so that does make me lean towards the probability that Nation wouldn’t have made the Black Dalek so individual – he tended to depict the Daleks as much more of a homogeneous collective.
Although Spooner takes over scripting duties for the remainder of the serial (with the exception of the next episode) there’s no sudden tonal shift. That’ll happen next time with Nation’s bizarre Christmas episode before Spooner starts to have some fun over the next few episodes (and it’s fair to say that Spooner was a better comedy writer than Nation) before everything gets serious again for the final two installments.
As for the Doctor, he has some nice confrontational scenes with the Daleks on Mira (it’s pleasing that the Daleks still don’t know who he is – all that “Doctor Who is our greatest enemy” in The Chase was rather tiresome) and later somberly leads Steven and Sara out to meet the Daleks on Kembel. It’s a pity we can’t see this scene as Hartnell is uncharacteristically subdued to begin with.
Thanks to the Doctor whipping up a fake core he’s able to get the TARDIS back. There’s another whacking plot contrivance – Steven manages to inadvertently create a forcefield around himself (!) which means he can hand over the fake core and withstand being exterminated by the Daleks before nipping back into the TARDIS.
Although compared to the events of the next episode that seems quite sensible ….