Following directly on from the events at the end of The Faceless Ones (a rarity for the Troughton era, although it happened regularly during his predecessors time) episode one of The Evil of the Daleks is content to take things nice and slow.
The audience are already several steps ahead of the Doctor and Jamie though. While our time-travelling chums spend some time wondering who’s stolen the TARDIS and diligently following a set of planted clues in order to recover it, the viewers at home (thanks to the story title) know exactly who’s to blame ….
This isn’t the first time that the Doctor’s been drawn into a story thanks to the machinations of his enemy (The Chase) and it would happen again fairly shortly (The Web of Fear). It’s never been a favourite plot device of mine, although I will concede that it’s probably a better way of getting the story moving than having the Doctor turn up somewhere thanks to blind chance.
Mind you, when you begin to analyse the Daleks’ master plan (as it were) to ensnare the Doctor, you can’t help stumbling over some plotholes. For example, how did the Daleks know that the Doctor would turn up in 1966? (they have a time machine, so I suppose we can let that one go). But the way the Daleks allow Edward Waterfield (John Bailey) to travel from 1866 to 1966 in order to set up an antiques shop selling genuine Victoriana is a little harder to swallow.
It’s an incredibly elaborate way to bait the trap – although it does create an intriguing mystery (quickly solved though) about Waterfield. He’s a man with a courteous, florid way of talking who doesn’t understand even the most familiar of modern slang (as well as occasionally making the odd conversational stumble – referring to cabs as hansom cabs, for example).
Bailey is excellent throughout the story. He was the sort of actor who suffered exquisitely well, and that’s just as well since Waterfield’s got a lot on his plate (he’s an unwilling ally of the Daleks, only cooperating with them because they are holding his daughter Victoria hostage).
Oh, and whilst we’re on the subject of early plotholes, why does a Dalek travel back to Waterfield’s antiques shop in 1966? It’s to provide a decent cliffhanger at the end of episode one and exterminate the troublesome Kennedy (Griffith Davies) but in story terms there’s really no reason.
The 1966 setting of the first episode and a half is worthwhile in one way though – the sudden jolt felt after the Doctor and Jamie are gassed and wake up in 1866 is a more than decent twist.
They find themselves in the home of Theodore Maxtible (Marius Goring), a man who posseses an imposing beard and the habit of declaiming portentously at the drop of a hat. A decade or so earlier, Goring and Troughton were cast as allies in The Scarlet Pimpernel, but Maxtible and the Doctor have a far stickier relationship.
It’s often been commented upon, but why does Maxtible own a portrait of Waterfield’s dead wife? There’s clearly a subplot here to which we’re not privy.
The move to 1866 introduces us to a number of new characters in addition to Maxtible. There’s Mollie Dawson (Jo Rowbottom), Maxtible’s saucepot of a maid for one. The way that Mollie closes the door with her bottom when she first appears and the conspiratorial glances she puts Jamie’s way are evidence of this. Presumably this was Rowbottom doing her best to make something out of a fairly routine role (if so, she certainly caught the eye).
Brigit Forsyth is more restrained as Maxtible’s daughter, Ruth whilst Deborah Watling also makes her debut in the second episode as Waterfield’s daughter, Victoria. Why the Daleks decide to hold her hostage in Maxtible’s house rather than Ruth is another of those plot mysteries that we’re not going to get an answer for.
Watling’s screentime in episode two is pretty brief although we discover that she likes to feed the birds but hasn’t been eating herself (that the Daleks seem concerned about her weightloss and insist that they will force feed her if she doesn’t start tucking in is another of those scenes that’s a slight headscratcher).
Also puzzling is why Arthur Terrall (Gary Watson) pays the roughneck Toby (Windsor Davies) to kidnap Jamie. It later becomes apparent that Terrall is under the control of the Daleks, but since the Daleks and the Doctor need to have Jamie close at hand there seems to be no sense to Terrall’s actions.
The Doctor is forced into an uneasy collaboration with the Daleks (not to mention Waterfield and Maxtible). This is a fascinating part of the tale – even more so than in his first couple of stories, Troughton’s Doctor is unreadable at this point. Presumably he knows that no real harm will come to Jamie, but he still has no compunction in casually exploiting his friend (although to be fair, it was probably the only option left to him).
With Troughton absent for most of episode four (apart from a handful of pre-filmed inserts) it falls to Jamie and his eventual new chum Kemel (Sonny Caldinez) to carry most of the narrative. Manipulated by the Doctor into rescuing Victoria (which is exactly what the Daleks want, as they plan to analyse his actions in order to locate the “human factor” which they claim their logical minds lack) he first has to battle Kemel. But after Jamie saves his life, the pair quickly become best buds.
Since Kemel is mute and Jamie no doubt didn’t really feel like talking that much during their fight scenes, a fair amount of the fourth episode soundtrack is comprised of grunts and incidental music. Had we the pictures to go with it then possibly it would be more compelling, but I doubt it would be edge of the seat stuff.
So it’s another of those episodes where a very little plot is dragged out a very long way (given that the story was a seven-parter this isn’t too surprising). So you have to take your incidental pleasures where you can – Waterfield growing ever more hysterical and Maxtible ever more ruthless for example, or the continuing erratic behavour of Terrall.
Terrall is Ruth’s finance, and throughout the story she continues to wonder why the man she loves has recently become so erratic. Poor Ruth is only a very lightly sketched character, so we never feel too concerned about her feelings but Gary Watson is given a little more to work with. Watson (a familiar television face during the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s) is good value, but Terrall just fades away in episode five and you end up wondering exactly what purpose his character served.
On the plus side though, Terrall and the Doctor share an interesting scene early in episode five. This is partly because it investigates some of Terrall’s oddities (he appears to be full of electricity and hasn’t eaten or drunk anything in ages – both side-effects of the Daleks’ control over him) but also because of the playful way the Doctor attempts to get under his skin.
The scene also contains one of my favourite lines from this or any other DW story. After Terrall comments that the Doctor appears to be a student of human nature, he responds “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”.
Jamie’s disenchantment with the Doctor, later the same episode, is a powerful moment.
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.
DOCTOR: That’s just not true, Jamie. I’ve never held that the end justifies the means.
JAMIE: Och, words. What do I care about words? You don’t give that much for a living soul except yourself.
Unfortunately the impact is negated when, just a few lines later, Jamie becomes best friends with the Doctor again. But you can understand there’s no time for the Doctor and Jamie to have a tiff, as the story – having proceeded at a sluggish pace for a while – now begins to pick up momentum. With the human factor now isolated thanks to Jamie’s unwitting efforts, the Doctor implants it into three Daleks.
There then follows several scenes which are worth the price of admission alone. The human factor has made these three Daleks – christened Alpha, Beta and Omega by the Doctor – into friendly and benign creatures, happy to play with the Doctor (“dizzy, dizzy, Doctor”) and totally accepting that he and Jamie are their friends.
If the Daleks have been, to date, far less interesting or developed as characters in Evil than they were in Power, then these moments help to redress the balance a little. And as time goes on, we begin to understand why the Doctor was so keen to co-operate – Daleks with a conscience would begin to question and eventually (so the Doctor hopes) cause insurrection.
The Doctor, Jamie, Maxtible, Waterfield, Kemel and Victoria all make the trip to Skaro. And there’s a treat in store when the Doctor, Jamie and Waterfield are brought into the august presence of the Dalek Emperor. Only fragmentary footage still exists of the Emperor, but – along with the booming voice – it’s hard not to feel a slight sense of awe.
It almost (but not quite) makes up for some of the serial’s more wayward plotting ….
The Doctor’s confidence that the human factor will see the downfall of the Daleks takes a battering after the Emperor tells him that he wants the Doctor to implant the Dalek factor (“to obey, to fight, to destroy, to exterminate”) throughout Earth’s history. Why can’t the Daleks do it themselves though? Since they have time travel capability, there seems no reason why not.
Civil war begins to brew on Skaro after the Doctor manages to reprocess a whole batch of Daleks with the human factor (once again, the Daleks – and the Emperor especially – should have been a little more cautious about the Doctor’s offer of help). And why does the human factor make the Daleks regress to a seeming childhood state?
On the other side of the coin, Maxtible becomes the first human processed with the Dalek Factor. This allows Goring to go even further over the top (only the recovery of the episode would allow us to know for sure just how stratospheric he actually was). Interestingly, he doesn’t receive his comeuppance (even after killing poor Kemel). The last we see of him he’s still stomping around Skaro, so there’s always the possibility he survived (maybe there’s some fiction out there which developed this notion – given some of the rum stuff that’s been produced over the years, I wouldn’t be surprised).
The Doctor proclaims that the Daleks have met their final end. That didn’t turn out to be the case (they only took a short break of five years). But since Terry Nation in 1967 wasn’t keen for the Daleks to be used again, it very well might have been – so Whitaker certainly gave them an impressive send off.
And with Waterfield dead, the orphan Victoria finds a new home with Jamie and the Doctor ….
Deborah Watling’s had very little to do throughout the story, so Victoria has struggled to make an impact. But hopefully the character will begin to be developed in the stories ahead.
There’s an awful lot to process throughout The Evil of the Daleks‘ seven episodes. It features strong performances (although Goring does err on the hammy side at times), some standout scenes (“dizzy, dizzy, Daleks”) and another fine central performance from Troughton.
It’s also well worth mentioning that it was the final time Peter Hawkins provided the voices of the Daleks. It’s sometimes easy to assume that anyone with a ring modulator can voice the Daleks, but that’s not so – there’s a viciousness and menace to Hawkins’ Daleks that we’ll rarely hear again,
A tip of the hat too to Roy Skelton who was making his Dalek voice debut. If Hawkins was the gold medal standard then I’ve always been more than happy to put Skelton in silver medal position.
To conclude, I’ll give Evil 3.5 TARDISes out of 5. It’s very good, but it’s not quite great.