Doctor Who
The Power of the Daleks

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Radio Collection
RRP ú13.99
ISBN 0 563 52503 7
Available 02 August 2004

The Doctor appears to have transformed before the eyes of his companions, Ben and Polly. Can they trust this stranger who claims to be their friend? That question becomes the least of their problems, however, when the TARDIS lands on the Earth colony of Vulcan, where a scientist has discovered a crashed space capsule - containing Daleks...

This is actually the third audio release of this story. It was originally issued on cassette in 1992, narrated by Tom Baker. More recently it was released, remastered and with new narration by Anneke Wills (Polly), as part of the now sold-out 40th anniversary Daleks tin. If you didn't manage to get hold of one of only 8,000 copies of this tin, then now's your chance to hear the classic tale in crystal clarity.

The sound has been cleaned up considerably since the cassette version was released, which is a real plus. However, I'm not sure it was necessary to replace Baker's narration. The BBC Radio Collection didn't see fit to replace Colin Baker's voice-over when The Macra Terror was reissued on CD. Sure, Tom Baker's narration was somewhat obtrusive at times, but on the other hand Wills has a tendency to sound a tad dispassionate.

What about the story itself, though?

This is the first Dalek serial not to be written by their creator, Terry Nation. Former story editor David Whitaker takes over the writing chores, though he does find inspiration in Nation's original Doctor Who script, The Daleks, by once again making the creatures dependent on static electricity for power.

It is significant that Whitaker returns to The Daleks as source material (the music department follows suit, by reusing Tristram Cary's incidental score from that serial), because in so doing he effectively abandons the expansionist approach that Nation had been taking, which was reaching unsustainable proportions. Nation's first Dalek sequel, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, saw the malevolent machine-creatures conquering our own planet. In their next story, The Chase, they acquired the power of time travel. Then, in the epic The Daleks' Master Plan, they threatened to conquer the entire galaxy. Where could they go from there? The universe? Beyond?

Instead, Whitaker goes back to basics. He depicts a (to begin with) small party of Daleks, who use their considerable cunning to gain the trust of the colonists. Rather than ranting about universal domination and extermination, they pretend to be helpful servants - although, thanks to the sterling efforts of voice artist Peter Hawkins, their murderous intent can always be heard lurking beneath the surface. We have every reason to believe the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) when he fearfully states that one Dalek would be sufficient to destroy the entire colony.

Troughton certainly makes an impression as the new Doctor, as he alone voices concern about the Dalek threat. However, during much of the story he isn't very talkative, preferring instead to communicate via tones on his recorder. We share Ben's (Michael Craze) frustration with this cryptic new Doctor, whose performance would take several more episodes to settle down.

Of the other performances, Robert James stands out as the scientist Lesterson. He starts off as an eager, though na´ve, pioneering spirit, but convincingly degenerates into a delusional wreck once the true nature of the creatures he has revived becomes apparent.

How this story fits in with the rest of Dalek history is unclear. Their reliance on static electricity, the fact that the colonists have never heard of the Daleks, and the dateline of 2020, which is stated in BBC publicity material including Radio Times, all point to this serial being set before The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

However, the date is never mentioned in the transmitted story, and the Daleks' vertical midriff slats, which were added to the props from The Chase onwards, imply that this serial takes place post-Dalek Invasion. (OK, I know this is an audio release, but you can see the slats on the cover.) While the Daleks need static in order to move around the colony, they are also said to be storing the power, and a Dalek is later discovered outside the settlement, so perhaps they only need a regular supply during their initial recharging period. The fact that the Daleks recognise the newly regenerated Doctor suggests that they have met this incarnation before, in The Evil of the Daleks or some un-televised story. The colonists' failure to recognise the Daleks is tricky, but it could indicate that several centuries have passed since Dalek Invasion, and the colonists might not be too hot on their Earth history.

As a piece of Who history, though, The Power of the Daleks is essential listening.

Richard McGinlay

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