Monday, April 29, 2013

A Work of Heart

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 2.01

Title: The Evil of the Daleks
Team TARDIS: Second Doctor, Jamie, Victoria (joins)
Adversaries: The Daleks, Theodore Maxtible
Originally Aired: May 20-July 1, 1967
Number of Episodes: 7 (only Episode 2 survives)

I chose to review “The Evil of the Daleks” for several reasons.  Because there’s only one episode out of seven still in existence, it’s one of the lesser-known of the Patrick Troughton era.  That being said, it may be one of the better-known of the missing stories - one that frequently gets recommended to those seeking to venture into the realm of so-called “Lost in Time” stories. The brilliant writing, the character development, the introduction of a new companion, the in-story-time-travel-sans-TARDIS and the hilarity of imagining Daleks playing like they’re trains (it makes sense in context) all make for a memorable narrative.

The topic of missing Doctor Who episodes is well-documented and has been discussed in interviews and documentaries and forums ad nauseum, so I won’t go into it much here (if you are not familiar with the topic, Wikipedia has a pretty good rundown of it).  There are some magnificent gems worth searching out, which is why the hunt for missing episodes is such a popular subject for discussion (to be fair, there are a few stinkers still missing, but those are rare - it seems that The Greater Cosmos decided that they only wanted the best stories wiped, just to screw around with us). I could easily have chosen to review any of the Troughton-era stories that exist in full, but a big component of this blogging project is to pay respect to as many aspects of Doctor Who as I can and I felt it would be a shame not to give the lost stories their due (also, it's kind of fun to listen to Doctor Who stories in the car and count it as having "watched" them because they were originally televised - and before anyone asks, yes, I did watch the surviving Episode 2 on the "Lost in Time" DVD).

“The Evil of the Daleks” starts out where the previous story, “The Faceless Ones” (also mostly missing), left off.  The Doctor and Jamie are still at the airport, having just said goodbye to Ben and Polly, but they are thrown into another adventure almost immediately when it turns out someone has pilfered the TARDIS.  Elsewhere, a man named Waterfield is in his office, consulting with the driver who took the TARDIS and led the Doctor to investigate a thoroughly 1960s coffee bar (complete with modern music in the background).

Something immensely fun about Doctor Who having been around for so long is that I can watch (okay, listen to) “The Evil of the Daleks” in 2013 and not be bothered by how “dated” it is.  To me, it’s just the Doctor and Jamie traveling back in time to 1966.  And even to viewers in 1967 - there’s an element of “They aren't in my modern times, but it’s time travel - I’m okay with this!”  Especially when you have the Doctor traveling with a companion originally from the 1700s (who catches on very quickly), “modern times” takes on a more fluid definition.

Speaking of Jamie - this is the first story where he truly gets to shine.  Previous to “The Evil of the Daleks,” he was more or less window dressing - someone for Ben and Polly to look out for like he was their baby brother.  But now that Team TARDIS is less a Sailor and an Duchess, the young Highlander gets to show the Doctor (and everyone else) that he does have something to contribute and he can take care of himself and those around him.  Jamie has a natural, easy-going, lovable nature I can’t help but be drawn to.  And that on its own might have been enough to make him an enjoyable character.  But it is in his first story as a proactive character that he truly earns my respect and a spot on my personal list of All-Time Favorite Companions (As an aside - Steven Taylor has a similar moment at the end of "The Massacre" that is just heartwrenching if you don't know it's coming).

Episode 3 is where this starts happening and it’s almost jarring to see this unfold (culminating in a bit of a confrontation between Jamie and the Doctor in Episode 5), especially if you’re used to the Jamie and Doctor friendship of the later Troughton-era.  As far as Jamie knows, Maxtible and Waterfield are no-good, dirty rotten scoundrels who have murdered people and stolen the TARDIS.  When he sees the Doctor cozying up to these guys, Jamie’s had it.  He calls the Doctor out on the carpet for this BS - not in a malicious way, but in such a way that says “Nobody’s given me a straight answer and I don’t want to be a doormat!”  It’s there that you realize that Jamie is not going to be a rubber-stamp-yes-man of a companion (and when it comes down to it - completely forgetting the Doctor Who stereotypes and media-perpetuated-perceptions - has the Doctor really had any of those?)

Jamie, to me, is the companion with heart.  Lots of companions have brains and are accomplished intellectually and that’s great, but there’s something about a companion who is loyal, courageous, honorable and kind.  That’s not to say Jamie isn’t smart, but it’s a different kind of smart from the Doctor or astrophysicist Zoe.  Jamie’s intelligence and instinct is vital to his character - he’s a fast learner and can quickly adapt to his strange new life traveling through time and space, though he never forgets his sense of bravery and honor instilled in him as a piper for Clan McLaren at Culloden.

All of this is why the Doctor volunteers Jamie (without Jamie’s consent, mind you - there could be an entire discussion of the ethics of that) to provide the Daleks with “The Human Factor” - some unknown element that humans have that the Daleks don’t that the Daleks believe will help them become Supreme Masters of the Universe! (um... again).  In collaboration with Maxtible and Waterfield, the Doctor sets Jamie up to go on a rescue mission to save Victoria Waterfield, who has been kidnapped by the Daleks and is held prisoner.  With the help of the mute servant, Kemel, Jamie saves the lovely Miss Waterfield (and my shipping goggles come back out to play).  Somehow during this excursion, the Doctor has isolated the Human Factor that Jamie displays and implants it into three brand-new Daleks.  And, oh Dear Reader, such a merchandise opportunity was born!  If Fisher-Price could get a hold of the rights to it, that is.

These three Daleks (named Alpha, Beta and Omega by the Doctor) exhibit all the intellectual maturity of the preschoolers who come to my storytimes at the library.  They want to play.  They want friends.  They sing their new names in a sweet little scene that makes me want to teach the “Alpha, Beta, Omega!” chant to the next group of three-year-olds I come in contact with (I wonder if the Dalek action figures from this story had an option to sing that song, because that would be amazing).  And then they start pushing a wheeled-desk chair around like they’re playing some strange game of Four Square.  But these Daleks mature rapidly and develop the ability to ask questions - something very much in opposition to Dalek culture.  Later, the Human-Factor-Daleks are targeted by the Emperor Dalek for destruction - but the Doctor appeals to their nature to fight for themselves and against the oppressive Dalek regime, eventually destroying the entire Dalek Empire “forever” (or, at least until Terry Nation needs a paycheck again).

This story has so many delightful and remarkable moments in it that would be wonderful to watch and it’s a shame that it doesn't exist (print that line out and keep it handy the next time you’re listening to a missing story audio or watching a recon).  I think “delight” and “remarkable” can fairly well sum-up the Troughton era and it’s clear why his Doctor remains a favorite of so many people - both people who watched his stories brand new and the newer fans who discovered his stories later (such as a certain fellow by the name of Matt Smith you may have heard of).

Heart, innocence and joy - some of the greatest hallmarks of Doctor Who.

Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -

Previously -

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