❉ We return to Vulcan for a new, improved date with the Daleks.
The Power of the Daleks has to be the most reconstructed Doctor Who serial of all time: fanzine photonovel, novel, soundtrack, soundtrack keyed to telesnaps, full-length animation and now – four years after that was released – an animated Special Edition. As the missing story which features the first change of lead actor, from elderly Willian Hartnell to impish Patrick Troughton, you sense there’s almost a collective will to bring into existence the most accurate version of it.
Animated Doctor Who stories have made great strides since 2016, when Power was originally released. The Macra Terror (2019) and The Faceless Ones (2020) have grown not only in terms of technique – the 2D characters no longer look like (in some scenes) actors wondering where their cues have got to – but in creative scope. Armed with this new skill set and aesthetic, Charles Norton and his team of animators felt the time was right to revisit the second Doctor’s first serial.
The recipient of most of the restoration work is Episode One, and it excites from the first frame. You can now see the new Dr. Who breathing on the floor of the TARDIS, while Ben and Polly crouch convincingly over him, the central column of the console rising and falling above them as lights blink on and off on the control panels. Episode One was certainly the weakest of the six, but in fluidity of character movement and attention to detail it now matches the best of the Norton team’s recent work.
The Doctor himself is the same model as the one from Macra and Faceless, in that his checked trousers, guaranteed to test the patience of the most dedicated animator, have been dispensed with. The default, puckish demeanour of this version is now complemented by a succession of authentic, Troughton-esque expressions, that accurately reflect the mercurial personality that first debuted in October 1966.
The other great improvement is in the characterisation of Lesterson. His 2D character has been refined to include the fussy movements of this dedicated but obsessive scientist and, when, his breakdown starts, his facial movements are convincingly expressive of a mind in turmoil at the Dalek horror he’s let loose.
The carnage in Episode Six has been spruced up too, with new animatics of rebels fighting and more refined extermination effects. The imploded Dalek by the TARDIS has been convincingly retooled as well, and as it falteringly came back to life, I was left impatiently wondering how long it’ll be before the animated version of The Evil of the Daleks arrives on shiny disc.
Among the many new extras, there’s a featurette on the recreation of the model Dalek production line from Episode Four. Long time effects genius Mike Tucker managed to source an original toy, produced by Hertz for Woolworths in the 1960s, used as the basis for the Daleks in the Power model. From that, Tucker was able to make a cast for new miniatures. Just before lockdown, the recreated tabletop model – “doll’s house scale” – went before a vintage Arriflex 16BL film camera, the same marque that was used to record the 16mm film sequence over fifty years ago; the results can be seen at the end of the mini doc. I love how contributors to the Doctor Who DVD/Blu-ray range, like Tucker, will go several miles beyond the extra one, delivering delightfully idiosyncratic treats like this one.
The Special Edition also includes a compilation of all the cleaned up, existing original footage from the story, now including cine film from the estate of the late Derek Dodd, The Power of the Daleks’ production designer. Some of these precious frames have been used as the basis for Lesterson’s revised characterisation, and it’s tantalising to see them in sequence with the rest of what survives. That new film has turned up in the four years since the first release was compiled, fires the imagination at what other archive treasures might still be out there.
The extensive list of other extras wasn’t available for preview, so I’m going to have to wait with everyone else to see Troughton’s only surviving performance as Robin Hood, the Whicker’s World in which the globe-trotting reporter interviews Dalek creator Terry Nation, and the various, related archive footage from BBC news programmes and the children’s show Blue Peter. And that’s before I get to grips with the wealth of PDF material. To coin a phrase, I never knew there was so much on it.
Unless the original episodes turn up – or someone perfects CG recreations of 1960s actors – Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks Special Edition is the best it’s ever going to get for this landmark story.
Well worth a double-dip.
❉ Audio commentaries by Anneke Wills on each episode
❉ Animation test footage
❉ Photo Gallery, including previously unreleased and rediscovered full colour on-set photos from 1966.
❉ Servants & Masters – The Making of The Power of the Daleks
❉ Two new documentaries about Power of the Daleks
❉ 1993 BBC audio version of The Power of the Daleks narrated by Tom Baker
❉ Raw incidental music
❉ Photogrammetry Featurette
❉ Whicker’s World – I Don’t Like My Monsters to Have Oedipus Complexes
❉ Daleks – The Early Years: A 1992 documentary presented by Peter Davison
❉ Robin Hood – 1953 Episode: Patrick Troughton’s earliest surviving TV appearance
❉ BBC archive footage from BBC regional news, BBC Breakfast, Blue Peter and Newsnight
❉ Previously unreleased animation trailers and animatics
❉ Easter Eggs
❉ ‘Doctor Who: The Power Of The Daleks – Special Edition’ will be available on DVD and Blu-ray from 27 July, 2020.
❉ Pre-order ‘The Power Of The Daleks – Special Edition’ now from Amazon, Zoom, Zavvi and HMV.com.
❉ Robert Fairclough is a film and TV journalist and blogger and a regular contributor to We Are Cult, ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ and ‘Infinity’. He is the author of books on the iconic TV series ‘The Prisoner’, and co-author (with Mike Kenwood) of definitive guides to the classic TV dramas ‘The Sweeney’ and ‘Callan’. All photos taken by Robert Fairclough