The Evil of the Daleks

Posted in Episode by - October 04, 2016
The Evil of the Daleks

Aired 20 May – 1 July 1967

Having just seen Ben and Polly depart their company at 1966 Gatwick Airport, the Doctor and Jamie witness the TARDIS being stolen and driven off on a lorry. Following its trail, they eventually come upon a Victorian antiques shop run by the very peculiar Edward Waterfield, a man literally out of time who brings objects from the past to sell in the present but who is seemingly afraid of a much darker secret.

The missing Dalek stories are unquestionably three of the most famous in Doctor Who lore, and ‘The Evil of the Daleks’ certainly deserves its lofty reputation. At a massive seven episodes in length, writer David Whitaker employs three distinct settings to keep the pacing brisk while allowing plenty of time for exploration of characters and motivations. As the mystery gradually unfurls and events shift from the 1960s to Theodore Maxtible’s 1866 mansion, the heroes and audience learn that the Daleks have Waterfield’s daughter, Victoria, held captive, the Daleks themselves having arrived when noticing Maxtible’s crude time travel experiments with mirrors and static electricity. The Daleks, realizing that they are constantly defeated despite their superior numbers and forces, are searching for the ‘human factor’ to incorporate into their genetic structure in order to assure their invulnerability in the future. To achieve this, they plan on coercing the Doctor into recording Jamie’s responses as he tries to rescue Victoria from their trap.

The rescue forms a substantial part of the story; while the adventurous set pieces and focus on Jamie are enough to captivate, the introduction of the Maxtible’s bodyguard Kemel helps to elevate the sequence into something much more meaningful. With Kemel being told that Jamie is out to kill Victoria, Jamie and he are thrust into combative situations that significantly raise the tension before they eventually save each other’s lives and form an unlikely alliance to rescue Victoria. Once Jamie finally realizes that the Doctor has been complicit and influential in his actions, some very powerful scenes that test the strength of their burgeoning friendship truly help to anchor the story and cast a different light over this new incarnation.

Indeed, it is this different side of the Doctor that is one of the most lasting and impactful aspects of this story. Through their successive appearances, the Daleks have become much more intelligent and manipulative, but ‘The Evil of the Daleks’ is the first time that the Doctor really incorporates a more manipulative and scheming approach into his persona and actions. While the Doctor still firmly fights for what he believes is right, he crosses into ambiguous and grey territory to achieve his aims. Infecting multiple Daleks with the human factor that turns them into childish and almost naïve non-factors, the Doctor then proceeds to coerce these Daleks into going to war against the others of their species, definitively crossing lines that the character has never even approached before this point.

The story continually takes darker turns as it progresses, and seeing both the mental agony of Waterfield as he must aid his daughter’s imprisoners as well as the brutal fallout of Maxtible’s greed and lust for power as he ruthlessly follows the Daleks in hopes of learning the secret of alchemy are both truly harrowing. As events shift once more to Skaro and the behemoth and thunderous Dalek Emperor reveals itself, yet another sinister twist comes as it reveals that the true plan is not to infect Daleks with the human factor but to instead infect humans with the Dalek factor. Underestimating the profound effect of the human factor, however, ‘The Evil of the Daleks’ ends with an explosive finale that the Doctor claims is ‘the final end’ for the Dalek race.

With Victoria an orphan after her father sacrifices himself to ensure the Doctor’s survival, the story maintains a melancholy undertone despite its triumphant finale as the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria silently walk into the TARDIS and disappear, leaving behind the carnage of a Dalek civil war. ‘The Evil of the Daleks,’ then, is unabashedly a classic with every facet of the story working to perfection. Taking its leads in new directions while providing a tremendous victory over the programme’s most iconic foes amidst wonderful locations and atmosphere, this encapsulates the early era of Doctor Who as well as any other story and rivals all existing and missing serials of the early years as being the strongest.

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