Reviews | Written by Paul Mount 29/09/2021

DOCTOR WHO – THE EVIL OF THE DALEKS

Evil of the Daleks was the first Doctor Who serial to enjoy a repeat screening on UK television. First broadcast in 1967 as the finale to Patrick Troughton’s first season, the episodes were wheeled out again at the end of his second year as the Doctor ‘recreates’ the story for the benefit of his new travelling companion Zoe (Wendy Padbury) to warn her about the perils she is likely to encounter as a passenger aboard the TARDIS. Despite this second screening, though, the episodes still disappeared into the infamous BBC black hole of recommissioned tapes and were  wiped in 1968, with only the second episode (of seven) finding its way back to the BBC Archives (via a car boot sale) in 1987. Fortunately, the story has been recreated again, this time as the latest of the BBC’s ongoing line of animated reconstructions married to existing top quality soundtrack audios, which have, let’s face it, been a little hit and miss and, despite the best intentions of their creators, often haven’t really captured the spirit and imagination of the long-lost live action version. Evil of the Daleks is, however, a little different in that regard…

With Terry Nation requesting that the BBC no longer make use of his metal meanies (he was trying to launch a lavish American series starring the Daleks) and no longer writing their stories himself, it fell to former series story editor  David Whittaker (who had already written for the Daleks in Troughton’s debut) to craft a workable exit strategy for the show’s most famous bad boys. Evil of the Daleks has always been the stuff of legend and this animation finally allows fans who have never seen it before – and perhaps even those with fading memories of its original transmissions – to appreciate exactly why it is held in such high esteem. The story is a  glorious stew of all those things that make Doctor Who special; magnificent aliens, time travel, mystery and intrigue, greed and misplaced ambition, duplicity, action, and spectacle. Evil of the Daleks is sensational and it’s clear that the animators have gone the extra mile with this one because it deserves it.

Picking up from the end of The Faceless Ones, the Doctor (Troughton) and Jamie (Frazer Hines) are in hot pursuit of the TARDIS. which has been driven away from Gatwick Airport on a lorry.  Their trail leads them to antique shop run by Edward Waterfield (John Bailey), whose Victorian-era antiques look suspiciously new. In a secret room in his shop lurks a time machine and eventually the Doctor and Jamie find themselves in a country house in 1866. The house belongs to eccentric scientist Theodore Maxtible (Marius Goring) who, along with Waterfield, created a time machine using mirrors and static electricity. Unfortunately, it has attracted the attention of the Daleks, who kidnap Waterfield’s daughter Victoria (Deborah Watling) and force the pair to trap the Doctor and his TARDIS. The Daleks require the Doctor’s help in their audacious scheme to isolate the elusive ‘human factor’ which has continually thwarted their attempts to conquer Earth. But the Doctor has his own plans for the future of the Daleks…

Evil of the Daleks is genuinely one of the great Doctor Who masterpieces. Whittaker’s script is intelligent and lyrical, characters are well-rounded and believable (thanks especially to superb performances by the supporting cast) and the Daleks are at their best, devious and manipulative and wisely kept in the background for the first few episodes before the story shifts to Skaro where the final battle takes place. There are some superb moments of tension between the Doctor and the reliable Jamie where the Doctor behaves in what appears to be an entirely uncharacteristic fashion, hiding his true motives from his companion who finds his loyalty tested. The two have a couple of blazing arguments, their relationship tested in ways the 21st century series itself would surely approve of. The animation is superb too, more subtle and nuanced and directed than previous slightly clunky efforts. There are some lovely atmospheric flourishes, scenes where motes of dust in the air are animated (one scene of a Dalek prowling the Victorian corridors of Maxtible’s mansion is incredibly sinister and evocative, dust swirling round the machine as it glides around) and tiny character movements and reactions add to the sense of proper drama and high stakes. It’s genuinely possible this time to forget that this is animation at all, so engrossing and immersive is the story and subtly accomplished is the animation process.  Some action scenes do expose the limitations of the animation, though; characters running or fighting still look a bit awkward but the famous Dalek Civil War between ‘humanised’ and ‘pure’ Daleks in the throne room of the imposing Emperor looks absolutely terrific.

Evil of the Daleks is available as a three-disc release. The episodes are presented in black-and-white and colour (which really brings the story to vivid life) along with a nicely-restored print of the remaining second episode. The Dalek Factor is a fairly routine thirty-one minute ‘making of’ feature, designer Chris Thompson is interviewed in  An Assignment with Grim Evil and completists will enjoy the audiobook of Tom Baker narrating the story. Photo galleries, reconstructions, commentaries and assorted archive bits and pieces round out a thorough and satisfying package of supporting material. But you’ll be here for the story itself and fears that rudimentary animation might undermine the reputation of one of the classics are thankfully unfounded. Evil of the Daleks finally sees the Doctor Who animation range come of age. It’s a real triumph.