For those less versed in Whovian lore, The Power of the Daleks is the first full story to feature Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor. It aired in 6 weekly episodes from November 5 until December 10, 1966. Sadly, the entirety of this serial was lost during the BBC’s archive purge in the late ’60s and early ’70s. All that remains of the original footage are a few very short video clips that were used for other things, some still pictures, and the complete broadcast audio. This is where we now pick up the narrative.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Power of the Daleks, the BBC has taken that original broadcast audio track and animated all six episodes, releasing the results in the UK starting on November 5, 2016, and to the rest of the world in the weeks since. Some countries only received online releases, while others also got a one day cinematic release. In Canada, that one day was November 30.
I must say it was an interesting experience, one that I think caught some some people in the audience off guard. To start with, the pacing of the original Doctor Who stories is significantly slower than the current series, which is at least somewhat due to the fact that it was written in a serialized format, with one story lasting between four and six half hour weekly episodes. Also, the BBC itself was still developing in the 1960s, and science fiction television was quite rare. While revolutionary for the time, the classic serials did not have anywhere near the polish and pop of the current ones. There were a number of people who didn’t realize this who walked out.
The animation was amazing and terrible at the same time. The backgrounds were gorgeous, the Daleks looked amazing, and the people…. Well, the people looked like Archer and South Park had a lovechild. Artistically, they looked very similar to Archer, but with more shading and shadows (because: black and white), and the movement had that herky jerky sort of motion that South Park does, complete with limited mouth articulation. These “artistic choices” were magnified on the big screen, and there were moments where I was starting to get a headache from it. There was also an issue with costuming continuity. The costuming changed, often from shot to shot within the same scene. Name tags and pockets would randomly change sides, and insignia would appear and disappear. I have no idea why this would be done intentionally, yet I can’t even imagine the level of incompetence needed for it to be a mistake.
I won’t go into a ton of the detail over the plot, but this is an incredibly important story arc in the Doctor’s history. It sets up many of the conventions surrounding his regenerations, (his actual regeneration, or renewal at the time, was at the end of the previous serial, The Tenth Planet). The writers, through the Doctor’s companions, did an excellent job reflecting the skepticism of changing the character so drastically. As well, the Daleks also showed a depth of character, and insidiousness, that they had never shown prior and rarely since.
If you are an original, or even just a pre-Eccleston, Doctor Who fan you will enjoy this. If you want to learn more about the history of the Doctor, you should watch this, but it may not be your favourite. If you have never seen a classic episode, and think Peter Capaldi is too old to play the part, you may want to pass on this one.
I wish I could say this was mind blowing, but I can’t justify giving it more than a 3 out of 5. These aren’t the first “missing episodes” that BBC has animated, but it is the highest profile project. I honestly hope they do it again, but with cleaner animation.
Worldwide release and format information for The Power of The Daleks is available here