I apologize in advance for this very dry introduction to a Doctor Who review. Because full disclosure, this is my second time watching Doctor Who anything. The third serial from Doctor Who, called Power of the Daleks, is from the show’s fourth series. BBC originally released it at Guy Fawkes Day, 1966 because British people are shady. Curiosity drives Whovians of all generations to be completists. But eight years after Power‘s release, the network erased it along with much of their archives. And the serial’s 50 year anniversary just came up so the BBC resolved to restore it through animation. The animators relied on the four minutes of surviving footage from the serial as well as its production stills. The question now is whether responding to the audience’s hunger for content is worth it.
And of course, animation has its positives, letting us see for example how spacious some of the sets are. This would not have been possible 50 years ago when production value for TV was much lower. But what it has in dimension it lacks in texture. I looked up the original footage on YouTube and it has a creepy quality to it. What we get instead in this restoration is a poppy sheen. Naturalistic gradations of the shades between black, white, and gray are practically nonexistent. After the combined series finished playing I got to see special features. There, the animators talked about all the hard work they did. And yet there’s a feeling that all that effort wasn’t enough to bring that wonderful world back to life.
The most disappointing aspect of this animation is how they draw the characters. I’ve only seen one other Doctor and it should be nice to discover new Doctors and actors. This restoration is not the best introduction to the cast. The animators brought out the impish trickster in the Second Doctor. But there’s a lot lost in translation when he and the other characters can’t emote naturally. They also move like paper cutouts. Other animated shows have made it possible but a production from a big network somehow can’t. Creators of TV shows need emotion to transport its audience to whichever world they can offer but it’s not here. The animators talked about drawing ten different expressions for each character but it looks more like two.
One of the serial’s first images is the Doctor transforming into his second form. His companions, Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (Michael Craze) are unsure whether or not he is the Doctor. Polly becomes more convinced that he is the Doctor but Michael is more skeptical. The Second’s erratic expressions and cryptic words don’t help in convincing Ben of his identity neither. Ben resolves into giving the Second some physical tests to convince himself of who the latter is. The TARDIS lands on the planet Vulcan, not the similar planet that the show Star Trek features. That desolate planet has its own issues – the first thing these visitors see is the murder of an Examiner. The Second, seeing that the Examiner would have access to the planet, decides to impersonate him.
The Second tries to bring levity in what could be a hostile situation, his absurd humour occasionally kicking in. The earthly colony in planet Vulcan is also facing a budding rebellion within its skilled officers. One of these rebels works with a scientist named Lesterson (voice of Robert James). He makes his own discovery in a curious capsule that crashed close to the colony. That capsule contains three robots, one of which he regenerates back to life. When the Doctor discovers this he knows exactly what these robots are – the infamous Daleks (voice of Peter Hawkins). He warns Lesterson and the colony’s officers about the Daleks but they’re indifferent to him. It’s the age old ‘do not touch the thing’ theme audiences constantly see in speculative fiction.
But to me, the Second and his companions are just a device to get to Lesterson’s tragic rise and fall. Characters have to learn their lessons in the hardest of ways. And I will forgive a lot of things in a show if I like what it’s saying. Let’s return to the convenient coincidence of the serial’s original premiere date. It reminds me of what the Daleks can possibly symbolize. We can recall centuries worth of extremists. Guy Fawkes, the Nazis that are still fresh in the memories of the generation who originally saw this series. We can even compare these robots, as absurd as it can be, to the fundamentalists we hear about today. When the Daleks scream ‘exterminate,’ it’s a word we hope to never hear outside a show. And that’s what makes this one dark and real.
For one night only, tomorrow Nov. 30th at select Cineplex locations.
- Release Date: 11/30/2016