Tuesday, June 16, 2009

EE1 - The Power of the Daleks 1

The first installment of Patrick Troughton's debut story is intensely interesting if only for the novelty of watching the first post-regeneration sequence in the programme's history. For most fans of the series, this initial stab at it is probably the most recent one they have seen, or will see (thanks to a superb CD-ROM reconstruction release from the BBC a few years ago). There's the usual disorientation that we're now used to seeing. What isn't explained is why The Doctor's clothes regenerate with him, thus ensuring at least a dozen books to be written about the hows and whys of regeneration.

The reactions of Ben and Polly during all of this are also neat to see. Seldom included on the list of most memorable companions, the two do, however, fulfill a vital role in the story by questioning the identity of the stranger now staring back at them. Even The Doctor himself isn't sure of who he is, as he often refers to "The Doctor" in his post "renewal" babblings. This new Doctor is as distant and aloof as any Doctor has ever been. Ever. And it's up to a cynical Ben and a trusting Polly to simultaneously question and reassure the viewer that this new person is still the same hero they've been watching for all this time.

Patrick Troughton is immediately fascinating in the lead role. His playing of the recorder, which was significantly toned down over the course of his tenure, is in full motion here, instantly becoming an endearing character trait. There are times where dialogue is carrying on amongst other characters in a scene, but in the background, you can still hear The Doctor on his recorder - the soundtrack for him pondering, planning, considering. Troughton even uses the musical instrument to toot back angry retorts to Ben on a couple of occasions.

As fantastic as Troughton is in this first episode, one can't help but feel that neither he nor the producers knew quite knew at this point what kind of character this new Doctor was going to be. It's this uncertainty that is probably the biggest drawing card for watching this, initially. Having taken the leap and changed the lead character, what will the producers of Doctor Who do now?

On top of all this, the bloody Daleks are in it! Their reveal at the episode's end is one of the best, because, for the first time, we see the Daleks not in a state of dominance, but as (apparently) dead creatures. Intriguing, that.


osirun said...

I love love love this story, because it's the biggest WTF in the series history. The Doctor... doesn't appear to be the Doctor we know. The Daleks... don't appear to be the Daleks we know.

People are always raving about Spearhead from Space, but for my money this is easily the greatest regeneration story in Who history, and it's not even close.

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