Tuesday, June 16, 2009
After watching this episode, I'm utterly convinced that the greatest shame in the history of Doctor Who, if not humanity itself, is that David Whitaker didn't write more Dalek stories than he did. Whitaker's take on the pepper pots is so much more enthralling than anything that the Daleks' creator, Terry Nation, ever came up with. In showing the Daleks as a small band of battered, near-lifeless creatures, as opposed to the conquering invaders of the William Hartnell era, it instantly casts doubt on both them and the impressions of them on both the characters in the story and the viewers watching on television.
There are two scenes that literally had my hair standing on end. The first is when the scientist Lesterson, Janley, and Lesterson's assistant Resno are examining a Dalek with its' second "arm" attached. Little to the colonists know that this "arm" is, of course, the Dalek gun. Resno is filming the experiment, but there are also a few camera shots taken from the Dalek's perspective. The intensity builds during the scene, and each shot of Resno through the Dalek eye stalk view is like seeing things through the sights of a sniper's rifle. It's like the Dalek is playing along with being docile for only as long as it can stand it, before it's natural urge to exterminate finally takes over. When Resno is finally blasted, it happens at just the right moment between shock and inevitability. Lesterson's and Janley's reactions are even more paramount. Lesterson thinks that Resno is merely injured, convinced by Janley's immediate diagnosis that he received an electric shock. Janley is becoming one of the more interesting characters in this story, but more on that later.
The second moment of perfection is the stunning final scene, where the Dalek is paraded in front of the heads of of the colony, as well as The Doctor, Ben and Polly. Lesterson is selling everyone on the notion that the Dalek is a skilled worker and servant whose skills will help lift the colony out of its current precarious state. Only two people in the room don't buy into this notion - the Dalek and The Doctor. When the Dalek trains its eyestalk on the newly regenerated Doctor and moves threateningly towards him, everyone else in the room is amazed at its abilities to see and recognize others. The Doctor, of course, is terrified. But how does the Dalek recognize him? Surely they haven't seen this incarnation yet. Or have they? Perhaps in a future adventure? Or do Daleks simply recognize their greatest enemy in all his forms, or perhaps even by his reputation?
The Dalek is also as devious and conniving as the Daleks have ever been (or ever were after this). Disarmed, it lures the colonists in with its promise of solid, skilled labour. The final shot of the episode is haunting, with the Dalek repeating the assurance, "I am your servant. I am your servant." to the increasingly impressed colonists, while The Doctor fights to have his own warnings heard about what the Daleks truly represent. Only he and the viewers know what folly the colonists are setting up for themselves.
Breathtaking stuff. Only two episodes in, and this might be the best Doctor Who story to date.
Posted by Steven at 10:33 PM