Classic Who: The Evil of the Daleks & Earthshock

The Evil of the Daleks (1967) – Second Doctor with Jamie McCrimmon

This one is a mostly lost serial; only the second episode (out of seven) exists in full, while the rest are represented by audio and a few still shots.

In the Russell T Davies era, the Daleks and other villains were completely “killed off” so often, only to inevitably rise again, that you eventually just stopped buying it. But at the end of The Evil of the Daleks, when the Second Doctor talked about how this was the Daleks’ final end, he actually really meant it at the time. It was supposed to be the Daleks’ last appearance in Doctor Who, as their creator Terry Nation was trying to get them a spinoff on American television. This didn’t work out, but it would still be nearly five years – and a new Doctor – before the Daleks appeared again.

When the TARDIS is unexpectedly stolen at Gatwick Airport, the Doctor and Jamie set out to recover it, following a trail of clues to antique shop owner Edward Waterfield. It turns out that not only has Waterfield travelled in time from the Victorian era, but he is being forced into working for the Daleks. The intent of stealing the TARDIS was to trap the Doctor, so he could assist the Daleks in their latest plan to overcome the human race.

The Second Doctor really shines in this story. He shows off some excellent Sherlock-style deductive skills while trying to figure out where the TARDIS has gone; he displays signs of being a little self-conscious; he shouts “Boo” at someone at one point; he refers to himself as a professor; and he seems potentially prepared to sacrifice a few to save many. Over the course of the story, he successfully manipulates his own companion, manages to trick the Daleks, and is such a schemer that you’re often not quite sure what he’s really up to. You can really see the Second Doctor’s unique qualities, and why he’s a favourite for so many.

Jamie McCrimmon is also more impressive here than he was in The Tomb of the Cybermen, getting some properly heroic moments, and being very compassionate, such as in his relationship with the servant Kemel. His relationship with the Doctor may not be equal, but it’s closer than some companions: he’s not afraid to argue against the Doctor, and even calls him callous at one point. The antagonists themselves are quite clever in how they intentionally leave subtle clues for the Doctor to lure him into their trap; Edward Waterfield is nicely complex, and while his partner Theodore Maxtible leans more towards proper villainy, he gives an entertainingly dramatic performance. One character I didn’t like was eventual companion Victoria Waterfield, who isn’t much more than a pure-hearted damsel (she’s feeding some birds from her prison cell window when we first meet her) who is mostly helpless and cries a lot.

The interactions between the characters go a long way towards making this adventure work; much of the actual story is quite basic otherwise, and with seven episodes, it goes on for a long time. The Daleks themselves don’t appear that often for much of it. In the last few episodes, however, it starts using the Daleks in really interesting ways; both with some Daleks that have been influenced by ‘human factor’ and subsequently behave like children, and in turn the effect of ‘Dalek Factor’ on humans. Overall, it’s a really good Dalek story, better than some from the modern series. Rating: 4/5.

Earthshock (1982) – Fifth Doctor with Nyssa, Tegan and Adric

After the Doctor and Adric have a falling out over Adric wanting to go home, the Doctor lands the TARDIS in a cave on Earth so he can take some time to calm down. At the same time, a team of soldiers are exploring the caves in search of a missing survey team, only to be attacked by hostile androids. These androids, it turns out, are controlled by the Cybermen, who have malevolent plans for the whole planet.

Neither the Doctor nor Adric are particularly engaging as this adventure starts out; Adric is whinging about how he doesn’t get enough attention with Nyssa and Tegan around, and the Doctor gets in an antagonistic mood over the impracticalities of taking Adric home. This does improve as the serial goes on, with both characters becoming friendly and more likeable again – though Nyssa and Tegan, while getting plenty of screentime, don’t do much of note; maybe that’s the problem with having three companions. The Doctor still has his old experience, forcefulness and superior attitude, though I was a bit shocked to see him using a gun against the Cyber Leader at the end.

The first portion of the story mostly consists of the characters running around in tunnels, though there are some moments of good tension. We eventually move into the very different setting of a space freighter; things remain relatively tepid here as well, though I did like the character of Captain Briggs, who has quite a snarky attitude, and manages to be callous without being totally bad. The conclusion provides a good twist on the extinction of the dinosaurs, which was brought up seemingly randomly in the first episode.

I don’t really like these Cybermen as much as the ones in the modern series, or even the ones in The Tomb of the Cybermen, mostly because they don’t feel mechanical enough; the way they move and speak is too human. Cybermen are supposed to be emotionless, yet isn’t their desire for revenge against the Doctor an emotional response? Their excuse for not just killing the crew before the freighter crashes is also pretty flimsy. They do get some effective scenes, however, such as their slow, methodical attack on the freighter’s crew, and the Cyber Leader’s argument on how emotion is a weakness.

As for the ending, which actually sees the death of a companion (no cop-outs here): it is certainly a sad and emotional moment, but since I haven’t been too taken with Adric in the adventures I’ve seen so far, I wasn’t really cut up about it. Overall, not a bad story, but I wasn’t really into it. Rating: 3/5.

About R.J. Southworth

Hi there. I've been blogging since January 2014, and I like to talk about all sorts of things: book reviews, film reviews, writing, science, history, or sometimes just sharing miscellaneous thoughts. Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you find something that interests you!
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