5 out of 5
Directed by: Derek Martinus
It doesn’t always have to make sense. Point of fact: The Daleks, and much of – if not all – the season 4 closer, Evil of the Daleks, which was potentially their last appearance while creator Terry Nation shopped them around for a spin-off series. However, as long as something makes internal sense in however it’s presented, I think it gets a pass. DW is often the king if this selective science / fiction approach, and this serial in particular keys on the perfect blend of cliffhanger-y elements and pseudo-science to support (and distract from) its rather amusingly convoluted and illogical setup.
But before the brief summary on that, let’s talk about some great external factors: firstly, Loose Cannon did amazing work on the restoration. Just piecing the telesnaps together sensibly is admirable, but they went all-out here, blending in some animations (Daleks moving, flames alight) along with some full-on rendered CG sequences. But what’s even more impressive is how well the episode stands up without that assistance. While there’s only one episode available to assess the camera direction, the setups pictured in the telesnaps and the general flow of the story – as well as the great all-around performances – suggest a director who had a solid vision and was in charge of the set. Regarding the latter, from a production perspective, the budget seemed well effected for convincing locations, especially given a plot that has us stepping through two time periods, a laboratory, and freakin’ Skaaro, the Dalek home planet. Lastly, rounding out the comprehensiveness of this serial, the music was on point, bouncing between jaunty and thrilling little tunes, each one memorable in relation to the sequence it scores.
All of this, though, settles upon the firm base of David Whitaker’s script. Which basically boils down to Destroy the Doctor!, but involves a fun (and ridiculous) mysterious runaround with an antique shop owner – who may have stolen the TARDIS, which we saw ported off at the end of the last serial.
The name of the episodes sort of ruins the surprise that the Daleks are ultimately behind this, but Whitaker still has some cool plot beats in wait regarding the ‘bots ultimate goal – procuring some information that should make them the evil supreme overlords of the world (every Dalek’s dream) – as well as a fantastic set of colorful side characters, from the the wonderfully bearded Maxtible to the silent strongman Kemel. Also, despite some behind the scenes companion juggling, circumstances landed on this being a Troughton / Jamie affair, which directly solves the constant fluff of trying to keep 2 or 3 companions busy.
All of these pieces – whether in front of or behind the camera or incidental – add up to the truly rare DW in which none of the installments drags. And even once seeing how the plot fits together, which renders some bits as questionably pointless, it’s so much fun the whole way through it hardly matters.