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Doctor Who: Twelve for Twelve: The Power of the Daleks Review (Second Doctor)

Twelve for Twelve is The Gallifrey Times’ review countdown to the debut of the Twelfth Doctor. A different writer from TGT will take on each Doctor’s debut story daily, concluding with The Eleventh Hour. Here’s TGT writer Mike’s review of The Power of the Daleks!

“I’d like to see a butterfly fit into its chrysalis case after it has spread its wings.”
–The Doctor

The Power of the Daleks is a remarkable story. It boasts the first instance of the Doctor’s regenerative powers. It introduces the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton.  It was the first Dalek story not written by their creator Terry Nation.

It is also missing.

Among all the lost episodes and stories from the Hartnell and Troughton eras, Power of the Daleks sits atop many “most wanted” lists. Ninety-seven of the classic series’ two hundred and fifty-three episodes remain lost, though recent discoveries of episodes from The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear have stoked fresh hope for more.

Fortunately, like all episodes of Doctor Who, off-air fan audio recordings exist. From these and some scant film clips reconstructions are available.  This review is based principally on the BBC Audio release from 2004. This recording features linking narration from actress Anneke Wills, who played companion Polly from The War Machines through The Faceless Ones. 

While reconstructions using still photos are scattered around the Internet, some use poor audio and are partially animated and thus rather creepy– a bit like the 1950s cartoon series Clutch Cargo. That said, take time to behold The Power of the Daleks!
The story begins immediately after the Doctor’s change from an old white haired grump into a younger mop-topped fellow. Companions Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Wills) are naturally shocked by this event but have different initial responses. While Ben questions whether this different face is indeed the Doctor’s, Polly is confident it is the same man. The Doctor himself remains reluctant to confirm either hypothesis and the trio exit the TARDIS to explore the Earth colony on planet Vulcan.

The Doctor witnesses the murder of an Earth inspector and assumes the dead man’s identity. Soon the three encounter treachery among the colony’s scientists and dangerous experiments surrounding the contents of a mysterious capsule– Daleks!
The Power of the Daleks is a strongly written story with a plot that remains compelling throughout the six-episode arc. Elements such as Doctor’s assumption of an authority figure’s identity, doomed scientific projects, wacky investigative procedures (the Doctor rolls fruit on the floor to search for bugging devices), and squishy Dalek mutants are now integral to Doctor Who adventures, and many began here.

But as great as the tale is, the introduction of regeneration is the principal item of interest. The term “regeneration” does not actually appear until the Third Doctor’s final story Planet of the Spiders. Instead, the Doctor merely refers to the phenomenon as a “renewal.” This first transformation is also unique in that the Doctor’s clothes change with his body, excepting his signet ring, which falls off of his “new” finger.

But the conceit clearly worked, and Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor continued on many more adventures until The War Games. At the conclusion of this story, the Doctor’s face changes again at the hands of a powerful authority…
Twelve for Twelve continues tomorrow with shop dummies, poachers,  and Jon Pertwee’s tattoo when TGT writer Jenna brings you Spearhead From Space!