Episode One of Power of the Daleks is arguably the most important episode in the entire history of Doctor Who. So much was riding on the success of the story. Doctor Who would only continue if it was proved possible to replace the leading actor. If the audience could accept such a change then its longevity was assured. Even if it came off air for while it could always return, refreshed and updated. If the experiment had failed, if only William Hartnell was accepted playing the Doctor, then the series would wither and die, and would now be an obscure relic of the past.
Given it is such an important episode it is one that been viewed by relatively few people. The entire story has been missing from the BBC archives since the mid-seventies , just a few clips and telesnaps remain. Which make it such a joy that the story has now been animated, allowing a whole new audience to relive the excitement of the original broadcast.
The story is very well written, as would be expected given it was written by one of the creators or the original series, David Whitaker. He uses the change of the main character to push the story along, with Ben and Polly as confused as to who this strange man is as many of the audience would have been. The conflicting signals work well. The Hartnell reflection is contrasted with the ill-fitting ring. Is this man really the doctor? The recorder can get irritating through.
The first thing the new Doctor witnesses, outside the TARDIS, is a murder, which gives the team a focus and serves to push forward the story, with The Doctor being mistaken for an Earth examiner. By far the most anticipated part of the story was the reveal of the Daleks. The tension is ramped up and we get our first view of the metal monster, glinting in the darkness, draped in cobwebs.
Patrick Troughton nails the character of his Doctor from the start. His performance is superb and you certainly feel the mystery and the impishness of the character. This man may not be the character we are used to, but he certainly leads the action, keeping everyone guessing as to his motives. Troughton was a superb character actor, at the top of his game, and it shows.
He is well supported by the two companions, the first to witness a regeneration. Ben and Polly, played by Anneke Wills and Michael Craze are very underrated, by virtue of so much of their contribution to the series being lost. But they make a good team and you can sense the confusion of two young adults plucked from 1960's London and now witnessing their only friend changing before their eyes.
The animators have done wonders bringing the story back to life. The project has been intense, with budgets tight and deadlines always looming, but Charles Norton and his team have achieved something special. Some characters are realized better than others. The older actors, with defined jawlines and rugged features, lend themselves to animation more than the younger members of the cast. The Doctor is superb with the characterisation spot on. The planet Vulcan is eerie and mysterious with pools of mercury bubbling away.
Full marks too to Mark Ayres for his heroic work restoring the soundtrack. It's difficult to believe the original source was a domestic tape recorder plonked in front of a domestic television. The dialogue is now crystal clear and Ayres has used the original music and sound effects tapes to create both a stereo and 5.1 mix.
The announcement of a colour version of the animated story is a surprising development, especially given Norton expressing his opinion that the story works best in Black and White. I suspect many fans will double dip and get both versions and if the colour version being more young fans to the delights of the Second Doctor, then it is a worthwhile investment.
Overall the Power of the Daleks is a supurb story, and well worth adding to any Doctor Who Library. And who knows, if sales are healthy enough, this could just be the start.