Event Reviews / Home Entertainment

Doctor Who: The Evil of the Daleks (1967) – Review and Blu-ray Preview

The Evil of the Daleks has the interesting distinction of being the second of only two Patrick Troughton Doctor Who serials to feature the Doctor’s greatest enemies, following on from The Power of the Daleks earlier that season. Up until then, the Daleks had been a constant every year, but were set to be “rested” until Day of the Daleks, in 1972. It may seem silly now, but at one point it did seem as though Evil marked “the final end” for the monsters who had made Doctor Who such a success in 1963. With all known copies having been destroyed decades ago, Evil has gained quite the reputation among Who fans. The surviving Episode 2 and the snippets of other footage would suggest a stone-cold classic, but now we can find out for ourselves – without a time machine. The very concept of an animated The Evil of the Daleks may have seemed like a pipe dream a decade ago, but thanks to the brilliant team at BBC Studios, and led by The Faceless Ones animation director Anne-Marie Walsh, generations of fans can experience this story for the first time ever.

Following on from the ending of The Faceless Ones, the TARDIS has been stolen – but by whom? On their quest to find their time machine, the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and Jamie (Frazer Hines) discover a Victorian antiques shop run by Edward Waterfield (John Bailey) – in which the rare pieces of Victoriana are not only genuine but brand new. As the duo are sent back in time to 1866, they find themselves a part of a sinister plot by the Daleks to determine “the human factor”, and how to use it to conquer the universe…

The Evil of the Daleks certainly has an epic sense of scope, with the action moving between London 1966, a Victorian mansion and the distant planet of Skaro, but at seven episodes it does start to feel a bit overlong. Episode 1 is a fun 25 minutes of intrigue as the main duo search for the TARDIS, yet very quickly feels entirely separate – and arguably pointless – to the rest of the story. Most of the serial is confined to the mansion, making for a nice visual contrast with the Daleks (who hardly ever appear in Doctor Who historicals), before the action eventually shifts to the Dalek City on Skaro in Episode 6. The Daleks themselves are great here, sounding more distorted and aggressive than earlier 60s serials, and Dudley Simpson‘s score sounds almost like an anti-Doctor Who theme; it’s great!

Naturally, the Daleks have an ulterior motive and a more malevolent stratagem in the works, but by the time it’s explained, the Doctor has already worked out how to stop them, losing a lot of the suspense in the final two episodes. The plot is also littered with quite a few gaping holes; no doubt exemplified by the longer running time and frequent amounts of padding. Why is Waterfield selling “antiques” in 1966? Surely if it’s to catch the Doctor, there’s no reason the story couldn’t begin with the TARDIS landing (or being dragged towards) the mansion in 1866? Evil fills out the seven episodes well enough, but most of it feels entirely unnecessary; this would have worked much better as a four or five-part story.

Despite plenty of padding, David Whitaker‘s script is very nuanced and introspective, pitting the strength of the human spirit against the totalitarian sense of obedience of the Daleks. Patrick Troughton gets to play a more cunning and manipulative Doctor than usual, while Frazer Hines is given the best part of an episode focused on Jamie’s trial to determine “the human factor”. There’s some great character beats for Jamie, as his relationship with the Doctor becomes more strained as events spiral out of control. Edward Waterfield makes for a very complex and interesting supporting character, with hints of Lesterson from Whitaker’s earlier The Power of the Daleks, while his associate Maxtible feels a bit cartoonish (ahem) in such a nuanced story – especially when his ultimate motivation is revealed. Poor Victoria (Deborah Watling) doesn’t get to make much of a first impression (spending most of the narrative as a damsel in distress awaiting rescue), while Kemel feels as much like a stereotype as an actual character; at least he’s given some more heroic moments.

It’s ultimately the “human factor” Daleks that steal the show though, with some of the best gags in the entire serial. The Evil of the Daleks is a very good story overall, but trying to stretch this kind of narrative over seven episodes is just a bit much – especially for a 1967 production made on a BBC budget.

The new animation directed by Anne-Marie Walsh is terrific though, developing the art style from The Faceless Ones into something more energetic and action-packed. The Macra Terror is still probably my favourite animated recreation, but Evil is certainly another winner (and makes The Web of Fear Episode 3 look even worse). The movements are more fluid and varied, the 3D animation is utterly superb (Robert Ritchie‘s work on the Daleks is extraordinary), and there’s some terrific and atmospheric lighting, creating a more three-dimensional feel to the whole thing. I’m sure a number of creative liberties have been taken, but I really do not mind; The Evil of the Daleks looks great in colour and in widescreen. However, there is an optional 4:3 Black and White version available on the Blu-ray release. All in all, I think the animation is well worth the price-tag alone!

The new Blu-ray release also includes a remaster of the surviving Episode 2 of Evil, alongside telesnap reconstructions of the missing six instalments; audio commentaries; the audio book narrated by Tom Baker; a making of featurette; and a photo gallery.

Doctor Who: The Evil of the Daleks will be released on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray Steelbook on 27th September, and is available to pre-order now.

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