Sue: Bring on the Troughton!
Me: Do you really mean that, or are you being sarcastic?
Sue: No, I really am excited. I honestly cannot wait. Do we get a new title sequence? Will it be a brand new show? Will it have a quicker pace? And better writers? Or is it just the same old tat with a different actor?
I deftly sidestep the question.
Me: Do you have any memories of Patrick Troughton, or any preconceptions about him before we begin this phase of the experiment, Sue?
Sue: Not really. I think his face scared me when I was a kid. Jet-black hair and saggy jowls – not a great look, if I’m honest. Maybe that’s why I never watched him. Actually, now that you mention it, I’m sure he looked like this Irish priest I used to know.
Me: That’s probably Patrick Troughton in The Omen.
Sue: Is it? Oh yes, so it is.
I open my laptop and locate tonight’s recon. And then, after YouTube buffers the video for a few seconds, I toggle the display to full-screen mode and press ‘play’.
Me: (Astonished) What the **** is this?
Sue: What’s wrong?
Me: What’s wrong? It’s the wrong ****ing music!
Sue: It’ll be over soon. It doesn’t matter.
Me: Of course it matters! Why would anybody slap Murray Gold over Patrick Troughton? It doesn’t make any sense!
Sue: Take it back to the shop and ask for a refund.
Me: I didn’t buy it from a shop.
Sue: Exactly, so stop complaining. A fan has taken the time to make this video for you. You should show a little gratitude.
Me: But it’s the wrong music!
Sue: You should have checked beforehand. Ooh, is that a face I can see in the titles?
Me: (Placing my hands over the screen) Bollocks!
Sue: Okay, it’s finished now. Chill out, Neil.
The wrong music is replaced by the wrong trousers.
Sue: I don’t remember William Hartnell wearing these clothes. When did the Doctor change his costume? Have we skipped a scene?
Me: His clothes… They, erm… They sort of regenerate with him.
Sue: That’s a bit silly, isn’t it? Do they ever explain that? And when does the Doctor explain what’s happened to him?
Me: He doesn’t. Well, not for a few years yet.
Sue: Is it because the writers are trying to keep it mysterious, or are they just making it up as they go along, like Lost?
Most people refer to Troughton’s Beatle-esque hairstyle at this point, but not our Sue. According to her, he’s a Rolling Stone.
Sue: He looks like Bill Wyman. It’s the deeply etched lines in his face that do it; that haggard hangdog look. Actually, I can see why some women might fancy him.
Me: (Under my breath) Here we go…
Sue: He’s got a cheeky face and some women might see him as a challenge. I mean, is he always this scruffy?
I’ll spare you the rest, but according to Sue I am marginally more fanciable than William Hartnell, Jon Pertwee and Colin Baker. So that’s a relief.
Sue: Why is the Doctor referring to himself in the third person? I bet the fans were livid when they saw this. The production team aren’t exactly going out of their way to reassure the audience, are they? In fact, they’re doing the exact opposite.
The TARDIS has arrived on the planet Vulcan.
Sue: Vulcan? Isn’t that a Star Trek thing?
Me: It’s a coincidence.
Sue: So who mentioned it first? Doctor Who or Star Trek?
Me: I have no idea. Like I said, it’s just a coincidence.
Sue: I was hoping Doctor Who beat Star Trek to it.
Me: I’m too busy watching The Power of the Daleks to check.
Sue: Look at the size of the Doctor’s hat! Talk about short-man syndrome!
Me: It’s a stovepipe.
Sue: It looks like a traffic cone.
The Doctor stumbles across a murder scene, and when he picks up the victim’s identity badge, he’s mistaken for an Earth examiner who’s been sent to Vulcan to check on a mining colony.
Sue: That reminds me – our external examiner is arriving on Thursday. We should get our marking samples together after this.
Me: You’re very easily distracted when it comes to the recons, aren’t you?
As the Doctor contemplates his next move, he pulls out his recorder.
Sue: Please tell me the Doctor’s recorder doesn’t become a regular feature. It’s wearing a bit thin already. This Doctor is much more irritating than William Hartnell ever was. Is he always like this? Is it an unwritten rule that you have to dislike the new Doctor for the first few episodes?
Me: Doctors can be very erratic after they go through ‘the change’. But you know that already. David Tennant was so screwed up when he regenerated, he spent his first story in bed! Paul McGann couldn’t remember who he was for ages. And Matt Smith spat yoghurt all over the floor. Just go with it.
The colonists have recovered an alien capsule from a nearby mercury swamp, where it has been buried for thousands of years.
Me: What do you think is inside that capsule, Sue?
Sue: I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s the Daleks. I don’t know why. Call it a crazy hunch.
Me: We never had this trouble when they used individual episode titles.
The Doctor infiltrates the capsule, and even though we know what’s coming, we still get a shock when the buggers finally appear.
Sue: Ooh, they’re covered in cobwebs. I didn’t expect that.
And then, just as the tension becomes unbearable, Murray Gold’s music punches us in the face. And it isn’t only the credits that suffer – that would be heinous enough – they dubbed the wrong music over the whole scene.
Sue: Even I’m annoyed by that.
Me: Completely. Flipping. Ruined.
I switch to a different YouTube recon for Episode Two, although this results in another set of problems. For some unfathomable reason, it’s been cut up into four uneven chunks, which isn’t a crime in itself, but the person who uploaded it has decided to edit the title sequence to the beginning of every single segment. So that’s four title sequences per episode! Thank God it’s the correct title sequence.
Sue: Hang on… ‘David Whitaker’? I thought Terry Nation wrote all the Dalek stories?
Me: I know. Good, isn’t it? We failed to notice this yesterday because we were too busy arguing about the stupid music.
Sue: Let it go, Neil.
Me: Anyway, yes, Terry Nation wasn’t involved in this one. I think he was too busy trying to make it big in America. So there’s no foot-rub for you tonight, I’m afraid.
My wife still can’t get her head around this new Doctor.
Sue: If I have one criticism of Patrick Troughton, it’s that I can’t make him out. I can recognise all the others just fine – even the new characters – but Troughton seems to be mumbling and fading into the background. The trouble is, I only have his voice to go on, so it’s irritating. Oh, hang on, he’s getting quite angry now.
As the Doctor rails against the Daleks, Troughton stumbles over his lines.
Sue: Bloody hell, I thought we’d seen the back of this.
But he recovers superbly.
Sue: Okay, fair enough.
When Lesterson experiments on a dormant Dalek, his feckless assistant is accidentally exterminated in the process. Bizarrely, Lesterson assumes that his friend must have been stunned, and he doesn’t bother checking for a pulse.
Sue: This guy is an idiot. I’m counting down the minutes until he’s exterminated himself.
Meanwhile, the Doctor decides to probe some fruit.
Sue: I can imagine Matt Smith listening to an orange like that. It’s a very Doctor-ish thing to do. I really like Ben, too. He always wants to nick-off back to the TARDIS, and I like that in a companion because it’s realistic.
When faced with a resurrected Dalek, the Doctor reacts with fear and loathing.
Sue: That’s interesting. I expected the Doctor to stand up to them straight away. Hartnell’s Doctor would. Is it because this Doctor is too ****ed-up to take them on at the moment? I have to say, I’m not entirely convinced by him yet.
As the Doctor begs Lesterson to switch it off, the Dalek finally breaks its silence: “I am your servant.”
Sue: That was brilliant. That’s got to be the best cliffhanger so far.
Me: And the correct music too, thank God.
The Doctor is mortified when the Dalek starts behaving like an altruistic slave. Sue, on the other hand, is a lot more forgiving.
Sue: Maybe the Doctor is wrong. Maybe these Daleks are nice Daleks.
Sue: Maybe they’re nice Daleks. You can’t tar a whole race with one brush.
Me: We’re talking about the Daleks, Sue, the most evil creatures ever invented.
Sue: Yeah, sure, but that implies that every Dalek is inherently evil, no matter what it does. Doesn’t that make the Doctor a bit… racist?
It’s only when the Daleks start chatting amongst themselves and reveal their plans for conquering the colony that Sue finally admits defeat and changes her mind.
Sue: Okay, I take it back. Kill the bastards.
Sue’s sympathy quickly shifts to Polly.
Sue: She’s lovely, and she’s played by a very good actress, too, but the programme isn’t very nice to her. She’s either making the coffee, offering to tidy up, or she’s a damsel in distress. Even the Doctor doesn’t pay her any attention. In fact, this Doctor can be very nasty when he wants to be.
Having said that, Sue admits that this is the first time Patrick Troughton has acted anything like the Doctor, or at least a version of the Doctor she recognises. The off-hand remarks, the sly humour, the obscure flights of fancy, they all feel increasingly Doctorish to her.
Sue: I’ve just remembered something important: Patrick Troughton looks like a bloke I used to know called ****** – but you probably shouldn’t print that. One day, he woke up in his car and he didn’t know who he was. He couldn’t remember his wife, his kids, or his address. Nothing. Total amnesia. I think he went to Canada.
Me: That sounds like Paul McGann’s Doctor.
Sue: No, he definitely looked like Patrick Troughton.
As the story unfolds, Sue informs me that the sets are extremely good, the supporting actors are very believable, and the plot is a cut above the rest.
Sue: At least they’re doing something different with the Daleks. They’re much more interesting when they’re cunning and spiteful.
However, their cunning suddenly takes a back seat when they unite to chant, “We will get our power!” at the top of their metallic lungs. They just can’t help themselves.
Sue: They shouldn’t have given themselves away like that. They had Lesterson eating out of their suckers a minute ago. They’ve completely blown it, now.
Me: But are they giving themselves away? You could interpret that scene as several microwave ovens all beeping at once.
Sue: Look, if this bloke still trusts them after all that chanting, he’s an even bigger idiot than I thought.
Sue didn’t say very much during this episode (which is a relief because I’ve exceeded 2,000 words already), although she did raise an eyebrow when she discovered that the Daleks are reproducing themselves.
Sue: Please tell me they aren’t having sex with each other back at the capsule.
Incredibly, the Daleks are still given the run of the place, even though their masks are starting to slip.
Sue: I like the way the Daleks can hardly bring themselves to say, “I obey” to the humans any more. “I am your servant” is becoming increasingly sarcastic, too. This would be funny if it wasn’t so sick.
The final scene, where the Daleks assemble an army on an industrial scale – “Like an evil Nissan” – is breathtaking in its scope.
Sue: I bet that looked great. I really wish we could have seen that.
The Doctor spends a large proportion of this episode locked in a cell, which he eventually escapes from by using a wet finger. (Trust me, it’s less exciting than it sounds.)
Sue: This version of the Doctor is very resourceful and tenacious. He definitely seems to be settling down. He’s almost the Doctor now. However – and I can’t believe I’m going to say this – I still miss William Hartnell.
She’s even beginning to feel sorry for Lesterson.
Sue: I thought he’d be the Daleks’ first victim. Now that he’s running around like a madman, desperately trying to stop what he’s started, he’s gained my sympathy. And he’s played by a very good actor, which helps.
The scene where the Daleks congregate for a quick megalomaniacal rant still survives in the archives. It’s a fantastic cliffhanger.
Sue: The Daleks are an excitable bunch, aren’t they? The direction is pretty good, though, even if they are going round and round in a big circle. I bet the kids must have loved this.
As the credits roll, Sue sighs.
Sue: I know I’d like this so much more if I could actually see it. I don’t want to sound like a stuck record, but all these recons are wearing me out. Even when we get a really good one, they still take twice as much energy and concentration to watch. It’s a shame. This script is one of the best so far – it’s funny and scary – but I’m beginning to feel frustrated now.
Sue: Do you want to name-drop before we start this episode?
Me: Do you think we should?
Sue: Yeah. Somebody might find it interesting.
Me: If you say so.
To cut a very long story short, Sue sat next to the person who wrote the linking narration for the BBC’s audio release of The Power of the Daleks at a wedding in 2009. Her name was Sue as well.
Sue: And very nice she was too.
With that revelation safely out of the way, we dive into the final episode, where large swathes of the action are seen from the Daleks’ point of view (“I haven’t seen this many periscopes since we watched Das Boot”). And then, when all hell breaks loose, it’s difficult to have that much sympathy for the humans, because they brought this on themselves, frankly.
Sue: I really like Janley. She’s a kick-ass cross between Emma Peel and Patty Hearst. I really hope she becomes a companion.
Less than a minute later, Janley is killed by a Dalek.
When Lesterson starts behaving like a Dalek himself, the episode flirts with macabre genius. He pleads with the Daleks for mercy – he gave them life, after all. They acknowledge the debt, and then kill him anyway.
Sue: Bunch of ****s!
The Daleks slaughter the colonists.
Sue: This is grim. Come on, Doctor, pull your finger out!
The Doctor obliges – by accident or design, it’s not entirely clear – but the Daleks’ power supply overloads and the bastards are blown to bits.
Sue: Wow. I bet that looked great. Oh, it does look great!
Thank heavens for surviving clips.
The Doctor decides to leg it before the colonists can send him a bill for the damage he’s caused, and Ben is royally pissed off when nobody bothers to thank them.
Sue: Poor Ben. Hang on a minute… He did **** all!
Sue: Well, that was definitely the best Dalek story so far.
Me: You gave The Dalek Invasion of Earth seven out of 10. Not that I’m trying to lead you or anything.
Sue: Did I? Well in that case I’ll have to give this:
Sue: I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m giving it eight out of 10 for the story. I’m still not convinced by this Doctor fella yet.
Me: Really? I thought you’d take to Patrick Troughton straight away. I can’t believe you’re actually pining for William Hartnell.
Sue: At least I could see William Hartnell move! Maybe we should skip to a story that exists, so I can see how he’s playing the role. I need to see how he commands the screen before I can form an opinion of him. It was a bloody good story, though.