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Recap / Doctor Who S4 E3 "The Power of the Daleks"

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The Power of the Daleks
Headless Daleks? Clearly there's a rogue model running around, trying to be the only one...note 
Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Christopher Barry
Production code: EE
Air dates: 5 November - 10 December 1966
Number of episodes: 6

The Doctor: Life depends on change, and renewal.
Ben: Oh, that's it, you've been renewed, have you?
The Doctor: Renewed? Have I? That's it, I've been renewed. It's part of the TARDIS. Without it I couldn't survive.note 

The one where the Doctor says hello again. The second Doctor. This was unexpected.

Arguably one of the most important Doctor Who stories ever made (though the BBC didn't realize it until too late), The Power of the Daleks had to establish that a new actor could take over the lead role and play the Doctor completely differently, yet still remain true to the character.

The Doctor has changed following the invasion of the Cybermen. Ben and Polly, confused by this, discuss what's happened as the TARDIS leaves Snowcap behind. Ben does not believe this stranger could possibly be the Doctor, while Polly thinks it must be him, reasoning that they've seen many impossible things recently. It doesn't help when the man continues to refer to "The Doctor" in the third person.

The TARDIS lands on the planet Vulcan note , the site of a future Earth colony, and the Doctor goes out to explore with Ben and Polly following him. The Doctor has hardly set foot on the planet when he witnesses a murder and, on examining the body, discovers a pass proclaiming the dead man to be an Earth Examiner. Attacked from behind, then rescued by people from the colony, the Doctor decides to impersonate the dead Examiner and investigate. He discovers that there is a rebel movement bent on overthrowing the governor, but also that there is a far more dangerous problem in the form of a crashed space capsule containing inactive Daleks.

Despite the Doctor's warnings, the Daleks are activated and present themselves as willing servant robots, taking advantage of the colonists' trust to set up a reproduction plant. Meanwhile, internal power politics in the colony sees Security Chief Bragen secretly leading the rebels as a way of deposing Governor Hensell and seizing power for himself, while Deputy Governor Quinn has been locked up. Bragen believes the Daleks will help him and has rearmed them.

Of course it's only a matter of time before the Daleks are strong and numerous enough to emerge from their capsule and go on a killing spree. Many colonists are killed before the Doctor uses the colony's power supply to overload and destroy the Daleks.

Ben concedes that this probably is the Doctor after all, and the three depart for adventures new.

This story only survives in total in an audio format, thanks to fans at the time tape-recording it. There are a few short visual clips composed of extracts used in other programs and short clips made by pointing a camera at the television during transmission, as well as a partial trailer for the story. The few minutes of existing material can be found on the "Lost in Time" DVD set.

In September 2016, it was announced that the entire serial would be animated to the original soundtrack, thus marking the first animated reconstruction of a completely-missing serial (prior animations only focused on stories missing one or two episodes, and only covered the material not present in the BBC archives). The DVD was released November 21, 2016; the digital download was released November 5, 50 years to the day after it first aired. On Christmas Day, 2016, just before the new Christmas special, all six parts were on BBC America, in a colourised form. The colour version was exclusive to the Blu-Ray releases. Finally, in 2020, it got another release, with extensively revised animation and even more extras. The animated version of "The Power of the Daleks" would mark a change in approach to the BBC's animated reconstructions of Doctor Who, with future ones including more completely-missing stories and fully animated versions of ones that still had surviving episodes (largely to make them easier to broadcast and advertise).

See also "Victory of the Daleks", which has a similar plot.


  • Adaptation Expansion: The animated reconstruction adds a cold-open recapping the Doctor regenerating (making this the second time that scene's been animated). Since each story has its own standalone DVD release, and they needed the first six-episode reconstruction to be a commercial success to continue doing them, they wanted to avoid Continuity Lockoutinvoked among casual viewers by including the previous serial's cliffhanger.
  • All Planets Are Earth-Like: His companions are alarmed when the Doctor goes to walk out the door without checking the atmosphere. The Doctor raises a finger as if checking wind direction and reels off the planet's characteristics. Justified because Vulcan is actually a human colony anyway (so obviously they would choose an Earth-like planet to colonise in the first place), and Downplayed because the actual atmosphere outside of the colony proper is toxic and dangerous to humans- except for short periods of time- without a safety suit.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: A Dalek asks a human why they kill each other. It is genuinely incomprehensible to a Dalek why you would murder one of your own kindnote , though they have very high standards of what counts as "your own kind".
  • Arbitrary Scepticism: Ben, who has seen his friend possessed into building war robots by an intelligent computer, been taken in a bigger-on-the-inside time machine back to 17th Century Cornwall, and battled cyborgs from Earth's identical twin planet, absolutely refuses to accept that the Doctor is still the Doctor after his first regeneration, suggesting, even though he saw him transform in front of his very eyes, that someone else sneaked into the TARDIS, murdered the Doctor, and took his place. Of course, this isn't helped by the fact that the Doctor isn't quite sure that he's the Doctor yet either. Possibly justified as it was the first-ever regeneration on the show and Ben's scepticism functions both as a channel for audience feelings about the change as well as his own feelings of betrayal by the First Doctor's death.
  • Armour-Piercing Question: A Dalek in a philosophical mood: "Why do human beings kill other human beings?" Ouch.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: How Bragen meets his end.
  • Batman Gambit: The Daleks side with the rebels, just in order to be pushed to the front lines, just so that they can exterminate all soldiers at once.
  • The Big Bad Shuffle: Lesterson is the story' first real antagonist, albeit more in the sense of being an irresponsible scientist who could potentially cause disaster by his messing around with the Daleks. Janley then seems to move into the role of Lady Macbeth, plotting to use the Daleks to facilitate a coup while Lesterson remains oblivious, but it soon turns out that Bragen is the actual mastermind behind the coup. And then the Daleks decide to just kill everyone, once they have the numbers to do so.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Doctor manages to stop the Daleks and earn the trust of his companions, but a lot of civilians are killed and the colony is severely damaged. Furthermore, the Doctor isn't even thanked for his heroic actions and it is implied the colonists would have pressed charges on him for the damage.
  • Black Comedy: There's a subtle, macabre humour in the writing, as well as from the Daleks' voice actor. As the story goes on, you can tell that the Daleks' repeated refrains of "I OBEY" and "I AM YOUR SER-VANT" are becoming less and less sincere; near the end, it almost sounds as if they can hardly bring themselves to say the words anymore.
  • Blatant Lies: "I AM YOUR SER-VANT!"
  • Break the Badass: Part two has a Cliffhanger of the Second Doctor completely freaking out about the Dalek presence on Vulcan, begging the humans to listen to him about how evil they truly are. Since this is the Second Doctor's first story and the First Doctor never acted afraid of anything at all (except loneliness), this has the effect of making it ambiguous as to whether the Doctor is still the Doctor.
  • Butterfly of Transformation: After finding that his previous incarnation's ring no longer fits him, thus making it look easier to believe that he's an impostor (he's not), the Second Doctor compares his regeneration to a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, stating that attempting to prove he's still the Doctor by donning his old ring is like trying to shove an adult butterfly back into its pupa.
  • Cassandra Truth: The Doctor trying to convince the colonists the Daleks are evil, and later Lesterson after his descent into madness.
    The Doctor: It can do many things, Lesterson. But the thing it does most efficiently is exterminate human beings. It destroys them, without mercy, without conscience. It destroys them. Utterly! Completely! It destroys them!
    Dalek: [talking over the Doctor with slowly increasing volume] I am your servant. I am your servant. I am your servant. I am your servant. I am your servant. I am your servant.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The rebels are shown how the Dalek weapon can blast a hole through thick metal, later demonstrated again when the Doctor uses Deadly Dodging to get a Dalek to destroy the Dalek power source.
  • Circular Drive: One of the few surviving clips from the story shows the four Dalek props representing an army in this way.
    • Averted in the animated version, which is free to show dozens of Daleks on screen at once.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Cursed with Awesome: An audio version exists with Tom Baker narrating, and he claims regeneration is this for a Time-Lord.
  • Cut Futuristic Interstellar Communications Equipment Lines
  • Deadly Dodging: How the Doctor manages to get one of the Daleks to shoot the panel providing energy to all the Daleks, causing a Phlebotinum Overload.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Doctor picks up a bit of this:
    Ben: Who are we, then?
    The Second Doctor: Don't you know?
  • Death By Genre Savvy: Resno realizes something isn't right with the Daleks and says so. He promptly gets "accidentally" zapped for his troubles.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Who do you think?
  • Double-Meaning Title: "Power" as in the static electricity the Daleks require to operate, or "power" as in the Daleks trying to take over the colony? This gets exploited when the Daleks start chanting "We shall have our power," explicitly referring to the former and implicitly referring to the latter.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: Mostly regarding the Doctor's regeneration:
    • The term "regeneration" hadn't been applied to the process yet, so here it's called "renewal". The original idea at the time was that Troughton was actually playing a younger version of the First Doctor.
    • The Doctor implies it's something the TARDIS does for him, an aftereffect of the original implication that he was a human from a highly-advanced future society rather than an alien. After the Doctor's origins and the nature of regeneration were retconned during the Jon Pertwee era, later stories would clarify that the most the TARDIS does is aid the process, with the worst consequences of regenerating outside of it being made more than explicit just over fifteen years later.
    • While he's always a bit scrambled after a regeneration, he usually doesn't refer to "The Doctor" as a different person.
    • The Doctor's clothes seem to change with the regeneration as well. Reportedly, this was because the production team wanted to have the Doctor be wearing the same clothes as his previous incarnation, with the catch being that they'd be larger and baggier as a result of him being de-aged; however, it seems that rather than commission a larger-sized version of One's costume, the staff merely approximated one from what they already had in their wardrobe. This loose recreation would end up becoming Two's default outfit for the remainder of the show. It won't be until much later when Thirteen's clothes regenerate with her when she changes to a new body.
    • Away from the regeneration-related weirdness, at one point the Doctor says "When I say run, run like a rabbit"; this would pop up again in future Second Doctor stories, but phrased as the more concise "When I say run, run!"
  • The End... Or Is It?: Ben tells the Doctor that a ruined Dalek is just scrap iron now. As the TARDIS dematerialises, the Dalek's eyestalk raises to look.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • A Dalek is incapable of understanding why a human would kill another member of its race. (It's important to remember that every time Daleks have fought each other, it's been between "pure" Daleks and mutated or malfunctioning Daleks.)
    • Bragen balks at sacrificing his men just to provide a diversion, though he does it when Quinn points out they're all going to die anyway.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: Aside from the Doctor and his companions, the only ones who survive the story are Quinn and Valmar.
  • Falsely Reformed Villain: "I AM YOUR SER-VANT!" And if you believe that, the nice man in the wheelchair has a timeshare on Skaro you can invest in. Unfortunately for them, the colonists on Vulcan do believe it...
  • False Utopia: The human colony of Vulcan seems like a nice place to live at first, but to say it's an unstable civilization would be an understatement. Most of the major figures are either over-ambitious, self-righteous or mentally unstable, and all of them are horrible judges of character. It's no wonder the Daleks managed to manipulate them all so easily.
  • Gambit Pileup: The rebels are trying to overthrow the colony's government while Bragen is using them and the Daleks to oust Quinn so he can take the governorship from Hensell while Lesterson is trying to use the Daleks to increase the colony's production capacity while Quinn is trying to investigate the rebels and their connection to Bragen while the Daleks are pitting everybody against each other so they can rebuild themselves and destroy the colony while the Doctor is running around trying to keep the innocent alive and stop the Daleks and their allies...
  • Gaslighting: Lesterson manages to get gaslighted by a Dalek. The main Dalek in the story had been acting subservient to the humans ("I am your SERRRR-vant") and Lesterson had been trying to sell it to the other members of the colony as a miracle find that would help in the mines. After Lesterson works out that the Daleks are up to something after seeing their factory, his Dalek is constantly seen performing actions (such as laying cables) and insisting, when Lesterson asks him what he's doing, that he had ordered him to do it — "I. Am. Your. SERRRR-VANT." Lesterson soon becomes confused as to whether he actually did witness the Dalek factory, and the other colonists all decide that he's insane, refusing to take anything he says seriously.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The colour version of the animation was made thanks to BBC America's broadcast plans, and was completed by a different team to the original animators. The colourists did not have the same attention to detail as the original animators, colouring the TARDIS console as blue instead of cream or lime green (the prop was green to appear off-white in black and white, and a cream coloured prop was used once the series switched to colour) and using a light/dark blue colour scheme for the Daleks rather than silver/white.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: While Lesterson is rather mentally rigid to begin with, when he sneaks into the capsule and sees the Dalek reproduction factory, he has an epic Freak Out that eventually drives him to willingly take a Dalek Death Ray to the face.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The Daleks and the Doctor and friends are firmly black and white respectively, but the rest of the supporting human cast is grey, with most, if not all of the major players having serious character flaws. The writing of the story illustrates how the colonists unwittingly gave the Daleks everything they needed to carry out their destructive mission through their own rather trivial and selfish goals.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Janley, for reasons of self-preservation as much as anything else.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Everyone in the colony, basically.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: In the animated version, as the Daleks are on their killing spree, two Daleks are moments from discovering parents hiding with their baby before the Doctor wipes all of the Daleks out with a Phlebotinum Overload.
  • Ironic Echo: After Lesterson snaps.
    Lesterson: I am your serrrrvant.
  • Just Think of the Potential!:
    • Lesterson begins fiddling with the spaceship because the alloys it contains are remarkably resistant to damage and wear.
    • When someone is accidentally killed by a Dalek Death Ray, the rebels only thought it how they can use this weapon for their own purposes. No-one stops to think that maybe these robot servants aren't as harmless as they are pretending.
  • Kangaroo Court: The governor subjects Quinn to a drumhead trial based on some extremely flimsy evidence provided by Bragen.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Bragen
    "I am still the Governor, and you will obey—"
  • Klingon Promotion: Bragen "becomes" the new governor by powering a (dysfunctional) Dalek long enough for it to kill the previous.
  • Large Ham: Lesterson starts out a bit histrionic and by the end of the story has gone so far over the top he's somewhere in high orbit.
  • Last-Second Word Swap:
    • Daleks can barely hide their contempt for the humans:
    Lesterson: You know, it's amazing. You have an almost human interest and curiosity.
    Dalek: A Dalek is bet- is not the same as a human.
    • Also one of them nearly gives their evil plan away to Valmar in Episode Five.
    "With static power the Daleks will be twice as... useful"
  • Mathematician's Answer:
    Hensell: What is your brief?
    The Doctor: I am the Examiner.
    Hensell: Why are you here?
    The Doctor: To examine.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Early in the first episode, the Doctor looks at himself in a mirror and briefly sees his previous incarnation before the reflection transforms into his current appearance. Since regeneration was a brand new concept at the time (so new, in fact, that it wasn't even called regeneration), this serves to reassure audiences that Patrick Troughton is playing the same character that William Hartnell once did.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: The Doctor stumbles across the body of the freshly murdered Examiner: an official sent from Earth to investigate strange goings-on in the colony on Vulcan. Taking the Examiner's badge, he is mistaken for the Examiner by the colonists.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: With Patrick Troughton replacing William Hartnell, the show would live or die based on the strength of these first few serials. It lived.
  • The Nth Doctor: The Trope Namer makes its big debut, with Patrick Troughton taking over the role of the Doctor — who has been "renewed" after succumbing to the Cybermen's draining of Earth's energy — after William Hartnell's departure.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: How much of this is an act to fool his enemies and how much is due to his own natural eccentricity is a question that will continue throughout Troughton's era.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Even after the brain-scrambling of regeneration wears off, the Doctor is still speaking and acting strangely...until he locates and destroys the listening device in their room.
    • The Daleks pretend to be obedient robotic servants.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: Parts of the Dalek factory sequence were achieved using commercially-available licensed toy Daleks, but with considerable work done on them to make them look better.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the Doctor realizes that Lesterson has reactivated a dormant Dalek.
  • Only Sane Man: The Doctor has a hell of a time convincing the colonists that their new friendly robot buddies are not as nice as they think. And he never really succeeds. The colonists and rebels alike only learn the truth when the exterminations begin.
  • Phlebotinum Overload: How the Doctor finally manages to take out all the Daleks, using "static electricity". Somehowinvoked.
  • Plot Hole: The Doctor pulls a bunch of random items out of a drawer in his TARDIS, including a cube of Dalekanium. When he gets out onto Vulcan he discovers that it's one of two keys for a downed Dalek ship — the other one in the possession of Lesterson. It's quite reasonable for a ship key to be in the vicinity of a ship, but how the heck did the Doctor get hold of his key? Some fans Fan Wankinvoked that the First Doctor had found it in an unseen Dalek encounter, but there is really no place to fit it into the continuity unless you take Broad Strokes.
  • Public Secret Message: The rebels place a secret message detailing the time and place of their next meeting hidden in a notice placed on a public noticeboard.
  • Putting on the Reich: Bragen's clothing gradually becomes closer and closer to an SS uniform as he puts his plan to achieve dictatorship into operation. His guards don blackshirt uniforms once they are granted authority over the colony.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The chilling incidental soundtrack is reused from The Daleks and The Daleks' Master Plan.
  • Resistance as Planned: Bragen is behind the resistance mainly so that they'll cause trouble until he himself ascends to the governorship.
  • Resurrection Sickness: The Doctor is in pain for a while right after regenerating. Compared to later regenerations, this is a mild case.
  • Sanity Slippage: Lesterson, and to a lesser extent Bragen, undergo this through the course of the story.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Vulcan colonists find a space capsule that's been submerged in a mercury lake for hundreds of years. Inside: Daleks.
  • Shout-Out: In the animated version, as a Freeze-Frame Bonus, the notice announcing a cut to milk rations talks about substituting dog milk, a reference to Red Dwarf.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Aside from Polly, Janley is the only speaking female character in the story.
  • Something Only They Would Say: An odd variant of this convinces Ben that this stranger might be who he says he is when he observes how the Dalek reacts to him.
    "It recognised the Doctor."
  • The Starscream: Bragen is the story's least sympathetic human character in a secondary cast mostly consisting of shades of gray. He's a power-hungry usurper and a generalissimo who believes that, as the governor, he has absolute authority over the colonists and the Daleks. He's quite confused when neither parties listen to him or obey him.
  • Stupid Evil: Bragen has the insane notion that being governor somehow makes everyone else loyal to him, no matter how incompetent he really is.
  • Unwitting Pawn: The entire colony to the Daleks, Lesterson in particular.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Daleks play themselves up as humble and faithful servants to get in the colony's good graces, which they exploit for their own ends.
  • Villain of Another Story: Bragen is a Diabolical Mastermind in his own right and has been plotting a coup de tat for months at least, long before the Daleks were awakened; he very likely would have been the Big Bad of any other story that did not feature a race of genocidal aliens in the mix.
  • We Need a Distraction:
    • Quinn forces Bragen to call in his guards from the outlying regions, to distract the Daleks long enough for the Doctor to sabotage them. Even Bragen is reluctant, as he knows they'll just be slaughtered. It's the Doctor's idea too.
    • The Daleks have just noticed that someone has been tampering with their cable when Lesterson appears. It's not clear if this is Redemption Equals Death or if he's just totally insane.
  • The X of Y: This is the first serial since the introduction of overarching titles in "The Savages" to use this trope for its own (though various earlier serials would also retroactively indulge in it for home media releases). Furthermore, starting here and continuing until the end of the Classic Series' run, every Dalek story (barring only "Death to the Daleks" and "Frontier in Space" if you want to count that as a Dalek story) will be in the "(something) of the Daleks" format.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Not only the Daleks, but Bragen orders the rebels killed once they've put him in power, for fear that they might depose him as well.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: The Doctor, and Lesterson (who's Not Helping Your Case by raving like a lunatic).