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Doctor Who: The Evil of the Daleks (BBC Radio Collection) Audio CD – Audiobook, August 1, 2004
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Audio CD, Audiobook
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On audio, as a look at the Big Finish reviews elsewhere on Amazon will attest, performances and sound become everything. The performances on audio sound strong across the board though as the return of The Enemy Of The World proved back in 2013, so much of Troughton's performance as the Doctor was visual that listening to him one can't help but wonder what we're missing out on. Don't get me wrong, the performance comes across well with the Second Doctor in conniving and manipulative mode throughout in a way that one tends to think more of Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor that the impish image we tend to have of the Second Doctor. Yet Troughton has those moments as well with the end of episode five and start of episode six being perfect examples of that (as well as being one of the most unlikely cliffhangers in the show's history past or present). Frazer Hines' Jamie comes across well on audio as the action man of the story, the doer to the Doctor's thinker for the most part while Deborah Watling's debut as Victoria casts her very much in the light she would remain in for her entire tenure: a damsel in distress.
The supporting cast is solid as well. Marius Goring's Theodore Maxtible is one of those rare characters who almost manages to steal the show out from under Troughton with a performance that covers a full range of elements and which, like Troughton's Doctor, leaves us feeling never quite sure of what is going on with the character. More straightforward but no less interesting is John Bailey as Victoria's father Edward Waterfield, a widower and father who seems out of depth from the moment he's introduced in the 1966 set opening episode until the last episode where he at last does something of his own volition. The middle part of the story is largely set inside a Victorian house which, like Ghost Light more than two decades later, gives the chance for a large group of characters including Maxtible's daughter Ruth (played by Brigit Forsyth), her fiance Arthur Terrall (played by Gary Watson), and the maid Mollie (Jo Rowbottom). The cast is solid though it Goring who gets the most attention and perhaps deservedly so.
The other thing about audio is that it means that the script and plot get more attention as well. On screen, you can hide behind visuals at times if need be but audio does not give you such luxuries. For once that isn't an issue. David Whitaker had proved between the Curse Of The Daleks stage play and The Power Of The Daleks that he had a firm grasp on how to make the titular creatures menacing both physically and on a character level (the latter being something that their actual creator never quite managed somehow). The Daleks in this story run the range from guards to manipulating in a way that one only really finds in Power just a few months before with the last couple of episodes revealing a twist that makes everything the listener has heard before change on a dime. Combined with the voice work of Peter Hawkins (his last time voicing the Daleks) and Roy Skelton (who would go on voicing them throughout the rest of the original TV run), the results are some of the best moments the Daleks would ever have. Given that Evil Of The Daleks was intended to be their last hurrah, it's even more amazing that Whitaker wrote such a potentially strong swan song for them.
In a way, Evil Of The Daleks is the summation of everything Doctor Who had done in its first four years on screen. The confrontation between the Doctor and the Daleks, the use of static electricity, the very introduction of the Dalek Emperor (by now a familiar figure thanks to audio and the New Series), the Doctor's return to Skaro for the first time since the original Dalek story, all of it feels like the series bringing itself back to its roots in a way. In fact, Whitaker's original storyline featured the Doctor going back to the Stone Age reminiscent of An Unearthly Child which would have made the circle complete even more. There is the definite sense of both the end of an era and the beginning of another, a “final end” and a new beginning all rolled into one. It is to Whitaker's credit that he also creates a compelling narrative along the way.
At the start of this review, I asked if the story deserved its status as something of a lost classic. The answer for me is a yes. David Whitaker's script and the ideas behind it, how it handles the most famous foe of the series, is what secures it that place as well as strong performances throughout from the cast. What I wouldn't give to actually be able to see this story in its entirety but how much I would miss having the atmospheric audio as well.
I like how he just portrays his Scottish Highlander, giving you his opinions here and there, warts and all. Cracked me up a few times with his quips. The story seems convoluted in the beginning but it eventually gets going. The Dalek Emperor is great and sounds very sinister. I highly prefer the Dalek Emperor over the 1 dimensional Davros, despite what Terry Nation may have thought. It helps the Daleks maintain their identity which is important to me.
It's got a really good plot in it. The Daleks forcing the Doctor to experiment on Jamie was a really good idea. The Victorian setting is very moody. The Doctor gets to travel to the Dalek home world, Skaro, once again (something he hasn't done since his very first encounter with the creatures in "The Daleks"). The Doctor gets to meet the very intimidating Emperor Dalek. And I found parts of it to be pretty exciting. I loved Jamie's attempt to rescue Victoria, encountering dangers and booby traps at every turn. It was nice how Jamie and Kemel started off as enemies and then formed a friendship later on to rescue Victoria and to fight the Daleks. I also loved how Jamie and the Doctor's relationship is tested in this story as well. And the final battle on Skaro was very epic. All in all, it's still a pretty good story despite the length.
The Doctor is an interesting character in this one though given less time than Jamie as he plays a double game with the Daleks as well as with Maxtible. The story has several moments of terror but also some that seem silly. The idea of the Daleks either altering their own structure or that of humans has been done many times since in Doctor Who, a few times it's been done more effectively, but more often less so.
The serial has some odd cliffhangers and it's really debatable whether this story needed an episode and a half to get them to Victorian England, although that did a sense of mystery to the story. Overall, the last of the 1960s Daleks stories is one of the better ones, although it's not quite as good as Power of the Daleks.