This is the scariest story I have ever heard. It was told to me by another boy, back in the mid nineties. We were on a school camping trip near Crickhowell in central Wales. The campsite is in the grounds of an old chapel, on a triangle of grass, turned to mud by the Welsh weather and the walking boots of two dozen boys. A small brook surrounds the chapel on two sides, and the road – a single track, with huge earth banks either side – forms the third. Two school minibuses are parked just off road, inside the single gate to the chapel. A few trees run down towards the brook. On the other side, a hill rises steeply. It is planted thickly with trees – not so thick that it’s not perfect for playing kidnappers, but thick enough that if you wander too far into the woods you can lose track of the chapel – only the downward slope points you back in the right general direction. At the back of the chapel, four huge logs form a square bench around a camp fire, and that’s where We’d had a supper of sausages, beans and hot, strong tea, brewed inside the chapel in its rudimentary kitchen with its huge steel water tank. Continue reading
Whenever you admit to a fondness for horror films, inevitably someone asks you the question, ‘what’s the scariest film you’ve seen?’ That’s a question I always struggle to answer. As a child, when you’re most susceptible to being actually frightened by films, most responsible parents (certainly mine) won’t let you watch horror movies. As an adult, I can’t remember at any point actually being afraid because of a film. Yes, of course I jump at the jumpy moments. And I’ve been grossed out in the cinema – most of all by the brain-eating scene in Hannibal, and the de-gloving in Gerald’s Game. But terrified? No. Continue reading
Dennis Spooner makes a smart decision to begin this story about a month after the previous episode’s cliffhanger. It means when we re-join them, Vicki has had weeks to get to know the Doctor, Ian and Barbara.
The episode has two jobs to do. First, it needs to resolve the mysteries raised last week, and second, and more importantly, it needs to set up Vicki as the new companion. So as to avoid interfering with the real story – the introduction of the new regular – the mysteries are handled efficiently and effectively, and without any undue fuss. Once again the Doctor plays investigator – a role he’s played with the Tribe of Gum, in the city of Millennius, and on the Sense-Sphere. Having discovered Bennett’s secret escape hatch, and already aware that ‘Koquillion’ is just a ceremonial costume, it’s not much of a stretch to deduce what’s happened.
New year, new team. The Powerful Enemy opens slightly differently than we’ve become used to: the TARDIS lands in some caves (‘materialised is a better word,’ says the Doctor) but rather than then following the crew as they explore the new environment, it cuts directly to a crashed spaceship populated by a teenager, Vicki, and an injured man, Bennett. In an efficient bit of dialogue they fill in the backstory – this is the planet Dido, they’re waiting for a rescue ship that’s three days away, and someone called Koquillion is menacing them – so that we know more after the first three minutes than we do after 25 minutes on Skaro.
If you haven’t got the Nazi parallels by now, this episode makes them blatant: the extermination of all humans is ‘the final solution’. But despite the build up, the defeat of the Daleks is accomplished remarkably easily. Jacqueline Hill gets the funniest moments, firstly when she riffs on her history lessons to spin a yarn about an imminent rebellion, and then when she tries to imitate a Dalek voice over the radio, until the Doctor steps in with a more convincing impersonation. Following his orders, the Robomen turn on the Daleks and presumably kill every one they can find (shades of that in the future elimination of the Silents), while Ian sabotages their bomb causing the base to explode. Which means in both their appearances the Daleks are most disappointing in the final battle.
‘I never take life. Only when my own is immediately threatened.’ The Doctor is back, with a statement of intent. Ever since he vowed to defeat the Daleks a month ago – and which he reiterates here (‘We have got to dare to stop them!’), he’s been a man on a mission, which couldn’t contrast more with Susan’s cosy domestics with David. She’s more worried about some stew going cold than fighting the Daleks. It’s obvious that the Doctor’s outgrown her more than she has him. Fortunately, we’ve had five weeks to get used to the idea of her and David being together – a relationship that’s grown over as many episodes as we might expect even from modern TV.