Having got past the immediate shock of the changeover, this episode begins to explore how the new Doctor differs from the old. Initially, Ben tries to work out what’s going on, and what might have happened to the missing third Dalek: ‘Let’s get our facts straight’. He’s the one who did most of the heavy lifting in The Tenth Planet and is fulfilling the main role of the male companions to date – making things clear to the audience as he works them out. Often, Ian and Steven would handle the step-by-step summary, allowing the old Doctor to step in to deliver the “so what” with a ‘hmm!’ or a delighted chuckle.
However, the new Doctor takes a more active role in the investigation. He’s already several steps ahead of Ben, and more than capable of quickly bringing the audience up to speed with the plot:
THE DOCTOR: Lesterson’s fanatic. The Governor’s jealous of his own position. What does that suggest to you? All is not well with this colony. Add to that: One Dalek…. All that is needed to wipe out this entire colony.
At the start of the episode, Ben is still talking about ‘the real Doctor’. Whitaker’s script recognises that much of the audience still won’t have accepted this impostor who does bizarre tongue-twisters, but equally knows that some, like Polly will already be enjoying this stranger version of the Doctor. Wisely, no-one tries to force the point. Even the Doctor is still unsure of himself, with a nice habit of undercutting his own authority (like when he checks the Examiner’s badge for micro-print when the idea occurs to him).
He also gets a nice contemplative moment when he explains the Daleks’ evil: ‘I know the misery they cause. The destruction. But there’s something else more terrible. Something I can only half remember.’ This may be a hangover from Whitaker’s draft script, which apparently hinted that the Daleks had destroyed the Doctor’s home planet. If so, it’s not the only element of this that’s echoed in Russell T Davies’ 2005 series. The dormant Dalek encased in wires as humans experiment on it is an image repeated in Dalek.
As Davies was inspired by Whitaker, so Whitaker must have been inspired by Nigel Kneale: the idea of a buried capsule containing something evil and alien that causes society to collapse is reinforced by visual similarities – the capsule itself, but especially the exploration of the interior, and the discovery of the dormant creatures shrouded in webs.
Confronted with Lesterson’s revived Dalek, the Doctor’s repeats his Cassandra role from The Tenth Planet, warning of dire consequences but not listened to until it’s too late. But while the colonists are inexplicably excited by the prospect of using mysterious robot people of unknown provenance as their servants, the most important moment of the episode’s cliffhanger, the bit that Ben comments on four times just to make sure no-one can miss it, is the fact that the Dalek recognises the Doctor. If the Daleks know who this man is – Whitaker is saying – then so should we. The handover period is finished. Game on.
Next episode: The Power of the Daleks – Episode Three