It’s in this serial’s marvellous second episode that Whitaker really gets his teeth into his principal theme: power. Power of all kinds. The power that the new Doctor wields, both under the false mantle of the Examiner and as a new incarnation of a Time Lord who has yet to prove his mettle against his oldest enemies. The power of Governor Hensell as challenged by Deputy Governor Quinn, watched over by the ambitious security officer Bragen. The power of the manipulative Janley and the meddling scientist Lesterson, trying to resurrect the Daleks for his own purposes. The power the Daleks exert over all other creatures and the power they need to function. It’s a big tapestry of themes, but it ultimately boils down to one single, simple fact, which will resonate in almost all Dalek stories after this one, including such triumphant works as Genesis of the Daleks and Nick Briggs’ Dalek Empire series.
The Daleks’ power comes from us. We give them that power. They are the timeline of our darkness, always lurking even as the mercury worlds re-shape and mould around them. They simply wait for the right being to come along and revive them, in so doing making the most terrible error, turning back to the hatred and zealotry that the Daleks represent and always have represented. For to err is human. Humans bring about the power of the Daleks time and time again through their own mistakes, whether it’s behaving as allies, or (functionally human species like) Kaleds bringing them into being on Skaro in the first place. The awful effect they have on human beings is even hinted at by the Doctor: “I know the misery they cause, the destruction. But there’s something else more terrible. Something I can only half-remember…” It’s also literalised in this story as Lesterson and his assistants *actually* grant the inactive, dormant Daleks the electrical power they need to function (the Doctor compares deactivation of dead Daleks to the simple flicking on and off of a light switch), but it really isn’t hard to see David Whitaker’s sharp commentary on what that truly means: it’s turning the Dalek on that kills Resno, and yet despite turning it off again you can be sure it will be reactivated before too long.
Read my take on the third episode here.
“I never talk nonsense – well, hardly never.”
“You’re a fine one to be a research assistant,” Janley tells Resno after he urges to ‘leave well alone’. The character interactions are uniformly excellent.