Ah, that’s more like it. After the false dawn of their initial reappearance, the Daleks are most emphatically back this time, and what’s more they’re back to their old selves. As I’d hoped from their cameo last time, they’re suddenly effortlessly effective again. The uniform battleship grey paint job suits them, more props have been built, and they’re being properly directed so that it seems like there’s hundreds of them. But best of all, Zippy is back on voiceover duty.
This is them going back to their roots, with a story to match. This is a proper sequel to their very first appearance, as written by their creator. (Terry Nation, not Davros – he doesn’t exist yet.) The Thals are back for the first time, and there’s even lovely mentions of Barbara, Ian and Susan. It works as part of the season-spanning tenth anniversary celebrations, but it’s also satisfying in story terms to hear of how the First Doctor’s actions in that serial have entered folklore, exploring the impact that this incredible man has on civilisations throughout the galaxy.
After a while, though, you notice that it’s not so much a sequel to The Daleks, as a complete and utter rehash, just in a different order. Terry Nation is never one to dismiss a good idea just because it’s already been used, and so we get the Daleks attempting to poison the Thals, a Dalek city being infiltrated, The Doctor being imprisoned and even someone getting inside a Dalek casing as a disguise. It’s not great to be so derivative, but on the other hand it’s still a huge amount of fun.
There was a fair chunk of new stuff too, and it all worked pretty well. The jungle and its various aggressive plant life was great, albeit in itself a little derivative of elements of Nation’s The Keys of Marinus and Mission To The Unknown. I liked the Spiridons a lot too, with their furs in the exact same hue as Emu. Always handy for the budget to introduce an invisible monster, and CSO allows them to make good use of the concept. Oh, and the Daleks can fly now! Admittedly they need a special anti-gravity device to do so, but I wasn’t expecting to see that until Remembrance.
One thing that surprised me was how little it had to do with Frontier In Space in the end. There was even a line of dialogue at one point where The Doctor acknowledged that thwarting The Master’s plan was completely irrelevant in the grand evil scheme of things. It feels like they were two different stories comprising five and a half episodes each, with the remaining episode’s worth of linking material spread across part six of the former and part one of the latter.
But while it failed to pick up on the previous serial’s lead, it did seem to plant a seed for the next one. I may be reading too much into it, considering I know what’s coming next, but there seemed to be some foreshadowing of Jo’s imminent departure in the way that she and The Doctor were separated for so long. And this definitely ramped up in episode six, which presented her with an opportunity to stay behind with some bloke, reminding the audience of the most common way for a female companion to leave the show. The fact that she’s starting to contemplate life without The Doctor, coupled with a hint of homesickness is really setting up what promises to be an emotional departure.