It’s well known that nearly 100 episodes from 26 different Doctor Who television adventures were lost when the BBC erased the masters as a way to save money on film. Many have been recovered, most recently all of “Enemy of the World” and all but one episode of “Web of Fear” in 2013. However, the further we get from the 1960s, the less likely it becomes that the remaining William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton episodes will ever be found anywhere. Troughton suffers particularly, as not a single complete serial of his first season exists.
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy classic Doctor Who in a reasonable facsimile. The BBC has announced that it will be animating all six episodes of the Season 4’s “Power of the Daleks.” The story is particularly noteworthy in that it's the first post-regeneration adventure ever, and a defining bit of Who canon that cemented the ability of The Doctor to change forms.
Only photographs, a few scant clips and complete audio recordings of “Power” survive (You can watch a Loose Cannon reproduction using these materials here, but do it quick as I suspect BBC will ding the video soon now that it has a release to compete with it). Nonetheless, it’s one of the most influential adventures ever produced that shapes the show even to this day. The distrust of companion Ben Jackson over the strange man he refuses to believe is The Doctor, as well as companion Polly Wright’s faith in the Second Doctor, is mirrored in Rose Tyler’s reaction to Nine’s regeneration and Clara Oswald’s to Eleven’s. The World War II adventure, “Victory of the Daleks,” is in many ways a remake of “Power” that is just set on Earth.
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Interesting bit of trivia: “Power” takes place on the planet Vulcan, which is a human colony world in the Whoniverse. This followed the introduction of Star Trek's Mr. Spock’s homeworld of Vulcan on television by several weeks. Both shows appear to have landed on the name independently, as a planet called Vulcan had been hypothesized in our solar system since the 19th century.
The animated episodes are being directed by Charles Norton, with character design by Martin Geraghty and Adrian Salmon. Norton has previously created animated restorations for Dad’s Army, another show with many episodes missing from the BBC archives. As with previous animated reconstructions, the soundtrack will be the actual audio recordings of the original episode, meaning Troughton, Anneke Wills and Michael Craze will once again be gracing the screen as a Tardis team, albeit only in voice form. It’s a particularly nice treat for Craze’s Ben. Craze died of a heart attack in 1998, and didn’t live to reprise his role in the Big Finish audio era like Wills. Wills and Frazer Hines, who joined in the following adventure, “The Highlanders,” as Jamie McCrimmon, often alternate performances as Ben in the Companion Chronicles series.
Previously, the only other way to experience “Power” besides audio recordings and telesnaps was through the novelization by John Peel. It was one of the last Doctor Who stories ever novelized, only coming out in 1993 along with “Evil of the Daleks” in a limited run. As a result, used copies would cost up to $100 until fairly recently.
“Power of the Daleks,” aside from its historical implications for the series, is an all-around good adventure that showcases all the wit and charm Patrick Troughton would bring to the role of the Second Doctor for the next three seasons. It’s fantastic to have it back in a watchable format. Look for it in the BBC store November 5 and subsequent DVD on November 19.