Monday, 23 April 2012

WHO REVIEW: Power of the Daleks - Reimagined. Part One

WHO REVIEW: Power of the Daleks - Reimagined. Part One

“Am I excited or worried? I hate that in-between feeling.”  

The Power of the Daleks is one of the most infamous of Doctor Who’s ‘lost stories.’ If you asked a group of classic Doctor Who fans which serial they’d most like to be returned to the archives, Power would surely come very near the top of the list. This is with good reason: not only is it a 60s Dalek story - always popular - but it was the very first story to feature Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. Strip all this away though, and what have you got left? No Troughton, no Ben and Polly, no grainy black-and-white footage, no regeneration - what you have left remains a tense science fiction tale of the need for and abuse of power.

With a story so effective and so very missed, it’s not surprising that TNT films have chosen Power as the basis of their new fanfilm project. Power of the Daleks has been touted as more of a reimagining than a remake, and this is very much what the production provides. Only the basics of the original story remain - the Doctor, the Daleks, the sunken spacecraft, the core characters - and all of these have been tweaked to work in a new, modern version of the classic story. This is most obvious in the story’s setting; no longer is the serial based on the planet Vulcan (no, no that one), but now it is set within a drilling station on South McKinley, a remote island in the South Atlantic. This retains the isolation of the original, while allowing a low budget fan production an far easier environment to create. The planet Vulcan does get a name check, though - our characters work for the Vulcan corporation. The base, with its glossy Vulcan corporate magazines, health and safety posters and forgotten mugs seems like a far more real environment than more controlled professional productions usually manage.

The main characters have been tailored to fit this new setting, and the cast generally impress. There are some familiar faces here too, for those who have seen the previous Dalek productions by the Interalia Theatre group. James George, excellent as the overbearing Hensell, was previously Mavic Chen in the stage play version of The Dalek Masterplan, while Phil Cottrill and David Bickerstaff, aka Lesterson and Valmar, were formerly Trantis and Marc Cory in that production. The familiar faces don’t end there. There’s an excellent scene towards the end of the episode in which the Prime Minister - a note-perfect Barnaby Edwards - convenes with advisors over the discover of the Dalek ship, noting that “a standard contingency exists to deal with any Dalek contact.” Present at the meeting are Lisa ‘Benny Summerfield’ Bowerman as Admiral Cunningham, while Vincent Adams returns as Colonel Harvey, his character from the very popular fanfilm The Millennium Trap.

The main attractions here are, of course, the Doctor and the Daleks. Of the latter, we see very little. There is a gorgeous moment as one of their number slowly blinks into life in extreme close-up, while later we see two of his fellows have also been reactivated. The props and graphics used, essentially Davies-era new series Daleks with a sombre paintjob, are very effective, but we’ll have to wait until part two to hear professional Dalek voicer Nicholas Briggs rasp into action.

Nick Scovell, multi-talented scripter, director and actor, returns to the role of the Doctor, one he has previously played in The Millennium Trap and the Interalia stage plays. Fan Doctors are ten-a-penny these days, but Scovell has long been my favourite, the only one I’ve seen who I’d actually like to see take the role for real. Dispensing with the regeneration plotline from the original serial, the Doctor here is a mysterious figure, arriving unaccompanied to investigate the unearthing of the crashed spacecraft. He’s disarmingly straightforward with the other characters, showing both disdain for the humans’ methods and occasional flashes of undisguised enthusiasm. He’s a sober, quite traditional take on the Doctor, but the episode does take advantage of the occasional new series flourish, such as the excellent time-saving device that is psychic paper. However, I feel we haven’t seen Scovell live up to his previous performances just yet - I’m looking forward to see him tussle with the Daleks.

It’s not a perfect production. Some may feel that seventeen minutes is too short an episode, but this is only part one, and the duration keeps things tight and streamlined. The performance of Adrian Cranwell-Child as the ecowarrior version of Kebble is a weak link, but I understand that he was originally there in the capacity of art director, and only stepped in to fill the role hastily late in the day, so this can be forgiven. I suspect the full movie version, with more extensive post-production, will be an ever more entertaining experience, but the existing effects, music and sound design are very good indeed. Overall, though, this is a highly enjoyable update of a much-loved story, and I very much look forward to part two, which is expected in July.

Part One of Power of the Daleks can be watched here.

The website of the Power convention, raising money for Children in Need and Cancer Research UK, can be visited here.

Click on these here links for the official websites of TNT Productions and EverybodyElse sound design.

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