In many ways I'm being a bit naughty with this review. It is (for the time being) out of production and is only available second hand (at least on Amazon). It is, however, a wonderful sparkling debut performance by the Second Doctor. So on with the show and the bumpf from the back of the box so we're all on the same page!
The first Doctor becomes the second in this exclusive recording of Doctor Who s original regeneration story, starring Patrick Troughton, with linking narration by Anneke Wills I ve been renewed...without it I couldn t survive. Before the astonished eyes of his companions Ben and Polly, the Doctor s whole body has apparently been transformed. Now they are confronted by a stranger who claims to be their old friend but how can they know whether to trust him? The TARDIS s arrival on the swamp planet of Vulcan brings its own problems; the Doctor is mistaken for an official come to solve the Earth colony s in-fighting, and soon he and his companions are embroiled in political wranglings. However, a far more serious threat lurks within the colony. The scientist Lesterson has discovered a crashed space capsule, within it a group of inert metallic creatures which the Doctor identifies as Daleks. Refusing to heed the Doctor s warnings, Lesterson supplies power to the Daleks and revives them. The awakened Daleks claim to be faithful servants of humanity but could such a thing ever be possible? By covert means they seek an increasing level of energy, but for what? By the time the Doctor and his friends discover the Daleks true plan for the colony, it looks as if it might already be too late to stop them...Anneke Wills, who plays Polly in the story, narrates this debut story for the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, first broadcast in 1966 and long since missing from the television archives
It is difficult for us who are familiar with (and excited by) the concept of regeneration to contemplate just what a crisis the decision of Bill Hartnell to leave the show was. The show was still popular so they decided to recast - but them came the next question, how to explain the appearance of a new actor. Thus was born the brilliant concept of regeneration. A concept so infused with genius that it kept the show fresh for decades. This story, important alone as a historical curio, gains even more mythical status by remaining impenetrably and entirely missing from the BBC Archives. Some stories (Tomb of the Cybermen etc) have popped up. But this one, remains resolutely lost.
Some things, like urinary tract infections, when they go missing you don't really miss them. Others, like Ice Cream, are very much missed and you welcome them back like an old friend. But some things are so precious, like good nights out or a particularly funny joke, that are magical and mystical and you know they'll never come back. Power of the Daleks is one such thing. It is a wonderful tale - written not (as you might expect) by Terror Nation, but instead penned by former Script Doctor, David Whittaker. Unusually for a Whittaker script, it is based on a relatively straightforward premise - Daleks pretending to be nice to get hooked up to the mains so they can reproduce. Yet it works on so many layers. Instead of trying to hoodwink an audience not used to regeneration, the script actually plays on the discomfort of not knowing this apparent impostor. Added to this, "The Doctor" takes on the identity of "The Examiner" to further obfuscate and mislead.
This story is a triumph for Troughton. He sparkles like a cosmic sprite, the dialogue is (unusually for a BBC script of the time) snappy and witty. Both Michael Craze and Anneke Wills provide good support and the ensemble players all have great fun snarling at each other. The missing recording has two different versions. The early one (only available on cassette tape) has linking narration by Tom Baker (which is frankly bizarre but hugely enjoyable). This one, though, has polished links provided by Anneke Wills and together with some clever knob twiddling by the restoration yoda, Mark Ayres, this recording is about as close as we're going to get to capturing the magic of the very first regeneration story.