This is the story that, more than any other, I would most like to see recovered to the BBC archives and released on DVD. Reading the BBC telesnap reconstruction only whetted the appetite to see what this serial would look like as originally presented. It is for one simple reason – the story looks compellingly brilliant.
Picking up after the previous (also missing) story The Faceless Ones, The Doctor and Jamie discover that the TARDIS has been stolen. As the story title makes clear, it is not the work of human agency, but everyone’s favourite interstellar dustbins. The Daleks, holding soon-to-be-companion Victoria as a hostage, coerce the Doctor into identifying ‘the human factor’ – attributes of humanity that make them resistant to the Daleks. The human factor is identified by sending Jamie off to rescue Victoria and identifying the human traits he exhibits in so doing.
Of course it is all a ruse (What? Duplicitous Daleks? Don’t be absurd!) – the Daleks are in fact looking to identify the Dalek Factor – the antithesis of what it means to be human – and then plot to infect mankind with it. The Doctor saves the day by infecting a number of Daleks with the human factor, precipitating a Dalek Civil War, from which the plucky time-travellers escape.
There are so many things to love about this episode. Originally intended as the quite literal ‘final end’ for the Daleks (their creator Terry Nation hoped to launch a Dalek based TV show in the USA) the Civil War, later explored in Revelation of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks, gives a sinister dimension to the Dalek story making it unique in the classic series. Themes like human Daleks have even been picked up in the new series – most obviously in Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks, but more recently still in Into the Dalek. Even the amazing cliffhanger to Episode 5 when the human-factor infected Daleks begin to play a game and the Doctor realises the implications, would be astonishing to experience.
Added to that of course is a plot rich in detail – there is the mad time-travelling scientist Theodore Maxtible and his reluctant partner Edward Waterfield. A worthy side-plot to the Dalek schemes are Maxtible’s efforts to become rich through time travel, and Waterfield’s attempts to be reunited with his daughter Victoria. If Victoria’s poignant remembrance of her father in Tomb of the Cybermen is anything to judge by, Waterfield’s death to save the Doctor’s life, and his plea with his dying breath to look after Victoria must make for truly moving drama. It seems that most wonderful of things – a Doctor Who story where the Doctor is carried by events into the story of others, and strives to bring good.
Sadly of course, this is all supposition. At seven episodes it may be slightly too long. Although it introduces Victoria as a companion, she may not play as much of a role as we would hope. The Dalek Civil War may not even be as exciting as one imagines it in the absence of the film.
Which is why, of all the currently missing episodes of the classic series, The Evil of the Daleks is the one I am most eager to see returned – I do not think it is an exaggeration that I would willingly accept never seeing the other missing episodes so that I could watch this one. Time will of course tell, but if the BBC do track it down and release the story on DVD, I strongly suspect that The Evil of the Daleks would be an immediate contender for my top three. That’s how highly I anticipate it.