Of Sylvester McCoy’s run as the Doctor, ‘Remembrance Of The Daleks’ has to be one of my favourites. There are a lot of contributing factors to this. It was nearly the 25th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’ and it returns to the roots of the first story in 1963, about a week after the first regeneration, grand-daughter Susan and two teachers had just left. Although the Doctor hadn’t had any control of the TARDIS originally, he chose that time and place to deposit a Time Lords’ weapon, the Hand Of Omega to be interned in a grave. Odd that the Time Lords never asked for it back when they caught up with him but within story logic, they might have thought it was still safe on Gallifrey. Even odder that when he left it on Earth originally, he hadn’t even heard of the Daleks so hardly aware of what he was going to do with it.
However, a greater menace is aware of it and as the Doctor (actor Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (actress Sophie Aldred) find out the Daleks are after it and they have to unravel what is going on at the Coal Hill Secondary School. None of this is helped as one of the factions has the help of Ratcliffe (actor George Sewell) and his more fascist aims. While the Doctor is helping the local military, under the command of Group Captain ‘Chunky’ Gilmore (actor Simon Williams) and his two scientific advisors Rachel Jameson (actress Pamela Salem) and Allison Williams (actress Karen Gledhall), who soon realise that they are outclassed. Ace also has the distinction of being one of the few people to take out a few Daleks single-handed using a Hand Of Omega charged baseball bat.
They also discover that the Daleks have divided into two divisions and there is a civil war going on with both of them seeking the Hand Of Omega. The Doctor has to manipulate them both so one will wipe out the other rather than leave any of them stranded on Earth. I’m being very cautious how much I say as so much of the plot is spoiler.
Some parts of it are far briefer than they should have been and although George Sewell makes the best of what he’s given, his role is not given as much as it could be. To Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred’s credit, they make a formidable double act on their first side out alone that still holds up today. It’s hardly surprising that they remained together until the end of the series.
The Daleks appear a little more wooden than usual but considering how many are destroyed that’s hardly surprising as they blow up better. It always was interesting seeing the Emperor Dalek portrayed nearly as close to the TV21 version. It was only done the once but it was a nice touch. When I originally saw the story in the 1990s, I though all that was left of Davros was his head but with a more up-to-date larger TV, he’s just wrapped up in more cables.
There’s still a matter of where in this Dalek time-line this is happening. After all, the Daleks were also destroyed in the Hartnell area as well but this time Skaro and its star were also destroyed. The whereabouts of the Emperor unknown. One can only presume that the Daleks aren’t stupid enough to confine their species to one planet. Then again, they are supposed to have an empire. Even with the modern ‘Doctor Who’, all three are still going strong. Considering that the Daleks have time travel capability, they must have an awareness of some of their failures in the past and future and they would certainly be ruthless enough to let some of their number die.
Another flaw in this story is that Ratcliffe is helping the Dalek controller yet when she sees him at the cemetery, does not recognise her. If I was trying to talk my way out of this problem, I would suspect that as controller, she controlled what he saw.
One odd question is what happened to the Daleks time displacement device at the end of the story? Certainly neither Ace or the Doctor would have left it in 1963 and it certainly wasn’t damaged.
I hope this isn’t true of all of this edition by if you select the episode option, they all lead back to episode one. The best way to get around this is to run them all and jump across to the right episode.
Be warned, when you select the audio commentary, it doesn’t come on until after the beginning and end credits so don’t think you’ve got the option (the third one for those who want to be technical with the second reserved for the musical score than the other way around) but does keep going on the end of the fourth. Said commentary is from actors Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred revealing odd tit-bits. Aldred spots fashion mistakes as the occasionally glimpsed building that isn’t from 1963 but also citing how difficult it was to conceal modern day then and now. McCoy points out how they made all guest stars welcome and there was a lot of corpsing, especially between himself and Simon Williams so they tended to avoid eye contact. Williams’ character got the nickname ‘Chunky’ because of the name of his pistol and this was used in the story. One interesting reveal is the big pockets in the Doctor’s jacket was to carry his script, with pages done moved from one pocket to another when completed and you can spot them in one scene. Although both of them were concerned how much of the screen magic they should reveal, I tend to think it does give insight from behind the scene, more so with how much was filmed out of order. McCoy also argued the case with the director for keeping a couple scenes in as deemed important for arguing about racism that was happening at the time.
The extras on the first disc starts with a 32 minute look at the making under the title ‘Back To School’, looking over the original school used and the various memories from cast and production. What no one seems to remember is that Ian Chesterton was a science teacher so the classroom scenes were in essentially his place of work. We do get an opportunity to see the large wheelbarrow globe balls use under the Daleks to get around on the cobblestones, showing why they wobbled so much. Thinking objectively, I do wonder if they had included some element of suspension if they could have reduced that.
The quarter of an hour ‘Remembrances’ goes into further memories and the connections to the original 1963 story and just how much they added and the head of drama’s suggestion after the fact to script editor Andrew Cartmel that Ace should have torn up the ‘No Coloureds’ sign. Oddly, when you would think Ben Aaronovitch was a Who expert with all his references, he had to do the research.
The other extras show extended scenes prior to them being cut to fit the time available, out-takes and the two scenes from two different camera angles, as well as the Photo Gallery.
The second DVD is devoted to giving a 43 minute history of Davros both in the reality plus the writers and the actors who have played him. Consider the odd Dalek in the background, you have to wonder how much of their evidence was actually coerced.
Except for the problems of watching the episodes individually, this is a nice special edition and reaffirmed that I should pick up the rest from this period.
(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC. 2 DVDs 4 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: It varies, I pulled it off the coming defunct BBC Shop for £ 3.25 (UK). ASSN: BBCDVD2451)
cast: Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Simon Williams, Goerge Sewell, Pamela Salem, Karen Gledhall, Dursley McLinden, Michael Sheard, Harry Palmer, Jasmine Breaks