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The Power of the Daleks (Audio tape)

Reviewed by Graham Howard

First there was the photonovel. Then the script book and the novelisation, and now the BBC Audio, comprising the soundtrack of the televised episodes along with Tom Baker's narration. My conclusion after listening to the episodes is that the audio format suits the story particularly well. The quality of the soundtrack is remarkably good (at least compared with my existing nth generation audio copy of the story!) Although it would obviously still be preferable to be able to view the story, one possible advantage of the audio format is that the listener can't be disappointed by any visual inadequacies which may (or may not) have been present in the original film. Although John Peel's novel was good and cleverly managed to fill a couple of plot holes, several of his additions to the televised storyline were quite irritating. And I don't believe either the novel or the photonovel fully capture the sense of foreboding and mounting tension that is evident from the soundtrack of this story.

The isolated, claustrophobic setting is perfect for a Dalek story in that they can credibly be portrayed as very formidable opponents. While the Daleks are very much the murderous conniving creatures seen in other Dalek tales their duplicity towards the humans on Vulcan reveals a dark sinister quality that is quite chilling. The Power of the Daleks may well be the most effective use of the Daleks in a Who story to date. Of course Power is not just about Daleks, it is also about human ambition and lust for power. The plot strand dealing with the rebel insurgency neatly interlinks with the main plot involving the Daleks and the threat they pose to the colony. The acting is uniformly good (in as far as one can tell from a soundtrack) with all the main characters, including the new Doctor, putting in convincing performances.

With the narration, Eric Saward has opted to do more than just describe activity which is not obvious from the soundtrack. Writing in the first person has enabled him to instill a measure of the Fourth Doctor's personality into the script, which surprisingly sits quite well alongside the ongoing events of Power. This means Tom Baker has a lot more to say than in The Evil of the Daleks audio script, and it makes him seem more of a character in his own right rather than just a disembodied voice. The narration is therefore more than functional; it also entertains. However, there is a drawback. Unlike Evil at times the impression is that, entertaining or not, there is just too much narration. Frequently it overlaps the incidental music and to a lesser extent the dialogue. Although not always a problem, there are a number of occasions where it is intrusive in that it breaks the momentum of what is happening 'on screen'. It is also annoying when a piece of suspense-building music is muted so as to allow for the narration.

Quibbles with aspects of the narration aside, this is an extremely enjoyable release.

This item appeared in TSV 38 (March 1994).

Index nodes: The Power of the Daleks