The Dalek Factor: ‘The Evil of the Daleks’
New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth 28th October 2006
A funny thing that; here we are, twenty minutes or so into Interalia Theatre’s stage production of ‘Evil’ and the Doctor is quizzing Maxtible and Waterfield about the creatures who hold them in thrall. Unspeakable monsters, works of the Devil…you know the score. Then come those immortal grated syllables:
From the right hand side of the stage a door cracks open and through a swirl of dry ice a parade of familiar conical shapes emerge- to rapturous applause from the audience! To an outsider this must seem a curious phenomenon, clapping as the genocidal dustbins invade the stage; they are after all the antagonists. But to those in the know it isn’t that surprising, after all the Daleks are the stars of the show.
I guess that Nick Scovell, who both adapted the screenplay for the stage and stars as the Doctor, must have known that all too well. He apparently had the idea to adapt ‘Evil’ two years ago when his young daughter asked him what a Dalek was; this inspired him to watch the only surviving episode of this lost classic on the Daleks-The Early Years video. Being a veteran of several previous stage adaptations of Doctor Who such as ‘Fury from the Deep’ and ‘The Web of Fear’ Mr. Scovell is no stranger to playing the second Doctor. However, and here is a mark of a true Doctor Who fan in that he can place his date of birth by which episode of ‘The Sea Devils’ was being broadcast at the time, he admits that ‘Evil’ is not a story that he knew an awful lot about. Before his time you see…
I am just about old enough to remember seeing ‘Evil’ in it’s long lost television form and I believe it is my memories of the final battle of the Daleks on Skaro that imprinted the Dalek Factor in my mind. There it lay for many years waiting for an opportunity to emerge and now I must confess myself as obsessed as most people are by the wretched little pepper pots. From the audience around my partner and I it was possible to see that a whole new generation had caught the Dalek bug; indeed one five year old was heard to remark to her father that she would like to meet the Daleks after the show. “Not if you’re going to wet your pants!” was his reply. With such fascination across all age groups the applause when the monsters come on stage and later on when the Emperor appears from behind the fireplace, should come as no surprise.
The Daleks themselves come courtesy of the team behind the long-in -production fan film ‘Devious-halfway to oblivion’ who also supplied props for the Comic relief special ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’. Like that production the proceeds of ‘Evil’ have also gone to charity, to Children in Need this time. Back to the props, very good, in fact Suzanne still tells me she didn’t realise that they had ‘real Daleks’ in the show; and I guess they were as close as one can hope to get this side of Skaro. Combining elements from classic and contemporary Dalek design, the pepper pots came in silver and gold with green spheres and a dark green dome on one of them. The Devious team were also responsible for the Dalek Emperor fireplace, which was a faithful rendition of the original Emperor from the story.
Accompanying the Daleks on stage was a creepy score by Martin Johnson of the ‘Everybodyelse’ website. His music and the fantastic stage lighting and special effects really made the show.
And what about the actors? For a mostly amateur troupe they performed exceptionally, particularly Scovell as the Doctor and John-Paul McCrohon as Jamie. James George (Maxtible) was one of the professionals in the cast and was particularly good at portraying the twisted entrepreneur’s greed and arrogance. The Dalek voices were originally to be provided by Nicolas Briggs but he was unavailable, so Rob Thrush who owns Portsmouth based Chard House media stepped into the breach. I would say he did a damned good job of it as well and if I hadn’t have known better I could swore that it was a real Dalek down there ranting and threatening.
The story itself was of necessity paired down in order to fit into a two-hour play with a cliffhanger ending to part one. For the most part this is no great loss as a lot of the elements removed are the most cod ingredients of David Whittaker’s original script. Gone is the convoluted plot to steal the TARDIS and the vaguely racist ideas implicit in Kemel the gentle Turkish giant. Instead we have Kennedy whose character has been transplanted to the 19th Century, acting as Jamie’s short-lived ally in the mission to rescue Victoria. He meets a grisly fate at the start of part two and becomes the play’s first onstage extermination.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, they also shied away from introducing a younger audience to Skaro and opted instead for the Emperor and his minions taking over another wing of Maxtible’s mansion. Making Waterfield (Lewis Bailey) a Reverend doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to me. Apparently this was to make his agony over unleashing the evil of the Daleks on the world that much more poignant, but all it does for me is make me wonder what a 19th Century cleric is doing messing around with time-travel. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the characters in this story, such as why Waterfield is living in his benefactor’s house (the Church of England usually provide accommodation in lieu of remunerative payments, something which makes the stage version even less likely) and why his dead wife’s portrait is hanging in Maxtible’s living room. I would dearly love to know what was going on in David Whittaker’s mind when he put this scenario together back in the sixties.
The ending seemed somewhat rushed and confused, the Dalek civil war exploding (literally in the case of the gunshots that made me jump out of my seat twice) on stage within minutes of meeting the Emperor. I feel that a lot of the drama and tension implicit in the last episode of the original was lost in the process. The sense of hopelessness and despair that the Doctor and his companions feel as they are shoved off to a cell to await conversion by the Dalek factor, the outrage in the Dalek hierarchy when there orders are questioned by one of their own, the Doctor’s cunning deception that leads to the final battle, none of this is evident. Instead we have a shouting match followed by some onstage pyrotechnics and sound effects to indicate the west wing has just caught fire. ‘The Final End’ mutters the Doctor as he leaves the decimated Daleks to their fate.
In spite of my reservations about the end I did enjoy this play immensely and seeing the Daleks on stage for the first time was a great treat. I understand that Interalia are considering doing a follow up to this production. I personally hope they do and will look forward to any developments.
Article © 2006 Andrew Panero/Visagraph Films Internataional.