The Doctor and Jamie spot a truck taking the TARDIS away from Gatwick Airport, but they can’t catch up to it. They interrogate an airport maintenance worker, Bob, who only gives them fake information and raises the Doctor’s suspicions. They follow Bob from the airport in a taxi, unaware that they’re being observed from a distance by another man, Kennedy, who knows who the Doctor is. Bob unknowingly leads the Doctor and Jamie to a warehouse, where they discover a barely conscious Bob who has been attacked by Kennedy and find out that Bob had been bribed to help steal the TARDIS. Bob recovers and escapes, but they find Kennedy’s matchbox which the Doctor uses as a clue – which was exactly the intention of Kennedy, who is following orders from Edward Waterfield, an antiques dealer who specializes in nineteenth century clocks. At a club the matchbox led the Doctor to, Jamie and the Doctor are met by Mr. Perry, another agent of Edward Waterfield, who believes that the Doctor is an antiques dealer that Edward had approached. Perry invites the Doctor to later come to Edward’s business. Meanwhile Kennedy tries to rob Edward, but while looking for a safe he stumbles across a hidden room with a large futuristic device. When Kennedy activates the device, a Dalek is teleported in and kills Kennedy when he tries to escape.
The Doctor and Jamie sneak into Edward’s house/store and the Doctor observes that the “antiques” are brand new yet authentic. At the same time, a horrified Edward discovers Kennedy’s corpse and berates a (naturally indifferent) Dalek in the teleporter room. When the Dalek teleports away, Edward mumbles that he can’t go on with this. Inside, the Doctor and Jamie find Kennedy’s corpse clutching half of a photograph of the Doctor, along with the teleporter room. Inside, the other half of the photograph is stuck in a treasure box, which Jamie impulsively opens, releasing sleeping gas. The Doctor wakes up in a country estate outside Canterbury in June 2, 1866. There he meets Edward Waterfield and Theodore Maxtible, who tell the Doctor that “they” have abducted Edward’s daughter, Victoria. Theodore takes the Doctor to their laboratory, where he and Edward explain that they researched time travel and their experiments caused “creatures” to appear. Edward confesses that “they” told him about the Doctor and ordered him to set up a trap to lure him into 1866 or else they would murder his daughter. In the middle of the explanation, a Dalek bursts into the laboratory and threatens to destroy the TARDIS and kill Jamie unless the Doctor helps in their experiments. When the Dalek leaves, Theodore explains that the Daleks are curious about the traits inherent to humanity that has enabled them to resist the Daleks and somehow transfer those characteristics into the Daleks themselves.
Jamie, whom the Daleks plan to use in their experiments on humanity, is abducted by a thug named Toby and brought before a gentleman, Arthur Terrell, a veteran of the Crimean War and the fiancee of Theodore’s daughter, Ruth. Arthur demands to know what happened to Victoria Waterfield, but then suddenly claims that Victoria is in Paris and denies that he hired Toby to grab him. The Doctor finds Jamie and brings him back, but Jamie refuses to participate in the experiments – which the Doctor was counting on, and he “adds fuel to the fire” by “forbidding” Jamie to try to rescue Victoria. As Jamie acts, the Daleks are monitoring Jamie’s thoughts and emotions to help them find “the human factor.” Meanwhile Arthur and Toby argue over Toby’s payment for kidnapping Jamie, leading to Toby knocking out Arthur and taking some keys to the manor, but instead of valuables Toby just finds death via a Dalek laser. While looking for Victoria, Jamie encounters and fights a mute Turkish strongman hired by Theodore, Kemel. During the fight the strongman nearly falls to his death, but Jamie rescues him. In return the strongman saves Jamie from a lethal trap and helps him elude further traps while searching for Victoria. Watching Jamie’s adventure alongside the Daleks, the Doctor argues to them that the experience between Jamie and the strongman demonstrates that the human factor must include mercy. Back in Theodore’s lab, he begs a Dalek to give him what they promised, teaching him one of their secrets. After roughing him up a bit and barking at him to always obey, the Dalek ominously promises that, out of all the Daleks’ secrets, Theodore will “learn the most important.” Hearing a little of Theodore’s confrontation with the Dalek, his daughter Ruth comes down to talk to him about her concerns over Arthur’s abrasive behavior. Theodore only tells her that he’s on the verge of unraveling the greatest secret of alchemy, turning base metals into gold.
Kemel and Jamie manage to destroy the Dalek guarding Victoria and reach the room she is kept in. In the other part of the mansion, the Doctor talks with Arthur and points out that he’s never seen Arthur eat or drink and that he seems to be generating some kind of magnetism. Arthur tries – badly – to dismiss the Doctor’s observations. Later the experiment is over and the Daleks have recorded Jamie’s thought patterns from his adventure, which the Doctor is ordered to implant in three Dalek brains. The Doctor hopes that being exposed to human emotions will drive the Daleks insane, but an increasingly unbalanced Edward is convinced that the experiment will make the Daleks invincible. Victoria is recaptured by Arthur, who after secreting Victoria away attacks Jamie with a sword. After a duel, Arthur is overwhelmed by a signal affecting his mind. The Doctor urges Arthur and Ruth to get far away from the manor. Kemel finds an unconscious Victoria in Theodore’s laboratory, but a Dalek catches him and forces him to carry Victoria into the cabinet they first entered into Victorian London from. Elsewhere Jamie and the Doctor argue, with a disgusted Jamie accusing the Doctor of “playing a game” by letting the Daleks experiment on him and by being callous toward the human lives that have been taken by the Daleks. The argument is interrupted when the “humanized” Daleks awake and playfully give the Doctor a ride around the lab and pretend to be trains. The Doctor uses Jamie to teach the new Daleks about the concept of friendship and gives them the names of Alpha, Beta, and Omega. Before the Doctor can work with them further, Alpha, Beta, and Omega receive a signal to go to Skarro. The Doctor guesses that Victoria was also taken to Skarro.
Later Edward overhears Theodore talking to a Dalek about transmuting metal into gold. After the Dalek is gone, Edward confronts Theodore and demands that he tell him where Victoria is. Theodore knocks out Edward. The Dalek returns, admitting casually to Theodore that they’ve left behind an explosive to destroy the entire manor. While Theodore flees through the Daleks’ portal to Skarro, the Doctor and Jamie find a barely recovered Edward, who overheard the Dalek about the explosive. Unable to deactivate the explosive, the Doctor uses the Daleks’ equipment to follow Theodore to Skarro. On Skarro, Kemel and Victoria are kept in a cell, while the Daleks take Theodore away. Nearby on the surface of Skarro the Doctor leads Jamie and Edward into the Daleks’ underground city. An angry Theodore yells at a Dalek for destroying his house and asking what right they had, to which the Dalek only mockingly parrots, “Right? Right?” On a narrow precipice leading into the city the Doctor encounters a Dalek claiming to be Omega, but quickly learns that the mark was forged and shoves the Dalek over the edge. Nonetheless, they are eventually captured and led to a room where a giant Dalek hooked into the city’s own mainframe, the Emperor Dalek, rests. Triumphantly the Doctor tells the Emperor that the humanized Daleks will eventually convince other Daleks “to question,” leading to a widespread rebellion. The Emperor counters by explaining that the real purpose of the experiment was to determine the Dalek factor, which the Emperor plans to force the Doctor to spread to Earth.
The Doctor and the humans are all placed in a cell. Edward tries to get Theodore to use his apparent leverage with the Daleks to help them escape, but he refuses. Instead he finally gets his “reward,” a machine that is supposed to turn lead into gold, but instead only introduces the Dalek factor into Theodore’s mind. Later the Dalekized Theodore returns to the cell, claiming that he has removed the TARDIS from the city, but it’s a trap to expose the Doctor himself to the Dalek factor. The Doctor pretends to go along with Theodore’s orders, but once he’s able he tampers with the machine designed to expose humans to the Dalek factor. Later the Doctor learns that Alpha, Beta, and Omega have been questioning orders and, still pretending to be Dalekized, he suggests to the Emperor that all Daleks in case of “exposure” be exposed to the Dalek factor. The Doctor’s plan works, and it isn’t long before fighting breaks out between the “original” Daleks and the humanized ones, with the Emperor ordering the elimination of all Daleks exposed to the human factor. Running around the city, the Doctor urges the humanized Daleks to always question and to destroy the Emperor in self-defense. In the chaos, Edward is shot and before he dies urges the Doctor to protect Victoria. Despite the Emperor’s protests that their actions will cause the Dalek race to die out, a squad of humanized Daleks destroy him. Theodore, overwhelmed by the Dalek collective’s kill command, murders Kemel. The city burns while Theodore rants, “The Daleks will live and reign forever!” before he is pushed into an abyss by Jamie. Overlooking the ruins of the Daleks’ city, the Doctor grimly pronounces that this is the “final end” of the Daleks.
Believe it or not, this really was meant to be the final Doctor Who series with the Daleks. Because of how the BBC handled creators’ rights at the time, the Daleks’ creator, Terry Nation, still had rights over them. Since they were such a breakout success, he tried to get an American network to launch a full Dalek series. These plans never panned out, but it would be five years until the Daleks would reappear in Doctor Who. Of course, given the timey-wimey nature of the whole series, maybe this is still how the Daleks meet their “final end.”
A new companion first appears and joins the TARDIS crew, Victoria, who like Jamie is from a time not contemporary to the viewing audience. (Originally Suzanne from the last serial was meant to replace Ben and Polly, but the actress portraying her turned down the offer, although she would much later appear as Queen Victoria in the “new” series episode “Tooth and Claw.”)
We do get one more first with the Daleks just before the “end,” the first appearance of a Dalek Emperor.
When talking about his time travel research, Theodore refers to being inspired by two huge discoveries in British science, J.C. Maxwell’s equations on electromagnetics and Michael Faraday’s work on electrochemistry.
The Daleks recognize the Doctor as “more than human,” but not an alien, although later in the serial the Doctor muses on the possibility of returning to his homeplanet with Victoria, Jamie, and the others if the Daleks do manage to introduce the Dalek factor to humans in the past. Apparently the Daleks don’t realize the Doctor is an alien and haven’t (yet) heard of the Time Lords – or have lost that knowledge, if the “this is still the last Dalek story” theory is upheld.
The Doctor casually mentions that he personally saw the charge of the Light Brigade.
Finally, this is arguably the first time, or at least the first time since the very beginning of the series, that the Doctor is hinted at having a cold, manipulative bearing, or even a sense of morality that doesn’t exactly align with human sensibilities at all times. This will prove to be a major part of the Doctor’s character, although of course with some incarnations and stories more than others.
The Doctor: Do I look strange or bizarre?
Jamie: Well, maybe I’m used to you.
The Doctor: That’s some comfort.
Edward: You destroyed a human life! Don’t you understand that?
Dalek: That is of no consequence.
Edward: No consequence?!
Dalek: There is only one form of life that matters: Dalek life!
Jamie: Anyone would think that this is a little game.
The Doctor: No, it is not a game.
Jamie: Of course it isn’t, Doctor. People have died. The Daleks are all over the place, fit to murder the lot of us, and all you can say is that you’ve had a good night’s work!
The Doctor: Jamie…
Jamie: No, Doctor! Look, I’m telling you this, you and me, we’re finished. You’re just too callous for me. Anything goes by the board, anything at all.
The Doctor: I care about life. I care about human beings. Do you think I let you go through that Dalek test lightly?
Jamie: I don’t know. Did you? Look Doctor, just whose side are you on?
Like so many early “Doctor Who” series, this one could stand to have some trimming. The subplot with Arthur, Ruth, Toby, and Mollie, Theodore’s maid, really has no bearing on the story at all aside from lengthening the run time, and the sequence with Jamie and Kemel dodging traps runs a bit too long. All that said…I love this. I’m tempted to go ahead and declare this the best Daleks story ever, but we still have yet to get to “Genesis of the Daleks.” Sadly this is one of the most tragic victims of the BBC’s “slash and burn the archives” policy, with only one episode coming out unscathed, and it especially hurts because of the fact that this serial does try to be more action-y than most Doctor Who serials of the time (plus I’m sure there’s some patriotic pleasure to be had in seeing Jamie in a sword duel with an uptight, rude Englishman). Still, the quality of the story manages to survive, and it certainly does have the strongest writing I’ve seen in classic Who for several seasons. There’s some moral ambiguity cast around the Doctor’s actions and his willingness to expose his companions to mortal danger, the brutal totalitarianism inherent to the Daleks’ mentality is conveyed flawlessly, and…well, there’s a reason why the “Choice Quotes” section finally came back for this serial. Then there’s the finale, with lots of Daleks utterly getting wrecked in a civil war, which has to go down as one of the most iconic scenes in sci-fi history.
Twenty-first century viewers might be put off by (the aptly named) Victoria and her helpless maiden hostage act, and I can see why. However, if you see her as a nineteenth century woman, and a homage to Victorian novel heroines, her depiction does make more sense, and contributes to the sense of this serial as a bizarre but completely functional hodgepodge of sci-fi and Gothic fiction tropes, only this time with the menacing foreign man (er, Kemel, not Jamie) as the story’s greatest hero.
If you don’t mind the long running time and having to watch six of the episodes via a reconstruction, give it a watch. I mean, if you’re not the sort of person who would want to see a serial that culminates with exploding, screaming Daleks, why are you reading this blog at all?