About three and a half years ago, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and now it’s been five decades since William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Troughton. My how time flies. Or maybe it doesn’t. For some of us, it goes slowly and in order. But before long, it will have been a half century since Jon Pertwee fell out of the TARDIS–in color! After that, it will be Tom Baker’s turn, at which point we’ll all feel old.
“The Power of the Daleks” has to be one of the most important stories of Doctor Who; and maybe all of television. Roles have been recast since forever, but this was something different. Something experimental. Troughton would be playing the Doctor, but he would bear little resemblance to Hartnell; and I’m not talking merely looks. It is an idea so mad, it’s brilliant. Dare I say it could only be a British scheme. In Hollywood, they’d change actors and hope no one was the wiser.
Here is something else that’s kind of nuts: “The Power of the Daleks” is the third story of the fourth series. Yeah, it wasn’t a finale. To our modern sensibilities, that makes no sense whatsoever; it comes across as almost Hitchcockian. To throw out yet another cliché, the producers and the BBC were in uncharted territory. In NuWho, the regeneration or first appearance usually takes place around Christmas, when the episodes aren’t so much hit or miss as much as they are miss or miss by a mile.
It does make sense to put the regeneration story in the middle of a season, because finales weren’t really a thing in the Sixties. I guess the Beeb figured if people tuned in for the first few weeks they wouldn’t abandon the program mid season. It beats having to wait for months. Or years. Sometimes the wait for a new Doctor Who episode can feel like forever. Kind of makes you wish you had a TARDIS.