Sometimes a story you hadn’t really thought about tackling will suggest itself, like this one did. Three things happened in quick succession to lead me to editing Daleks In Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.
The first was my picking up issue one of Doctor Who – The Complete History, which features this story alongside Gridlock and The Lazarus Experiment. Although I’m still not entirely convinced that shelling out a total of £788.20 for what is essentially a collection of rewritten DWM Archives is really worth it, the books do contain the rather wonderful photoshoppery of Lee Johnson, of which Whoflix has long been a fan.
The second thing that happened was that the latest DWM at the time – 491 – had the Evolution artwork as a poster so when the Daleks were revealed as being in the series nine opener The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar it was clear to me that I ought to tackle this one next, so I did. However, working on this edit proved to be so frustrating that I left it to work on the orphan episodes of The Underwater Menace, The Space Pirates and The Crusade, as well as Face The Raven, before returning to it for another try. Sometimes the best thing to do with a difficult edit is to leave it and come back to it, which is what I did with this. Luckily, second time around, I was able to nail the bugger and get something I was happy with.
Poor old Helen Raynor really got it in the neck from Fandom for this one but if you look at her IMDb profile she seems to have emerged unscathed from the experience. In truth, you can’t really lay all the blame for it at her door. Remember, everyone with the singular exception of The Moff, got rewritten by RTD, so he has to take his share of the blame too. And the main problem with these episodes is that they overload the story with multiple instances of the same thing. Thematic unity is a sound storytelling principle but when done incorrectly, as it is here, you end up with something that doesn’t enhance the dramatic unity of the piece but instead has the opposite effect.
Mr Diagoras, whose name sounds like a hybrid between Pythagoras and Diagram, gets absorbed by Dalek Sec, who wants to stop being a Dalek octo-blob and become a Kaled-esque humanoid. Why they couldn’t just inject Diagoras with something and mutate him I don’t know, but instead of stopping there, with Frankenstein making himself the monster, the story ploughs on and repeats itself. And as a result it diminishes the impact of the Dalek Hybrid with Pig Slaves and Dalek Humans.
Laszlo, and events at Hooverville, tell us that, instead of taking pigs and upgrading them into humanoids, the Daleks are taking men and making them into humanoid pigs, in a gene-splicing Human + Pig DNA combo. Fair enough, but my first question would be where do they get the pigs from in the centre of New York? And if their plan is to turn humanity into Dalek Humans, why make the Pig Men in the first place?
The whole thing is a bit reminiscent of the Humans With Dalek Minds nonsense we got in the Pat Troughton story The Evil of the Daleks and it didn’t work any better there either. Having two examples of the same thing, as we have here, is a bad idea as the one diminishes the impact of the other. Either have Pig Men or Dalek Humans, not both.
And while we’re on the subject, why don’t the Pig Men speak? Even the bloody Ogrons spoke! Silent enemies in Doctor Who are nearly always a bad idea and the fact that all the Pig Men can do is grunt and squeak, like genuine pigs do, only serves to make them a bit silly. If we can’t hear them saying anything, they can’t interact with the Doctor and their only story purpose is therefore to provide some striking visual imagery. They do that all right, but for the wrong reasons.
Their appearance is a bit rubbish, as Pig Men in overalls is a bit silly and not at all Animal Farm. They look a bit scary I suppose, when lit correctly but imagine how much more menace they could have had if they had been able to speak. Think back to that scene in the sewers where they first meet one of the Pig Men. Now re-imagine that scene with the Pig Man talking! How much better is that scene now!
The fact that they don’t talk also robs the story of the potential for a conflict between the Pig Men and the Daleks if the Pig Men resent the Dalek Humans taking their place. Yes, I know the story is meant to be about evolution and change & adaptation but that’s exactly what’s wrong with it. Bidmead tried taking scientific principles as a basis for Doctor Who back in JNT’s day and we all know how well that turned out. Social development, a growing awareness of your place in society and the worth that society places on you as a result, is a story thread with far more dramatic potential these episodes never even consider, let alone attempt to explore.
In a story over-stuffed with examples of characters undergoing physical change, the only ones who go on some sort of emotional journey are Tallulah and Laszlo. It was the Laszlo subplot that was the real bugbear from me with these episodes. The poor bloke’s been turned into a pig-man, so having a subplot whose resolution isn’t him sacrificing himself to save Tallulah – tree ells anan aitch – but having him live out his days as The Pig Man Of Central Park is just nuts. That’s what made this edit so frustrating to do. There was no way to excise him from the story completely, so this turned out to be another one of those frustrating edits where things you wanted rid of stayed, just cut back to the bare minimum. As for what happens to him once the story is over, we leave that off-screen on the assumption that he simply snuffs it soon afterwards.
Having come back to the edit and managed to complete it, I had the idea of doing trying to do something a bit different with it. We all know that Terry Nation’s proposed Dalek series never got made and so I thought why not edit this as if it was an episode of The Daleks instead of an episode of Doctor Who.
Both Altered Vistas’ animations and Big Finish’s audios have shown that a Dalek TV series could actually work and that idea proved to be the key to the edit. And if I was going to edit this as an episode of The Daleks, then I would need to come up with a title sequence. Knowing I would have to do that at the end gave me all the motivation I needed. Sometimes you need that extra reason to keep going during the editing process, which can sometimes be a bit of a slog, as it was with this one. Coming up with the title sequences for The Enemy of the World and The Talons of Weng-Chiang, to name but two, was as satisfying to do as the edits themselves. I really fancied the idea of doing something different to the usual Series 3 opening credits for this one, and doing something different is what fan editing is all about!
The first thing I did was to use the theme music from Big Finish’s release of The Destroyers which seemed appropriate, and then it was a case of trying to think of something that could be a bit like a Sixties ITC type title sequence. To that end I spent a bit of time looking at the opening titles of lots of old ITC shows such as Man In A Suitcase, Randall & Hopkirk etc and then tried to come up with something that evoked that, whilst still being reminiscent of the “proper” title sequences.
After a fair bit of trial and error I settled on a series of Dalek silhouettes, whose origin I’m sure you’ll recognise, set against a vortex of stars. It’s a simple idea and evokes the feel of yer JNT titles whilst simultaneously having the sort of Sixties TV feel I was after. The central creative conceit was that this is the episode of The Daleks that comes between Doomsday and The Stolen Earth. I also used the Hartnell font and ran the closing credits against black for added authenticity!
Something else I did that was different was to take out Murray Gold’s music altogether. There were several reasons for this. One was simply to see what the episode was like, and how different it was, without the additional atmosphere the incidental music provides. The other was to allow my fellow fans the opportunity to add their own soundtrack to the edit. I’ve always been keen to encourage fans of my fan edits to do their own, and I think putting in your own taste in music is a good way as any to start on that journey. I’ve been putting additional music into these edits for years – now its your turn!
As with most New Series episodes, I managed to get these down to roughly half an hour each, bringing in the 71 Edit of two of the weakest Dalek episodes for a long time at just over an hour and two minutes. I then added the new opening closing credits for the 72 Edit and then the opening credits for the 73 Edit. For the 74 Edit more of the final cuts and trims were made to the first episode since that’s where most of the padding and setup takes place, which brought the final running time down to fifty-seven minutes.