November 2016 was not only Doctor Who‘s 53rd anniversary, but the 50th anniversary of The Power of the Daleks. I’ve finally finished watching the animated reconstruction released to DVD this week. While there’s still a chance that the original broadcast version could be released sometime in the potential future, I’m going to save my review proper until that hypothetical time. Instead, I’m going to focus on the animation.
The Power of the Daleks wasn’t initially to be released so soon, but was brought forwards when BBC America came aboard in order to broadcast it over November 2016. The animation does look rushed in places, but this is mostly in Episode One, in-which the animation looks less natural than it becomes. This is most noticeable when the Doctor is playing his recorder, and there’s not quite perfect synchronicity. As the serial progresses, however, the animation becomes more smoother. The only outstanding problem is the movement of the Humanoids, who are very jerky. Given that live-action references were used for certain scenes (which is view-able on the special feature Animation Test Footage), this is also likely down to time constraints. But the best aspect of the animation by far is the Daleks, who’ve been rendered in 3D. This makes them resemble their live action counterparts more accurately than anything else. When they move and glide, you feel it, and when only the Daleks are in shot, they may as well not be animated.
The Power of the Daleks animation also comes at a surprise, given that BBC Worldwide have until now only funded animated reconstructions of serials that are mostly in-tact; The Tenth Planet for instance only features an animated fourth episode due to the first three still existing. Like many fans, I was hopeful that the animated reconstruction meant that at least three episodes had been returned to the archives, but this was not be. The silver lining, however, is that this also means that serials no longer have to be only partially missing to be animated. The Evil of the Daleks is missing 5 of its 6 episodes, and The Daleks’ Master Plan is missing 10 of its 21 episodes, along with Mission to the Unknown. Before, these serials were unlikely to be animated due to being only partially complete. But as the only Dalek stories to have not been released to DVD, one can only hope that the success of The Power of the Daleks – given how much of a financial risk it was – will inspire BBC Worldwide to complete those serials, too.
The Power of the Daleks is fundamentally not important when it comes to animation. That is has been animated is a pleasant convenience in place of its missing episodes. But the animation is not the reason to watch. The Power of the Daleks is, apart from anything else, a cool story that deserves to be seen. And I for one am optimistic that we’ll not only see more missing Dalek serials animated, but all missing episodes returned to the archives in time.