Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks

Doctor: 'All right, it's a Jammy Dodger, but I was promised tea.'

Cliché prohibits me from saying 'they're baaaack'—but they are. The Daleks have been mercifully scarce of late: a brief cameo here, some scrap parts turning up there, but no full appearance since 'Journey's End'. So, did you miss them?

*Tumble-weed rolls by*

When I was young, the Daleks were awesome. Nobody was badder. I was too innocent then to recognise the Nazi overtones, nor did I notice that they wobbled as they moved, and most disturbing of all, I once met an actual Dalek outside a Doctor Who exhibition in London. I was about 5 at the time and it looked right at me. Naturally, I cried my fucking eyes out. For me, the Daleks have always been real—I've seen one for goodness sakes—so, no matter how badly a story stinks, no matter how terrible their wise cracking antics are, no matter how easily they're defeated, I know how scary they can be. Since their return in 2005, however, they've had mixed success. Season one's 'Dalek' was exceptional, but Season three's 'Evolution of the Daleks' was just horrible. So I was understandably nervous about tonight's offering.

Now admittedly, a 5 year old's perception of the Daleks isn't the same as an adult's. So I may be being unrealistic in expecting the same reaction as a grown man—but I am an optimist. I do live in hope, and tonight's episode started out promisingly enough. Despite my recent indifference to the Daleks, I was immediately excited to see them again. They looked so cool in khaki. Less impressive was their 'would you care for some tea' refrain, but at least Gatiss concentrated on the megalomaniacal aspect of their personalities, and left the wise-cracking silliness alone. So my initial impression of this episode was favourable. Yet, something about it just didn't work for me. It wasn't a terrible episode—I just didn't connect with it at all.

The Daleks were superbly creepy at the start, skulking around the cabinet war room, their eyes (or stalks) and ears (or....err...dunno) focused patiently on the Doctor, observing his every move. But whose idea was it to give the Daleks a makeover? And why do they now look like Henry vacuum cleaners with fat arses? In Doctor Who Confidential everyone was praising their new look as the scariest ever (which, incidentally, is the same load of bollocks they say after every redesign). Really? Since when is a yellow Dalek scary? They don't even look metallic any more. And whose idea was it to call the old guys Ironsides? Surely not after detective Robert T. Ironside, the wheelchair bound TV detective? Please say it isn't so!

The story wasn't much to write home about, either. It seemed nothing more than an expedient way of bumping off the old Daleks and ushering in a new age of garishly coloured, fibre-glass replacements (or Robin Reliants, as I like to call them). Do we really need new Daleks? Was their old look such an issue? Shouldn't they be changing the things which don't work—the dire stories, for example—and leaving the things that do? How about fixing their impotence in the face of just about everything, or nixing their appalling new found sense of humour? I've never heard anyone express frustration at the Daleks not being colourful enough. I did, however, like the Supreme Dalek's deeper voice. It's just a shame the others weren't blessed with a similarly low register. I guess racial purity is synonymous with a squeaky voice.

To his credit, I though Matt did a decent job. He was given some distinctly stodgy dialogue at times, but I did enjoy him throwing Bracewell the V sign (a gesture Churchill no doubt copied as the war progressed), and his Jammie Dodger ploy was particularly inspired (though whether that was because it made the Doctor look like a mad genius, or because it made the Daleks look like nincompoops, I'm not sure). I also enjoyed him raging at the Daleks ('you are my enemy, and I am yours'), not to mention him twatting that Dalek with an improbably heavy spanner. Great acting from Matt there. That spanner can't have weighed more than two ounces, yet he made it look....oh, at least four.

The Oblivion Continuum thingy, despite being a convenient way of stopping the Doctor wiping out the Daleks, turned out to be a bit of a dud. Did anyone really care how or why it worked? Was there any real logic behind it? Why should Bracewell being human (or at the very least thinking he was human) stop him from exploding? And although I overlooked Amy's intuitive blinder in 'The Eleventh Hour', her leap of logic this week came out of nowhere. Ever fancied someone you know you shouldn't? What possessed her to say such a thing? Forget the Doctor, this girl's a genius!

I was also unhappy with some of the dialogue. It felt too generic, which made it nigh on impossible for any of the actors to contribute much in terms of characterisation—there just wasn't the room. Most of the Doctor's dialogue sounded as though it had been written for Tennant, and Amy's dialogue was just bog standard companion fare (although I did enjoy her catching Churchill trying to steal the TARDIS key). This episode felt like a prime example of a writer not quite connecting with his characters.

I did like the war room setting. Aesthetically, it was pretty much spot on. What let it down, in my opinion, was Ian McNeice's over the top portrayal of Churchill. I'm not saying it was a bad impersonation—it wasn't—but Churchill's talking voice sounded too much like his speeches, so he never sounded like a real person. He was just a cliché ridden caricature. And why the attempted poignancy at the end? Did anyone really care that Miss Breen had lost her beau? Churchill seemed pretty much uninterested, even Amy changed the subject almost immediately, which made you wonder why it was left in there. Its dramatic impact was virtually zero. Were they just trying to pad out an already lean episode?

I have to confess, I really enjoyed the space battle. I know that the Spitfire's propellers wouldn't have worked outside the earth's atmosphere, and I know I should've been enraged by this criminal lack of realism, but I'm a boy, and boys like planes and spaceships and space battles and shit. The special effects were also top notch. I even enjoyed Murray Gold's music, which seemed to sit perfectly on top of the chaos and mayhem (for once). I just hope they didn't blow too much of the budget on CGI. If we get cardboard cut-out monsters later is the season, I guess we'll know why.

And of course the Daleks managed to escape at the end via a time shift. No wonder the Doctor was so pissed off—it happens almost every time—but at least Amy helped bring everything back into perspective. I enjoyed her little exchange with the Doctor. Sometimes it pays to have someone there to remind you that, despite the gloominess of the bigger picture, there are significant victories to be had in the details. He did just save the world, after all. Which ain't too shabby.

Other Thoughts:

—KBO? Keep buggering on? Not the best catchphrase out there.

—The new Daleks bear the titles Soldier, Drone, Scientist, Strategist, and The Eternal.

—Loved the Doctor wafting a hand at Churchill's cigar smoke.

—The premise of this story bears more than a passing resemblance to the 1966 episode 'The Power of the Daleks' (which similarly has Daleks pretending to be subservient to humankind).

—Why does Amy have no recollection of the Daleks, I wonder?

—Since the Daleks see in a bluish tinge, why the bright colours to differentiate between the various classes? Surely colour is virtually irrelevant to them.

—A short episode at just over 40 minutes

—How many soldiers does it take to put up a tiny flagpole? Five apparently. Maybe the army have been weakened by scurvy, or something.

Quotes:

Churchill: 'Must I take it by force?'
Doctor: 'I'd like to see you try.'
Doctor: 'Sorry, it's a type 40 TARDIS. I'm just running her in.'

Doctor: 'You know who I am! You always know.'

Dalek: 'Would you care for some tea?'

Doctor: 'You are my enemy! And I am yours!'

Doctor: 'You are everything I despise. The worst thing in all of creation. I've defeated you time and time again, I've defeated you. I sent you back into the void. I saved the whole of reality from you. I am the Doctor! You are the Daleks!'

Amy: 'What was her name?'
Bracewell: 'Dorabella.'
Doctor: 'Dorabella? It's a lovely name. It's a beautiful name.'
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

11 comments:

shawnlunn2002 said...

I liked this episode, maybe it's not the best Dalek story out there but we've had weaker ones.

Matt's fine in the role, I'm liking his Doctor and I am definitely intrigued to find out how Amy doesn't know the Daleks again.

I think it's been such a while since we've had shorter episodes that it takes some getting used to but I liked having one Dalek episode instead of a two parter for once.

Mark Greig said...

Jammie Dodgers and Spitfires in space! That’s it. Forget the rest, not worth bothering with. Just Jammie Dodgers and Spitfires in space.

Oh, and Matt and Karen of course. Especially Karen.

emily said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the writers were writing for Tennant this episode. Not my favorite, but...I did love the bit with the cookie.

Trousers said...

It was rubbish it was rubbish it was rubbish it was rubbish! And now to try to fit that into something coherent.

I don't like the daleks. It may be to do with the fact that there was no Dr.Who on while I was a kid, but they never had the chance to scar my 5 year old psyche. So as an adult, they've always seemed a bit daft. Thats not to say that you can't do a good story with them, CHristopher Ecclescakes one was marvellous. However, if the RT era daleks seemed daft, then these ones were... um... whats worse than daft?

It also seemed very obvious that this episode was written very early in the series run, by someone who wasn't the showrunner. While Steven Moffatt had probably been thinking about Doc 11 and Amy for months at this point, all Mark Gatiss probably had to go on was John Pertweeesque doctor and companion who's a stripper, sorry, kissogram.

Oh well, next week = weeping angels and Dr Corday, sorry, River Song. The very first Grand Moff 2-parter. I can't wait.

Big and stupid and rainbow coloured and stupid and how can you make something with a plunger on it look even worse. And stupid. There, thats worse than daft isn't it.

Jenny Malm said...

Well, the daleks is the daleks. I guess that we never really will get rid of them. But now with the new and improved rainbow-daleks Im suddenly all game again. :)
Just kidding...they where pretty annoying.
The doctor was faced with another choose between saving a planet or stopping the daleks. He choose to save earth wich wasn't all that surprising.
In the timewar, the Dalek army where probably bigger. And the doctor had to fight against devious timelords to. That time he choose to sacrifice his planet to get rid of the daleks (not that it worked anyway). This time he did not, good for him :)
I wonder if they gonna give us a love triangel with Rory, Amy and the doctor. I could tell that she was interested but is the doctor?, will we get romance? I could go either way, I like Amy
by the way, really nice review!

Respox said...

I have to disagree with the notion that Amy's burst of intuition came out of nowhere. It's quite understandable if you remember who she is.

The Doctor was trying to appeal to Bracewell's emotional memories in order to get him to embrace his humanity. However, not being human himself, he gets on the wrong track and brings up painful recollections of death and despair. Amy is watching this the entire time and realizes how Bracewell must be feeling at the time - lost, confused, without family... alone.

Draw a parallel to Amy's own experiences. For twelve years she is convinced the Raggedy Doctor will come and take her away from her lonely existence, despite the efforts of everyone around her to convince her he doesn't exist. After the Doctor leaves her again, sad and alone, she lets two years pass before finally "giving up" (the wedding dress being symbolic of forgetting childish dreams and letting those magical memories die and be forgotten). Except her imaginary friend shows up at the last minute, and all those emotions that she'd spent fourteen years learning to bottle up just come rushing back to the surface.

It's patently clear that Amy is and has always been fascinated by/crushing on/flat-out obsessed with the Doctor, and she sees with perfect clarity that the way to get Bracewell to keep on living is to seize on that most powerful and most damning of human emotions.

"Ever fancy someone you know you shouldn't?"

Amy follows this up with "Hurts... doesn't it?" then with a sidelong glance at the Doctor, "But kind of a good hurt." (Am I reading too much into this? a bunch of drawings and models and dolls in Amy's bedroom says I'm not. Seriously, watch this again, it's a great moment.)

It works. Edwin forgets about death and dying (which the Daleks are all too familiar with, emotionless or not) and focuses on his feelings for Dora Bella (which confounds the Daleks and deactivates the Oblivion Continuum).

Paul Kelly said...

Interesting comment, Respox. Thanks for that. You may have a point. I'll watch the episode again and try plugging in your theory. I have the episode downloaded on iPlayer, so it's good for a few weeks yet.

Harry said...

I have to say I am very surprised that only Respox mentioned the very in your face Amy crush on the Doc moment - I thought it was really obvious and slightly out of place considering she should have been desperately trying to deactivate a bomb at the time.

I don't mind Doctor Who being unrealistic at times but the Spitfires in space thing REALLy annoyed me.

How is a plane supposed to magically become a spaceship with laser technology in the space of about 5 seconds. It's about as logical as doing the same with a washing machine.

Also Incredibly jarring was the fact that Churchill is mildly WISTFUL at the Dr taking all the enhanced technology with him. Any remotely sane person in charge of a war effort would be saying "screw the fact that it's alien technology, I am trying to defend a nation from the Nazis here". It was made even more unbelieveable by the fact that Churchill spent the whole time before the Daleks revealed themselves saying Exactly that. Instead, he calmly accepts when the Dr says that continued suffering, bloodshed and deaths are going to continue.

F'ing Ridiculous episode.

Paul Kelly said...

Hello Harry,

I've just watched this episode again and it was still bloody excruciating. Nevertheless, I think you and Respox are probably right. Amy was likely drawing on her own feelings for the Doctor in order to help Bracewell. But I don't agree that it was obvious.

(If you haven't seen next week's episode read no further).

I'm pretty certain there's going to be some romantic shenanigans between the Doctor and Amy at some point. But I really don't see anything approaching that yet. Amy has an obsession with the Doctor, sure. The dolls and painting tell us that much. But I think she sees him as a way of escaping her crappy life. As a young girl she saw him as a way out of her unhappy existence. I think grown up Amy sees him the same way. At the moment!

But after watching "The Time of Angels" is seems quite obvious that Amy wasn't phased by RS possibly being the Doctor's wife. In fact, she seemed rather amused at the prospect. That doesn't strike me as the reaction of someone with a crush on him. Shouldn't she have at least looked mildly put out?

Plus, as you say, her admission of lurve (if that's indeed what it was) came completely out the blue. This was a crap episode for Amy. She was given nothing to do until the very end. So I didn't see it coming because there was no build up to it (not in this episode anyway). I agree NOW that your explanation (and Respox's) is the most logical explanation. But this episode was so badly written I just didn't join the dots. Whether that's because the dots were ill defined or because I struggled to retain interest in this episode, I'm not sure.

Anyway, thanks for your comments guys. You're likely spot on. Thanks for pointing it out.

Patryk said...

The new daleks are Karen's height so she dosn't look at them from above. ;) But the colours (ha managed to spell british ;p) are of the the blue (sorry for the pun). I'm glad this ep is behind me and i hope no more Daleks this season...

What i didn't like is Churchill calling the Doctor... The last of the Time Lords functions better if notable people (or any people apart from former companions like Martha) don't have him basically on retainer.

On the other hand Amy is brilliant and the doctor manages to be disturbing. Tennat never made me uncomfortable with burst of anger and violence...

Anonymous said...

I honestly laughed out loud when the new Daleks came out in five fruity new flavors. The fact that I can compare who were once the most terryfing monsters in my knowledge to my morning bowl of fruit loops is both sad and silly as hell.