Doctor Who #758: Evolution of the Daleks

"You told us to imagine and we imagined your irrelevance."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Apr.28 2007.

IN THIS ONE... The new breed of Dalek just doesn't cut it.

REVIEW: Back in the Voyager days, I railed and railed against scripts where things happened because they had to, and characters acted the way they did because they'd obviously read the script. And that's exactly how I feel about Evolution of the Daleks. For example, there is absolutely no call for the Doctor to play the death wish card and ask the Daleks to kill him, not once but TWICE, as he had a guarantee each time that something would prevent them from doing so. New Sec stops his cohorts the first time, and then the Dalek/Human hybrids don't fire on command because of the "freedom" in their Time Lord DNA, as if Time Lords were more free than humans, or as if freedom was a genetic trait, when all it took was ONE of them not to hesitate. And when they didn't, the full Daleks could have just finished the job. So it's a lot of chest-thumping "kill me" on faith. Like I said, the Doctor had read the script and knew he was safe.

But that's far from the only problem. The episode can't quite decide if the Daleks were drained of power when they shifted temporally, or if they still have enough to fly and fire their weapons. They never sell me on why the Daleks need to leave their shells or create an army to take over the world. And what an army! The Dalek/Human hybrids are calibrated to 100% Dalek, but clearly remain 100% human-looking, so the Daleks should have known something was up. Even mentally, they're hardly full Daleks and act (and die) exactly like Robo-Men. Hardly a continuance of the species. Why doesn't the Doctor leave Martha a message on the psychic paper? (Not that I mind her figuring things out by herself... when she's not whining over the fact he doesn't think of her "that way", groan.) There's a deadlock seal on the Empire State Building's elevator? The Doctor survives a lightning blast from space? The Doctor and Sec use a handy video presentation to bluntly impart their exposition of this nonsense plot. And what about Laszlo's final fate? Big fanfare, Doctor saves him, only to doom him to a life of hiding in the shadows in Hooverville, a shanty town that we know won't last for the rest of his life. What then?

Now, Sec makes some good points about how survival can come from peace, but he doesn't communicate them very well, not to his intended audience. But personally, I can't wait for him to get exterminated. It's not the animatronic head, that's not too bad despite the twitchy "fingers". It's the voice. It's so unlike a Dalek's that the whole concept is lost. Sec is Diagoras with more halting speech. I find the whole character limp and useless as a result. Especially when the real Daleks get all the cool shots, looking behind them while holding secret conferences, narrowing their eyes, and being their bitchy selves from Doomsday. Those cool moments are too few to give the episode a recommendation. I suppose this is another instance, as in Gridlock, of the Doctor's God complex being built up, what with his genesis of a new race of (partial) Time Lords. Martha refusing to obey orders also foreshadows events from the finale, but it's a moment smothered in an otherwise forgettable script.

My original review, Evolution of the Species, explores the Doctor Who stories this episode owes a lot to, and in the process, gets deeper than the episode actually deserves.

VERSIONS: The deleted scenes on the DVD present a much whinier Tallulah and the Doctor calling Sec out on his past crimes.

- It's just terrible writing, I'm sorry, as if the idea of a "human Dalek" wasn't a non-starter anyway.


Anonymous said...

Agreed, this episode (and the one before) were both almost entirely worthless. Such a dead end and part of the New Who trend of overusing the Daleks.

snell said...

Two rules: Stories set in America--rubbish. Stories with Daleks--rubbish.

Combine the two? Oh dear...

Martin Léger said...

This was one of the first Doctor Who episodes I watched, while flipping channels. I was confused.

Unknown said...

Not one of my favourite Dalek stories.

Siskoid said...

Consensus achieved!!!

Snell: It's The Chase all over again.

Craig Oxbrow said...

It's a compelling part of my theory that the Doctor was trying to commit suicide by adventure through this series, but that's about it.

jdh417 said...

I have an improper, but appropriate, name for the hybrid relating to his head appendages, which I won't repeat here.

As good as the first two episodes of this series were (I think the Shakespeare Code was said to be the highest budgeted Dr Who episode at the time), Gridlock was a bunch of propaganda/agenda items disguised as a TV show. (The Doctor's melancholy remembrance of Galifrey at the end was its only saving grace.)

The best that can be said about these two Dalek episodes was that they were pretty unintentionally hysterical with the appearance of the hybrid.

CiB said...

In this story, the main product of giving the Dalek things Timelord DNA (from the Tenth Doctor) is they suddenly start asking "why?"

In The Evil of the Daleks, the main product of giving the Daleks "the human factor" is they suddenly starting asking "why?".

So, completely by accident this story "gets" why the Tenth Doctor was my least favorite- he was to human.

What really surprises me about this one is that the writer was asked to come back the next year and do Sontraons. After turning Daleks into... this, she turns Sontarons into miniature line dancers.

Siskoid said...

Craig: That's what it looks like, but since it would mean, at this point, letting Earth's history be changed and the Daleks taking over in the 30s AND stranding Martha in that nightmare, it just seems like an odd thing for him to do. It's like Rayner is trying to recapture The Parting of the Ways without actually ramping things up to that level.

CiB: Interesting point there about Doc10. As for Rayner, she was on staff (as opposed to a guest writer) so seems to have caught the "here are the plot points, you do the leg work and get the credit" assignments. She's basically doing the RTD episodes that he can't write himself because of other commitments.

LiamKav said...

The Tenth Doctor being "human" makes perfect sense under Siskoid's (really rather good) theory that each regeneration is partially influenced by the failures of the last one, even if only on a subconscious level. So in this case, the 9th Doctor purposefully made himself more human when he regenerated to try and fit in with Rose. It also explains why he copied her accent.

It also goes for the other "most human" Doctor, Pertwee. Knowing he was about to be exiled to Earth, the regeneration made him more human so that he'd fit in better. Certainly, most of the Third Doctor's eccentricities you could just put down to have the ego that comes with being the cleverest person in the room, rather than anything "alien".

(And notice that they've already set up the argument as to why the next Doctor is older. The War Doctor said "why are you ashamed of being old?" And at the end of the episode, Smith's Doctor no longer is ashamed, so he's now "allowed" to regenerate into an older person.)

Siskoid said...

Oh that's a great catch Liam!


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