Doctor Who #845: Victory of the Daleks

"I am your soldier."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Apr.17 2010.

IN THIS ONE... Winston Churchill vs. the Daleks.

REVIEW: The episode initially holds some promise. Ian McNeice makes a fine iconic (as opposed to revisionist) Winston Churchill, the "Ironside" Dalek in camo paint looks great, and the servile Dalek plot pleasantly evokes Power of the Daleks. There's the mystery of why Amy forgot what Daleks were (see Second Opinions), and if you know your history, I bet everything Churchill says is a direct or indirect quote (if I know Gatiss anyway). But then it goes fantastically wrong. There's some eye candy, sure, but poorly motivated. I'd say the only redeeming feature of the last half hour (and this is an unusually short episode at 40 minutes) is the Doctor threatening the Daleks with a jammy dodger (and the line about tea), which is probably the most Doctorish thing he's done yet.

But oof, the absolute nonsense surrounding it. Let's talk about the candy-coated new Daleks first, shall we? The design is so awful, Moffat spent the next three years avoiding showing them (which is a mercy either way because RTD overused the Daleks). They do particularly poorly in an episode that also features the Ironsides, a simple repaint that shows just how great the new series redesign worked. The new lumbering hulks, meant to evoke the Cushing films' Daleks, are misshapen monsters that have yet to prove their potential. The hump folds out into a super-weapon? Not yet, it doesn't. They've got mysterious color-coded functions like the "Eternal"? Still no idea what this means. And their birth isn't even properly motivated. There's this Progenitor device that "makes" Daleks, but requires the genetically impure Daleks in this story to prove they're Daleks before it'll start the process... Uhm... What? If the Daleks want to spread across the universe, why would they put ANY limit on the Progenitor? It should be working non-stop! Why are the current Daleks so impure? Who are these guys? Survivors from Journey's End made from Davros' skin? Unclear. If being a "pure" Dalek counts for something, why would the Progenitor create a whole new paradigm? It's not just the "travel machine" that's different, but their organizational structure as well, and they wouldn't have to destroy the old model if they could just transplant the mutant into a new armor. None of it really makes sense, and I'm guessing they cost a pretty penny too, leading to the saucer interior looking rubbish (compare to the one in The Parting of the Ways).

And then there's Bridwell, the inventor who turns out to be the invention. Bill Paterson gives a perfectly sympathetic performance, but nothing about the character really works. The reputedly inferior Daleks create this machine who believes it is a man, and is powered by an "Oblivion Continuum" (they're obviously just putting words together willy-nilly), which can destroy a whole planet. With that kind of power, why waste your time with some crazy plan to get the Doctor to vouch for you? Anyway, Bracewell may be a Dalek creation, but for some reason, they have no control over him, and he helps humanity against them. How? By outfitting WWII planes with lasers, air bubbles and escape velocity capability in a matter of MINUTES. Those unflappable pilots didn't get much training either. It makes for a pretty Star Wars-type image, but it works better in the season's trailer than in the episode itself. This is collage, not story telling. And then, of course, you've got the "love conquers all" ending which will become a bit of a cliché in the Moffat era. Bridwell is made to remember a memory implant he fancied and it turns the bomb off (he's then allowed to live on Earth because that doesn't sound at all dangerous or potentially harmful to history). It's hard to take this moment away from Amy, because she doesn't do a heck of a lot in this episode except "inspire" others to do things, and I do like it that her way is better than the Doctor's. In this case, he asks Bridwell about the death of his parents, which is a mirror of his own anxieties about the Time Lords. Amy asks about his unrequited love, which is a hint that she fancies the Doctor despite being engaged to another man. And the audience takes in a big breath, imagining another season like Martha Jones' is upon us.

SECOND OPINIONS: My original review, Cracks Showing, isn't quite as disappointed with the story, but mostly focuses on theories about the cracks and why Amy might remember things differently than we do.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - The episode goes south a lot faster than I remembered. Gatiss goes from bad to worse with this wrong-headed production.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Five colors means five times as many action figures to buy. That was my interpretation.

Siskoid said...

A cynical view, but a forgivable one.

Given this was a Gatiss script, it's far more likely it started as a reference to the Cushing films because Gatiss is a reference junky. He also mixes Dr. Strangelove in this, war posters, etc. etc.

CiB said...

The three most prominent colours shown (Red, blue and orange) are also the colours of the three main British political parties, and this episode was scheduled to be shown during a general election campaign.

LiamKav said...

I don't really buy that. We spent most of our time looking at the White "Supreme" Dalek, didn't we?

They did do Radio Times covers of the Red (Labour), Blue (Conservatives) and Yellow(Liberal Democrats) Daleks with an oblique reference to the election on the covers though.

Siskoid said...

Used by the Radio Times, but unlikely to be what the production was thinking, I agree.

LiamKav said...

Regarding the new designs, I sort of appreciate an attempt at doing something different. The only real time the Daleks ever got any sort of redesign after the 60s was maaaayyyybe the Imperial Daleks in Remembrance, and obviously the 2005 design, and both of those were relatively small tweaks. (The Remembrance Daleks were mainly an improvement because they were the first time they'd built new props in 20 years, and the 2005 design basically just make everything look like it was made of metal. Which shows how amazing the original design was, I guess.)

Anyway, I appreciate the attempt to try something new, but... well, it didn't work. And I wonder if it's just one of those things that you only realise doesn't work when you see the finished article? It's interesting that some of the thinking (make it colourful like the Cushing movies!) was the same thinking behind the Smith-era TARDIS exterior, and I don't think anyone dislikes that.

Bill Doughty said...

I don't mind the Skittleleks (EXTERMINATE! THE! RAINBOOOOOOOOW!!!), but I'm glad they've kept the standard new series gold models as the rank-and-file troop hoards. Having bigger, slightly different looking Daleks in positions of power keeps with tradition while also bringing something new to the party.

Designwise, I'm partial to the blue Strategist model. And if action figure availability is any indication, I'm not the only one... when I do see figs in a store or at a con, I often see the white, orange, and red ones on the pegs, but almost never the blue or yellow (though I expect yellow's appeal has to do with that unexplained "The Eternal" nomenclature).

Siskoid said...

That they became boss Daleks lording over the others is fine. The obvious intent at THIS point, however, was to have them replace the old model entirely, or else they wouldn't have disintegrated the ones that helped create them.

 

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