Saturday, April 17, 2010

My Review of Doctor Who's 5x03: "Victory Of The Daleks"

Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Andrew Gunn

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

It’s amazing that back in August 2009 when this episode was being filmed that a raw version of the above piece generated a pointless amount of uproar. Some fans were annoyingly convinced that Matt Smith was going to be a terrible Doctor but that’s already been proved wrong by now, hasn’t it?

So, the Daleks, eh? Am I supposed to be shocked that Steven Moffat would bring them into the fifth series? No, but I am grateful that a) he did it in an early episode of the season b) that it was one episode and not a two parter and c) that he didn’t write the episode himself. If this is the only appearance of the Daleks this season, will we have to wait until Season 6 before he pens an episode with the longest running foe of the Doctor?

Fortunately though, Mark Gatiss is more than flipping skilled to tackle the Daleks and a World War 2 backdrop almost seems a little atypical for him as well. After all, both “The Unquiet Dead” and “The Idiot’s Lantern” were period settings and it made sense to throw the Daleks into Churchill’s era during the war.

Churchill believed that the rather scatty Bracewell had created the Ironsides (what the Daleks go by here) to win the war and he wasn’t having any of the Doctor’s guff about their true purpose. After all, everyone except the Doctor was blissfully ignorant of the Daleks in this episode.

When I said everyone that also included Amy. A fair amount of stuff happened in this story but Amy’s ignorance of the Daleks was the thing that stood out the most in this one. How the hell could she not know about them? Was she living underwater during their worldwide attack in Season 4 or what? The best part about that however was the Doctor taking notice and confronting the issue head on towards the episode’s closing moments.

Because of her ignorance, Amy was willing to give the Daleks a break. She believed herself that Bracewell invented the wretched things and even cheekily asked one what their true motives were because she was still sceptical of the Doctor’s claims of them being aliens. I think this was a time when scepticism didn’t do Amy any favours.

But the interesting thing about this episode was that the wait didn’t last long. The Daleks could’ve (and might’ve if this had been a two episode story) kept the pretence of niceness going a while longer but all the Doctor had to do was flip out and attack one for the Dalek to let it’s mask slip.

But even then, things got more and more interesting. It wasn’t Churchill that the Daleks were interested in; it was getting one up on the Doctor. The khaki looking Daleks needed him to identify them so a progenitor could help them make a batch of new pure Daleks and there in itself lay something that’s been much discussed in the build up to this episode.

Revamping the Daleks was always going to be a risky thing. Too many changes and it might not look like a Dalek and far too little and people would be wondering what they were supposed to be looking at. With this episode, all we got were five Daleks in different colours, a chunkier look and a living eye on the eyestalk, which close up did look quite creepy and effective.

Other than that, this new bunch of Daleks were oddly familiar. They happily destroyed the old Daleks that ushered in their birth and made countless rants about wanting to exterminate the Doctor. In some ways, there’s a lot in this episode that doesn’t really reinvent the wheel as such. Even their motives are still within character.

They knew as soon as they placed the Earth in danger; the Doctor would everything in his power to stop them. Except this time around, it was what they wanted. By distraction, the Doctor ended up letting the new Daleks slip out of his fingers and there was a very huge tone of regret when Amy tried to reassure him as well.

The Doctor’s scenes with the Daleks on their ship were well written enough. I did love the joke with the Jammie Dodger as a potential bomb and the Supreme Dalek talking about the Doctor’s compassion being a weakness. The actual victory in this episode seemed to be an intellectual one with the promise of reprisals further down the line.

The Doctor was still able to stop them from destroying Earth with Bracewell, which led to one of the stronger moments of the episode. I liked the idea of Bracewell as a robot and I certainly had pity for him when he painfully realised his true identity. More importantly, the moments where both the Doctor and Amy in their own way diffused him was satisfying.

The Doctor started getting Bracewell to talk about his memories but it was Amy’s discussion of love that triggered his humanity and made him sentient. I’m not sure if it was wise for the Doctor and Amy just to leave him there but maybe if they’re lucky, Bracewell won’t be used by the Daleks from afar.

And as for Churchill, well it’s good casting from Ian McNeice and it was refreshing to have a historical in the episode who already had a past relationship with the Doctor but trying to pilfer the TARDIS key? Bad, Churchill, just bad. I did love Amy having her wits about her and stopping Churchill from keeping her and the Doctor bound to one time.

However there was also another issue raised in this episode – is Amy Pond in love with the Doctor? There is a part of me that doesn’t blame her if she is but at the same time, I don’t want a Rose/Mickey situation with Amy/Rory and I’m not sure if the Doctor himself is keen on having another companion fancy him, even if it is someone as sexy as Amy. Also there’s the more pressing issue of her not remembering an important historical event to address as well.

Also in “Victory Of The Daleks”

The Daleks in this episode had a small Union Flag underneath their eyestalk at the start of this one. Nice little touch there.

Churchill (re TARDIS key): “Must I take it by force?”
The Doctor: “I’d like to see you try.”

This Doctor gets a costume variation as well as he wore a blue shirt, bowtie and braces with his usual ensemble.

The Doctor: “What are you doing here?”
Dalek: “I am your soldier.”

The Doctor: “Amy, tell me you remember the Daleks.”
Amy: “No, sorry.”
The Doctor: “That’s not possible.”

We got another crack in time appearance as the Doctor and Amy took off at the end of this episode. These have to be connected to Amy, don’t they?

The Doctor: “What does hate look like Amy?”
Amy: “Hate?”
The Doctor: “It looks like a Dalek and I’m going to prove it.”

Amy (re the Doctor): “What does he expect us to do now?”
Churchill: “KBO of course.”
Amy: “What?”
Churchill: “Keep buggering on.”

I know there’s a Sixth Doctor story that involves Churchill but the Confidential for this episode did suggest that the Doctor and Churchill met more than once. And why didn’t Amy question the new face comments as well?

Dalek (to the Doctor): “Extinction is not an option. We shall return to our own time and begin again.”

The Doctor (re dead Daleks): “Blimey, what do you do to the ones who mess up?”
Supreme Dalek: “You are the Doctor. You must be exterminated.”
The Doctor: “Don’t mess with me, sweetheart.”

Appropriate that the word “sweetheart” is used considering that River Song is back in next week’s episode. This one didn’t end on a link to it though.

Supreme Dalek: “The Doctor has failed. His compassion is his greatest weakness. Daleks have no such weakness.”

The Doctor: “You are Professor Edwin Bracewell and you my friend are a human being.”

The new Daleks in this episode were Supreme, Strategist, Scientist, Drone and Eternal. They were also coloured in blue, red, orange, white and yellow.

Amy (to Bracewell): “Hey, Paisley, ever fancied someone you know you shouldn’t?”
Bracewelll: “What?”
Amy: “Hurts doesn’t it but kind of a good hurt?”

The Doctor (to Amy): “I had a choice. They knew I’d choose the Earth. The Daleks have won. They've beaten me. They've won.”

It shouldn’t be any much longer before Amy actually tells the Doctor about her wedding day, should it? And Oblivion Continuum was certainly a cool name for Bracewell the bomb.

“Victory Of The Daleks” is certainly different in some ways to many of the new series Dalek stories but oddly familiar in others too. You’ve got the sense of epicness, the pure unbridled loathing that both the Daleks and the Doctor have for each other but in a strange way, this is the only Dalek episode with the least body count of the bunch. After much deliberation, I think Mark Gatiss struck gold with this one.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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