Tuesday, 20 April 2010

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.


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.'

No comments: