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Doctor Who XXXI.3: Victory of the Daleks

April 19th, 2010 (01:28 am)

I watched The Idiot's Lantern four years ago with a sense that Mark Gatiss really wants to write four-episode, 25-minute Doctor Who, and this returned to me during Victory of the Daleks. Victory despatched the plot of parts one and two in the first ten minutes, with Churchill referring to his dispelled doubts about Bracewell's Ironsides (could have got an episode out of that, I thought). Bracewell's credentials were evidently well-established (had there been a human Bracewell, or were his memories the composites of other people's?); and allowing the Doctor to slowly lose his temper as the Daleks repeatedly provoke him. Instead we saw the Doctor snap fairly quickly; in keeping with what we have seen of Matt Smith's performance so far, but the revelation that the Daleks wanted the Doctor to verify their identity was reached somewhat quickly, and the upshot turned out to be somewhat underwhelming.

I'm not sure what it was that made the scenes on the Dalek spacecraft difficult to engage with; the minimalist set, with its recreated 1980s features, didn't help, I suspect. I was sorry to see the 2005 model Daleks go; the new Daleks are uncomfortably bulky at the back, and remind me too much of dodgem cars. The Daleks are of course close kin to dodgems; but this lot are just that little too fairground for me. Perhaps they need to do some exterminating to lend some credibility to them.

Bracewell seemed a little too mechanical for my liking; if we are asked to accept that his memories cause him to forge new connections in his brain which stop him from becoming a bomb, then I'd have liked him to appear more organic. Like the spitfires vs. Dalek saucer scenes, I had a feeling that I was seeing edited highlights of something much better which we won't get to see.

There were aspects of the programme's mythmaking which I did like; Churchill's familiarity with the Doctor was welcome, Matt Smith and Ian McNeice portraying two old friends slipping into an old routine convincingly. Amy's ignorance of the Daleks was registered just enough for it not to weigh heavily on the episode. Karen Gillan herself continues to remind me at many points of Diana Rigg's Emma Peel in The Avengers, which is no bad thing.

So: is the TARDIS itself causing these cracks in the fabric of space and time? Are we in the Moffatverse now, or are there multiple Moffatverses and is the Doctor getting further from the RTD-verse with each journey? Answers, probably, at the end of season.

Bracewell is a genius from Paisley who turns out to be alien technology; what does this say about Steven Moffat himself? I think we should be told.

I did like the realization of the Daleks as the identity-sapping, reality-undermining type of school bully, though - both the Doctor and Bracewell were their victims. Bracewell's personality could have been deactivated when no longer needed, but no, he had to suffer, and I felt the Daleks take pleasure in it.


Posted by: Zelanite (zelanite)
Posted at: April 19th, 2010 01:13 pm (UTC)

Yes, I think this could have been better as a two-episode story, too, with the revelation that the Daleks actually wanted to be recognised by the Doctor as the mid-story cliffhanger. A few more scenes of "Ironsides" carrying box files and serving tea would have been entertaining.

"I am your solider" was obviously forced into the dialogue as a deliberate echo of "I am your servant", but felt exactly like a line forced into the dialogue despite not really fitting.

I'm grown rather tired of the final, final, final survivors of the final, final, final defeat of the very, very, very last Daleks - but hopefully, now that we have an explicitly new Dalek race, we've seen the end of that trope.

I'm undecided on the question of the new design: I'm not entirely convinced by the more explicitly colour-coded caste system, and am surprised that there's no "Warrior" caste - although perhaps that's meant to imply an "every Marine a rifleman" kind of attitude, in which every Dalek is first and foremost a solider. No doubt we'll find out what the "Eternal" caste is all about in due course.

(Also, Supreme Daleks are no longer black!? That's just wrong. But the fact that black is not currently taken, together with your Shadow Of The Daleks comment last week, has triggered entertaining thoughts of stealth Daleks....)

I rather liked the scenes on the Dalek saucer myself: I don't think MS brings quite the intensity to the big threatening-the-monsters confrontations that DT did, but then he doesn't spend so much time engaging in hyperactive physical "comedy" either, so that comes out as a net plus. However, "humour" remains a problem in places - much like the food sequence two weeks ago, the "we're going to wander off for half an hour and let you escape" routine with Bracewell was dragged out for far too long. The pretext for that was also rather contrived - why couldn't the Doctor just take Bracewell with him, thus avoiding the whole leaving-Dalek-technology-in-20th-century-England issue completely?

Churchill's existing friendship with the Doctor was fun, but I don't much like the idea of Churchill being able to literally call him up on the 'phone - that's a device that can't withstand the smallest amount of scrutiny, and the episode would have worked every bit as well if the Doctor had just happened to show up.

I too would have liked to see more spitfires-versus-Daleks action; and there was perhaps some need for Bracewell's ability to outfit three spitfires for operation in space that quickly to be handwaved slightly more robustly.

The thing I most disliked was the Doctor and Amy defusing Bracewell. Allowing him to become more humanised by pushing him to access his memories was fine in its own right; but as a means of dealing with the bomb threat it felt like using a Nice Emotional Moment instead of having a proper plot, rather than as part of the story.

Oops, I've run out of lunch break. Well, this is more than I've felt inspired to say about New Who for a long time. That has to be a sign that Steven Moffat is doing something which agrees with me!

Oh, and of course we had SM-era Daleks exterminating the last of the RTD-era Daleks, and then on top of that, the revelation that Amy doesn't remember the RTD-era Daleks invading Earth at all. Is this the point where we start erasing most of the RTD era from the timelines!? Well, no, it's probably just more of the arc plot kicking in, but I can dream hopefully for a week or two...!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 19th, 2010 01:36 pm (UTC)

Something that didn't strike me last night, but which you and others have pointed out, is that we have a new Dalek narrative set up. RTD's Daleks were originally written on the assumption that whichever series it was would be the last ever series of Doctor Who. This lot are more confident about enduring.

I'd have liked the introduction of the new Dalek caste system to have taken place in one shot rather than split between a war rooms POV and a spacecraft POV, really - I think something was lost there.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: April 19th, 2010 05:43 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who

I'm not sure what it was that made the scenes on the Dalek spacecraft difficult to engage with

As many writers have noted, Daleks aren't great conversationalists, especially after the sixties. This is why people keep bringing back Davros. The fact that by this stage all the originality in the plot had evaporated didn't help.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 19th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)

This episode, indeed, was a rolling back from the RTD era personality Daleks - I assume this lot will turn up and have something to do other than bark at the Doctor later in the series.

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: April 19th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)

Preschool boys' shows differentiate the colours of their animated machines for the sake of their three-year-old viewers. I don't suppose this is the association we are intended to make.

"Bob the Builder: can we fix it?
Bob the Build... EX-TER-MIN-ATE!"

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 19th, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC)

Definitely a powerful piece of informed insight there. See swisstone for some parallel thinking. Eh-oh...

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: April 19th, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)

not sure about the new Daleks either, esp. the colour scheme. Too shouty, also too cheerful (maybe SM is going to do something with that later on - but for the moment, it looks just *wrong*).

I also share zelanite's worry about the defusing of Bracewell.
It seemed forced. I wonder if Dorabella exists, and if so, what she'll make of him ;-)

Re Moffatverse: I wonder what the crack has to do with her not remebering the DAlek invasion.

However, the repeat of the crack is getting a bit unsubtle...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 19th, 2010 06:36 pm (UTC)

Agreed that we could do a little more information regarding the crack, really, and soon, to sustain the mystery - we can't wait until parts 12 and 13.

I'd have preferred it if Bracewell had been re-engineered rather than simply being an android - though the message about humanity being something one feels rather than a genetic inheritance would then have been missed. Relevant to the Daleks, of course, and to the Doctor - and perhaps to Amy?

(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 19th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)

That will be informative, though that depends on when she meets the Cybermen - could be next week, could be eight weeks...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 19th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)

Probably true, but I think the temptation of fitting union flags into the 'dog tag' section underneath the Daleks' eyepieces was impossible to resist!

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 19th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)

Petty? Not at all - it's the sort of thing which would have had BBC staff fretting in committee meetings back in the 1960s and 1970s.