Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Review: Doctor Who 5.3: Victory of the Daleks

Power Rangers go!
Doctor Who - Season 31, Story Three - Victory of the Daleks
Written between 12th and 14th October 2012

I'll say right now that Victory of the Daleks doesn't fail on as many levels as The Beast Below did, simply because its premise is one that is eminently workable. But that doesn't stop our good friend Mark Gattis from poking his head in and managing to make a mountain out of a toaster. My reaction to Gattis' work has been very mixed; I love his comedy work elsewhere, and his first two Who stories are actually quite good, but I found his most recent story Night Terrors disappointingly bland and his most recent Sherlock story, The Hounds of Baskerville, distinctly unimpressive.
      Victory of the Daleks was set to stamp Moffat's image of what the Daleks should be onto a race of creatures whose use in the RTD era had at first rejuvinated them and had, over time and over-use diminished them again. No more of this kill em all and make it up next time nonsense, we're putting the Daleks back into space again and we want them to look, sound and act awesome! With Gattis' fetish for old timey-times, the story is set in the Second World War (also a Moffat favourite) and stars Winston Churchill as The Doctor's old mate, telling him about his brand new weapons, the Ironsides, which are in fact Daleks in disguise. They're completely oblivious to the Doctor until he freaks out at them for being so oblivious, at which point his ranting is sent to a Dalek machine that uses The Doctor's "testimony" to crank out a bunch of new Daleks with a new design and a new attitude. The Dalek scapegoat, the Android Professor Bracewell, is primed as a bomb and The Doctor is forced to choose between destroying the Dalek Ship, ending the Time War once again, or stopping Bracewell from wiping out the Milky Way. Eventually he chooses Bracewell, letting Amy use the Power of Love to shut him down and letting the Daleks go off on their merry way.
     This episode's core premise, beyond all of the Dalek bullshit, that of Daleks hiding out pretending to be people's servants until The Doctor arrives and messes it up, is not a new one. It was first used back in 1966's Power of the Daleks, and this feels very much like an homage to that story. The only problem is that it's not executed with sufficient dexterity, time or energy - the reveal comes far too soon and thus the idea never gets the development it needs. We could have had so much fun with sneaky Daleks plotting things in plain sight, with The Doctor desperately trying to work out what their plan is. Instead, The Doctor is ridiculously forward and simply whacks the Dalek with a wrench until it reveals its evil scheme.
Would you like some Tea?
      The new Daleks are this story's most controvertial, most notable point, and the derision that arised as a result of their design meant that not only was this story effectively retconned soon after transmission, but that the Daleks weren't seen again for two years. The new designs are coloured in varying bright, childish colours, and they've also been given this horrendous hunchback which takes the previously compact and military-esque design and just makes it into this blundering toe hazard. I hated them, and others did too, and they're the greatest design cock-up of NuWho so far. And yes, I'm including the Absorbaloff.
     The guest stars for the episode, Ian McNeice and Bill Patterson as Churchill and Bracewell respectively, did a good job with a bad script, but I do object to Churchill's portrayal. After the show's history of political satire, it seems almost criminal that Gatiss has decided to glorify one of the most well-loved racist warmongers in the history of British Politics - not a man that The Doctor would really like in reality. I also found Bracewell's character incredibly silly, and the way he ties into the resolution is just as bad. As many others have said before, and I regret to have to say now: You Cannot Diffuse A Bomb Using Love. It's not possible. At all. 
     Victory of the Daleks is stained by a bad group of designs and a rushed plot that tried to reintroduce and invigorate The Doctor's old enemies and instead proved so catastrophic that it put them out of commission for a year. It could have been a riotous and powerful revival, but instead it clung to old, badly executed plots and resolved the thoroughfair with Moffat's first use of the incredibly insulting and ridiculously common Power of Love plot. It should have been better, and I'm sure fandom would be nicer to it if it hadn't come straight after another failure, but it really is poor form for the third episode. Luckily, all that's about to change.

Thanks.

NEXT TIME: The Time of Angels is at hand, and The Doctor fights a battle of Flesh and Stone.

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