Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks (Series 05, Episode 03) Review

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What’s It About?

Summoned to Blitz-torn Britain by Churchill himself, The Doctor arrives late and discovers the British Army’s new “Iron Side” Weapons are better known to him as Daleks. Why are the Daleks working for the Allies? What is their plan? …

Review It

So episode three arrives and with it come The Daleks. In many ways, the Dalek episode is the true test for Moffat’s team. Only once during Davies’ run did they seem a real threat and that was on their first (re) appearrance. This episode is penned by fellow Whovian and former writer, Mark Gatiss. The central idea of the Daleks participating in World War Two is perhaps one that was long overdue and the fact they are fighting for the Allies was an unexpected twist.

The plot of the episode in some ways echoed the Patrick Troughton story, Power of the Daleks with Humans unaware of the true nature of the Daleks as they trundle about making tea, performing tasks and gunning down enemy Stukkas. Ok – so that bit wasn’t in the earlier story. But “I am your Soldier!” is a direct homage to “I am your Servant!”

Unlike any previous New series Dalek story (OK, except Dalek), I found myself truly sucked into the plot and wondering what the hell the Skarosian fiends were up to. There were enough twists to keep the audience guessing and the reveal concerning one of the guest characters was well handled throughout the story. Oh and Spitfires in Space. Hell yeah! This is truly what Saturday evenings are about.

SPOILERS THIS WEEK!

We are treated to an odd plan by the last surviving Daleks. Their plan is in fact to replace themselves with some proper old-school Daleks. They’re genetically impure what with being Davrosian rather than Kaled. The Daleks use a container of Kaled genetic material to spawn eight new Daleks. Each of these is placed within a different coloured casing to denote their purpose and all future Daleks (yes – they get away) will be based upon this new caste system. (Scientist – Orange, Strategist – Blue, Drone – Red, Eternal – Yellow and Supreme – White).

END SPOILERS

Again, Amy proves that she has the companion chops as for the second week running it is she who manages to both spur the British forces into action against the alien foes AND provides the key to defusing a Dalek bomb! Mark Gatiss provides both Matt and Karen some excellent lines and Ian McNeice makes a fine approximation of Churchill delivering lines with a musical quality reminiscent of the War leader’s speeches. The more I see of the principals, the more I want to see. Matt Smith had massive shoes to fill and I for one wholeheartedly think he’s exceeded expectations. Currently he’s my third favourite Doctor after McCoy with Troughton and Tennant in joint second. Believe me: that’s high praise for me so early in a new Doctor’s run.

And the niggles?

Sigh. The new “Mark Six” Dalek (Sorry, I’m using my own referencing here) falls flat for me. There are elements of the design that I really like: for example the new Eye Stalk and the detail on the rear of the casing. However, the larger size and less angled “skirt”, blocky gun and plunger assembly and the flat colour schemes fail to evoke the same feeling of dread some-how. Some element of Dalekism is lost and I’m not sure how. By contrast, the Khaki “Mark Five” Dalek casings looked marvellous.

No other niggles though as I thought the plot and acting lived up to new standards. Still, they may grow on me.

Probably the second best Dalek story since the series’ relaunch, this episode on the whole was another excellent offering. My only real qualm was with the new Daleks themselves and it’s a shame as they’re pretty core to the darn thing!

Rate It: 4 / 5.
Dry Slaps: 1 for bad Dalek design.
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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7 comments

  1. Angus /

    The khaki daleks looked terrific. The new daleks are rubbish – what a pity. I hope to goodness they don’t last long!

  2. Matt /

    What twists? Other than the robo-scientist-bomb? That the Daleks were not in fact as friendly as they first appeared hardly counts as a twist, I feel…

    Loved the initial WWII Daleks, gliding around doing the filing, but the episode went flat really fast after that. They could have mined the whole Blitz thing and a sense of uncertainty about what the Daleks were up to for much, much longer.

    Another bunch of Dalek survivors? Were any Daleks actually destroyed in the Time War, or are they all bobbing around in time capsules waiting for DW to turn up?

    And as I’ve seen noted elsewhere, they were terribly chatty for universal killing machines. That’s the second episode in this series that has suffered from ‘foe standing around talking for unfeasible lengths of time until someone stops them’ syndrome.

    Which leads me on to: the Doctor didn’t do much did he? Triggered the Daleks trap, shot the breeze with them for a bit while Amy came up with a plan back on Earth (OK, I liked the Jammy Dodger), turned off the forcefield, failed to talk the bomb out of exploding…fallible Doctor is good, but this one’s getting to be a bit of a waste of space.

    And finally, those new look Daleks are bloody awful. Kind of a cross between iDaleks and the Power Rangers. Ugh.

    • Hullo and cheers for the comments. Twist-wise I was thinking of the Scientist twist and the fact that the Survivor Daleks basically had decided to commit suicide and saw themselves as inferior to the genetic material in the Progenitor Capsule. Also Amy not knowing about the Daleks counts as a twist – though some have figured out the reason for this.

      I think these survivors were meant to be from Davros’ fleet as they show no surprise at The Doctor’s reference to those events. Could be Time War survivors, or even survivors from the Emperor’s “Human Daleks” which explains the genetic difference thing better.

      The Daleks main flaw here was not their chattiness but their inability to spot that the TARDIS destruct device was a Jammie Dodger. They were about to kill The Doctor until he pointed that out and then tried to kill him immediately as the deception was revealed. Admittedly they need to learn to aim somewhat!

      I take your point about the Doctor making mistakes – but this is pretty much how Peter Davidson’s Doctor got through stories in his first year or so too … The Visitation he blundered through and then started the Great Fire, Warriors of the Deep he committed genocide … etc.

      Completely agree about the new design – it’s a bit of a mess. Some elements I like but the overall design = bad!

  3. Aaron /

    “Their plan is in fact to replace themselves with some proper old-school Daleks. They’re genetically impure what with being Davrosian rather than Kaled.”

    I thought these were the remnants of the Daleks destroyed by Rose and the Ninth doctor – the ones made out of human DNA.

    I don’t mind the shape of the new Daleks but the primary colours will take a bit of getting used to

    • I thought that initially and it certainly makes more sense. But I think The Doctor referred to the events of Journey’s End in his testimony and the Daleks didn’t seem to pick up on it. I may have been confusing that with his chat with Amy though.

      Apologies if I did get that wrong though. I was wondering why Davrosian Daleks wouldn’t be seen as Kaled! 🙂

  4. Spikey_p /

    This was the Dalek equivilent of Planet of Fire.

    There was a tall order here of what Stephen Moffat clearly wanted to have in place by the end of the episode. I can’t fault him at all for wanting to do his own take on the Daleks, separate and distinct from RTD’s thing (although, in my case, the priority for me would be to fix the Cybermen and loose those Petesworld/Earth 2/Zeppelinland bods with the big stupid C on their chests) and to give the old lot an appropriate send-off and in-story justification for both their continued survival and for the design change. It’s also the right decision and well overdue to put a wedge down between the Daleks and the Time War that has hung over them every time they have turned up since 2005.

    Having one last Dalek and one last Time Lord in all the Universe was sort of poetic and it spoke volumes about The Doctor’s character at that point to have the Dalek be the one to give up the fight, evolve and die (even if, in my view, that was a completely ham-fisted and backwards way to introduce both the Daleks themselves and an exploration of the extreme dark edge of the Doctor’s character to a new audience that early in the run – 5 episodes in, they have no reason to trust his word that he’s the good guy, they barely know him from Adam (no pun intended)). Then that last Dalek in all of time and space conked out by it’s own hand and then six weeks later, it turns out that in fact one lone Dalek and one Dalek saucer (which coincidentally is the Emperor’s flagship) survived the Time War and… I could go on, but you get the point.

    Moffat wants to use the Daleks and, quite understandably, he doesn’t want to be bogged down with all of that Time War angst and baggage, that stuff is well and truly played out.

    So, if he wants to use them in a big way later on, there has to be a throwaway transition story that explains everything, does the handover and strongly establishes business as usual, with large numbers of Daleks roaming the galaxy conquoring and blowing things up quite openly. But, as most of us would in the same position, Moffat clearly doesn’t want to have to write the bugger. Nor is he keen I would guess to squander a precious episode this early in his run with a continuity-heavy two parter. Quite frankly, the job of writing this thing is a pain in the arse and far too restrictive in terms of what it’s asked to accomplish in the time allowed whilst still having its own self-contained story, guest characters and distinctive setting, all fully fleshed out within 42 minutes. Nightmare.

    So, he gives the gig to Mark Gattis to write it, who accepts (brave man). I’m wary to be critical of Mark Gattis as a writer, since he has been Who Fandom Royalty since the early 90s and his novels are rightly well regarded. The problem is, and I am guilty of this myself when thinking about New Who, there is a trend in Gattis’ story structure that is very focused towards traditional, episodic storytelling – in fact, there are points within Victory of the Daleks, where you can press “pause”, crank up the theme music and identify End of Part One (Dalek advances from behind sandbags, big reveal), End of Part Two (Doctor assults Dalek and shoves it across the floor, whereupon it admits the deception and begins killing people) and End of Part Three (Daleks tell The Doctor to bare witness to the new Dalek paradigm).

    The problem with that is (and I repeat, I would probably be guilty of the same myself if I was writing New Who) is that that is a *lot* to cram into 42mins instead of 100, so certain plot elements get completely ignored. 20mins in and Churchill and Amy are just left behind with nothing to do for most of the rest of the episode, while the Daleks explain things to the Doctor whilst they stand in a large, empty room and the Doctor waves a biscuit at them. The big, dramatic reveal of the “Ash is a robot! He’s a goddamn robot!” moment is almost lost in the flurry of 4 or 5 other things that happen at almost the same time. Add in all the arc materials with the cracks and Amy’s memory gap and Churchill is relegated to a supporting guest star – although he could always return, Churchill and the Doctor’s close friendship and trust seems to bridge their opposing views on the morality of acts done in war, much as with The Brigadier… Although both of them get let off light in comparisson to Harriet Jones, who must have REALLY thought she caught him getting out the wrong side of bed that day.

    This should have been a two parter, first half loyal Dalek Tommies giving Jerry what-for, second half they get what they want and start cranking out the new models, decimating the surface of the Earth (or threatening to) in the process. But then again, they did that two-parter with the unfairly hated Daleks in Manhatten story and it would still have had the same basic problems this episode had.

    At least after all the buzz built up over the commando Daleks with their little Union flags, we would have got to see more of them being sinister and servile in persuit of their aims (they managed to keep it doing for 4 whole weeks in Power of the Daleks, way better than 20mins!), and perhaps we could have seem precisely how they were intending them to make use of all their combat kit in the field… Why the hell were they carrying a water canteen? Maybe the intention was that they would carry water and bandages around the battlefield to wounded soldiers like a St.Bernard?

    You are right though – the new designs are horrible, with the possible exeception of the new eyepiece and even that looks like a Christmas decoration. They look stupidly tall, as if someone could actually stand up inside one of them, rather than the angry little gnomes of the post-Time War Daleks.

    And worst of all, you just know that one of those colour-coded castes is going just turn out to be colour code for “Dalek redshirt”

    Enoough rant, I’m out.

    • “the priority for me would be to fix the Cybermen and loose those Petesworld/Earth 2/Zeppelinland bods with the big stupid C on their chests) and to give the old lot an appropriate send-off and in-story justification for both their continued survival and for the design change.”

      I quite agree with that. I want me some proper Cybermen.

      “It’s also the right decision and well overdue to put a wedge down between the Daleks and the Time War that has hung over them every time they have turned up since 2005.”

      Definitely!

      Some really good points made through out that post – as to the Red Shirt, I believe it’s litteral. The Red Dalek is the “Drone” according to Doctor Who Confidential so that’s the soldier / worker dude!