Doctor Who: Review supplemental on Victory Of The Daleks
|REVIEWS - DOCTOR WHO|
Extra, extra...! Extra reviews here for Victory Of The Daleks...
Ben Skipper reviews Victory Of The Daleks
Yay Daleks! Since the end of the last week’s episode the British public have been salivating over their return, especially in that setting and with the characters surrounding them. I mentioned the very British feel of the first two episodes in my last review and it doesn’t get more British than Winston Churchill and Spitfires in space.
Unfortunately the story wasn’t great, and not much more than a 45-minute vehicle to re-establish the Daleks as a threat. Some of it worked quite nicely, like the scenes aboard the Dalek ship and the hints at the grander story to come.
There were far too many clichés though, most notably the ones being spouted at high volume from the caricature of Churchill and the vomit-inducing disarming of the oblivion bomb. It was a potentially good two-parter crammed into one episode and the pacing suffered as a result.
This was the first S5 episode not to come from Stephen Moffat and hopefully it won’t be indicative of the other writers' quality this series. Mark Gatiss’ writing was poor at points, especially regarding Churchill, but it was never particularly great in other parts and would fit in quite happily among Russell T Davies’ series.
The new Daleks are going to be a talking point, especially the bright colours they now wear. It’s a tribute to the older Who adventures and for me it works, especially how much bigger they are than their predecessors. They’re a lot more foreboding and potentially scary given some good writing - but that will have to wait until a future series.
Talking of future episodes, we know they will return, and watching Moffat on Doctor Who confidential it could well be him writing the tale. He says on the show that he named the Yellow Dalek “Eternal” and that it will be important in the future. So the seeds are planted for future Dalek tales but there might be more....Dr Bracewell, the Dalek-made bomb is out there, and he could well become a villain. Just imagine if his Dora Bella doesn’t actually exist? With what he knows and what he’s capable of, he could be a villain in future series, and maybe even a great one.
So overall the episode was a disappointment, like most Dalek episodes since the reboot five years ago. Daleks work best when there’s only a few of them and hopefully we won’t see thousands of them flying through space ever again. Personally I hope we never see Davros again either but I’m not holding out much hope of that happening.
Next week is the return of the weeping angels and it’s going to be a two-parter that should hopefully explain a mystery from series 4 and it should, God willing, be another Who classic from Moffat.
John Bensalhia reviews Victory Of The Daleks
The most terrifying forces in the universe were back with a vengeance on Saturday. A relentless quest for world domination. An unerring ability to reduce human beings to hapless puppets. Smugness oozing from every pore.
But that’s enough about the Britain’s Got Talent panel. If you could tear your eyes away from coverage of the annual freak show, then the main event on Saturday night TV was the return of the Daleks. And if you’d chanced upon the Radio Times last week, you would have noticed that they’d morphed into a cross between the Daleks from the Cushing films and a dayglo Dodgem Car. So with a big revamp on the cards, not to mention a script penned by Mark Gatiss, expectations were high.
Judging from the reaction of some of the forums though, I get the impression that fans would have been happier to see The Doctor in a face off with Davros Flatley, rather than what was served up on Saturday night. And while there were plenty of good points to be found, the end result just lacked that certain something.
The most obvious source of inspiration for this story is the 1966 Troughton debut Power Of The Daleks. Having recently sat through this one again for my Complete Reviews series, there are a whole load of comparisons to be made with its 2010 grandson. Both feature Daleks who are initially subservient to humans. Whereas the Vulcan colony featured Daleks who apparently served its inhabitants, here we have Daleks who are apparently happy to help the war effort against the Germans. Both sets of Daleks have the same sort of catchphrase: “I am your servant” has now been replaced by “I am your soldier”. And both Doctors try desperately to convince the locals that these friendly pepperpots cannot be trusted an inch. And sure enough, in both stories, the Daleks inevitably show their true colours as they go on the rampage.
Well, at least they do in Power Of The Daleks. In Victory Of The Daleks, they shoot two faceless guards and then… run away.
Anyone would think that the Daleks have turned coward, but in fact it’s all part of their deadly but convoluted plan to not only rejuvenate themselves but to force The Doctor to choose between saving his beloved Earth or letting his deadliest enemies go scot free. This moral dilemma also evokes Genesis Of The Daleks when The Doctor was faced with the chance of wiping the Daleks out once and for all.
The Daleks’ main bait is a robot inventor called Bracewell. There are definite shades of Lesterson from Power Of The Daleks here. Both are slightly bumbling, bespectacled boffin types who are used by the Daleks as pawns in their own game. Bracewell claims to have invented the Daleks, calling them the Ironsides. Presumably, that means that out in the galaxy, Cybermen are masquerading as Macgyvers; Sontarans are posing as Columbos and the Megara are now going by the name of Perry Mason.
Unfortunately, the Daleks’ plan of leaving the robot Bracewell as a deadly weapon is a bit rubbish. Even though Bracewell is a robot, he still has his memories of growing up and that all-important element of humanity. If just one person taps into that and his memories of a fancy woman called Dorabella, then the Daleks’ brilliant scheme falls away like newspaper in a torrential rainstorm. And what do you know, Amy manages to get to the heart of Bracewell (a heart that now resembles the prize dartboard from Bullseye) to foil the Daleks’ deadly plan in blowing the humans to smithereens.
So that’s why the grown up, boring analyst in me was a bit let down by the episode. The kid in me, however, was a bit disappointed because there was no terror in Victory Of The Daleks whatsoever. There were a couple of subjective Dalek POV shots in a bid to ramp up the tension. And Matt Smith did a good job of conveying the threat of the Daleks in the first few scenes. For all that though, there were no scares at all.
As I said, only two drones were exterminated in a blink n’ miss it scene, but that was all. And for the most part, the Daleks were too busy blabbing away to The Doctor on their spaceship. Not exactly the stuff of nightmares, and the new improved Daleks just looked a bit silly, a bit like they’d been designed by a colour-blind 10-year-old. Part of why I started watching Doctor Who was because I enjoyed being scared as a kid – no other programme really had that talent for being entertaining and terrifying in equal measure. But like the last two episodes, there just weren’t enough scares – it’s like going on a Ghost Train ride to find that bunny rabbits have replaced the ghouls.
For all that though, Victory Of The Daleks has plenty going for it. In particular, my grumbles about characterisation won’t resurface this week. The main character is of course Winston Churchill. Churchill’s characterisation was a bit broad, spewing forth even more jingoistic clichés than a week’s worth of tabloid newspapers. That said, I did enjoy the character, in particular his interplay with The Doctor and Amy (shades of Garron there in his attempts to pick The Doctor’s pockets for the TARDIS key). It also helps that Ian McNeice did a fine job, and fortunately never quite slipped into OTT parody.
Inevitably, though, the brilliant Bill Paterson steals the acting honours this week, and made Bracewell into a real three-dimensional character. From his initial joy at claiming to invent the Daleks, his world is shattered when he discovers that not only is this a sham, but his whole life has been a lie. The scenes in which Bracewell remembers his past and also his evident joy at being allowed to ‘live’ at the end were really quite touching – altogether, Paterson proved to be an inspired choice for the part.
Matt Smith and Karen Gillan continue to impress, despite being shunted into the background this week. The Doctor doesn’t really get much to do apart from shout at Daleks, although it was good to see his manic rage return from 2005’s Dalek in the scene where he wallops a Dalek over and over again. And in a typically Doctorish scene, he gets to threaten the Daleks with a Jammie Dodger: Which proves even more that the Daleks were last in line when brains were handed out, if they even believed that for a second.
Amy’s a paradox though. On the one hand, she continues to take a proactive role in events. She comes up with the idea of asking Bracewell for help with shutting down the power and is also the key in restoring Bracewell’s ‘humanity’ at the end after she misquotes the Buzzcocks “Ever Fallen In Love” at him. That’s the second week on the trot that Amy’s saved the day, but for all that though, it looks like there’s dark forces at work. Amy doesn’t know who the Daleks are, despite the events of The Stolen Earth, and as a clearly rattled Doctor whisks her away in the TARDIS, there’s that spooky crack in the wall again. Quite how this one’s going to pan out, I don’t know: Could Amy be another traitor companion aboard the TARDIS?
One of the main talking points of this story is of course the battle between the Spitfires and the Dalek ship. Even boasting a cameo from Gatiss himself, the sequence looked terrific, and presumably sent Star Wars fans into a cross-eyed drool. Talking of which, what’s with the new-found obsession with Star Wars? Even the departure of the Dalek ship reminded me of the Millennium Falcon speeding off into the blue. What next? The Silurians pal up with Chewbacca? Amy turns out to be the Emperor? The Big Bad of the season turns out to be a horde of Ewoks?
Anyway, the sequence itself was fantastically realised, and overall, Andrew Gunn does another fine job. The set designs are perfectly realised (especially the Cabinet War Rooms) and the Daleks themselves are shot very well indeed. Too bad that the familiar, battle scarred Daleks were blasted into oblivion by the new gaudy dodgem cars.
It’s very much a feeling of sweeping the old away with the new broom. It feels like Victory Of The Daleks is the first chapter in a new Dalek saga. Inevitably, The Doctor’s going to come up against the new Daleks again after they succeeded in their ‘Victory’, and who knows, maybe Bracewell may pop up again. Quite how long it will take Dorabella to twig that her new fella is a robot is anybody’s guess.
A real mixed bag this week. While the performances from the cast are up to scratch, and while Gatiss’ script is generally well written, there’s still that nagging feeling at the back of my pea-sized brain that it could have been so much better. If anything, the weakness of the 45-minute format was exposed in that too much was being crammed in such a small timeframe. The end result was a story that should have been allowed to breathe just a little more. Let’s also hope that there are more shocks n’ scares for the kids in the future, too.
Still, at least it wasn’t Britain’s Got Talent, eh?
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