“Daleks in Manhattan” – Review: Redux

Tallulah “Oh! I should have realized. He’s into musical theatre, huh? What a waste.”

Daleks in Manhatten

So, after yesterday’s trip to New New York, today we find ourselves in old New York with the Doctor and Martha. After their tete a tete at the end of “Gridlock”, we must presume that this gave just enough encouragement to the Time Lord to treat his new companion to another detour in the TARDIS and so, from the year 5-billion-and-something in the far-flung future, they stay pretty much where they are in space but move a long way back in time to arrive on Liberty Island of 1930. The secret location filming in New York was clearly worthwhile as the settings were sumptuous and evoked a genuine feeling of how an America gripped by the Depression must’ve felt. Having said that there wasn’t a lot of filming on the streets, with the action being set as it was in the Empire State, the theatre, the sewers and Hooverville. The reality of the situation was somewhat watered down I’m sure, after all Doctor Who is family, adventure show rather than a gritty docu-drama but for all that there was a nice bit of history thrown in and the production seemed honest enough to the period.

I still maintain that the Cult of Skaro were an example of Doctor Who using the Daleks to their best: They had an evil scheme that showed scant regard for human life and they were back to using genetic engineering for their nefarious ends. Although, whether to give them all names, and distinct voices, and little personalities of their own is truly justified, is open to some debate but it did give DiM a feel not dissimilar to a classic episode.  Also helping this feeling was the gentler pace that the two-parter affords, with plenty of time to get to know Tallulah and Lazlo whose love story and musical theatre setting was an interesting juxtaposition to the poverty of Hooverville. It even provided Murray Gold with an opportunity to compose a show tune with “The Devil In Me”. It was a lovely twist to have the Empire State building be a Dalek design and also interesting to see them with a race of slaves at their beck and call again, although I might have preferred them to have Robomen rather than Pigmen!

Perhaps the weakest part of the episode was the final few minutes that led up to the cliffhanger.  This was not particularly because the revelation of the human/Dalek hybrid had been splashed on the cover of the previous week’s Radio Times (and delivering the mother of all spoilers for good measure) but due to the fact that I cannot see why the Daleks would want to evolve in such a way, other than giving us the quotable line. “The children of Skaro will walk again!“. We know that the Daleks who were built by the emperor in “Parting of the Ways” were constructed using human DNA but they were still unmistakably, Daleks.  It’s hard to judge based on seeing the first half only but this hybrid seems to be a bit of a retrograde step for the old pepperpots.  Tomorrow’s conclusion is entitled “Evolution of the Daleks” so I found myself hoping (trusting) for a satisfactory conclusion and explanation.

Overall, I really quite enjoyed Helen Raynor’s script (unforgivably, the *only* woman to have written for new Doctor Who). It seems to have set up all the pieces for a good conclusion.  What will happen to the Human/Dalek hybrid?  How will the Doctor be revealed to the Daleks?  Will the final experiment succeed?  What are they building at the top of the Empire State?  Will Lazlo and Tallulah end up happy?   The second episode has a chance to address those issues that I felt were weak in this installment, so at this mid-point it had all the ingredients to become something of a cut above average, but could it deliver?

Highlight: David Tennant realising that the Daleks had survived. Again.

Lowlight: Miranda Raison’s Bronx accent

Talking Point: Andrew Garfield. Did he go on and do anything with his career after this?

Demon’s Run Rating: 13 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 21st April 2007

Marathon Status: 32 down 70 to go

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  1. I’m just going to be a cock and point out it’s Manhattan, not Manhatten… 😉

    • Ooh, schoolboy error on my part :-/ … thanks for pointing it out. Amended accordingly.

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