“Evolution of the Daleks” – Review: Redux

The Doctor “Anywhere else in the universe I might worry about them, but New York- it’s what this city’s good at. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses and maybe the odd pig-slave-Dalek-mutant-hybrid, too.”

Evolution of the Daleks

The first two-parter of Series Three concluded with a tale of genetic engineering gone awry in “Evolution of the Daleks”.   A degree of messing about with the schedules and a lack of on-screen trailers led to some lower than average viewing figures for this two-parter.  “Average” in Doctor Who terms, of course, it still secured well over 6 million bums on seats. The now infamous Radio Times “spoiler cover” meant that the reveal of the Dalek Sec/human hybrid was dampened somewhat when he was unveiled at the end of the previous episode but “EOTD” was his chance to shine.  The Dalek being infected by humanity is not a new idea for the show, indeed both Series One’s “Dalek” and “Parting of the Ways” had this as a theme so it might be considered an unusual decision to go with it again.  However, the hybrid creature provided an interesting new take on this by coupling it with the evil pepperpot’s known history of genetic manipulation.

What was lovely to see was the way the remainder of the Cult of Skaro reacted to the hybrid.  Skulking around the sewers and having a gossip about Sec’s actions, even to the degree of subtly looking over their (non-existent) shoulders before talking.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed by the design of the Sec creature because it struck me as being little more than a fairly prosaic man in a mask, which I guess is fair enough given it’s supposed to be a man with a Dalek creature on his head. A little bit of Dalek infighting is neither a bad thing nor a new thing for Who fans to enjoy, but throughout the whole forty-five minutes I was left with a feeling of being disengaged from the whole thing.

The darkness of the first half was lessened somewhat in this conclusion, which was a pity but perhaps this was because the pace picked up to such a degree.  It’s hard to do dark and moody when you running along at a hundred miles an hour.  The problem with these “devious experiment goes wrong” style of stories, is that there is a fair amount of faux science terminology that gets thrown about but having said that there was some good dialogue hidden amongst the techno-babble: “Gammon radiation” being a particular favourite given that Tallulah’s boyfriend had just been turned into a half-man/half-pig.  There was also a nice little dig (perhaps, an accidental one) at Star Trek when Soloman decided to give us a can’t-we-all-live-in-peace speech to the hovering Dalek in front of him.  “Ex-ter-min-ate” was the predictable but brilliant response.  All in all I quite enjoyed Helen Raynor’s debut as a Who writer.

The conclusion to the story felt a little rushed as the pure Daleks turned against their former leader and then the Dalek army of human slaves in turn revolted and took out two more of the Cult.  This left one Dalek, Caan, shoring up the ranks and with no option other than to perform another “emergency temporal shift” outta there.  We now know where Dalek Caan ended up, of course, and what kind of impact the action had on him, although at the time I recall thinking that it was odd to see the exact same method of escape being utilised.  There was also another opportunity for Martha to show her mettle as she single handedly stopped the Dalek’s pig-slaves from scuppering the Doctor’s plans… she’s turning into a great companion already.  If I was to rate the stories in order (you can see the rankings for all of them in the “Episode Reviews…” section above), I would have to say that this was the weakest of the Series Three stories so far but being the bottom of a very, very strong bunch is a statistical necessity rather than an assessment of its quality.

Highlight: Soloman’s extermination

Lowlight: Not something on-screen but something off-screen this time. Some time after this episode, Russell T Davies mentioned (I think it was in a DWM Production Notes feature) that Helen Raynor had gone online to read fans views of her story after it had aired and had been physically shaken by the vitriol spewed out by some of the vocal dislikers. It’s a fine line to walk when you go online and publish opinions about something you didn’t enjoy. You have to mix honesty and respect and understand that opinions can hurt if delivered thoughtlessly: A lesson for us all.  

Talking Point: Will we ever have a truly great Dalek story again?

Demon’s Run Rating: 11 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 28th April 2007

Marathon Status: Losing count

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