“Victory of the Daleks” – Review: Redux

Ironside Dalek “Would you care for some tea?”

Victory of the Daleks

Our heroes are summoned to blitz-torn London by none other than Winston Churchill who, concerned about his new found “Ironsides” that were helping the war effort, decided to call upon his old friend, the Doctor to give a little support. I loved the way that Churchill and the Doctor had the bond formed already off-screen and the way that the PM had the ability to call the TARDIS directly. It was a clever little device that allowed the rather wonderful Ian McNiece and Matt Smith to side-step a whole bunch of exposition and get straight down to buiness. However, after the phone call and in another example of the Doctor not quite getting his timing right, he arrives a whole month later, by which time Churchill has put aside all concerns about these Ironsides and happily demonstrates to the Doctor and Amy an anihilation of an attacking Luftwaffa squadron by zapping them out of the sky. His “allies” of course are the Daleks, clad in khaki, eblazoned with a Union flag and subserviently helping out with tea and crumpets for the hard-working folk in the bunker. Something is very wrong.

The Doctor of course starts to appeal to the all those around him because he knows that the pepperpots are up to something. The scientist at the heart of events, who supposedly invented these things, as well as gravity bubbles and hypersonic travel, is a guy called Bracewell, played by Bill Patterson. After everyone seems to tell him not to be such a big sissy, Eleven reverts to hitting Skaro’s finest with a wrench and screaming at them to kill him, anything to try and provoke them in to doing something, eventually telling them in no uncertain terms that “I am the Doctor and you are the Daleks”. Everyone is on the brink of thinking that the Doctor has lost the plot until the Dalek fesses up with a single word “Correct”.

At this point everything was going well. Two great cameo performances, evocative scenes of London in the war, a mystery, the Doctor’s oldest enemy up to something devious and Matt and Karen continuing to shine and engage in their still new leading roles. By the way, at this point did anyone pick up on the Star Wars thing again? When Bracewell exclaims “You are my ironsides. I created you”, the khaki Dalek blasts his hand off and replies “No. We created you”. Anyone else think of Darth Vader standing over Luke (also without a hand) and giving him the“I am your father” line?! Just me then. However, if you were in any doubt over the Star Wars thing, check out the way the Dalek ship went through the time tunnel at the end… pure Millenium Falcon! Anyway, back to the action, the Daleks pop off back to their ship, again not choosing to simply exterminate the Doctor while he is stood helpless and unarmed, but instead to check on the progress of their progenitor device that seems to be at the heart of the evil plan.

Then it all starts to get a somewhat messy. The Doctor pops off up to the Dalek ship to have a little eye-to-eyestalk time to get to the bottom of the nefarious plan, leaving Amy and Winston back in the bunker to twiddle their thumbs. Quick as a flash the progenitor device on the Dalek ship has built five of the much talked about, new-design Daleks. Seemingly having channelled the spirit of Steve Jobs, Daleks are now available with smooth edges in a series of primary colours: iDaleks if you will. Bigger than their predecessors both in terms of their height and, to be frank, their fat arses. The three RTD-era Daleks are quickly exterminated by the new big bads, in a none too subtle metaphorical statement that possibly more than any other Moffat-era moment in the three episodes so far, attempts to underscore the fact that we are in new territory here and Russell T Davies’ influence is well and truly over. However uncomfortable this made me feel (due to the fact that I don’t like these new chaps as much as I like the old, tank-like, rivetted ones), there was still time for Matt Smith armed with a Jammie Dodger, to deliver his best line so far… “Don’t mess with me… sweetheart!”

Back in London, there seemed to be a little part of a sub-plot left on the cutting room floor involving the girl who seemed to be very important (I think the credits called her Blanche) but wasn’t. She exchanged a knowing glance with Amy early on, and later found out that her husband, Reg, had perished in the attacks. And after going through all of this, none of it was followed up during the episode and she was just left with her grief and expected to keep Keep Calm And Carry On. Anyway, Blanche was also the person who delivered a message to Churchill that more Nazi bombers were in the channel and just ten minutes from London, which was now inconveniently lit up like a Christmas tree thanks to the Dalek energy pulse thingy. In that 10 minutes, Amy and Winston persuaded Bracewell to help out, to come up with an idea to help them, equip three Spitfires with the technology to allow the RAF to launch them in to space, locate the Dalek ship on the far side of the moon, engage it in a battle and help destroy the beam. Now, is it just me or did that seem like quite an achievement in such a short time period? Again, there may have been some bits of exposition cut for the purposes of expediency but these little niggles started to add up.

We then enter the final scenes, which presented Amy and the Doctor with a dilemma, to destroy the Daleks or save the Earth from the bomb inside Bracewell. Of course we got a typical nu-Who finish, with the companion saving the day with her humanity. Perhaps the bigger question is: What is this episode for? “The Eleventh Hour” accomplished the introduction of both new Doctor and the new companion and “The Beast Below” then served to cement their relationship. I wonder whether it was solely to re-introduce the new look Daleks. If so, it was in hindsight, a bad choice, there was widespread dislike of the new design (prompting some interesting comments from writer, Mark Gatiss, in a much later edition of Doctor Who Magazine) and bar some brief glimpses, the new Dalek paradigm has been largely forgotten now. Highlighting Amy’s lack of knowledge of the Daleks was an intriguing development and certainly makes the events of “The Eleventh Hour” and the otherworldliness of its Leadworth setting, worth revisiting. For example, I always thought that the small child in the Eleventh Hour who runs along past the Doctor and Amy with his toy helicopter was somehow important but it never amounted to anything. Just to complete the ingredients, we get a fairly blatent crack appearing in the final scene. It was, I confess, probably the weakest episode of this series, which is such a shame given the brilliant set up with Churchill, World War Two and the Ironsides.

Highlight: Spitfires in space!

Lowlight: How the Spitfires got in to space.

Talking Point: iDalek or Ironside?

Demon’s Run Rating: 9 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 17th April 2010

Marathon Status: Keep Buggering On

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