KT wants to exterminate this episode.
DOCTOR WHO: 5.03 “Victory of the Daleks”
Dear god, that was dreadful. Shiny to look at, but absolutely everything else was off: tone, pacing, acting, storytelling — and on top of it all, the Daleks have been decked out like the Power Rangers. Or perhaps like a line of Mac products, I’m not sure which.
The story showed promise at the beginning: here’s Churchill in a very nice war room set. And here are Daleks that don’t behave as we expect Daleks to behave. Plus, I thought the Daleks with little khaki packs and the Union Jack painted on them were actually kind of cute.
But as long-time viewers know, the Doctor is not capable of reacting rationally to a Dalek, especially with his New Who time war baggage. And it’s not as though the Daleks have ever earned any second chances, but it was just painful to watch as the Doctor started laying into the soldier Dalek. So much for subtlety.
And as the episode progressed, the whole premise was making me cringe. There was nothing organic about the way the story was put together, rather, it was like someone pulled two slips of paper out of a hat where one said “Churchill” and the other said “Dalek.” (And then because that someone was apparently drunk, he then said “Spitfires in space! Brilliant!”) At the beginning it seemed that Daleks had been thrown into a Churchill story and later on it seemed that Churchill had been thrown into a Dalek story, but all the way around, it was painful.
Speaking of painful: was it just me, or did this Churchill have a lisp? It bugged me in the beginning, and then I got distracted by all the bad. (The real Churchill didn’t have a lisp, did he?) He was a very blustery Churchill all the way through, though, and might have fit better into a pantomime.
And let’s go back to those Spitfires. Generally I don’t bother to look too closely at the science in this show, because, well, it stars a time traveling alien. But even I have my limits. Even if you have a magic bubble of science around each plane — even if there’s air inside that bubble — how does the plane’s propulsion system move the plane forward in space, not just forward within the bubble?
But on top of that — and this is the part that really bugs me — your Dalek-crated genius has gone from blueprints to having the tech on the planes — where it works and where the pilots are adept at using it — in a sequence of scenes where we have ten minutes before the Germans get to London. It took ten minutes for you to talk about doing it — when did the building and testing and training happen? I hate when shows do that.
[A little more — and a ray of hope —
after the jump.]
Because the episode wasn’t sure if it was really about Churchill or the Daleks, the pacing was all topsy-turvy, too. If the episode had been constructed better, there might have been some clever parallels between the war raging in Europe and the ever-ongoing war between the Daleks and the Doctor as both problems quickly escalated. Instead, the two plots were working against each other instead of in synergy, which led to a sort of “oh, so this is the resolution — wait, no here’s the end — oh, no, we have this bit first…” sort of sensation.
And despite Churchill’s blustering and the Doctor’s frenetic mania, the overall tone stayed fairly light. Even the distress of German bombs over London in ten minutes never went anywhere close to the darkness of Doctor Who’s last trip to WWII, the a brilliant two-parter from season one called “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances.” Those episodes really capture the feeling of Britain’s darkest, yet finest hour in a way that this episode doesn’t come close to.
So after all my moaning this week, let me leave you with an assurance and a recommendation. One, next week’s episode is better. So much better. And two, if you want a good WWII Who story, go Netflix “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” — they’re fabulous. And if you want a good Dalek story, try season one’s “Dalek,” which is also a very strong episode. With any luck, they’ll wipe this mess out of your brain.