Review: Victory Of The Daleks: Doctor Who Column: Reverse The Polarity With Darren Blackburn
Posted By: Darren Blackburn, U.K. Correspondent
On: May 08, 2010 Updated: 2 years 16 weeks ago
On: May 08, 2010 Updated: 2 years 16 weeks ago
REVERSE THE POLARITY
WITH DARREN BLACKBURN
Review: "Victory Of The Daleks"
Beware Spoilers Ahead!
"I am your solider!" says the khaki clad/green Ironclad machine that glides into view, having just shot down a squadron of Luftwaffe planes all on its own - saving London 1941 from another Blitz run. As an entrance, this serves two functions - the first time the Eleventh Doctor encounters his arch-enemies from Skaro, and for us, to see Doctor Who’s most fearsome monsters in a different light.
Daleks! I just love Daleks! Ask any Who fan who doesn’t like them! Daleks are as integral to Doctor Who’s continuity as fish and chips is to the British low fat diet! No matter how many times they’re defeated - atoms scattered across time and space by a Tardis possessed companion, entombed in ice, infected by a virus or divided by a civil war - like cockroaches they always find a way to return. The trick though for every writer that gets to utilize them is not only finding a plausible explanation as to how they survived their last “fate” but also maintaining their status quo as “the” enemy for the Doctor. And here, Mark Gattis (who uniquely not only writes this story, but also appears as a cameo as a Spitfire pilot) has the task to do something really hard - making the Daleks even more nasty than ever before!
This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the London bombings , the Blitz, a period during World War Two where the Nazi war machine carpet bombed the British capitol night after night after night. When Dalek creator Terry Nation wanted inspiration for his most infamous monsters, in a polycarbide shell, he turned to the Nazis and the horrors of World War 2 for input. The Daleks, who like Annihilus, consider themselves superior to every other sentient species - as long as they’ve been exterminated. It’s taken a long time to do a Dalek story that brings both elements together but here it is! And its a good one!
As a recurring motif since 2005, it’s compulsory now to have an episode featuring a well-known figure from history caught up with some extraterrestrial menace. We’ve had Charles Dickens scared by Gelth Ghosts in 1880’s Cardiff, Queen Victoria cornered by werewolves in Scotland - and Agatha Christie buzzed by a giant Vespaform in the day prior to her disappearance. Here its the turn of Prime Minister of the hour, Winston Churchill, but with Britain facing an imminent German invasion he’s allied himself with some very dubious associates - Daleks serving tea! And being polite! And, oh yes, blasting the Germans back over the English Channel!
As soon as the Doctor and Amy arrive in Churchill's War Bunker in 1941 (the height of the Blitz) the sight of seeing Daleks gliding everywhere, apparently helping the war effort, causes immediate suspicions for the new Doctor. However a new mystery also arises when Amy doesn't recognize the Daleks, furthermore she never even recollects when the Earth was transported to another galaxy, or presumably (though not mentioned) the events at Canary Wharf. This isn't a Donna Noble “I just slept though it moment,” Amy has no recollection at all - really, no recollection - and that troubles the Doctor when the subject get mentions again at the end of the episode.
In between scenes at the Bunker and later up in the Dalek saucer, we get a reminder of how good the Mill’s effects are, with a superb recreation of London with barrage balloons and also emotional resonances pushing home the fact that this was a terrible time.
Just as we’re getting used to these sly undertakings of Doctor Bracewell’s “Ironclads,” the episode goes up a notch to reveal exactly what the Daleks are up to on their orbiting saucer - the only one to survive the "purge" when the rest of the Daleks went "ka-bloom" in “Journey's End.” You see, an “upgrade” is on the way. Out of the Progenitor, a horrified Matt Smith and us suddenly see, the next generation arrive! And I have to say I have slight mixed emotions about the new kids on the block. On one hand it’s great to see a more “modernistic retro take” on the classic design - now 47 years old; the multi colored eyestalks are something out of a 60’s 3D movie and the chucky chassis -thankfully retaining the “bobbles” and the “sink plunger/laser combo” echo previous re-fits, but what were the design team thinking about the color scheme!? After the new boys exterminate the old guard, because Daleks don’t like “imperfection,” in comes vivid Red, Blue and Yellow - and unless you happen to have your head struck up a Badoon’s bottom - no one over here would even think that they just happen to be the color motifs for our three main UK political parties - odd that!! I happen to like Liberal Democrat Dalek (yellow)...he’s as cool as Bumblebee in the Transformers movies - okay, maybe not that cool. Just out of curiosity if Daleks entered US politics - what would their colors be?
But what makes its story ultimately cool, apart from seeing Spitfires flying in formation attacking the saucer in space, in space!! - is something happens that gives this Dalek tale a niche all its own, and it’s not really hard to see the clue since the key word is in the title - yes folks, the Daleks actually win! That’s right they get the upper hand over the Timelord, giving the Doctor a moral choice to make: either allowing Earth to perish or letting them go, knowing that sooner or later they’ll be back. This a really good “twist the blade psychologically in the back” kind of win; one that they really revel in...and yes, just to keep this year’s arc ticking along, another “crack” turns up too, shown as the Tardis dematerializes. Which begs to answer: is the Tardis at fault? Or is it Amy Pond? Or the Doctor himself? Hmmm....
Matt Smith and Karen Gillan are really gelling together now. Amy’s not always taking note of the Doctor’s advice, for example, going up to a Dalek and actually asking it if its a bad ass has great guts and Matt gets physical, bashing a Dalek trying to find out what they’re up to, goading it, and then realizing that it was part of the Dalek’s plan all along. Kudos also to actor Ian McNeice who plays a very convincing Churchill - not only fleshing out the part but giving us all the familiar “Churchill” traits, the voice, mannerisms and trying several times to get the Tardis key and learn its secrets - just to help with the war effort you know.
Next week sees the return of the Weeping Angels, those quantum locked assassins who “kill you nicely”, voted the best monsters ever since the last “who’s the best monster ever” poll was ran - and oh, Professor River Song joins us for tea, too. Being a two-parter, I’ll be reviewing the episodes together so I’ll see you in two weeks! Hope you enjoyed the “Eleventh Hour” last night!!