Monday, May 3, 2010

Doctor Who, Series 5 - Episode 3: Victory of the Daleks



Answering the call from Winston Churchill, The Doctor arrives one month late. It seems Churchill originally wanted to have The Doctor inspect the new "Ironsides" weapon that one of the British scientists created - a robot with highly advanced weaponry. Now he is content to brag about the new devices which will enable them to win the war easily.

The Doctor is quick to identify the "Ironsides" as Daleks and will not let the subject drop, going as so far as to keep hitting one of the Daleks with a wrench until it confesses, all the while shouting that they are Daleks and he is The Doctor. This leads to the scientist who created the Ironsides being exposed as a Dalek-built android and the Daleks themselves having .. a cunning plan.

The Daleks uncovered a device containing pure Dalek DNA - these Daleks presumably being some of the ones left over from Journey's End who were made from Davros's DNA and thus not Pure Daleks. The device wouldn't recognize their request to start making new Daleks until they got conformation from an outside source (i.e. their worst enemy, The Doctor) identifying them as Daleks. Not that this stops the pure-bred Daleks from destroying the impure Daleks once they are cloned, mind you...

With The Daleks using a device to force the lights in London to stay on, making the whole city an inviting target for an approaching fleet of German bombers, it falls to Amy and Winston to persuade the Dalek android to make use of some other ideas he "had" and put them to work, enabling a squadron of Spitfires to enter orbit and do battle with the Dalek flying saucer, thus disabling the uber-light-switch.

They are successful, but the Daleks have one card left to play - a bomb capable of destroying the Earth built into the android. The Doctor lets the Daleks flee rather than risk the Earth but - naturally - the Daleks power on the bomb anyway. The Doctor tries to disarm the bomb by getting the android to recall memories of his human life but it is Amy who actually gets the bomb to shut down by making the android recall a woman he was in love with once.

The Doctor and Amy leave, with Winston cursing the Doctor's refusal to help them win the war and Amy's noticing his trying to pickpocket the TARDIS key. Still, he and The Doctor part as friends, Amy comments on The Doctor's ability to make enemies so easily and as the TARDIS fades out... we see another glowing crack in the wall...


The short version is that this episode raises a whole lot of questions and none of them are particularly nice ones or questions that can be neatly answered. The long version is... well...

1. Only The End Of The World Again - We all know it's inevitable that sooner or later, The Daleks WILL return somehow, so long as there is still a Doctor to fight them. Still, would it have hurt them to have waited a LITTLE while longer before bringing them back?

2. Why does Winston Churchill have The Doctor's phone number? - Given that The Doctor never saw fit to give that information to most of his old companions, it seems a bit unbelievable that he'd give it to someone that important - much less someone who is actively trying to get him to change the course of history.

3. Why doesn't Amy's outfit raise more eyebrows? - A leggy redhead in a denim mini-skirt is going to get a lot of attention today. I can't imagine what the response would be in a 1940s British military bunker. I wouldn't expect a lot of "Oh, I say!" talk and sputtering with tea being spit out in shock... but I'd expect at least some staring or a comment upon the "revealing garment".

4. The Dalek's Plan - Okay. So let's just ignore that the Daleks are back. Again. After having been destroyed for all time. Again. And that the one ship that survived just happened to wind up in the vicinity of Earth. Again.

Ignoring ALL of that, consider this. Their entire plan to get The Doctor's testimony that they are real Daleks depends upon...

a) The Doctor just happening along to World War II England.
b) The Doctor taking issue with the "Ironsides" on the grounds that they are Daleks and not that The British Forces using them in the first place because of the obvious anachronism this causes.
c) The Doctor declaring loudly, in front of them, that he is The Doctor and they are Daleks.

I can grant the third point since most of The Doctor's incarnations DO love to make speeches about why various people suck. And I'll even spot you the second point that The Doctor would attack the Dalek problem from the viewpoint of "worst enemy" rather than trying to convince Churchill that using this technology could damage the timeline. But actively taking part in a Terran conflict on the odd chance that The Doctor might show up... yeah.

5. So does this mean that Steve Jobs is Davros? - Apparently I wasn't the first one to comment on this but I did crack wise about this while watching the episode with my friends. The Daleks - much like Apple Computers - are now available in a wide variety of colors.


I realize that this is apparently meant to be a tribute to old Doctor Who movies with Peter Cushing and the Original Series tradition of a Dalek's casing color equating to what faction they were a part of or what their main function was. That doesn't stop a bright yellow Dalek from looking any less "off".

6. The Ator Factor - The title for this section may require some explanation if you aren't a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 or - more specifically - their screening of the movie Cave Dwellers.

Our hero is Ator - a fantasy hero who was half-Conan and half-MacGuvyer. The plot centers upon Ator being summoned by the daughter of his scientist mentor, to rescue her father from the warlord who holds him captive. The first two-thirds of the movie is pretty standard Beastmaster/Xena territory up until the part where Ator gets to his former mentor's home and needs to create a distraction. This leads to a scene where... well, thank goodness for YouTube, because I don't think I have the words to describe this.

Amusing, I hope you'll agree. But what does this have to do with Doctor Who and this episode in particular?

Because a barbarian suddenly building a working hang-glider and bombs with no resources is only slightly less ridiculous than the Dalek's android scientist...

a) building a working receiver that lets them listen-in on the Dalek's transmissions...
b) actualizing his sketched-out concepts for laser-cannons on Spitfires and a "gravity bubble" that can allow terrestrial aircraft to survive in outer space.
c) getting all of this built and installed on several planes
d) getting those planes into orbit where they can disable the Dalek device that is forcing all the lights in London on.
e) doing all of this in the less than ten minutes that they have before the incoming German bombers reach London.

It might have been fine if he'd said he was already working on this technology and it was all in the prototype phase. But they outright said that they didn't have any of this built yet when the news came in that the lights were on and The Germans were in the air.

And this is all ignoring how much take-off and prep-time you'd need to get a Spitfire ready and up in the air... even if you did have some kind of gravity-powered device that could presumably propel it way from the Earth safely at a faster than usual rate.

7. The Power Of Love Can Stop A Bomb - So The Daleks build themselves a realistic human android that believes it is a scientist who invented the Daleks. Fine. I can believe that. Very plausible.

And it turns out that this android has a doomsday device planted in him that will destroy the whole planet. I can believe that as well. That's a paranoid, plotting ahead, Dalekish thing to do.

And the doomsday device countdown can be dialed back and eventually reset by causing the robot to feel emotions.


This is a Dalek machine we're talking about. The Daleks are cold, mechanical killers without a speck of emotion in them. Well, apart from Hatred For Everything That Isn't A Dalek and Fear Of The Doctor, of course. It's inconceivable that they'd have the capacity to build a robot that can feel real emotions in the first place, much less that they'd allow for the capacity that the robot feeling emotions would alter how the doomsday device inside it functioned.

8. Amelia Pond - Defender of The Earth - It just occurred to me that since the first episode of this Season, Amy has done a lot more to save The Earth than The Doctor has. Last episode, it was Amy who realized that The Beast Below was sentient enough to protect children which led to her taking the actions that freed The Beast and prevented the destruction of the Great Britain spaceship. This episode, she is the one who realizes that shouting at a robot to feel something is a poor way to inspire emotion and it is she who started asking it about specific people rather than things it remembers as The Doctor does. Hell, she spots Winston Churchill attempting a bit of slight-of-hand that The Doctor misses when Sir Winston tries to steal the TARDIS Key.

9. Great Idea, Bad Execution. - In the end, I find myself more interested in how The Doctor met Winston Churchill the first time and how they became good friends than I was in this story. And when the idea behind a story is more interesting than the story itself, you have a serious problem.


* The actor playing Winston Churchill is brilliant in the part and picture-perfect to boot.

* The idea that Amy doesn't remember the Dalek's abduction of Earth (i.e. The Season Four finale Stolen Earth/Journey's End) is an intriguing bit of mystery.

* The Doctor bluffing the Daleks with a Jammy Dodger he claims is a weapon of mass destruction. Now THAT'S The Doctor we know and love in action!

* Amy continues to appeal more and more as a companion. In fact, she's in serious danger of eclipsing The Doctor as the main hero of the show. More on this in a bit.

* As much as I hated the ham-fisted way in which they were brought about... I do actually like the idea of how we now have some real Daleks again. Not the manipulated humanoid or Davros-cloned ones the Ninth and Tenth Doctor dealt with... but some REAL pure-bred Daleks.


At the end of the last episode, I thought he was a bit of a dick.

At the end of this episode, I thought he was a bit of a dick AND an idiot savant. And I'm not sure about the savant.

As I noted above, Amy has saved the day twice now by being a lot more emphatically aware than The Doctor. While this does fit in very nicely with my theory vis-à-vis his emotional state and thoughts while dying influencing the personality of his next incarnation, it does little to endear me to Matt Smith's take on The Doctor. Not when he's blundering into traps The Tenth Doctor would have seen from a mile away and not reacting in the least to some strange woman crying over bad news.

The Final Verdict: Oh look! The Daleks are back. Again. And nothing will ever be the same again. Again. The new Doctor continues to fail to impress, though Amy is growing on me as a companion. The idea of Winston Churchill meeting The Doctor proves to be far more interesting than his actually working with The Doctor this time. And a host of plot holes and big questions distract away from the novel concept when the plot proves to be too weak to hold our interest.


    Also.. I'd like a break from the crack already, one break. Its like.. oh end of episode there's the damn crack... which obiviously has to do with Amy's not knowing about a dalek.
    Yeah. Make it more infrequently and subtle, like Rose's appearances during Series Four.
    Honestly though despite issues with the new doctor, not everyone can just leap into the role as quick and as nimbly as nine and ten did, I'm still willing to let him grow into the role. I think he was screwed a bit as soon as he signed up for the gig.
    Yeah. I didn't envy whoever had to follow Tenant and.. well, it's obvious Smith is going through some pretty extensive growing pains.
    Still for all its faults, better than a lot of crap on tv.
    There is that. Bad Doctor Who is still better than a lot of things on TV these days.

  2. When they tuned into the transmission...was I the only one waiting for transvestite Transylvanians to show up?

  3. ...
    Excuse me. I need to add an entry for Dr. Frank N. Furter to the TVTropes _________ is a Time Lord list.