Doctor Who S5, EP3 – “Victory of the Daleks”

I know, I know, I’m really late with this one. Sometimes, life gets in the way, and I, unlike The Doctor, don’t have a TARDIS that can take me to five minutes before I should have had this in. However, you should know that this will be the only Doctor Who review post this week. I’ve decided to discuss this weekend’s episode, “The Time of Angels,” and “Flesh and Stone,” which airs this coming Saturday  (9PM ET on BBC America) in one review since it’s a two-part story. Now, let’s get to those 64-Pack Crayola Daleks…

Time Lords are inherently douche-tastic. What’s more, they’re inherently ineffectual, because they have SO much power they very often choose to do nothing so as not to interfere with others. What’s wonderful about The Doctor is that he was the cool one, the smart one, the one who high-tailed it from Gallifrey in a stolen TARDIS while the getting was good, the one who seemed to know when to interfere and when to hang back. He did things. My biggest problem with “Victory of the Daleks” is a problem that began in “The Beast Below”: The Doctor has become ineffectual.

This episode, which is the first non-Moffat episode this series, penned by Mark Gatiss, finds The Doctor and Amy in London during The Blitz. Not only do they meet Winston Churchill, but they come face to face with The Doctor’s oldest and deadliest enemies—the Daleks. The really disturbing thing? The Daleks seem…nice.

First, the good bits. Ian McNeice as Winston Churchill was wonderfully human, despite playing such an iconic figure. Also great were the “Ironside” Daleks. Camouflage green is a very slimming look on a Dalek, and being offered tea in that voice is both hilarious and really creepy. The new Daleks are also creepy, despite their new Technicolor design. Watching the new Daleks exterminate the old Daleks for being inferior, and watching the old Daleks accept their fates was appropriately disturbing.

Lastly, as mentioned in my review of “The Beast Below,” having The Doctor teach Amy something and watching her apply that knowledge while making her own decisions is a great choice. At the end of this episode, when she sees what The Doctor is doing in getting the “scientist,” Bracewell, to talk about his feelings, she realizes that The Doctor is getting him to latch on to the weakest emotions he has. She takes The Doctor’s idea and improves upon it, because really, what do we tend to care about more? Our childhood home, or our greatest romantic love? It’s telling that that thought doesn’t even occur to The Doctor, and he continues to plumb the same incorrect depths until Amy steps in, giving up after only trying one tactic, assuming that his was the only correct solution. In a brief moment, we get to know a lot about The Doctor and Amy.

He isn’t supposed to be perfect. It’s understandable that, because of the often lonely life he leads, romantic love wouldn’t occur to him. It’s understandable that, with his powers over time and space, he would expect to know all the answers, and would become extremely frustrated by any of his limitations, or those of the people around him. I get all that. But the one thing it’s reasonable to expect The Doctor to always be is smart, and in this episode it was as though his intelligence and experience was written out.

The Daleks are his greatest enemy, and every time he’s come up against them, particularly in the new series, he’s gotten really irrational. Everyone has an Achilles’ Heel, and for The Doctor, the Daleks are it. I get that, too. However, Eleven is that much older than Nine and Ten. When he first sees the “Ironside” Daleks, other than their looking like Daleks, he has no reason to fly off the handle. Not immediately. So, instead of playing along to see if he can figure out what they’re up to, he beats a Dalek with a wrench, and gives them exactly what they want. Meanwhile, the moment a Dalek was revealed, my first thought was, “They brought him there somehow. They want him to do something.” I shouldn’t be outthinking The Doctor. Thinking along with The Doctor, sure. Being amazed by what The Doctor is able to figure out, definitely. But I shouldn’t have seen this coming. So, The Doctor gives them what they want—identification—which allows them to come back stronger than ever, and he proceeds to go on their ship to…stall? There are no wheels turning, save the ones that run his mouth, and while his talking himself out of trouble is usual for him, it’s usually accompanied by him considering his options; by him tricking his opponents into destroying themselves, or giving him what he needs to save the day. He sees the Progenitor, the urn that contains pure Dalek DNA, but never makes a move for it. Never even tries to get the Daleks out of the way to take a swipe at it, or destroy it somehow. All the while, Amy is below convincing Bracewell to use his Dalek knowledge to help defeat them. So The Doctor’s trip to the ship was entirely useless, and he pretty much just stands by and watches as the humans handle the situation. The Doctor is essentially a messenger in this episode, his only purpose being to warn the humans below that Bracewell is a bomb. Once that’s accomplished, however, it’s back to The Doctor allowing Amy to clean up his mess for him. It’s difficult to be emotionally invested in a Doctor who is this passive (and in a plot this full of holes—so, they just re-outfitted planes for space travel on the spot? Really?).

It was also difficult to be emotionally invested in the return of the Daleks at all. It was entirely too soon in the new series for a Dalek episode, and at this point it feels like they’re being shoved down our throats. The more we see them, the less build-up there can be. The less build-up there is, the less threatening they become as we become used to them. I hope we don’t see the Daleks again for a couple of years at least. Until then, I’m sure we’ll be seeing these new Daleks all over the place on t-shirts, key chains, as remote-control toys…


Teresa Jusino was born on the same day that Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. She is a contributor to PinkRaygun.com, a webzine examining geekery from a feminine perspective. Her work has also been seen on PopMatters.com, on the sadly-defunct literary site CentralBooking.com, edited by Kevin Smokler, and in the Elmont Life community newspaper. She is currently writing a web series for Pareidolia Films called The Pack, which is set to debut Fall 2010! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, Follow The Pack or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

30 Comments

Subscribe to this thread