Tue
May 11 2010 5:41pm

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
David Goldfarb
1. David_Goldfarb
This episode intentionally paralleled some elements of the Second Doctor's first story, Power of the Daleks. That one featured Daleks on a future human colony planet, pretending to be servile so that they could trick the humans into building a Dalek factory. The Doctor unsuccessfully tried to convince the humans of what they were facing, while the Daleks said, "I am your servant."

I don't know if knowing that improves the episode for you or not, but I thought it worth mentioning.
Ian Tregillis
2. ITregillis
Teresa, I think you've identified what it was that bothered me about this episode. So far of the new season, I'm liking Amy a little more than the Doctor. She seems to have more on the ball, which is really cool for a companion, though not so great for the Doctor.

David_Goldfarb @ 1: Fascinating! And, wow, good catch.
Teresa Jusino
3. TeresaJusino
@David_Goldfarb - that IS a really cool fact. However, it doesn't really change my opinion of the episode. In fact, it might make me think not only a little less of this episode, but it kinda makes me not want to go back and watch Power of the Daleks, even though I really, really like Troughton. Current episodes can reference older stuff, sure, but they should stand on their own, and not be dependent on decades of knowledge to be effective or enjoyable.

@ITregillis - Seriously! I shouldn't be looking at The Doctor thinking of him as "The Girlfriend." :)
Rob Hansen
4. RobHansen
It would be great to have the option of going back and watching 'Power of the Daleks' but, alas, that's one of the stories that no longer exists. I watched it when it was originally broadcast and retain some moemories of it, but the only way you can experience it these days is as a reconstruction - ie. audio track plus surviving stills, plus a couple of short surving clips.
Iain Coleman
5. Iain_Coleman
This episode intentionally paralleled some elements of the Second Doctor's first story, Power of the Daleks.

Thats... a very generous way of putting it. I would take a slightly different point of view, in that all the best bits in this story were ripped out of Power of the Daleks and put to much less effective use.
mark-p
6. mark-p
I thought this episode was rather rubbish. It seemed like the writers thought up a couple of ideas they liked and a few special effects, but then didn't spend any time on making the story work or think about how to link their ideas and just relied on the standard answer to any Dr. Who problem.
The next two episodes are much better and quite good on the whole. Maybe all the stories should be two parters (or more) to give the more time for events to develop.

Terry Prattchet perfectly sums up my opinion of Doctor Who in this blog on sfx especially the bits about deus ex machina and it being entertaining (except maybe this episode)
Jason Henninger
7. jasonhenninger
Yeah. There was a whole lot wrong with this one. The RAF suddenly becoming space pilots was crazy, in a bad way. I'm all for crazy in a good way, when it comes to Doctor Who. Crazy in a bad way just means weak writing.

I wish it could have gone a season without daleks. Then, when they came back, we'd all be "oooh, daleks!" instead of "what, already?"
Alex Brown
8. AlexBrown
Let the great Twitter war continue! ;)

Eleven had EVERY reason to freak the frak out about the Daleks hanging out in WWII London. For one, they aren't supposed to be there. Capt. Jack, yeah, but the Daleks? No way in hell. And he just killed the Daleks. Again. And Amy has absolutely no clue who the Daleks are, which is really distressing since she should very well remember them.

And I think that's why I was still annoyed with her at this point (after the 2nd of the 2 parter I liker her much better). Yes, I get it, she's got trust issues. But she's trusted him enough to move in with him and go putzing around the space-time continuum so if the Doctor says Daleks are evil sociopaths than Amy should shut her frakking mouth and believe him and help him do something about it. And, in the end, she only helps him do the right thing because she stumbles upon a nice, happy answer. If she were cleverer she might have figured it out sooner. That being said, I'm still not entirely sure how making him remember some non-existent girlfriend defused him, but I also don't get how a 2-sided Smiler can have 3 faces and it doesn't bother me all that much so I'll let it slide. She's still too much in like with the Doctor to really get out on her own and do something of her own that isn't reckless and stupid.

And there's that frakking crack again. Davies was much better at Easter egging the "Bad Wolf" concept (heck, I got Blaidd Drwg tattooed on me, he was so good at it), and even dropping hints of Rose long after she left (see: the Rose drawing in the little girl's house during the first River ep). He even had "Vote Saxon" show up in Torchwood. This is getting really obvious and repetitive.

jasonhenninger @ 7: I agree. I'd much rather see a 2 part Dalek ep toward the end of the series or as the beginning to the next one (after Neil Gaiman's of course) and only 1 ep of the increasingly grating River Song (I swear, the younger she gets the more I just want to smack her) than what Moffat's giving us now.
mark-p
9. illukar
I am mostways liking the new incarnation of the Doctor, but he's suffering from "Strong Woman Syndrome". Not from strong women, but from writers who think that the only way to introduce a strong woman into a plot is to cut down a usually strong man. So rather than have the man run at his usual capacity and bring the woman up to match him (something done brilliantly with Donna), the current season is having the Doctor run at quarter strength in order to make both Amy and River Song seem stronger.

It works better with Amy because she's likeable in other ways, but I'd rather see the Doctor running at at least 75%.

The weak scripts of this season are unfortunate (and I agree with Milo1313 that they are ruining the 'cracks' situation by the long, dull pan in to them rather than giving us a chance to spot one circumstantially).
mark-p
10. NancyM
After the last few seasons where each reappearance of the Daleks has required a new design (Oooh, now we have a black one! Oooh, look, see, now we have a bronze one!) my first thought when the daleks appeared in a rainbow of colours was "Ah, now they are just f**king with us".

The dalek saying "would you care for a cup of tea" was properly creepy though.
mark-p
11. wandering-dreamer
Don't mean to cut Amy down but isn't the second episode in a row (and out of only three she's been in) where she manages to outsmart the Doctor? It's like eleven lost some common sense during the regeneration and Amy seems a bit like a desu ex machina herself. Just happening to understand other's emotions better than the Doctor every time it's important, that could be a really sneaky plot thing to work in (unlike the crack, ugh, if friend's hadn't warned me about Bad Wolf I would have never noticed it but here it's like being whacked with a wrench) but I doubt it.
I did like the "YOU-DO-NOT-REQUIRE-TEA?" line though, made me crack up.
Ursula L
12. Ursula
I don't have a way to see the latest episodes, but I'm wondering if there is any tie-in to the genocide-angst that the Doctor had with Nine and Ten.

Nine started out with a heavy load of guilt for his involvement in the destruction of the Daleks and the Time Lords. He coped with that with the mental fiction that the Daleks had to go, and the Time Lords went down fighting the Daleks.

When the Daleks return, he was shaken by the idea that the Time Lords went down for nothing - he was still relying on that mental fiction. And he had to come to grips with his genocide of the Daleks, and reaffirm his commitment to destroying them.

Then, when Ten died, the Time Lords came back, and the Doctor had to admit that they didn't just get destroyed fighting the Daleks, but that he destroyed the Time Lords for what they had become. A second genocide, that he'd been in denial over, and hidden with the first genocide.

And the Doctor had to come to grips with that genocide, and reaffirm it, acting in a second genocide of the same people.

The Dalek genocide was a cover for the Time Lord genocide, and the Time Lord genocide was justified by what they became trying to stop the Daleks.

Now that the Doctor has had to confront his actions against the Time Lords directly, without the cover that they were destroyed by the Daleks, he ought to be struggling, again, with what he did to the Daleks.

After all, if the Doctor accepts responsibility for the Time Lord genocide, as something that needed to be done because of what the Time Lords were, then it undermines his justification for the Dalek genocide.

***

Can a person recover from having committed, or been involved in, genocide? What does it mean for a show to have the protagonist be someone who has committed genocide, yet still be sympathetic? Particularly when that person remains committed to the necessity of the genocide they carried out?

This is the first time the Doctor has confronted Daleks since he was forced to grapple with his actions in the Time Lord genocide.

This is SF in Bujold's sense, or it should be. Fantasy grappling with issues of political agency.
Alex Brown
13. AlexBrown
wandering-dreamer @ 11: I disagree. I don't think Amy outsmarted the Doctor, she just kept blundering into nice, happy, unicorns and puppies answers against the Doctor's more logical and less rosy answers. She didn't come up with them herself, she just saw what the Doctor did and did the exact same thing, only her version is prettier. And the Doctor's is more just and less pretty for the exact same reasons Ursula @ 12 mentioned. He's not really feeling the whole "let's hug it out" thing, and I think Amy only does that stuff because she can't really do anything else. Yet. I think she improves greatly (read: at the end of the 2 parter).
James Butterfield
14. jimmyb
I think the crayola daleks are just there to lull us into a false sense of security to make it feel like they aren't as sinister any more or something and then at the end of the series they will unleash dalek storm on us...

...oh, and as for this episode, spitfires in space??? that's just wrong. The next two episodes make up for it though.
Abdel Masdoua
15. TheDarkOne
About this, I think Ursula is making a very good point, which is exactly what I wanted to say.

Furthermore, there is the fact that you have to put this episode in prospective, meaning that in the specials, particularly Waters of Mars, the Doctor had to face a very difficult and distressing situation where he was supposed to let Bowie Base One's personnel(so great a name BTW!) to die.

But instead he takes action and, as he says it, he goes too far. Maybe that's one of the reasons for you feeling that he seems kinda passive.

Just a thought...
Ursula L
17. Ursula
About this, I think Ursula is making a very good point, which is exactly what I wanted to say.

Thank you!

However, my point is more a question than a point.

Given the genocide backstory for the Doctor, then the next confrontation with the Daleks (or, hypothetically, the Time Lords) should properly involve the next step of character development in terms of the psychological effects of committing genocide.

So my question is, did this happen? From what I've read, it doesn't sound as if it did. But the recaps I've read haven't brought up the issue of the Doctor's genocidal nature at all, so it is possible that even if it was addressed, folks didn't notice because they weren't thinking about the Doctor's interactions with the Daleks in terms of one who committed genocide and the survivors of attempted genocide.
Andrew Gray
18. madogvelkor
I think the biggest point of this episode is that Amy doesn't recognize the Daleks. Which means something has happened to history that the Doctor isn't aware of -- part of his personal history as well.

It makes me wonder what other events from the past two Doctors haven't happened for anyone but the Doctor....
Paul McCall
19. PaulMcCall
I think the Daleks have been brought in too soon and too often in all the new Doctors since the series was restarted.
I was uncertain about Matt Smith when he was just stills seen on the internet. I thought he was too young. But seeing him act his version of the Doctor has eased my fears. He actually looks alien to me the way his face is constructed! And while he looks youngish he acts more like the older numbers 1, 2 & 3.
He and Amy do talk awfully fast though so I'm missing a lot of dialogue. I'm getting the episodes off iTunes and I don't think they have a close-caption option.
Ian Tregillis
20. ITregillis
Can we call the new Daleks iDaleks?

Great, now I have orange juice in my sinuses. But, searing pain notwithstanding, they will now forever be iDaleks in my mind.

I'm waiting for the second-gen iDalek, btw.
mark-p
21. Brian2
Absolutely agreed that a passive, ineffectual Doctor would not be a good thing, and that it's extremely irritating when a character like the Doctor is reduced to make a secondary character look stronger. (Or when male figures are made less to make female figures look stronger, or the reverse, which is the much more common variant.)

However, I do think it's a bit early to start identifying trends. So far there have been four episodes aired in the US, three if you count only the complete stories. In the first the Doctor isn't passive. I don't think he is in the second, either, though opinions may differ. The third just seems to be a complete aberration, start to finish, and I don't think anything can be concluded from it. I seem to recall reading that it was actually mandated in order to sell new kinds of Dalek action figures.

People in the UK who have seen more of the series have suggested that Moffat front-loaded it with weak episodes in order to make the rest of the episodes look better. In any case, given Moffat's record, I can well believe the rest of the series is going to be much better, and it seems best to postpone judgment.

As for the Daleks, yeah, pretty boring, aren't they? It was a bit disappointing when Davies gave them a leading role in the Time War. (Which apparently began with the Time Lords' intervention in "Genesis of the Daleks," speaking of the Doctor and genocide.)

ITregillis, if you've written a novel called "Bitter Seeds," I hope there's more on the way. Great stuff.
Alex Brown
22. AlexBrown
Ursula @ 17: I'm worried about the same thing. Why doesn't Amy (or anyone else for that matter) remember all the alien invasions? I won't comment on my suspicions as to why I think they don't so as to not spoil those on the American schedule, but you should see the crazy speculations my friends and I have been arguing over on my Facebook page. It's like the battle we had over whether or not Buffy was really dead during the summer after Season 5. Blood is being spilled.

ITregillis @ 20: I concur with Brian2 @ 21. Haven't been able to put it down...every other page is dogearred :)
mark-p
23. a-j
I loved this episode. It was fun, entertaining and it finally got out of the 'daleks now extinct oh look here they are again how did that happen' loop that cursed Dr Who since its relaunch. The space going spitfires were scientifically ridiculous, but after the po-faced final Tenant episodes this was a glorious return to the days when Dr Who could be exuberant. Khaki daleks carrying box files helpfully, great. idaleks (agreed, brilliant description) not so sure about, don't mind the colouring it's the bulky boxy-ness of them I'm unsure of. The primary colours are a nod to the Dalek films of the '60s according to Moffat (as is the Tardis re-design apparently). And as Moffat also commented, as adults we may think the daleks returned to soon, but a year is a very long time for a child, and the daleks have been away for two years.
As to Amy not remembering, I think this might be Moffat re-engineering Dr Who away from some of RTD's messianic interpretation of the character.
Btw, another link to the Troughton story 'Power of the Daleks' is that it was Troughton's first Dr Who story and one of the companions, Ben, was highly suspicious that this new body was in fact the Doctor. He is convinced when the daleks immediately recognise the doctor despite the different. face. So nice touch that first the daleks claim not to recognise him and then use his recognition as proof as to who they are.
Ian Tregillis
24. ITregillis
Ursula @ 12: Very interesting. I had to reread this thread to get what you're saying (asking), and it made me realize I hadn't really been following the chain of developments (revelations?) in the Time War backstory. (Or, at the very least, you make a compelling case.) I now realize I have no idea what actually happened during the Time War. :-)

madogvelkor @ 18: Yep.

a-j @ 23: Man, you people have incredible memories for old Dr. Who stories. Very interesting comparison, though. I have always liked that the resurrected show has been so aware and respectful of its roots. But it shouldn't be slavish.

(Brian2 @ 21, Milo1313 @ 22: Thanks! The next is out in February.)
Alex Brown
25. AlexBrown
ITregillis @ 24: To make it even more confusing, the whole Time War concept is actually different than the original Time Lord mythology created by the First Doctor. He was just a punk who stole a TARDIS and decided to sit and be grouchy in an English junk yard with his granddaughter. The Time Lords weren't dead yet (or then, or maybe they were already, who knows, the whole wibbly-wobbley-timey-wimey thing confuses even me...).

And yay! February countdown starts now :)
Ursula L
26. Ursula
I now realize I have no idea what actually happened during the Time War. :-)

If you can catch the last special with Ten, most of what I'm talking about is there (you can usually pick it up, in parts, on YouTube.) In particular, pay attention to what the Doctor says about how the Time War changed the Time Lords, and what the leaders of the Time Lords have to say about what the Doctor is doing to them.
mark-p
27. zenspinner
I agree with just about all these points...and yet, crayola daleks and all, this was just about my son's favorite episode ever (he's 11; been a Doctor Who fan since he was six). He watched it three times last weekend right in a row and he's never done that before. It must have spoken to him on the right level.

Of course, the running joke now is that they send the red dalek in first, and if he survives, the rest can go in. (Had to explain that one to my son but once he knew about redshirts he thought it was hysterical.)
mark-p
28. Last Hussar
I'm with Ursula. Dr has been showing problems ever since the one where the Daleks first re-appeared in that museum. Ecclestone in close up, and the Dalek behind him said they were alike- both the last of their race. Imagine everyone you knew dieing- freinds, family, work collegues. Doesn't matter what you do to rebuild that is still there. Now imagine knowing YOU did it for the greater good, and those people you meet now are the reason you are lonely.

Of course he lost it - they are everything he is not, and wish to wipe out everything that isn't them. Every one else does it for a reason- faulty logic for cybemen (a more perfect model), or just plain Take over the Galaxy for most, or the occasional whoops (Agatha Christie episode, and the Dr Lazarus one). And no matter what he does, they pop up again.

Using the Daleks advances the plot arc- Amy DOESN'T RECOGNISE THEM. What other opponent should have anything like that level of recognition? Only the cybermen are the only others who were seen by enough people.

BTW Spitfires in space. They were writing for me not you. Me is a middle age Brit bloke. When I grew up I didn't have WW2 as a painful memory, but rather something we still fought in the playground at break, in the 70's, backed up by regular weekend warmovies and Commando! comic books. The Spitfire is the all time iconic warmachine. It is The Plane That Saved Britain, the finest aircraft ever built etc etc.

So a middle aged bloke writing a show that other middle aged blokes had watched as kid puts in SPITFIRES IN SPACE. That is seriously COOL. It is the GREATEST THING EVER. Trust me on this (especially if you are under 30, female and American)
mark-p
29. a-j
Last Hussar@28
Absolutely. Spitfires in space. How cool is that? Answer, extremely.
Mark Gatiss certainly seems to like spitfires. One plays a role in a Dr Who novel he wrote in the '90s.
Greg Morrow
30. gpmorrow
Amy is not a normal girl; I'm currently working the pet theory that, in fact, she fell out of the crack, and that's why she has no parents and we've never seen her "aunt".

I think that line of story is distracting Moffat from putting Doctor 11 at peak performance; I think he's trying to make sure we have enough positive Amy that there will be legitimate stakes for the end-of-season crisis.

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