Victory of the Daleks, a review
It’s not often that I write reviews of Doctor Who episodes – other people do it much better and more comprehensively than I ever could. I’m making an exception though for two reasons: first, this was a cracking episode which is being unfairly (and wrongly) slammed over on Twitter by folks who know nothing. And secondly, three episodes is enough to form an opinion of The Doctor and Amy Pond.
Insert obligatory warning about spoilers here.
But first, let’s start at the beginning.
The first episode of any new Doctor is bound to be tricky. There’s a new face to introduce, a new style and this time around, a new companion and new-look TARDIS too. The Eleventh Hour managed this brilliantly, and even managed to squeeze in a small but perfectly formed plotline as well. The Doctor is presented as eccentric, confident and (after David Tennant’s glorious introspective moping in the later episodes) very upbeat. Matt Smith’s Doctor reminds me oh-so-much of Patrick Troughton that I’m expecting him to pull out a penny-whistle any minute. I was sold on the very first episode.
Then there’s Amy Pond. Oh, Amy Pond. She’s sparky, sexy, clever, outspoken and every bit the equal to the Doctor when it comes to solving problems. We saw that especially in The Beast Below where Amy out-Doctor’s the Doctor, in style. Both in that episode and in Victory of the Daleks we see the contrast between Amy & The Doctor’s personalities. In both, The Doctor focused in the pain of life (wanting to end the Star Whale’s suffering, and to convince Bracewell of his humanity) whereas Amy saw the love in life, and used that. There’s a whole ying-yang thing going on between them, and this Wulf approves.
If Matt Smith’s Doctor is akin to Patrick Troughton’s portrayal then Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond is right up their with Lalla Ward’s Romana. This is a Companion who looks the Doctor straight in the eye, and beyond. They’re an utterly winning combination together. Best companion so far? Quite possibly.
I just wonder what will happen when (and if) she meets Captain Jack. Pregnancy, probably.
The first episode was “all-action and introduce the characters”. The second was “we can do nice and gentle too” with a mystery to solve. The Beast Below is good solid filler Doctor Who story which further developed the relationship between The Doctor and Amy, but did not a lot more. I like these more low key episodes as they’re always a prelude to something big.
And big, it was! Victory of the Daleks (see? I got there eventually!) is a cracking boys-own yarn about WWII, Churchill, Spitfires in Space (frickin’ Spitfires in Space, people! This is Dan Dare territory!), the Blackout and the bombing of London. Oh, and Daleks. Mustn’t forget those.
Anyone – anyone – who didn’t like this episode needs to watch it with a couple of kids by their side. I saw it for the second time with my boys and they were utterly sold on it, from start to finish. I swear there was no eye movement at all while they watch the screen. They cheered and whooped for joy when the Spitfires appeared. They ooh’d at the shiny new Daleks (I’ll come onto those in a mo’) and they laughed like crazy at the Doctor threatening to blow up the Daleks with a Jammy Dodger.
For them (and for me) this is Doctor Who at its finest.
Well ok, I have one criticism. It was too short. This story would have been much, much, better as a two-parter. It needed more room to breath than a mere hour allows. We needed more time to empathize with Professor Bracewell, more airtime showing The Doctor and Ian McNeice’s fantastic Churchill. I’d have liked a scene with Amy Pond and the gal who lost her beau over the Channel. End part one on a climax (say, just as the Daleks blackout all of London) with the ominous words of Churchill “It’s just a matter of time…..” and we’re all set for part two.
Talking of time, it’s ironic that for a show about time-travel, it rarely handles the passage of time very well at all. This isn’t just a fault of Victory of the Daleks, but is common to almost every episode in the latest incarnation of the show. The impression is that everything that happens in the hour we’re watching the show really does happen in just an hour, or thereabouts. That became especially apparent in this episode where Bracewell somehow manages to kit out a whole squadron of Spirfires to make them space-worthy in under ten minutes. How hard would it be to have said “The Nazis will strike again tomorrow night. We have only 24 hours!” and add in a scene of the Doctor and Amy bunked down in a shelter, giving Amy her first true impression of life in the Blitz. But no.
It’s not a major thing – indeed, my boys missed that plot drop entirely – but I would like to feel that the Doctor sticks around for more than just an hour at a time before moving on.
I’ve been watching some of the Doctor Who Classic Series (and so should you), and the more I do the more I think that Doctor Who is infinitely better when it’s split into four or six thirty minute episodes per story. That gives room for the story to really take shape with highs (climactic endings!) and lows (time for proper acting, people!) to help bring the stories to life. It’s easy enough to empathize with The Doctor and his Companions when they’re on screen most of the time, but we scarcely get time to feel anything more about the other characters in the stories.
Food for thought, anyhow.
Oh, and the new/old Purebreed multi-colour Daleks? I love ‘em! In the words of my eldest “Wow. They’re Eeeeeeevil!”. The Daleks are back, and on top! Gone are the Daleks learning to be human and/or using human DNA (much as we loved them). These are retro bright and shiny, and have utterly no soul. More!
Then there’s the final crack in the wall, and the ongoing story arc. I have my theories, and maybe I’ll share ‘em sometime. Let’s just say I don’t think we have quite seen the last of David Tennant.
Overall, I’d give Victory of the Daleks 9/10. Best new Who so far.
Next on Doctor Who: They’re back. Don’t blink!