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.

votd1_watermark

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!

dalek

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!

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9 Responses

  1. Watch it last night after hearing lots of reports that it wasn’t very good.

    First off, compared to many episodes of the last few series, it was great. If Victory of the Darleks is the worst episode this season I will be very happy.

    But you are right about the time aspect. The whole pacing of the plot was wrong. The Spitfires seemed to appear from nowhere, making this slightly ludicrous (even for Dr Who) idea seemed like bad scripting. Also the girl in the control room should of been ditched or that side plot given a lot more time. As it was it again seem like bad scripting.

    However I really like Amy Pond plus her relationship with the Dr is like a grandfather and granddaughter.

    Don’t like the new chunky Darleks. The old design was better.

    All in all, a great plot wasted by a weak script / direction.
    .-= Chris Tregenza´s last blog ..A Great Day and A Great Playtest =-.

  2. Tourq says:

    I have yet to see a single Doctor Who. I don’t even know where to begin.

    Now, Stargate SG-1, I watched all ten seasons at work a couple of years ago, twice.

    -Tourq
    .-= Tourq´s last blog ..Gaming Tools, #4 =-.

  3. drow says:

    argh. i won’t get to see VotD until tonight. sounds awesome though. i loved seeing the spitfires in the season teasers.

  4. greywulf says:

    @Chris I think the Daleks are Retro for a reason, and a very good one. It all ties to those cracks in the wall. Like I said, I have my theories……

    The design of the new Daleks looks to me like a blend between the Mark I and Mark II Daleks from the 1960s. There’s more about the (many) Dalek variants here.

    @Tourq This new series is as good a place as any to start watching Doctor Who. I’m sure you’ll have many questions, but there’s no shortage of people to ask :D

    @Drow I look forward to hearing what you think of it!

  5. drow says:

    okay, and now i’ve watched it. in short, awesome.

    i like that the doctor gets an off-the-handle moment of mad rage at his ancient nemesis. i really like that amy pond is competent, and just finds things to do. KBO, indeed.

    we don’t see enough of ian mcneice over here (the last time, i think, was his baron harkonnen in dune… dear gawds, was that really ten years ago?), but his churchill is wonderful. it does make the single episode painfully short. i’d love to see more of him.

    the spitfires in space were ludicrous, and just as much fun as i’d hoped. i didn’t even mind them being put together in ten minutes, given who was putting them together. even the toys of the daleks can’t help but be brilliant.

    and the new daleks. love them. the colour scheme seems natural, an homage to the (older, purer) daleks of the 1960s films, and anything involving peter cushing makes me happy. the organic eye is lovely, very creepy. anyway, the lads at project dalek have something new to build.

    an eminently worthy entry into the dalek mythology.

  6. EltonJ says:

    I wonder if ThinkTank would be resurrected (not Torchwood, but ThinkTank). ;)
    .-= EltonJ´s last blog ..Steal this Superhero!!! =-.

  7. x-humed says:

    I’m loving the return to colour coded daleks again. To be honest that episode made me think about buying the Doctor Who RPG. I want to play that spitfire pilot that survived!
    Are we sure the ‘forgetting about the daleks’ thing isn’t just a lead into the next episode?

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