Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

28 April, 2007

Sec's in the City



The Daleks return! Last week was "Daleks in Manhattan".

The handsome Lazlo is backstage with his dancing sweetie, Tallulah, as she prepares to go on for her performance. He gives her a white rose which she affixes to her outfit. It's showtime so Tallulah heads out leaving Lazlo alone. Hearing a sound, he starts poking around the room to find from where it came when he is attacked by a pig-man. This chimera has the body of a man and a porcine head with a very irate expression on its face. It lunges at him squealing mad.

Our heroes The Doctor and Martha land at the feet of the Statue of Liberty with the New York City skyline before them. The nearly-complete Empire State Building stands out. (And like one of Pavlov's dogs, I scanned the scene for the World Trade Center.) Martha finds a newspaper on a nearby bench which gives the date as November 1, 1930. The paper's headline reads "Hooverville Mystery Deepens". And so our intrepid investigators are off to Central Park where the Hooverville in question is located to find out what is happening there.

They arrive as a fight breaks out and is quickly broken up by Solomon, the de facto leader of the homeless folks who call the place home. The Doctor looks to him for information and it is revealed that people have been mysteriously disappearing at night. That Solomon is black as are others at the Hooverville is a great testament to Russell T. Davies. Add Martha into the mix and you can clearly see another aspect of the show that has changed dramatically with its new incarnation. I recently read an article in which Davies criticized another program for not having enough people of color in the cast. While Doctor Who is arguably still very white bread, non-whites (and women too) are being given much more prominent roles. Back in the 80s, you might see a black guy playing a guard or some such role but that was it.

The action shifts to an upper floor of the Empire State Building where Mr. Diagoras, a man of no humble sartorial taste, is unsuccessfully trying to persuade a foreman to hasten the completion of the building's mast. Upon refusing to do so, Diagoras lets the guy meet with his "master" whom is summoned via an elevator. When the doors open, Dalek Caan is there with two pig-men in tow. The foreman is taken away for "the final experiment". A short time later, Diagoras is at the Hooverville trying to recruit workers to clear a sewer tunnel that has collapsed. The Doctor, Martha, Solomon, and a young man, Frank, volunteer. The four of them now wander the sewers. The Doctor stumbles upon a green thing which resembles a jellyfish. Continuing, they reach the point where the collapse was supposed to have taken place but there's nothing wrong - with the sewers, at least. To the side, a lone pig-man sits quietly against a wall. As The Doctor tries to communicate with it, a large group of them appear which gets everyone running for their lives. The scenes in the sewers are perhaps not as dark and moody as similar ones in The X-Files, but, combined with the story taking place in the 1930s, there's a spooky, almost Lovecraftian bent here. Wandering around in the dark and encountering strange mutant creatures is be all-too familiar to Cthulhu fans.

Diagoras has found a crew to finish the mast. He informs them that they are to attach some oddly familiar metal plates to the base of the mast ASAP. The plates are from a Dalek – the lower bit with the gold spheres on it. Dalek Caan then engages Diagoras in a brief conversation in which the Judas to the human race finds out that the Daleks lost their planet in a war. Dalek Caan is almost envious as it gives the closest thing to an encomium that a Dalek can give to another species. It notes the ability of humans to survive and the rebuilding New York throughout time. Diagoras is then taken away to meet Dalek Sec (pictured above). Upon meeting Dalek Sec, it orders that Diagoras be held for use in The Final Experiment.

Back in the sewers, the gang of four find a manhole through which they can escape. Unfortunately, Frank is the last to ascend the ladder and is captured by the pig-men. Emerging from backstage in the theatre, they are greeted by Tallulah who is brandishing a pistol. She demands to know what happened to Lazlo. The Doctor gets her to calm down and she tells him how Lazlo has been missing a couple weeks. Solomon heads back to the Hooverville to let the others know what happened to Frank. Meanwhile The Doctor then begins to jury rig a device to analyze the DNA of the green thing he found below.

Back in the Dalek lair underneath the Empire State Building, Dalek Sec lectures his fellow pepperpots by saying that their race must evolve in order to survive despite Dalek ideology which holds that humans are inferior and several previous Doctor Who stories in which Daleks bleat about he purity of their race. Dalek Sec's case opens up to reveal the mutant Kaled within. Diagoras is thrust forward and is enveloped by one of Dalek Sec's tentacles which drags him into the case and shuts tightly.

Looking on from the wings of the stage, Martha watches Tallulah's dance routine when she spies a pig-man at the other end and gives chase. In another room, The Doctor has pieced together a contraption which identifies the creature's DNA as having come from Skaro. He then hastily tries to find Martha and only to discover that she's been captured by a pig-man. Going once more into the sewers, he cannot convince Tallulah to stay behind so she follows him. They stumble upon Lazlo whose transmogrification into a pig-man was not completed. Fully cognizant of his horrible fate, he agrees to help The Doctor.

Back in Mutant Central, Dalek Sec isn't doing too well as smoke cascades from underneath its black casing. Dalek Jast injects Sec with what is probably a final dose of catalyst.

Lazlo leads The Doctor and Tallulah to a group of captives, which includes Martha, who are being sorted out according to intelligence by Daleks Caan and Thay. They stick their plungers at the face of a specimen and thissomehow scans brainwaves. One wouldn't normally see a toilet plungers as being ominous but there's just something irksome about this scene. The Daleks were created back in the 1960s as a mirror image of the Nazis and seeing the captives here lined up is more than vaguely reminiscent of those lines of people in the concentration camps.

The Doctor and Lazlo convince Tallulah to go back to the theatre for her own safety. As the captives begin marching, The Doctor sneaks into line and soon enough the group is marched to the Dalek lab. They look on in horror as the Dalek evolution comes to fruition. Dalek Sec's casing opens to reveal this guy:



"I am a Human Dalek. I am your future..."

I believe that this is the first story that takes place in America in a long, long time. The English actors do entirely plausible American accents with Miranda Raison's Tallulah having a particularly grating and over the top New York accent ala Fran Drescher. A crew was sent to New York to shoot footage of the city for backgrounds and so many of the scenes, although CGI'd, feature the real deal.

The story will be continued today with "Evolution of the Daleks". Being a two-parter, the story is allowed to gradually unfold instead of revelations jumping out at us. And I was genuinely surprised to see the Daleks in a mode that's a bit less menacing than we're used to. They're in retreat as opposed to going around threatening everyone with extermination. The new series has really been kind to the Daleks in that they're no longer merely mindless automatons hellbent on destruction. True, they still seek to kill and subjugate, but they've been fleshed-out, so to speak. This story treads similar ground to that of "Dalek" from the first series with the fusion of Dalek with human DNA which creates a hybrid. In addition, that the Daleks fought the Timelords in the Time War means that Daleks in the new series are cognizant that they are the last of their kind and we get to see them contemplate this fate. When encountering the Daleks, The Doctor must confront his status as the last of the Timelords, the rest having been killed in the Time Wars. This gives writers the chance to dig into his psyche a bit more and to give nuance to the character who faces a vast chasm of loneliness being the last of his kind.

It seems unlikely that The Doctor is actually the last Timelord. The show has introduced rogue Gallifreyans before - witness the Meddling Monk, The Master, Rani, and Professor Chronotis. And remember the proclamation of The Face of Boe from the previous story, "Gridlock", in which he tells The Doctor he is not alone. As with the Bad Wolf thing in the first series, the season is building up for something big in the finale. The individual stories certainly stand on their own but each season has an arc to it with little clues being dropped along the way. Some characters return as well and all of these things combined leave hints at an even larger meta-story unfolding. This method of getting at something bigger over the course of a season is something that the classic series flirted with during the latter part of Sylvester McCoy's tenure as the 7th Doctor but it has really come to fruition with the new series.

|| Palmer, 9:20 AM

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