Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

27 April, 2010

New & Improved Daleks: Now With 50% More Exterminating Power

Last week saw the return of the Daleks and their first appearance for Matt Smith as the 11th incarnation of The Doctor. I think that it was the first time since the first series of the new Who that the Daleks didn't warrant a two-parter.

At the end of "The Beast Below", The Doctor gets a call from Winston Churchill inviting him round to see his new toys and so this episode begins with the TARDIS materializing in the prime minister's war room. They briefly catch up on old times before Churchill takes The Doctor and Amy up to the roof in order to see England's new top weapon – the "Ironside" – in action against a German air raid. When The Doctor sees the squadron easily dispatched by a laser, he knows something is up. And when a Dalek emerges from the sandbag wall, he is positively perturbed.

These Daleks were supposedly designed and built by Professor Edwin Bracewell, a Scotsman. Personally, I found that one Dalek that was serving tea to be hilarious in a very tense way. I mean, come on – a Dalek holding a serving tray with its sucker is funny – but you know something isn't right and that they could start exterminating any minute. The Doctor goes about trying to prove to Churchill that these Daleks are evil and not servants of the Queen by mocking them and hitting one with a very large wrench. These attempts prove futile at provoking the desired reaction but saying "I am the Doctor and you are the Daleks!" does. They relay this info to the Dalek mothership and transport themselves there.

A mere handful of Daleks survived the big showdown a couple seasons ago and they are looking to make more of themselves. While they have a Progenator Device bursting with 100% pure evil concentrate Dalek DNA, the survivors are children of Davros and the device doesn't recognize them as being Daleks and, ergo, no progeny. However, the proclamation from their mortal enemy that they are, in fact, Daleks causes the device to kick in and start the production of a new race of Barney Bad-Ass killing machines. These are like the Panzer versions compared to the old Sherman tank ones. These new baddies will no doubt prove to be a good nemesis for The Doctor in future episodes.

This is all well and good but there were a couple elements that just didn't work for me. First was the bit with the modified Spitfires that flew into Earth orbit to take on the Dalek mothership. Bracewell is not all that he seems and he is able to take British fighter planes and couple them with Dalek technology in about the same amount of time it takes to boil water for tea. I found this really cheesy and a bit too much on the deus ex machine side of dramaturgy.

Secondly, at the end, the Daleks reveal that they have placed an oblivion continuum bomb inside of Bracewell. (He's a robot, you see.) The sonic screwdriver proves useless and The Doctor's only hope is to convince Bracewell that he is human by imploring him to go through all of his memories. (Shades of Blade Runner here.) This tack doesn't work but when Amy asks the robot if he had ever had feelings for someone he shouldn't have, the countdown mechanism reverses and disaster avoided. While I didn't find this scene as annoying as the whole Spitfires-in-space, it reminded me of a similar scene that I just don't like. And that one is in The Abyss where Bud brings the drowned Lindsey back to life by calling her a bitch and saying that she's never given up on anything in her life. Such pleadings just don't cut the mustard with me because they are easy ways to negate countless minutes of exposition. If all you have to do in order to save the world is ask someone a question, then why bother with anything else? I understand that this scene mirrors The Doctor's yelling at and banging on Daleks earlier but that was about trying to provoke our hero and merely a part of a larger plan while the here it is a last-ditch, last minute act of desperation.

Despite all this, I found "Victory of the Daleks" to be a lot of fun. The Daleks are always a hoot and great villains. Plus that scene with The Doctor alternately pondering and hitting the subservient Daleks was really intense. Would they start shooting or what? And we got to see the new & improved Daleks as well. Towards the end, Amy reveals that she has no memories of the Daleks when they invaded Earth back in series 4. We see one of those nasty cracks in time and space on the wall as the TARDIS dematerializes. Lastly, Ian McNeice does a bang-up job as Winston Churchill, playing it with all the bluster the part deserves. Overbearing, shrewd, and skeptical of The Doctor's claims, it was just a wonderful, over-the-top performance.

Now, if I could just bring myself to watch this past weekend's episode with those incredibly scary weeping angels…

|| Palmer, 2:52 PM


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