Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Andrew Gunn
“What does hate look like, Amy? It looks like a Dalek.”
(1) WHY IS VICTORY OF THE DALEKS DISAPPOINTING?
It’s a story of numerous missed opportunities. The situation is set up with some juicy characters, a fascinating situation, with heavy emphasis on 5th Doctor inspired no-one-takes-me-seriously attitude, and what amounts to an insidious trap for the Doctor. But everything moves so quickly that nothing in this situation is developed to any suitable degree. The background extras are given a few token character moments (such as the radio operator that mourns her young man’s loss), but nothing below the surface is scratched. Everyone seems to be either a glossy caricature or background cardboard.
Particularly lacking are Bill Paterson as Bracewell, and (surprisingly) Karen Gillan as Amy. The episode tries to give them an emotional link, but it’s barely believable. Not enough time or thought has been put into developing the relationship. We’re simply supposed to take their connecdtion at face value…and we shouldn’t have to do that.
The episode is all action, all set piece, all snapshots from an alternate reality, where this was a magnificent TWO part story. A more mature episode, where the relationships could develop and breathe with integrity…where the tension could be ramped up…where the stakes for both the Earth AND the Doctor could be given proper credibility and scope. It’s a comic strip in every sense of the word. It’s a writer’s chess board — putting the pieces of future Doctor-vs-Dalek conflicts into position…but it’s done with the skill level of a first grader’s game of checkers.
(2) WHY DOES VICTORY OF THE DALEKS “JUST” AVOID MY LOW BAR THRESHOLD?
In a previous post, I explained how I rate Evolution of the Daleks as the most disappointing episode of the series since Doctor Who’s return in 2005. I judge any disappointment by that base line: a tale full of great ambition, but ridiculous follow through.
But Victory of the Daleks nips above it by embracing the philosophy a certain non-fiction analysis of the series terms “the tartrazine effect”. Watching Victory of the Daleks is like eating a giant bag of Skittles: the taste is wonderful, the sugary buzz is fantastic…but a few hours later, you miss something more substantial and filling in your diet. Victory of the Daleks is exciting, funny, and never lets up…in spite of its post-binge emptiness.
It comes complete with new model Daleks that take the monsters right back to their beginnings as childhood monstrosities, a space battle that is so blatantly a rip off of both Star Wars AND The Dam Busters that you can’t help but cheer, and Matt Smith is still holding is own as the new Doctor. Meanwhile, Ian McNeice chews the scenery AND steals the scenes in a manner that would receive the real Churchill’s stamp of approval.
I watched this with twenty geeky teenagers. They were suitably taken aback by the Doctor’s intensity in attacking the Dalek, and loved his jammy dodger cookie bluff. They laughed and yelled appreciatively throughout the orbital dog fight. They immediately gave cute names to the new Daleks (take a guess which one they named “sherbert”). They had a blast for the entire 45 minute duration of the episode, and that’s all that mattered.
End result? It’s grade-A, 100% comic book comfort food. Incredibly superficial, but deliriously thrilling and fun. The ultimate turn-your-brain-off-and-enjoy episode. It pales in comparison to the first two episodes of the season, but it avoids crashing down to the basement by proving to be extremely watchable on repeat viewings…a claim Evolution of the Daleks can’t reciprocate.