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New Who 5.3: Victory of the Daleks

There were some good ideas in this week's Who. The basic idea of questioning the mythologisation of Churchill by asking whether there were any means he wouldn't happily have justified for the sake of his desired end was good - but it got rather overshadowed and forgotten once we learnt how the Daleks had fooled him. I think I would have liked to see him still considering a collaboration with them even after their true nature had become clear. It seemed for a while, too, as though this new Doctor might actually make the Daleks evil by assuming that they must be - but that vanished likewise as we discovered that they had a hidden agenda all along. And the basic premise of questioning what makes a 'real' human being through the character of Edwin Bracewell was good - but as rhube has pointed out, defusing the 'Oblivion Continuum' inside him by appealing to his emotions didn't really make any sense as it was presented, and needed to be glossed with a little more techno-babble. Something about his feelings of guilt and regret prompting the release of artificial hormones which interfered with the trigger mechanism would have done the job - but we didn't get it.

There were certainly plenty of fun ideas and cross-references. I loved the use of the jammy dodger as a weapon - definite echoes of Four threatening a guard with a 'deadly jelly baby' in The Face of Evil. I liked how the spitfire attack on the Dalek ship and Edwin Bracewell's lost hand and later black glove strongly recalled Star Wars. And it was fun to wonder whether Nine, Rose and Jack were out there somewhere amongst the barrage balloons. Except that thinking too much about that was probably a bad idea, because The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances was a much more profound and powerful story than this one. Even making the Doctor choose between destroying the Daleks forever and saving the Earth seemed to lack real impact - perhaps because we knew it was no real choice at all, and we'd seen it before in The Parting of the Ways anyway.

As for the use of a historical setting - it was OK, but I felt it ran into danger of using the Blitz as merely a setting that wasn't the present, and within which the threat of the Daleks could be raised and then overcome while the present day remained safe until a grander climax later in the season. There were a few attempts to explore the issues of the period, like portraying Churchill's desperation and the grief of the female staff officer who'd lost her sweetheart - but they felt pretty token to me. I think more time was needed to explore Churchill's aims and agendas, and to show the real everyday experiences of some of the more ordinary people around him, in order for it to achieve a deeper engagement with the period. It's a shame that Edwin Bracewell wasn't a real historical character - it would have been fun to play around with that, but maybe it would have appeared too irreverent? And I suppose it's reasonable enough to imagine that the events of the story were suppressed by Churchill under the official secrets act - hence the lack of any surviving records of it. But I think I'd have liked some in-script comment to that effect.

Meanwhile, Churchill himself could have used a lot more gravitas - he felt like a bumbling bank-manager, not Britain's greatest war-time prime minister. And the new Daleks? I like them from the front, but from the side they look like hunch-backs. I hope the new fixtures they have on their backs will turn out to have some plot significance later along the line - otherwise, it just seems pointless and ugly. Fundamentally, an episode which takes us into the war-time cabinet rooms and reintroduces the Daleks should feel rather more impactful than this one managed to. But maybe it was trying to do those two things at once in a single episode that was the problem? A two-parter might have done it better.

Anyway, there's that crack in the wall again. And it's obviously significant that Amy doesn't remember the events of The Stolen Earth / Journey's End. She clearly wasn't just scuba-diving this time. Has something been messing with her memory? Or the time-line? I'm still looking forward to finding out.

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Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
rhube
Apr. 17th, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC)
I loved the jammy dodger, too. Reminded me of Turlough's threatening of the people of Frontios with a hat-stand, but the deadly jelly baby is closer.

You're rigth about Churchill's stolen gravitas, too. Again, you have articulated better than I exactly why this episode was disappointing. I felt that the female staff officer's loss was too quickly mentioned and, hence, cheapened, too. You're right: 'an episode which takes us into the war-time cabinet rooms and reintroduces the Daleks should feel rather more impactful than this one managed to'. Exactly that. There's a lot that could have been done with this, and it feels like should have been done with this, if they were going to put this idea and setting into action.

Oh well.
strange_complex
Apr. 18th, 2010 11:19 am (UTC)
Ah, I haven't yet seen Turlough and the hat-stand, but I will get there! I'm really looking forward to meeting Turlough properly, actually. I've only seen him so far in Warriors of the Deep, which is obviously a pretty rubbish story in itself - but even in that context I thought he was a great character that I wanted to know more about.
rich_r
Apr. 18th, 2010 08:36 am (UTC)
Interesting that The Doctor's jacket and trousers would have fitted into 1940's London perfectly, but strange how there were no reactions to Amy showing rather a lot more leg than would be normally acceptable...

I did wonder if at some point there would be another 'reinvention of the Daleks' - they gained a bit more technology under RTD, and logically redesigning a shiny new version was on the cards. I do have to say that the colours remind me a lot of the 'Invasion of the Daleks' film though.

Still enjoying this series - apart from the title music. Doctor is good, Assistant is good, stories a little weak - but they often are at the start of a new series until they've set the characters up properly.
rhube
Apr. 18th, 2010 09:51 am (UTC)
I was also miffed that Amy changed into something clearly unacceptable for the era. A comment or two would have satisfied me, but alas...

And someone else who's not a fan of the new title music - yay! Perhaps I'm stuck in my ways, but the original title music was genius, and I loved all the other re-inventions. This version smothers the underlying theme, though, and that makes me sad.
strange_complex
Apr. 18th, 2010 11:32 am (UTC)
Hmm, I guess if Churchill has met the Doctor before, he's probably pretty used to him being accompanied by young ladies in strange clothing. But yes - it would have been nice if someone around him had at least raised an eyebrow.

As for the Daleks looking like the ones Peter Cushing faced - indeed! It raises all sorts of interesting possibilities along the lines of these Daleks actually being the ones in that film. And given that the game they're about to release is set in London in 1963, that could actually crop up as a possibility within the scenario of the game if they wanted to go there!

On your point of early stories being weak, I actually found myself looking through the third stories of earlier seasons last night, testing the theory that the third episode would normally be a weak one, after the first two have done the job of pulling viewers in. But I don't think that's entirely fair. Other third stories have been The Unquiet Dead, School Reunion, Gridlock and Planet of the Ood - and I know not everyone likes Gridlock, but most of those others are generally viewed as pretty solid episodes. Last night was probably weaker than any of them, I think.
hollyione
Apr. 18th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC)
You've summed up my feelings about the episode perfectly - it was almost blink and you'd miss the plot. Plus I thought the actor who played Churchill, was more like Churchill the nodding dog!
strange_complex
Apr. 18th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
Hehe - a pretty damning comparison! I think it didn't do last night's Churchill any favours to keep playing clips of the real Churchill in the Confidential afterwards, either. It just made it blindingly obvious how rubbish he was in comparison.
matgb
Apr. 19th, 2010 12:52 am (UTC)
The thing is, having seen him in stuff, he's a really good actor, was really please to see him cast, thought he'd do it well.

Think it was poorly directed, actors dialling in their stuff and/or hamming it up terribly. Got used to it in RTD era, was hoping it was gone, hope it's a blip.
mister_jack
Apr. 18th, 2010 06:10 pm (UTC)
And the basic premise of questioning what makes a 'real' human being through the character of Edwin Bracewell was good - but as [info]rhube has pointed out, defusing the 'Oblivion Continuum' inside him by appealing to his emotions didn't really make any sense as it was presented, and needed to be glossed with a little more techno-babble. Something about his feelings of guilt and regret prompting the release of artificial hormones which interfered with the trigger mechanism would have done the job - but we didn't get it.

Maybe thinking about Dorrabell (and not Amy at all, oh no) sent the energy needed, er, elsewhere...
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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