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21 April 2010 @ 01:48 pm
Victory of the Daleks  
Like The Beast Below I thought Victory of the Daleks was very uneven, and uneven in a similar way, which is interesting since it comes from the pen of a different writer. However I also thought it was a bit clunky in places and its good bits were not as good as the good bits in The Beast Below. That said, I'm a little mystified by claims I've seen made elsewhere that it is the "worst 45 minutes of TV even seen". I don't think it represents even the worst episode of NuWho. That said, having read such opinions before I viewed it, I may have approached the story with sufficiently low expectations that I was pre-disposed to be pleased by almost anything that appeared competent, let alone bits that were thoughtful and interesting.

What strikes me most on thinking over this episode is how terribly static it is. It predominantly takes place on just three sets and with very little difficultly it could have been filmed back in 1963 (the spit-fires in gravity bubbles would have had to go, but since the meat of those scenes take place as a conversation over the radio with the Doctor that could have been made to work). Within the action taking place on those three sets the biggest special effect is the Dalek extermination effect, invented in 1963.

I commented last week that The Beast Below seemed to lose it's energy in the exposition scenes at the end. Victory of the Daleks had the same problem, very rapidly losing drive whenever we cut to the Doctor confronting the Daleks in their saucer. However it had the added problem that that set was visually extremely dull and the Daleks themselves are, frankly, a lot less interesting in dialogue heavy scenes than real humans. Many people have commented that they see echoes of Troughton in Smith's performance. I find that comparison very interesting, in particular that I don't think the Troughton Doctor would have confronted the Daleks like that. He'd have been hiding in plain sight behind a control console and deducing their plan from the over-heard conversation. That scene struck me very much as one that was written with the Tennant Doctor in mind and it didn't really work in the hands of Smith.

Up until the Doctor rushed off to the Dalek saucer, the story had been trundling along in a pretty promising fashion. I liked the set up and the little touches of set-dressing, like the WWII style poster promoting Daleks. The setting might have been recycling the basic premise of Power of the Daleks, but since that was broadcast in 1966 and was a good idea, I think a little recycling is forgiveable. Less forgiveable is recycling the Doctor's reaction to the Daleks from Dalek - although I do realise that at the lower end of Doctor Who's age range (8 year olds, I believe), even Dalek was transmitted an age ago. However I was intrigued by the notion I briefly entertained that, as NuWho has completely reinvented the Cyberman origin story, it was also going to reinvent the Dalek origin story with the Doctor actually responsible for their evolution from simple servants to inter-galactic menace. However, it was not to be.

The comparison to 1960s 'Who, and Power of the Daleks in particular, is interesting. Conventional wisdom states that much early Dr Who was padded and there is certainly a tendency to imply that a modern 45 minute episode can easily convey as much story as the traditional 100 minutes over 4 episodes. Power of the Daleks had space to tell a story in which the power struggles and factionalism of the humans surrounding the "new" Daleks contributed significantly to the success of the Dalek plan. Victory of the Daleks had no time for this, moving swiftly from basic scene setting, to the reveal of the Dalek plot to the dramatic resolution and in doing so it lost a lot of potential interest. Churchill was never really the threat he might have been to the Doctor's attempt to resolve the situation and, as a result, seemed a little wasted - colourful set dressing. The same was happening to the minor characters, like the woman who's husband/boyfriend is lost in the final scenes. Her concern never really contributed to the story at all, for it to be more than throwaway glibness about the horror of war, it needed to be feeding into Churchill's determination to use the Daleks, and hence his efforts to obstruct the Doctor. Somehow, that story, which I'm sure would have been there in better traditional Who stories just vanished in this. I do know Power had 6 episodes and hence three times the time that this story did, but I still think it makes an interesting comparison, especially in the light of the less adrenaline-junkie and more dialogue-based stories Moffat seems to be serving up. It is the frequent lack of supporting characters with their own distinct agendas that is one of the things I miss most about classic Who, in this new era.

Then, like with The Beast Below, we have an attempt to tie the plot climax and the emotional climax together. And... err... yes... that was a bit of a mess wasn't it? All the "think about being human" stuff did rather get pulled out of a hat, in the way Davies era stories tended to pull Dei ex Machina technobabble plot resolutions out of hats. You can see the shape of story they were aiming for, but here it didn't work. Again more space for character interaction, a bit more bickering among the humans in Churchill's bunker and between the various humans and the Doctor might have gone a long way to fix this, allowing the idea that Bracewell had some inherent humanity at war with his Dalek programming to be hinted at.

On more minor matters, I continue to like the way Amy is being written and used, as a bolshy, more humanised Doctor, but I am hoping that not all the stories will be constructed with an "Amy saves the day" moment. I don't like the new Daleks. I'm not going to harp on about betrayal of my childhood. I actually love the multiple colours, I've been a Who fan a long time, and so I guess I've absorbed some of that 1960s assumption that if you could see the Daleks in colour then they would be in bright primary ones. However I don't like the line. Daleks used to have quite a graceful aesthetic from dome to floor which is now rather blocky and brutalist and that sums up my feelings about this story. There is something rather elegant and graceful lurking around the fringes of Victory of the Daleks but what we got was, structurally speaking, a bit blocky and brutalist.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/4173.html.
fredbassettfredbassett on April 21st, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
I love reading your analysis, they're always so much more thoughtful than anything I could put together!

I liked the idea of Churchill using the daleks, and the 'battledress' daleks were great. I have always been a dalek-lover and the 'Samrties' version didn't bother me at all, as I remember being very chuffed when they did appear in colour for the first time on original Who. But oh boy did I want to throw a brick at the screen when Smith started channelling Tennant and throwing his usual dalek-related hissy fit. I just wanted to yell 'Bloody well grow up and get over yourself!' I think the daleks are so much more complex than just the Dr's arch-enemy.

I was brought up on a diet of old Dr Who annuals which often portrayed the daleks in quite a sympathetic light, including the odd occasion when the Dr actually worked with them, and I think I'm still influenced by that. So I hate it when the Dr we see now seems to throw a wobbly every time they appear.

I also thought Matt Smith was playing David Tennant in that ep, and not playing Dr Who, if you know what I mean. I still like Amy, but it will get old very fast if she pulls the rabbit out of the hat every bloody time.

I still think I've fallen out of love with the show, but I;d still like it to have the power to seduce me again. I can still remember watching the first ever episode, and I'd like that sense of awe back, although I suspect it's gone forever.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 21st, 2010 03:39 pm (UTC)
The Daleks are very interesting, especially if you account for all the Dr Who tie-in material. They've often been treated as allegories for Nazism/Fascism and I think maybe now there are so few members left of the generation who really experienced Nazism, the Daleks are searching about for something to represent instead. Racism seems to be the chosen target and maybe it's a reflection of the simplicity of the discussion around racism that the Daleks are reduced as a result to "Just BAD because".
daniel_saunders: Doctor Whodaniel_saunders on April 21st, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC)
Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways tried to reinvent the Daleks are religious fundamentalists, which was a potentially interesting idea (at least if handled well), but it never amounted to much more than a few throwaway lines.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2010 10:11 am (UTC)
You are right, I had forgotten that. I wonder if it's something of a dead end, this desire to make them "mean something" rather than to be something in their own right.
fredbassettfredbassett on April 21st, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
I suspect I'd be better sticking to my old annuals, but unfortunately I don't have them any more. BTW, am I the only person left who remembers the Mechanoids?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2010 10:12 am (UTC)
Probably not, though they are before my time. IIRC they were only used the once, despite being intended as recurring characters, because the costumes wouldn't fit through the doors at the studio.
(Deleted comment)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2010 10:14 am (UTC)
They go together, but are not the same thing. You can be racist without being fascist. I was thinking back to Remembrance in terms of the recasting as an allegory for racism, but I'm not sure they were explicitly nazi allegories until Genesis, I'd have to look it up, although I think Nation always intended them to be fascist and, of course, right back in the original story they motivation involves hatred for other sentient life-forms.
lukadreaminglukadreaming on April 21st, 2010 04:17 pm (UTC)
I thought there was an awful lot of tell, and not enough show. My ten-year-old nephew adored it, but then he loves the daleks. It certainly wasn't the worst ep I've seen, but I was pretty bored. It seemed curiously flat.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2010 10:16 am (UTC)
It was flat wasn't it. I think the set up was mostly very good but then it seemed to run out of steam a bit and I think that big empty set and the Smith having to act against Dalek costumes is the main problem - though the decision to have a big long-drawn out confrontation in the first place was probably ill-advised.
Bella: Ten - Blimey!bella_farfalla on April 21st, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
I just couldn't take the multicoloured Daleks seriously, they looked like Power Rangers!

I was quite disappointed by the episode in general.

But I'm very excited about next week, weeping angels and Riversong! If it isn't epic I'll be very disappointed.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2010 10:19 am (UTC)
I think there may be an old skool/new skool fan divide over the colours. As Fred says a lot of the Dalek tie-in material from the sixties considered them to be very colourful, e.g. this poster from the Dalek Movie:

Edited at 2010-04-22 10:20 am (UTC)
eve11: dw_dalek_rainboweve11 on April 21st, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC)
here from who_daily and now if anyone asks what I thought of the episode I'll just point them here, if you don't mind, because you stated my impressions much better than I did :)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2010 10:21 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm always curious if anyone ever comes over from who_daily - there's usually such a lot of stuff over there!
reggietatereggietate on April 21st, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed the whole thing quite a bit - including Prof Bracewell, but I don't think they should have reinvented the Daleks. The original design is entirely perfect, and doesn't need fiddling with, IMO. But most of it was great fun.

I've always thought the 45 minute format was a bit of a handicap to Who, which worked better as 4x25 minutes. There are ways to avoid padding if you know what you're doing.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2010 10:22 am (UTC)
It's very odd how constricting the 45 minute format seems to be, given plenty of US shows seem to manage multi-threaded plots and multiple antagonists within the same sort of time constraints.
joereavesjoereaves on April 21st, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
I quite liked most of the ep but I think you've summed up what was wrong for me and I couldn't put my finger on - it should have been two episodes.

Although the other thing that was wrong for me was it was daleks. Again. I like daleks, I do, but for the love of puppies *must* we have them every single season? It's up there with my dislike of 'oh look, we're on twentieth century earth. Again.'.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2010 10:25 am (UTC)
I did a post a couple of years back in which I lamented New Who's failure to come up with it's own recurring monsters and, because I'm geeky, this led to lots of charts and so forth covering the whole of Doctor Who.

In some ways it's never managed to invent anything really iconic since the Cybermen (three years after the Daleks). It's had periods where more (or fewer) recurring monsters are created or used and actually New Who doesn't look too shabby compared against anything except those first few years. However, interestly, classic Who's most successful run (early Tom Baker) neither created, nor used many recurring monsters at all. Most of the monsters there are created for the story they are in, and used only in that story, although a number of them are homages to classic horror monsters.
Gabbygabcd86 on April 22nd, 2010 10:31 pm (UTC)
Ugh, I didn't even read any reviews, and I was massively underwhelmed. Watching it fragmentedly on the webz almost certainly didn't help, but Jesus. From the start, I was frowning.

What the hell was Churchill? They just got a fat bloke, put him in a suit and gave him a cigar! I agree that he was completely wasted, he could have been a lot more interesting. The end was ludicrous, too. He gave the Doctor a hug. I mean, what? This is a pretty minor quibble, mind.

Hated the new Daleks. Starting to hate Daleks all round, to be honest. They've become extremely repetitive, and just so fucking played-out. They never fucking die. It's always the same "Oh noes! I killed you guys!". At least stop with the fucking charade of wiping them out every time, fuck.

As an aside, did you see they gave the soldier Daleks little utility belts? *g*

I thought the premise was a bit flawed, to be honest. Surely the War would be slightly different, seeing as they had fucking Rogue Squadron on their side. I mean, Jesus, didn't they actually say "I'm coming around for another attack run" at one point?

And yeah, there seemed to be no real plot. The Daleks kept pulling "Oh noes" moments out of nowhere, except one of them was utter bollocks. The lights. I mean, what? How is that something CATASTROPHIC. Sure, the Luftwaffe would have better aim, but, you know, London's fairly dense. It's all there, you just have to toss bombs on it.

I agree with ... *scrolls* ... luka. It was flat, bordering on boring at times. Oh, and the fucking Dalek fit, yeah. Agreed with Fred.

The positive: Amy in a sexy leather jacket and short skirt. *g* She's bloody gorgeous, I find myself vaguely in love. :P

PS: When you said "as a bolshy...", was it in the:

1) a Bolshevik, or someone accused of having Bolshevik (communist) leanings).

2) (more commonly) an adjective meaning that someone is very assertive in the pursuit of something and/or hostile to authoritarian manoeuvres by others. A bolshy person gets cross if confronted and is likely to say "what's it to you?", "mind your own business" and stuff like that a lot.

1 or 2? I'm assuming 2, but I can't help hoping you meant 1. Mind you, 2 doesn't even make sense as an adjective. The Bolsheviks were authoritarian - that was the problem. *shakes head*

*this was a bit epic. I find myself talking a lot when whinging. If only I could make them funny I'd be a stand-up/columnist.
Gabby: gabby/vickygabcd86 on April 22nd, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC)
Jesus, that really was long. Sorry. :P
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 23rd, 2010 08:06 am (UTC)
I meant 2 - Amy doesn't strike me a s Bolshevik in the making somehow!

I liked Churchill, I thought the dynamic with the Doctor was fun but I wish he'd been more of problem rather than set dressing.

Loved the Khaki daleks. I really think the set-up 10 minutes or so of this were very good. It just then appeared to lose narrative drive in some way.