5.3 – “Victory Of The Daleks”
Called to Earth in 1940 by his old friend Winston Churchill, The Doctor is shocked to find Churchill’s new secret weapon (the “Ironsides”) to be a pair of Daleks. The Daleks claim to be servants who are there to help win the war against Hitler, but The Doctor is not convinced. Can it be true that Professor Bracewell has invented a machine that resembles and is as powerful as a Dalek? Or is there a more sinister plot underway?
Big, fat Opal Fruit Daleks; or the new Dalek paradigm? Contrived nonsense or a rip-roaring action adventure? Your attitude to “Victory Of The Daleks” may depend on how much daftness you can take but, when it’s served up so well, I can take a lot. Daleks in World War 2, The Doctor and Churchill, Spitfires in space, it’s a bunch of neat-sounding but contrived concepts like these chucked together in a story that could mean disaster but Gatiss’ script manages to make them plausible. And who couldn’t love Spitfires versus a Dalek saucer?
It’s a bold and successful move for Gatiss to reveal the mystery behind the “Ironsides” so quickly. This could have been a two-parter with the big reveal that they ARE Daleks being the cliff-hanger, but that would have just meant overcomplicating things or having to pad them out. Instead we get WW2 action swishing into Dalek deviousness, actioned-packed confrontation and emotional finale all in 45 minutes. The packed story is helped by an excellent supporting cast. Ian McNeice portrays Winnie as the character we like to think he was; a razor-sharp intelligence, egotistically aware of his abilities and on a great and good crusade against evil. Yes, he chews up the scenery, but that’s how we want Churchill to behave. His relationship with The Doctor is great, both are intelligent men with right on their side – how can they not be friends?
Bill Paterson’s Professor Bracewell is not put in the shadow by McNeice or Smith. Paterson is a fine actor and he brings all of it to play here. Bracewell’s reaction when he discovers that he is a machine is genuinely distressing. Karen Gillan produces the goods yet again. Her reaction on the top of the building, looking out across war-torn London with its bombed buildings and barrage balloons is great. As The Doctor points out, she’s looking at history and I find myself wondering if you can pause the frame and spot Captain Jack and Rose dangling from a distant barrage balloon…
If there is a bum note with the characters, then it’s The Doctor himself. Smith is great when he’s sparking off Churchill but when the Daleks turn up he just struts about angrily; he goes racing off to their ship without a clue, leaving it to Amy and the others to make a plan to fight back. As The Doctor is left to thrash about, Matt Smith ends up struggling at times. Gatiss wrote the script before Smith was cast and although there were obviously re-writes to capture the new Doctor’s mannerisms, it still seems to be a work in progress. His “Churchill, you BEAUTY” shout seems all too Tennant for my liking. Using a jammy dodger to fool the Daleks is more his style, but much of the time he just seems too damn angry. He’s not bad, just not quite right.
The Daleks, ably voice-acted by Nicholas Briggs, are as bad as we could want. Why are the Daleks such brilliant villains? They are frighteningly dangerous and their driving force is pure hatred – and they really kick into gear when they are shown to be devious, sneaky, double-crossing, malicious shitheads and Gatiss captures all of that right here. Of course it’s contrived that Churchill has Daleks as secret weapons – it’s contrived by the Daleks. The whole set-up is a trap and The Doctor walks right into it. For a large part of the action, the Daleks run rings around him. The Doctor fails to stop the old Daleks from creating the New Daleks. The Daleks neutralise The Doctor’s threat to destroy their ship by exposing London to Nazi attack, forcing him to call off the attack on their ship by activating the Oblivion bomb in the Bracewell android. They have it all worked out and The Doctor can only try to keep up. This is indeed the “Victory” of the Daleks. The new Dalek design has its detractors – the solid bronze war machines are replaced by big round blobs of colour. You can’t really imagine these with the mobility of their predecessors, and the bright colours in any other circumstance would just seem daft. Here though, intimidating in their ship, blasting the unworthy Daleks away and towering over The Doctor, they are effective and powerful.
If “Victory Of The Daleks” has problems, it is not so much with the episode itself, it’s more about what has followed – the new “paradigm” has never really gone anywhere. The Parliament of The Daleks in “Asylum Of The Daleks” is most definitely populated by the earlier bronze design with the new paradigm Daleks simply standing round the back. The other wee fault is Amy’s defusing of the Oblivion bomb with the power of love. At the time, I was fine with it – we were only 3 episodes into the new era and I was still sufficiently smitten by Amy. However, like other aspects of Smith’s tenure, the power of love became more effective in neutralising monstrous threats than reversing the polarity flow, and that’s NOT the Doctor Who that I know and love. We’ll let it go for now…
It loses a point for a rare, less than great performance by Matt Smith but otherwise it’s a cracker – nothing terribly deep going on here but all round (maybe a bit too round, ho ho) devious Daleks and Spitfires in space. Keep Buggering On, Doctor! A solid 8/10.
Written and edited by Richard Barnes