This is really going to me more about the Daleks than this week’s episode of Doctor Who, but we’ll do both.
Victory of the Daleks is the Moffat-era reboot of the Daleks, and they desperately needed a reboot, but will this really be an improvement?
Winston Churchill calls the Doctor to the Cabinet War Rooms during the London Blitz to introduce his new secret weapon against the Nazi’s, the Daleks – although he doesn’t know them as Daleks, but instead as Ironsides, created by Prof. Bracewell.
The Doctor goes F-ing crazy to try to prove they’re nasty little alien Daleks and when he finally confronts them face-to-face proclaiming himself to be the Doctor and they to be the Daleks they get all happy and leave, but not before revealing that Bracewell is an android they created as a cover story, but he thinks he’s a real boy.
Back on the Dalek ship, they use the recording of the Doctor to prove they’re really Daleks and start the Progenitor device: A Dalek gene-bank to create a new army of Daleks. The Daleks threaten to destroy the Earth, the Doctor saves the Earth, but the Daleks escape.
This first non-Moffat story of the Moffat-era is entertaining, but ultimately empty. It’s nothing more than a vehicle to unleash the Daleks into the Who-universe once more. The Dalek plan seems nearly hare-brained, the plot device that says the genetically-imperfect Daleks can’t activate the Progenitor device is ridiculous to begin with (wouldn’t it be better if anyone could turn it on with the right passcode?) and the resolution of just having the Doctor admit they’re Daleks being good enough to overcome the lockout beggar’s belief.
Before I go on about the Daleks, let me take a moment to talk about the rest of the episode. Spitfires in space, fighting Daleks, yeah, Ok, that was fun. Winston Churchill, not much of a key player, looked a little fatter than I remember. Amy did a nice job, but then she’d brighten any scene she’s in. Prof. Bracewell as the misguided android did a nice job. (And he likes girls.)
But let’s go back to the Daleks.
Do you know what it takes to make a genuinely mediocre episode of Doctor Who? Answer: The Daleks.
Confined in their metal city on Skaro, in a claustrophobic setting, they were a credible threat. Unleashed on the universe, they’re a joke. I’m sure the writers of the original Doctor Who knew that. Just look at the Dalek stories starting in the Pertwee era. They are absolutely the most unconvincing villains ever created, but they’re popular with the punters and they just had to keep bringing them back. Even back then, their master plans were idiotic. Hollowing out the cores of planets, running their own funeral parlor, etc. The power of nostalgia overcomes people when thinking about the Daleks.
Then a funny thing happened, Russell T. Davies, an admittedly massively nostalgic fan of the original series, came along and he wanted his Daleks to be menacing – like he remembered them in the misty, poorly remembered corners of his mind. (Keep this in mind, They were never menacing, it’s just his memory failing.) So, during his reign, the Daleks were brilliant and massively powerful. One single Dalek could wipe out an entire city. They’re really, really dangerous.
Problem is, if they’re so smart, that might be able to learn and adapt and become peaceful, even productive members of the universe. Not to mention that, but, if they did take over the universe, what would they do with it? Really, they’ve got no good motivation, either. Can’t have that, let’s make them insane too! It doesn’t matter how dumb the idea, right up to and including destroying reality itself, they’re up for it. They’re crazy, the audience will buy anything they want to do.
No, we won’t.
The Daleks should never have been made so smart and all-powerful that they could destroy all of reality, no more than the Time Lords should have been made powerful enough to destroy all of time itself. When you get villains that big and powerful any plot you come up with just gets dumber and dumber and the resolution more insane.
The Daleks desperately needed a reboot (as do the Time Lords). Perhaps these new Daleks, unaware of what’s transpired, will be closer to the older Daleks. Big enough of a threat to take over whole planets, subjugate whole races of people, launch intergalactic wars. but not big enough to contemplate the total destruction of the fabric of reality. Let’s give the Doctor something I can believe he could defeat using his wits.
So with this story, let’s all wish on the first star we see tonight and send Stephen Moffat some psychic messages. If we can’t have “no Daleks, ever”, then at least let’s wish for “sensible Daleks.”
A lot of ire has been spreading across the ‘net regarding the look of the new Daleks. I can take it or leave it. Since they barely ever looked menacing, I don’t think the new ones are much of a departure. They’re bigger, they’re colorful, they’re still laughable.