Week three of New Who, and for about fifteen minutes, I thought we were in for one of the greatest stories we’ve had since… well, since ever, really. Victory of the Daleks (BBC1, Sat), showed so much promise.
It was all going so well. Ian McNiece and Bill Paterson doing exactly what Doctor Who guest actors should, playing the lines deadly straight but with a twinkle in the eye. The Matt n’ Karen show continuing to sparkle, our two leads obviously relishing their work. Troughton-Daleks, being conniving, devious and – oddly enough – polite, keeping an eye on things while nobody was looking.
Things were ticking over wonderfully. Then Matt began to stumble over his dialogue. For the first time in three episodes he was less than convincing, with the faintest glimmer of a McCoy snarl during the angry moments. The Daleks revealed their grand scheme. Which erm, appeared to be to ditch one of the loveliest design jobs in British television, recreate themselves in the image of those Daleks that kids used to show off on Blue Peter and range themselves in a line which reminded this viewer of nothing so much as The Village People. S-K-A-R-O. Oh dear.
Things got sillier. The admittedly striking image of Spitfires-in-Space was everything I’d hoped it would be, but they got there so damn fast. Some serious whizz-for-atoms science applied, plot resolutions arrived at incredibly quickly as if someone had turned over ten pages of script by accident. A British War Cabinet that bats not a single eyelid between them when Paisley-Boy is revealed to be an android. An RAF that doesn’t greet their sudden appearance in outer space with blind panic, but instead is righteously gung-ho, as if this sort of thing happens all the time. A planet-cracking bomb, defused by love. If Russell T Davies had written this sort of thing, there would have been howls of protest.
I’m left feeling bewildered. What the hell was this story? It felt like the first half of a setup to something. I’m going to reserve judgement until the end of the season because I just can’t believe that we’ve lost the classic-design-Daleks in favour of a bunch of garishly painted Dapol replicas. There’s something Machiavellian at work here. Surely even Daleks wouldn’t just line themselves up to be sacrificed so easily? I mean, would you let yourself be gunned down just because your kid’s turned up looking like a novelty iPod?
At this stage in the season, the much vaunted fairy-tale feel seems to consist of “things happen, and they happen without any reason, and everyone takes it for granted, and we trundle merrily along without anyone asking, why?”
I’m laying my cards on the table here. I think that we’re not in the normal universe that Doctor Who operates in. That crack – it leads back into our time and space. The British War Cabinet, like the governing body of Spaceship UK last week, are far too sanguine and accepting of the incredible events that occur around them. Amy isn’t Amy. Quite apart from her eyes changing colour when she grew up, she doesn’t remember the events of Journey’s End (and Christ, I wish I didn’t either). She’s become sanguine about her new life incredibly quickly (give or take twelve years of thinking about it), in two stories since her introduction she’s been the only one who’s shown a lick of common sense, and that’s setting alarm bells ringing.
So there’s my prediction. We’re not in our normal space here, and all will be resolved in a gloriously satisfying manner by the end of the series. I hope. Because this episode, while full of lovely moments, hung together about as well as the old rock t-shirts in my wardrobe.
Great moments – despite Matt stumbling over his dialogue here and there, he was truly magnificent at points in this story. Standing-off the Dalek menace with nothing more than a Jammie Dodger. Then eating the damn thing when his bluff gets called. The helpless paroxysm of Cleese-esque rage when the Dalek turns up and is nice to him. The choking on the tea when he realises that not only has Churchill put one over on him, but Amy’s already spotted it. And best of all, setting about a Dalek with a gigantic monkey-wrench. Here’s a Doctor barely in control. He lets his emotions run away with him, he makes mistakes. He loses.
On the whole though, a story which gave considerably less than it promised. Here’s hoping I’m proven right and that it’ll all make sense in the wider context of the series. Perhaps in this world of box-set television, it’ll work as part of the greater whole. I hope so. Because on first viewing, it fell apart faster than Eleven’s Jammie Dodger did. And I’m still picking the crumbs out of the carpet.