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April 22, 2010

Doctor Who - Victory of the Daleks

The third episode of Matt Smith's tenure as the Doctor is definitely the least of the three so far, as well as being the first one not written by Executive Producer Steven Moffat. "Victory of the Daleks," written by veteran Who scribe Mark Gatiss, is a rather straightforward story with some interesting set pieces and some dodgy effects (which I guess those who don't know any better think that describes Doctor Who to a tee). Also, the story itself doesn't hang together, and the "new" Daleks are rather silly-looking.

At the end of "The Beast Below," Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice) summoned the Doctor to come and help out with a problem. The Doctor and Amy (Karen Gillan) show up and are greeted by Churchill and some British soldiers. After the usual attempt by Churchill to get the TARDIS for himself (evidently it's a running joke between the Doctor and Churchill), the PM leads the Doctor and Amy up to the roof of the bunker as a German air raid is beginning. Suddenly, energy bursts erupt from behind the sandbags, destroying German planes like they were matchsticks! Professor Bracewell (Bill Paterson) introduces his latest invention, "Ironsides", that will win the war. But they're really Daleks! The Doctor must discover what his oldest enemies are up to, before the Earth itself is destroyed.

It's always neat to see a history period piece in Doctor Who, and "Victory of the Daleks" is no exception. However, there are a lot of little problems with the story that become more irritating than enjoyable.

First, Matt Smith is once again really good as the Doctor, though his performance isn't as good as it was in the first two episodes. His rage at the Daleks to try and get them to admit what their plan is just doesn't ring as true as his anger at the climax of "The Beast Below." His intensity during his confrontation with the Daleks seems more forced too. This is the first time where I actually said to myself "He doesn't have the gravitas to be the Doctor." Of course, shortly after that, he does something brilliant, re-establishing my belief in him. But too many scenes just didn't quite click.

Secondly, this story has been done before, way back near the beginning of the show! The first episode of the 2nd Doctor (Patrick Troughton) had a similar plot where the Daleks were pretending to be servants and only the Doctor knew that they had malevolent plans. That story had a bit more tension, though, as the people he was trying to convince had no idea who the Doctor was. They had no reason to trust him. This episode, he's friends with Churchill (and it will be nice if he eventually stops meeting people he already knows) and it's just Churchill's stubbornness that keeps the story moving forward. It's nowhere near as satisfying.

Finally, the CGI during the space battle is really ugly-looking. I know they don't have the greatest budget, but evidently they blew a lot of the season's budget on this episode. I wish it showed. Also, the "new" Daleks look like badly-designed Christmas tree lights. They're recognizable as Daleks, but they just didn't look menacing to me.

There were some good things about the episode, though. As I said, Matt Smith was good, though not great. Karen Gillan once again brought a sense of wonder to Amy that I greatly enjoyed (not to mention she's still extremely hot in that miniskirt). There were some great individual scenes, but the story is a muddled mess, full of inconsistencies, most of which I can't really talk about without spoiling the episode.

One thing I can address, though, is a worrying aspect that, hopefully, won't go anywhere. Amy mentions something about "fancying somebody you know you shouldn't" and looks at the Doctor when she says it. I had really hoped we'd heard the last of the companion loving the Doctor from afar. It was the worst aspect of David Tennant's era, and was the very cool thing about Donna's year with the Doctor. She was very close to him as a friend, but she had no interest in him whatsoever.

I really hope Moffat's not going there. C'mon, Steven. It's been done! And if that was put in totally by Gatiss, then Moffat should have had it removed.

Overall, "Victory of the Daleks" is a Dalek episode, with all the good and bad baggage that usually brings. It's no longer really an event to see them, and I wasn't too thrilled that there was a hint they'd be back this season. Haven't there been enough season finales involving the Daleks?

Next week: The Weeping Angels are back! As is one of Moffat's great character creations, River Song! I can't wait to see how Moffat explains that one.


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