The Problems with "The Victory of the Daleks" (Eleventh Doctor, s5e03)

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Summary: After thinking about it for a few days, I have come to a conclusion about what I felt was wrong with the recent Doctor Who Episode: "The Victory of the Daleks". Ironically, I think it was a matter of timing.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

(12:50:40 CDT)

The Problems with "The Victory of the Daleks" (Eleventh Doctor, s5e03)

I had nothing but good things to say about "The Eleventh Hour": the opening episode for the Eleventh Doctor. Though I did not right up a review of the second episode—"The Beast Below"—I was less thrilled with it overall, but understanding Moffat's plan to give a little of a fresh start lead-in for new watchers, I was ok with it. The ending ended up being something of a trap, a narrative device to show all horrible things are not that horrible, that all non-horrible things are not all that non-horrible, and that hot red-headed women actually have more merits than pretty eyes. The ending was more lovey-dovey and cute than reasonable, but it kind of worked as far as re-introducing the two primary facts of the Doctor: he is this big sweet-heart is who also a member of an arrogant, occasionally violent (on the scale of destroying star-systems) race. The ostensibly last member, though plot twists are the thing of screenwriters. However, the drop in quality I perceived from the first episode to the second was again carried over from the second to the third. Hmm.

Without going into great big details on the episode, I will try and sum it up. The Doctor is called by Winston Churchill (some sort of bat-phone, apparently) to come investigate something called "the iron-sides". Which are Daleks dressed up in green with a little British flag on their forehead. As far as Dalek designs go, I dig it, actually. I would be ok if someone, anyone, was to track down that toy to add to my Dalek collection. Back to the ep... They meet an engineer named Blakewell who "created" these Daleks, and the next twenty minutes is basically the Doctor shouting "But, their Daleks!" and everyone, including someone who should have been around for "The Journey's End" storyline having no idea what this means. The final twenty minutes is the explanation of what they are up to, and the Doctor not so much running around and standing and listening, and stuff happens. While one obvious problem is the derivativeness of the episode, the bigger problem is something that is almost intangible. It does not fit together. Oh, it fits together enough to work as episode, and the ending works to sort of free the Daleks from the pit that was dug for them over the Russel T. Davies years; but the overall flavor just does not congeal. After thinking about it for a couple of days, it occurred to me that there simply was not enough time.

Exposing that there is a master plan only takes about eight minutes after the Daleks come on screen, and it is explained something like five or six minutes later. Of the forty-two minutes of the episode, what could be thought of acts one through four are done before the half way point. The fifth act, the "come back" act, is stretched out for the remaining twenty-four minutes. Not unexpectedly, it sort of has its own act structure with yet-another-challenge being posited, requiring a hasty response: the Spitfires in space you see in the trailer. It should be known, though, that as cool as that scene is, it is left no time to breathe or to even make a whole lot of sense in the amount given it in the show. Had this been a two-parter, that could have been hours or days later. I think the time frame mentioned in the show put it as something under an hour. Even in a universe with an alien in a time-travelling box, that feels a bit ludicrous. Then we get to the final scenes, the "What will the Doctor Choose!?" moments and we are left with about seventy-five percent of a certain character's development occurring in a single scene. Again, with a two parter, that character could have been exposed in a half-dozen scenes and the end could have been a careful calling out to it.

We are left with two more stepping-stones into the Moffat Masterplan (what's up with Amy's memory, and the new Daleks, the first real redesign since, what, the 70s, excepting the hover-abilities first demonstrated in "Remembrance of the Daleks"?) but an otherwise unfulfilling episode. Matt Smith continues to be the highlight, combining past elements of the Doctor in interesting ways (Second era eccentricity gives way to a Sixth era emotional response and even to a Fourth era play on words). Karen Gillan is still a contender to be a worthy companion, but mostly the writers are repeating a mixture of Martha and Rose. If Amy Pond is going to do anything, she needs a script that calls for more than random facial expressions and hinting at how much she loves the Doctor. I enjoyed Ian McNiece's teddy-bear version of Churchill, though without enough time to really look at the fellow, we are left with a flattened image. The same of Bill Paterson's Bracewell.

Part of me will continue to assume that this was a two-parter and I just watched the synopsis. It helps it to make more sense. Without that, though, the best rating I can give it is a Fair (+0.3). The fifth season, as a whole, still warrants a Good (+1.3). Now that River Song and the Weeping Angels are coming back, I'm curious to see how that is played out.

Si Vales, Valeo


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