Review by Mark Bousquet
“VICTORY OF THE DALEKS” – Series 5, Episode 3, Story 205 – Written by Mark Gatiss; Directed by Andrew Gunn – The Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond get a call from Winston Churchill, who needs some help with his new machines, the Ironsides. You’ll know them by their actual name, the Daleks, but you might be surprised to see them hanging out in World War II helping the Brits keep that darn Luftwaffe out of London. The Doctor isn’t buying it, of course, but Winston doesn’t want to hear it. Amy is useless because she doesn’t remember the Daleks, even though they’ve invaded Earth 763 times, just in her lifetime. The Doctor doesn’t have time to figure all that out right now. Because He’s Busy Getting Tricked Into Helping The Daleks Give Themselves A Paint Job.
Almost everyone I talk to about DOCTOR WHO lists VICTORY OF THE DALEKS as the worst episode of Series 5. Even I said that when I watched the showing during its first run and I’ll be surprised if I don’t have it down at the bottom of my list of faves this time around. That said, it’s not a horrible episode, at all; it’s a below average episode that relies a bit too much on characters standing around and talking, and feels like a prequel to a future Dalek story we haven’t seen, yet.
Where VICTORY fails, really, is that it feels less like an episode and more like an overly complicated attempt by a fifteen year old trying to earn himself a No-Prize from the Marvel offices. (Not that I ever did that. Ever.) It’s like one day the Daleks were tall and colorful and someone went, “Crap! That’s not right! Someone write a story that tells us how this happened!”
There’s no real arc here. The Doctor shows up in London during World War II, the Daleks are helping out the Brits and pretending to be “your soldiers” and not Daleks, the Doctor gets them to reveal their true identities, which in turn allows the Daleks to reboot themselves by ushering in a pure Dalek DNA model of plastic toys, and the Doctor chooses to save the Earth over defeating the Daleks, thus letting the Daleks escape.
I mean, yeah. No crap. When the choice is saving a planet full of people versus anything, the Doctor is going to pick saving the Earth. All the Eleventh’s apparent turmoil over saving Earth vs. stopping the Daleks does is reinforce that the Daleks are Really Really Evil and the Doctor’s Ultimate Big Bad, and who doesn’t know that at this point? Even if someone had never seen an episode of DOCTOR WHO before, they’ve already gotten that message throughout the episode with the smaller, traditional Daleks so they could figure it out all by themselves when the Rainbow Skittles Daleks show up.
Okay. Gotta say. I don’t mind the color-coded Daleks. At all. I don’t know why anyone would look at the New Paradigm color Daleks and the battle-green, traditional Daleks wheeling around this episode and think the New Paradigm models are an improvement, but at least Gatiss doesn’t go killing them all off at the end. Clearly, this is the start of something new, which is so much better than Davies’ use of the Daleks, which basically consisted of them being All Gone / Just Kidding! / No, Seriously Now They’re Really All Gone. Gatiss even pokes a bit of fun at Davies when he has the Doctor say to the Daleks, “I know, you escaped and fell through time” because they were always doing that during the last regime.
Along with the new color scheme and height, these five new Daleks each have a specific role to play in the rise of a new Dalek society (hence the title, New Paradigm Daleks): red = drone; blue = strategist; orange = scientist; yellow = Eternal; and white = Supreme. We don’t see what any of them are supposed to do because the Supreme Dalek does almost all of the talking but at least this is something foundational and generative instead of another “the Daleks are really, really, really, honestly, super-promise gone for good this time” plot. I like the idea of them having specific roles because it leads me to want to see new Dalek stories and not just new Dalek appearances.
That doesn’t change the lack of punch this episode delivers, however. The battle green Dalek with the little Union Jack sticker on the front is just about the coolest looking Dalek ever, and the scenes between it and the Doctor are the best moments of the episode. The Doctor is insistent these Ironsides are evil and he eventually lets his anger get the best of him, wigging out and yelling, “I am the Doctor and you are the Daleks,” which is exactly what the Daleks want. They’ve found a Progenator containing pure Dalek DNA, but the Progenator won’t work for them because they’re not genetically pure. The Progenator will accept the Doctor’s testimony, however, which starts the big machine on the Dalek ship all hissing and smoking as it builds new Daleks.
Luckily, it had five different kinds of paint on board their ship, although maybe they stole it from the war room.
It should be this hugely great scene seeing new Daleks come rolling off the assembly line but it falls rather flat. This is a very static episode that could have used some good ol’ Russell T Davies’ running around and shouting. If you have the Doctor running around, shouting, and pointing his screwdriver at things as Murray Gold’s score blasts over the top … well, that ain’t static. In VICTORY, however, we spend most of the episode hanging out in a cramped British war room.
Winston Churchill barely elevates past caricature here, and we could’ve used a stronger presence standing up to the Doctor.
Amy has only one really nice scene, when she’s trying to convince Dr. Braswell that he’s human (he’s actually a robot created by the Daleks so they can infiltrate the British army), but that’s it. The rest of the episode she’s just kind of standing there cheering people on. And look, I like Amy and love her voice but if I ever hear her say “Dalek” again I’ll scream. It’s just so irritating to hear that word coming out of her mouth.
VICTORY OF THE DALEKS gets points for starting a sub-plot that will hopefully develop as we go through the next couple of seasons, but it’s a disjointed, unsatisfying episode.
(Originally Published April 14, 2011)