|22 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan, by Gary Caldwell|
|22 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan, by John Byatt|
|22 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan, by Andrew Blair|
|22 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan, by Simon Fox|
|22 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan, by Eddy Wolverson|
|22 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan, by Billy Higgins|
|22 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan, by Angus Gulliver|
|22 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan, by A.D. Morrison|
|22 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan, by Frank Collins|
|22 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan, by Vincent Vargas|
|29 Apr 2007||Evolution of the Daleks, by Mark Hain|
|29 Apr 2007||Evolution of the Daleks, by Gary Caldwell|
|29 Apr 2007||Evolution of the Daleks, by Eddy Wolverson|
|29 Apr 2007||Evolution of the Daleks, by Billy Higgins|
|29 Apr 2007||Evolution of the Daleks, by Angus Gulliver|
|29 Apr 2007||Evolution of the Daleks, by A.D. Morrison|
|29 Apr 2007||Evolution of the Daleks, by Frank Collins|
|29 Apr 2007||Evolution of the Daleks, by Adam S. Leslie|
|30 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, by Patrick McDermott|
|30 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, by Calum Corral|
|30 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, by Paul Clarke|
|30 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, by Robert F.W. Smith|
|30 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, by Amanda Snyder|
|30 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, by James Tricker|
|30 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, by Rob Stickler|
|30 Apr 2007||Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, by Vincent Truman|
So here we go... four episodes into the new series and what do we get.
Well, we get 1930s New York, the depression, the Empire State building, a sewer, a nice show, Daleks and pig men... oh, and a walk in a Cardiff park (possibly). We also get a 'human/ Dalek' somewhat pre-emptived by being plastered all over the cover of the Radio Times since Tuesday of that week. Actually, when I saw this cover in the Co-Op, I thought... "Well, at least it's not another animal head stuck on a human body, as has been the fashion this season, since the guy who'd designed the previous season aliens had obviously buggered off to work in Hollywood (probably). But you know... in a kind of way it is, the difference being, its an animal body (a baby octopus, on this occasion) papped on top of a human head!
Anyway... this was all pretty poor stuff. Season one's 'Dalek' did a fine job of re-introducing the Doctors arch rivals to a new audience. Supposedly, the most feared creatures in the universe, the Daleks had become a bit of a joke in the classic series. I seem to remember somebody whacking them with a baseball bat during the McCoy era and their eystick's snapped off, their guns got bent, and their top bits popped up on a spring (I might have made that last bit up, in fact I may well have imagined all of this in some wierd, fevered dream... or not!). In short... they'd become a bit crap. Then 'Dalek' came along, and suddenly they were all the things we'd always been told they were, but had never been given any proof. This episode successfully re-imagined the Daleks as hate driven, merciless, indestructible killing machines. The sequence where the Dalek takes out the two fireteams in the corridor with clinical, mechanical, efficiency was one of the best sequences in the first season (remember that great aerial shot, when the Daleks midsection rotated unexpectantly to fire in the opposite direction). The fact they didn't say much and often failed to respond when spoken too, added to their menace.
Unfortunately, these guidelines seem to have been forgotten. Now, if 'Daleks in Manhattan' is anything to go by, they're reduced to skulking/ trundling around in the Empire State building, in a threadbare laboratory filled with test tubes and bunsen burners!!! They have human swine (more animal heads... where's the imagination!) as slaves, indulge in uninteresting simple minded conversations (probably to pass the time) about half arsed nonsensical master plans and do bugger all in the way of exterminating anything!
Their 'Master' plan, in this case, involves 'hoovering' in some guy into one of their casings, gestating him for a bit, and then having him climb out (still wearing his suit and spats) while the music from 'The Omen' plays (sorry Murray... couldn't resist that one. I still like you're scores, however. they hold up well even if everything else is falling apart). And all this to create a (wait for it)... 'Human/ Dalek" (spoken with an American accent, I mean, couldn't he have gurgled a bit, or something. Our Trans-Atlantic cousins really are taking over everything!).
Forgive me, but I can't see the point. It's the casing that makes the daleks invincible, human/daleks would just get shot. Maybe it's to splice the two thought processes ... but that would introduce all the emotional conflicts the daleks were created to do without. Maybe it's to provide the Daleks with hands so they can handle all these test tubes in the background. Maybe that's the thinking that lay behind the creation of the pig men, except that Dalek 'Gay' failed to listen properly and mistakenly left them with trotters (if the writer can't provide an explanation for the human/pigs, then I quite happily will)!
Or maybe it's just a stupid idea!
Elsewhere we had the usual running about, some faux sentimentality (Lazlo's, 'Phantom of the Opera' bit), a motley collection of accents (some authentic, some pantomime), a dance routine apparently put together by the dancers, during the first take, on a bare stage, with an audience of ten, and some surprisingly dodgy FX. Some of the dialogue ( "Hands in the air... and no funny business!) was less then sparkling, and the whole thing seemed lacking in wit and energy. Tennant reigned it in a bit more then usual, but his occasional exaggerated facial expressions still scream "I'M ACTING!", and Martha continues to be nice, without any real development. She's just too non descript! The production itself managed the difficult feat of looking both lavish and threadbare all at once, and the direction, while not really guilty of doing anything wrong, seemed curiously flat. There was precious little action and literally no excitement.
I'm finding it depressingly easy to slag off this new season of Who. The production team are obviously trying, but the show just seems stuck in a rut. 'Daleks in Manhattan' while clearly meant to be serious, feels like a joke for all the above reasons. I want the show to be good (and there was more good then bad in the first two seasons), cos' if the audience drops off, it'll kill British television Sci-Fi stone dead for another twenty years. ITVs offering 'Primeval was hardly a pinnacle, yet in it's likeable, unpretentious, straight forward way it was preferable to this run of the BBCs supposed flagship. Maybe if the two shows had been pitched against one another, the ratings drop for Who (and I reckon there would have been a significant one) might have galvanised the production staff in a way that as far as I'm concerned, seems very necessary.
Maybe the concluding part will make amends, though the promise of more rampant 'pig' action doesn't bode well.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
I was quite impressed by Daleks in Manhattan, and thought it was a nice touch to take Martha to the "real" New York after a trip to "New New York" last week. I have to say that whenever the Daleks appear I always hold my breath somewhat, because in the past Daleks have not really seemed menacing enough. In "Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways" for instance, it was only the presence of the Emperor that took away the impression that here we simply had hordes of ranting pepper pots. However, in "Daleks in Manhattan" the Daleks seemed to exhude menace in every moment on screen, and one really got the impression that here was something dark and powerful and dangerous. The conversation between the Dalek and Mr Diagoras high up in the uncompleted Empire State building was scary. "You have rare ambition". and "Humans are weak, you shelter from the dark, and yet you have built all this". and "You think like a Dalek". What brilliant and scary lines from one of the "children of Skaro".
Martha is now beginning to be embroiled into the Doctor's world to the extent of more than "just one trip, and then home". Freema Agyeman is really putting her stamp on the character, and showing just what a fine actrees she is. Also from her conversation with Tallulah, we get an insight into how she really likes the Doctor, while not admitting so to him. Hugh Quarshie looks very convincing as Solomon, establishing his supposed presence in "Hooverville" to such good measure that I almost forgot seeing him as Dr Ric Griffin in "Holby City". Solomon comes across as one of those wise characters who is old and experienced enough to know how life turns from good to bad, or vice versa, and yet still young and strong enough to show great strength of leadership in a firm but fair manner, something which must have took guts for those who actually lived in those circumstances back then, and which makes for a strong character who one can both like and respect. Ryan Carnes came across well as Laszlo, but I cannot make an assessment to compare from his previous roles as I have not seen "Desperate Housewives". However, it would seem that Laszlo is going to have a key role in what happens in the next episode, "Evolution of the Daleks". Miranda Raison's character, Tallulah, - three ells and an aitch - I can really like, and she comes across as a gentle, yet at the same time, feisty young woman, ready to ask questions and to stand her ground, indeed doing so quite firmly with the Doctor, and I could quite imagine the Doctor asking her along for the ride, so to speak, a real candidate for the Doctor's companion if there was room for another one. Again, as with Hugh Quarshie's character, I quite forgot seeing Miranda Raison in "Spooks" as well. The great thing about these characters, and the other supporting characters as well is the accents. The American accents come across so convincingly from so many English actors, making me feel that we really were visiting 30s Manhattan. And so, to the Doctor himself. David Tennant has - in my opinion - reached a point where I now feel he IS the Doctor. David Tennant is arguably one of the UKs finest actors anyway, but his role as the Time Lord - not the last, it would seem - has reached heights that have never been reached since the Tom Baker years, and which Chris Eccleston never had a hope of reaching. The key moment that does it for me is the scene in the sewer, where the Doctor tells Tallulah what she had just seen. "It's called a Dalek, and it's not just metal, it's alive." "You're just kidding me". "Do I look like I'm kidding? Inside that shell is a creature born to hate". In this scene, David Tennant epitomises everything that the Doctor is, was, and shall be. His acting ability is so deeply convincing in that scene, that one feels just for a moment, that the Doctor, Tallulah, the Dalek, and the Manhattan sewer are all so very real, that one can almost smell the hate in that metal shell, and the anger in the Doctor's two hearts that "They always survive, and I lose everything", is almost tangible.
Now to a mystery or two. Since this series started we have had four excellent episodes of Doctor Who which in my mind are close indeed to being modern classics. But have we got a "thread" running through this series or not? By that I mean the following; In 2005, Eccleston's Doctor was dogged by the mystery of Bad Wolf. Then last year, for fairly obvious reasons we heard Torchwood mentioned in every episode. But what this time? If indeed there is a thread at all? Well, what about all these numbers? There appears to be a sequence of numbers in each episode, and each meaning or doing something different. In episode one "Smith and Jones", there was 5,000, then 50,000, then lastly 250,000. The Doctor increased the radiation of the x-ray machine by 5,000%, killing the slab dead. Then later, Florence Finnigan tells the Doctor that she has increased the setting of the MRI scanner to 50,000 tesla, and that this would fry the brain stem of every living being within 250,000 miles, thus encompassing the side of the Earth facing the Moon. This went unnoticed by me,until more numbers came in episode two, "The Shakespeare Code". In this, Shakespeare is coerced by the carrionites into writing down a sequence of words and numbers to end the play, and to summon up those witches/spirits/others of their kind/or whatever they were meant to be. And so we get "Linear 5930167.02". Then in "Gridlock", the sequence of numbers might again have been unnoticed but for the frequency of mentioning, and so we have the identification number of the car in which Martha had been kidnapped/car jacked - but not really - , "465 diamond 6." It was at this point that I almost dismissed the numbers as a coincidence. However, in episode four, came the Doctor's elaborate - but crude - DNA scan of the blob of "not human" green material found in the Manhattan sewer. "467-989", "Which would make the planet of origin..., Skaro!" At this moment, I am guessing that these numbers mean nothing, as there does not seem to be anything about them which makes sense. Maybe they are just random? Or what? It remains to be seen if there will be any more number sequences in subsequent episodes.
And finally, in the end of episode spoiler, we hear a Dalek cry "Exterminate". I think the Dalek exterminates the result of the final experiment, The Human Dalek which we saw emerge from the shell of the former "Dalek Sec". Why? Because I cannot imagine that the other three Daleks will accept their "evolution" into something so obviously grotesque, and importantly, so obviously very weak. They had after all argued with Dalek Sec against the nature of this experiment, saying "We must remain pure". and Dalek Sec's counter argument, "Remaining pure has brough us to Extinction". Saturday will tell. Only 9/10 because of the "Human Dalek". On second thoughts, 9.5/10.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
The first two parter in each of the new series has always been something of an anticlimax for me. Aliens of London had a good cliffhanger that was then immediately undermined by showing the Doctor running about with the words 'Next week...' floating below him, but otherwise was still a show finding its feet. Rise of the Cybermen was massively underwhelming upon first viewing, but got going in part two. Daleks in Manhattan has more in common with Rise... in that it was slower paced than most single episode stories and felt like there was a major part of the story that was somehow lacking. In the cybermen's case it seemed like the script was padded and full of stale dialogue, whereas here there is a helluva lot of talking but most of it is saying something interesting, even if it isn't pushing the story forward in any obvious way.
The script oozes potential. The tone is fairly grim throughout which makes sense giving the time and place. When good lines come they are ones that are intriguing rather than amusing (less one-liners, although still time for the odd splash of humour) and many, many questions are begged by the first episode. The two leads do their best with the material. In Freema Agyeman's case this is to make her character feel like she is reacting as we would expect her to, without any really meaty scenes for her to perform. In David Tennant's case this is to keep getting better with every episode. Expect the backlash to start sometime around 2030. The supporting cast are varied. Solomon, Tallulah and Laszlo are well played (although who else felt sorry for one of the few Americans in the case to be told 'Hullo, you're playing a pig-human hybrid! Put this on!'?) but some of the other parts veer into what New Series fans may recognise as Lumic-territory (Would you like mayo with that ham?) and accents slip every now and then as characters we know nothing about have not very nice things happen to them for no reason that will be explained in this episode. Mr Diagoras is the least convincing character of all the major players. So many questions arise ? why him? Raynor attempts to answer this but the attempt fails to raise the character to anything more than a cypher. I could not make myself feel interested in him at all. Other than this and the handling of minor characters the script is very good and should have come across better than this.
In Rise of the Cybermen, while we were all reeling from the stultifying dialogue, at least there were pretty pictures to look at. While James Strong manages to get some good shots in there are parts where he and the Mill seem to have been possessed by the spirit of the Nadir of Eighties Who. There's a good story here, why waste it on appalling CG (how can anyone be scared of Dalek Sec when he's patently not a Dalek anymore, but a curiously large squid trapped inside a poorly animated 4D hair dryer?) and direction that removes any sense of suspense from a scene whatsoever. The first time we see a Dalek, there's no hint of menace, it just emerges from a lift. Many shots in this story are cases of simply pointing the camera and pressing record in situations where this renders the shots dull and lifeless. Added to that is that fact that we know exactly what is going to happen as a result of some camera moves. It just makes it all very boring. Worse still is the realisation that Strong will probably be on the DVD commentary for one of these episodes, which will probably be as unremittingly dull as the last one he did. Another problem on the realisation front is the prosthetics. While the team have done a spectacular job on the new series in general, I just felt like laughing at some of the offerings on display here. Some people say this story reminded them of classic Who, with the sewers, and the slower pace, the Daleks, the hideously unconvincing rubber masks...
Seriously, who was scared by the pigs? I really hope the following dialogue occurs in part two:
Doctor: These pig creatures? What are they? Why pigs?
Dalek: We needed slaves who inspired fear. Pigs were readily available for experimentation.
Doctor: And why the boiler suits?
Dalek: There was a sale on. Plus you'd see the joins.
Doctor: Have you been watching Spearhead from Space?
They looked like Halloween masks. Dalek Sec was somewhat reminiscent of Scaroth as well. I'm sure kids found it frightening but I remain unconvinced as to how his current form is better than his previous one. Of course I hope to be proved wrong. I hope Evolution of the Daleks will be realised in a way that renders it exciting, exhilarating and thrilling as the script deserves, unlike today's story. Time will tell, it always does (as a famous mass murderer once said).
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
No other show in the history of television does "utterly barmy" quite like Doctor Who - and pull it off. Were it any other programme, the disperate elements of Daleks in Manhattan would seem like the silliest thing in the world. And that's just the title.
Straight off, we're back in the good old Reithian tradition of 1960s Who, disguising subtle history lessons for all as popularist science fiction. Before this episode, I had never heard of Hooverville or really thought about the Empire State Building being built at the same time as the Depression. Well, you learn a little something everyday, don't you?
The Cult of Skaro, having escaped the battle of Canary Wharf at the end of the last series, are back and desperate for survival. Daleks are at their best when they are cunning, devious and ruthless, and once again we are back in the pre-Davros 1960s when they were just that. Even though the title was a dead giveaway, I still got butterflies when the first one came up in the lift. If that happens to a life long fan, then you they're doing something right down there at BBC Wales.
This instalment was barmy indeed. It was Doctor Who meets Chicago, complete with song and dance number, which I would hedge my bets will be released on the next Murray Gold album. Pig men, Daleks, songs, art deco and yet more in a long history of stupid people helping the Daleks. The supporting cast were great, despite the odd lapse in their American accents, particularly Amanda Raison as Tallulah ("three T's and an H") and Ric Griffin from Holby City (so that's what he did on his sabbatical away from the hospital).
The one word that sums up this episode for me is Fun. Fun, Fun, Fun, with a capital F. If the standard remains this high, Series Three of Doctor Who may well turn out to be the best of New Who yet.
Can't wait for next week.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
Amidst all the pre-season hype, this Dalek two-parter was probably the story that interested me the most. Like most Doctor Who fans, young and old, I'm Dalek mad, and so when I saw Sec hone into view in the trailer at the end of "The Runaway Bride" I allowed myself a sigh of relief ? the Daleks would be back in Series Three. As if there was any chance that they wouldn't have been?
However, "Daleks in Manhattan" is light years away from the Daleks' previous appearances in the new series. The most notable differences are the historical setting and the tone of the story ? whilst this two-parter is a very dark tale, it doesn't feel 'climactic' in the ways that the two season finales or even the stand-alone episode "Dalek" were. It's much more akin to the pre-Davros Dalek stories on TV and many of the Big Finish Dalek audios; here the Daleks are evil. They're cunning. They're lethal. And they're up to something.
But they aren't trying to invade Earth or take over the universe.
"They always survive when I lose everything!"
The scenic historical setting is a masterstroke both in terms of storytelling and commercially. What better to help get Doctor Who over with the American audience than to have your principal villains run amuck in one of their biggest cities? Furthermore, the setting allows director James Strong to deliver some beautiful shots of thirties' New York: we see the Statue of Liberty; Central Park; and of course, the Empire State Building. Now there's one of history's best-kept secrets ? Daleks built the Empire State Building! Those bumps around the mast? Dalek Thay's bumps!
What does the production team the most credit though is that they were able to produce a story that looks like it was shot live action in New York. The scenes in Central Park particularly impressed me as the blending is seamless; I would hazard a guess that most casual viewers would have thought that David Tennant and Freema Agyeman were flown over to New York to shoot this one.
The shanty town of Hooverville is also set flawlessly against the backdrop of skyscrapers; the few establishing shots near the episode's start sum up one of the story's key messages perfectly: people are starving, yet skyscrapers are being built. Something is very wrong.
Similarly, the scene that introduces the audience to Solomon sums his character up equally well. One man has stolen bread from another to feed his starving family. The second man attacks him in retaliation. Solomon steps in, breaks up in the fight and breaks the bread. He then gives them half each.
Hugh Quarshie puts in a superb performance as Solomon. His scenes with David Tennant resonate marvellously; the two actors share a wonderful chemistry on screen. Solomon knows that there is far more to the Doctor than meets the eye, but he still trusts him. He knows that the Doctor is the man to help them.
In contrast, Helen Raynor uses the Daleks' lackey Mr. Diagoras (Eric Loren) to show us the flip side of the coin. Whilst those living in Hooverville have fallen into poverty, he has thrived. And he hasn't thrived though having a pure conscience.
He offers those living in Hooverville "A dollar a day!" to do some work down the sewers for him ? a slave wage even in 1930. A little later on, we see him order the construction workers on the Empire State Building to risk their lives working through the night and when they protest he simply retorts "I can replace you like that!", and he could. Such sentiments still carry a lot of weight even today, where unless you're a plumber you're easily replaceable. You do what you're told or you're out.
Mr. Diagoras also reminded me very much of a character simply called 'the Controller' from a 1972 Dalek story, "Day of the Daleks." The likeness was only strengthened in my mind when the first Dalek emerged from the lift, flanked by two Pig-slaves. Particularly during Jon Pertwee's reign as the Doctor, whenever the Daleks appeared on screen they always had brutish, mute henchmen to do their dirty work. In the 70s it was usually Ogrons, but here Raynor cleverly links her Pig-slaves in with the plot: they aren't just some transposable alien mercenaries, they are humans that have been experimented on and genetically corrupted by the Daleks.
"Behold your Masters!"
When Caan came out of the lift and first spoke, I could feel my brow furrowing. There is something about the Dalek voices in the new series that is so much more disturbing than in the classic series. At first I thought it was down to the outstanding voice talent of Nicholas Briggs, but in his Big Finish audios the Daleks don't sound quite this monstrous. Last night I realised it's not just the voice in itself; it's the mechanical noises that come with it. Whenever we see a Dalek in the new series, every twitch of the eyestalk and every flex of the sucker-arm is emphasised, loudly. It makes them come across as that bit more inhuman.
"Humankind is weak.
You shelter from the dark and yet you have built all this?
My planet is gone; destroyed in a great war.
Yet versions of this city stand throughout history.
The human race always continues."
And so when you hear a Dalek talk like a human, things go off the page in terms of creepiness. One of my favourite scenes in the episode is where Diagoras and Caan are looking out over all the splendour of New York, having an almost casual conversation about war and attrition. Diagoras doesn't seem phased by Caan at all; it may be that he has worked with the Daleks for a long time, but even so the way that he seems almost at ease with them is fundamentally disturbing. It is this that unwittingly leads to his downfall ? Caan is impressed with his "rare ambition" to survive and so selects him as the principal subject for the Daleks' "final experiment"?
Central to the story is the tragic love story of Laszlo and Tellulah. The haunting pre-title sequence showed us the Pig-slaves taking Laszlo away to become one of them, and so when we first meet Tellulah in the main body of the episode she is tormented by his disappearance. If he was going to leave her, then why would he tell her than he wanted her to meet his parents? If he is dead, then who is leaving the flower on her dressing room table each night?
Miranda Raison imbues Tellulah with a lot of gumption, but also a lot of heart.
We see her threatening the Doctor with a fake gun in one scene, and then crying on Martha's shoulder in the next. She has a lot about her ? for example, she can instantly tell that Martha has feelings for the Doctor and that he isn't interested, although she does get the wrong end of the stick somewhat, thinking that the Doctor isn't interested because he's gay, injecting a bit of humour into an otherwise grim episode.
"If I don't make this month's rent I'm in Hooverville.
It's the depression, sweetie.
Your heart might break but the show goes on, 'cos if it stops you starve."
And of course, she brings with her the music. It's rare that we get chance to have a musical number in Doctor Who, but in this story it works delightfully as it really helps the viewer get a feel for the period. The fact that's she's dressed very much 'for the Dads' helps too.
Her reunion with Laszlo is touching, and also surprising in many ways. When she sees what the Daleks have done to him she is obviously upset, but she isn't revolted. If anything, from that little smile she gives it's evident that more than anything she's glad he's alive.
And what of the Daleks?
"We must evolve! Evolve! EVOLVE!"
Although it is only hinted at gently, I get the distinct impression that there is dissent amongst the Cult of Skaro. Sec may be convinced that the Daleks have to evolve to survive, but the other three don't seem so sure. What makes Sec so terrifying here is that he's right, and he's not letting his genetic brainwashing cloud his judgement. In Dalek terms, he's a blasphemer, but because he's free of his conditioning, this time the Daleks could win!
"There are millions of humans and only four of us.
If we are supreme, why are we not victorious?
The Cult of Skaro was created by the Emperor for his very purpose ?
to imagine new ways of survival.
Our purity has brought us to extinction!
We must adapt to survive!"
The scene where Sec assimilates Diagoras not only into his casing but into his mutant form is a wonderful bit of C.G.I. for a TV budget; a proper behind the sofa moment. Those tendrils made me think of the infamous "Genesis of the Daleks" Part Five cliff-hanger and how it should have looked.
Sec's emergence is one of the best cliff-hangers that the new series has spawned. The unavoidable Radio Times cover completely ruined the surprise for everyone of course, but even so I don't blame Russell T. Davies for allowing it ? he has to guarantee ratings to ensure that the show's success continues.
"A life outside the shell. The children of Skaro must walk again."
The hybrid is absolutely horrific. It's somewhere between the Emperor Dalek that we saw in "The Parting of the Ways"; classic series Davros; and the Jagoroth from "City of Death"! Even Thay, Caan and Jast back away in fear.
The first woman to pen a Doctor Who TV episode since Scots playwright Rona Munro's "Survival", Helen Raynor has really done herself proud with this spectacular script. And after a Torchwood episode as good as "Ghost Machine", I expected nothing else. I sincerely hope that she is given a chance to write for the series again next year.
I also think that this story also showcases Russell T. Davies' remarkable skill and foresight as Head Writer ? he's thinking seasons ahead! In "Doomsday" he spared thirty seconds or so of dialogue to give the four Daleks an interesting back story. Now "Doomsday" didn't need the whole 'Cult of Skaro' angle in there; it was already packed to bursting with everything that was going on. But Davies popped it in there regardless, along with a sly little "emergency temporal shift" right at the death. And now those thirty seconds of dialogue have spawned this fantastic adventure. It really makes you think about the significance of all this 'Saxon' stuff?
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
I find it's always difficult to accurately review the first episode of a two-part story without having seen the concluding episode. It's akin to doing a half-time report at a football match. So, to continue the analogy, was the first of this Doctor Who game of two halves full of goals galore? Or a no-score bore?
The story so far . . .
Having been to Multiple New York five billion years in the future, The TARDIS has landed in 1930 New York, where The Doctor and Martha Jones discover an America in the throes of The Depression. They visit Hooverville, a camp in Central Park, where impoverished inhabitants are forced to live.
Unbeknown to The Doctor, he's not the only alien in the city - The Cult Of Skaro, with the assistance of Dalek Sec's Emergency Temporal Shift, have escaped being sucked into the void at the end of their last encounter with The Doctor, and those last four Daleks in the Universe have plans for the human race and the under-construction Empire State Building.
They have enlisted the help of a local high flyer, Mr Diagoras, who has been "recruiting" residents of Hooverville for Dalek experiments under the pretext of working in the sewers. The Doctor and Martha join the latest work party, and discover terrifying Pig Men lurking in the depths - as well as remnants of what appears to be an alien lifeform.
Escaping to the surface, The Doctor, Martha and the leader of the Hooverville camp, Soloman, encounter a local showgirl, Tallulah, who explains her boyfriend, Lazlo, has disappeared.
To The Doctor's horror, research on his discovery in the sewers reveals that it's of Dalek origin - but he has a more-pressing concern. Martha has gone missing (again) and he believes she has been taken back to the sewers. He and Tallulah head down there in pursuit, where they discover Lazlo, his face disfigured into pig-like form by the Daleks.
Martha has been captured by the Daleks and, while The Doctor watches from the background, the Daleks reveal the secret of their "final experiment" to her - Dalek Sec has absorbed Diagoras inside its casing, and created a human Dalek hybrid. Their plan is to evolve into a new species . . .
Sounds like a goalscoring feast to me!
I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, as I have this whole series so far. Four episodes in, and I've found Series 3 has stepped up considerably on the previous two series, as the production team gain more confidence and experience.
I'm a fan of the two-episode format. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and Bad Wolf/The Parting Of The Ways in Series 1 and The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit and Army Of Ghosts/Doomsday in Series 2 are widely regarded by Doctor Who fans as the pick of their respective seasons, and the fact that these were longer stories is no coincidence. At the "old-style" four parts, the story has much more time to breathe and affords the writer space for improved characterisation. It would always be five two-parters and three single-parters for me. Possibly, some viewers are now accustomed to the faster pace of single episodes, and find two-parters slow by comparison but not me.
Script Editor and Doctor Who writing debutant Helen Raynor (doubtless with assistance from her mentor, Russell T Davies) delivered a fine script, with good background work and some promising ideas, notably the human Dalek, of course. The Pig Men - although why they were actually in that form is a curiosity (file in the writers' prerogative box) - were horrible-looking things. Kudos to the prosthetic team!
The Daleks were great here. Excellently voiced by Nick Briggs as always, seeing the individual Daleks with personality (of sorts) and interacting with each other as opposed to simply the "I obey" and "Exterminate" mantra, gives them an added dimension. Doctor Who moves up a level when the Daleks are around. And that was the case here, without them even engaging our eponymous hero. Loved the idea of the human Dalek, and it was superbly realised - a really great, dramatic cliffhanger, right up there with the end to Army Of Ghosts. And the Dalek Sec prosthetic was another triumph.
More marvellous work from The Mill, too, with the absorption of Diagoras into Dalek Sec's casing and converting Cardiff into New York, and Murray Gold's show tune was great fun and a welcome spot of light relief. James Strong, who did such a sterling job on The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit is a good director at the helm. He really has the knack of making a TV series look anything but.
The performances (because that's what they look like) of the extras and sometimes the supporting cast is a slight negative in many Doctor Who stories, I find, and some of the back-up and the accents did leave room for improvement. Hugh Quarshie was pleasing as Soloman, though and Miranda Raison was great as Tallulah (three els and an aitch). Obviously introduced as a lighter character to contrast the bleakness of the Daleks' plan, her Phantom Of The Sewers love story with Lazlo is another nice addition which couldn't really have been expanded upon in a single-episode story.
There was also a brief reminder of the background one-sided love story between The Doctor and Martha, in her exchange with Tallulah (amusing that she observed that The Doctor's liking of musical theatre meant he must be gay!). The Doctor's aside to himself that "(the Daleks) always survive, while he loses everything (he has)" shows his hostility towards his bete noir will never diminish - and that his loneliness has not been eased by Martha's presence. His feelings towards her are much more in keeping with the classic series Doctors' aloofness. This may change later in the series, but there's little sign of it so far. I've come to take Freema Agyeman and David Tennant's excellence as read this series. The latter has this role absolutely nailed with last year under his belt. He is going to be very difficult to replace when the time comes.
Very much looking forward to seeing how the adventure unfolds next week. Eight and a half out of 10 so far.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
I'm wondering if we really need Daleks every year. Perhaps a Dalek-free year wouldn't be a bad idea...but the production team seem to think we need them every year and that means an extra special story is required. As the Doctor said during this episode, he keeps defeating them but they always return.
The Manhattan setting is truly stunning, though at least one composite scene didn't quite work blending the real NY footage with a studio shot. But given what The Mill are being asked to achieve, overall they do a fantastic job.
The idea of the Daleks being behind the building of one of the world's most iconic structures is very clever, as is the plan for the antenna atop the Emipre State Building. We still don't know what they are hoping to transmit (or recieve) with that antenna.
So the Doctor and Martha arrive in NYC, 1930...the depression and Hooverville - poverty living alongisde the wealthy with the latter apparently doing nothing to help the former. Politics over with we learn that some of the poor in Hooverville seem to be disappearing. This is classic Who, the Doctor arriving and everything seems OK except one thing is badly wrong...and he must investigate.
Cue atmospheric scenes in dark tunnels, and pig-men. I was a bit worried this might turn out to be as unsatisfying as the genetically engineered pig in "Aliens Of London" but here the pig-slaves are given more personality, explanation, and they get our sympathy. The prosthetic faces are superb.
But the stars are the Daleks, the "masters" behind the push to complete the building almost impossibly early. The cult of Scaro has survived the Doomsday battle and ended up here, where Dalek Sec has decided they must evolve...they can no longer afford to be "pure Dalek" and must meld with the humans.
Whether the 'half man, half Dalek' monster works as an adversary will be seen next week. I have a hunch that this story will be a significant part of the overall arc for this year's series. My suspicion is that the cult of Scaro will be wiped out, but when the Doctor discovers some weeks hence that he "is not alone" I believe we may get Gallifrey back. There's been a lot of talk about Gallifrey lately, the Doctor naming it in th Christmas special, reminiscing, describing Gallifrey to Martha...even some GCI scenes last week. Russel doesn't place references like these for no reason. Indeed we've seen and heard more of Gallifrey than we have of Mr Saxon.
And what of Martha? She continues to be likeable, and very intelligent. I felt she really hit her stride in this episode, somewhere in those tunnels completely won me over.
James Strong, as I expected, did a marvellous job of directing. The tension built up well, even though the Daleks were revealed early on and the new monster was shown in the Radio Times.
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Ok, crass title aside, I will put my hand up now and say that all concerned are trying to pull all the stops out. This is certainly a far more promising opening episode to the touch-and-go Rise of the Cybermen of last year, and its pointless parallel Earth approach.
After the surprisingly entertaining and inevntive Gridlock, which seemed to defy all my previous expectations regarding RTD scrips, Daleks in Manhattan seems relatively pedestrian - a sort of Eric Saward riposte to last week's Andrew Cartmel-esque venture. Though at the time I preferred the former, in retrospect I prefer the latter. So that is a thumbs up, for once, for RTD. But then my review of Gridlock speaks for itself: a minor classic in my opinion, and not something I say very lightly.
Daleks in Manhattan is much more traditional Who fodder: a bit of spectacle, some mystery and build up, token rebels, lots of shots of Daleks hovering through gloomy catacombs, and so forth. All very traditional Who, but in a largely good way.
I would have preffered Ogrons as opposed to Pig-Men, as in the same way I would have prefered Sontarans to Rhino-faced Judoon in the facile Smith and Jones. But then, much as he tends towards the nostalgic at times, RTD obviously still seeks to put his stamp on his reinvention of the series. I can understand this to an extent - even if I don't particularly like it.
I do feel though that 'pigs' should be left alone now: a similar concept having previously cropped up in the embarrassing debacle that was Aliens of London, I did feel the old imagination was a bit lacking in this quarter. The prosthetics were questionable also I felt: I couldn't help thinking of how comparatively more convincing the old Rice Crispie-strewn mutant in Revelation of the Daleks and the visceral Lucosa was in Mindwarp.
But this aside - it was quite refreshing to have the Daleks back again with a token new henchmen race, and I think this somehow leavens their presence. As does the quite inspired debut of the evolved Dalek-Human at the end of the episode, which is brilliantly realised, strikingly reminiscent of the last of the Jagaroth in City of Death, but refreshingly more Ray Harry Haussen-esque than the usual CGI-garbage. I also appreciated the way in which this entity emerged from the Dalek in a very similar pose to that of the Cyber Controller in Tomb of the Cybermen.
Is this motif of a Dalek-Human perhaps a metaphorical projection of how we Earthlings might evolve in the future? I think it might be - and it makes it all the more disturbing for that. 'I am your future' - and maybe it is. What an irony it would be if we were to become the next Kaled race. In post-Thatcherite society, this still feels a real possibility too.
As for the rest of this episode: visually this is absolutely top-knotch (apart from the token CGI-lapse re the squid-like Kaled). I cannot fault the production team on any level. The slightly art decco set designs are beautiful; particularly the lift, and its very Dalek-esque eyestalk design. Brilliantly realised. And seeing a Dalek come up in a lift was highly memorable. Design-wise, this is a very classy episode - one of the most stunning ever produced in the cannon. It is faultless in that regard. Though the promised 'art decco Dalek' is so far sadly not forthcoming.
Re all the showbiz elements: fairly nicely done and reminiscent in a way of Talons of Weng-Chiang. The Brooklyn accents are refreshing, if arguably a bit overdone in places. Some of the other American accents are a little embarrassing in places, but can be forgiven.
The chappie from Holby City is convincing in his role - he is a naturally charismatic actor anyway, so can carry it all well (very much, to my mind, a modern day TV Sidney Pottier).
The Doctor is on form here too, continuing his much more subdued portrayal from Gridlock (bar the very irrtating opening exclamation: 'smell that Atlantic breeze').
Having said all this, I do feel Davros deserves an appearance sooner rather than later. But maybe RTD, being a fan who sprung during the Pertwee years, isn't intending on re-introducing that iconic character.
The revelatory evolution theme may just about knock out any necessity to reintroduce Davros, yes. But remember, regarding the seemingly profound twist of the Daleks seeking a more human recourse to 'imagination' in order to better survive - arguably this has already been covered in their preoccupation with The Human Factor in Evil of the Daleks.
But overall, not a bad episode - exceptionally good-looking - but it all hangs on next week's.
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An episode from former script editor Helen Raynor and she gives us a dark love letter to the classic series and the Daleks. The 'ashes and diamonds' tone of the story with its sinister pig-men, Daleks gliding through sewers, musical numbers and Gothic romance immediately take us back to 'Evil Of The Daleks', 'Day Of The Daleks' and 'Talons Of Weng Chiang' for starters. For me there was also the ghostly presence of 'Once Upon A Time In America' and 'The Godfather' (Murray Gold paid homage at least with a score that bounced between Franz Waxman and Nino Rota) with the detailed 1930s New York setting.
And the Daleks were back to their diabolical best, scheming and planning and exploiting the weaknesses in those around them. We haven't seen Daleks plotting away and conversing like this for a very long time and it reminded me of the similar way they were treated in 'Evil Of The Daleks'.
Their appearance also, and very cleverly I think, echoed and reflected the decoration and architecture of the period. Thematically, as Dalek Sec sought to ensure the survival of the race by reconfiguring his appearance, we see the elite of New York building skyscrapers whilst people starve and die. What's the betting that the rest of the Cult Of Skaro don't like the new improved Sec? The betterment of the species above all else fits in perfectly with the times when fascist groups were already prevalent in the US and the UK and Hitler's rise to power was only just around the corner. Also note the references to war in the script with both Sec and Solomon referring to the wars they have respectively participated in. This again reflects the post-war narrative subtexts that the original series often contained up until the mid-1970s.
The Daleks obsession with their genes and racial purity also reflects the debates on Eugenics that many leading figures were engaging in at the time. It was also an academic discipline that was funded by the Rockefellers in the States. As well as nods to Aldous Huxley we also get a big slice of Wells' 'Island of Doctor Moreau' with the Daleks transforming humans into animals to do their bidding. Not only that but we also get a merging of Dalek and human as the climax of a series of transformations wherein animalistic impulses are grafted onto the cold, controlling nature of the child psyche of the Daleks. A final image is of rebirth as Diagoras is devoured by the womb of Sec and then reborn as a Proteus like figure, the conscious being emerging from the dark, unconscious Dalek mind.
Will the other Daleks reject this figure? Can they conceivably have any reason not to? They can't behave like Tallulah who upon seeing the transformed Laszlo does not reject the man she once knew. She embraces the changed man because she can still recognise him beneath the bestial appearance. The episode plays subtly with the animal and human condition, with bestial mindlessness and human reason, with constructed bodies and natural forms. It echoes well the Gothic romance of 'Phantom Of The Opera' and the fairy-tale psychology of 'Beauty And The Beast'. All this benefits from some lovely performances from Miranda Raison and Ryan Carnes as the seemingly doomed lovers.
James Strong's direction is assured, with great pacing, and gets the maximum from the exemplary production design, whether it's the low shots of Daleks gliding through sewers or the sweep through the Dalek's Frankenstein-like lab. The episode exudes tension with a distinct undercurrent of oddness pervading some scenes such as the clever juxtaposition of hordes of pig-men chasing their victims through the sewers with the 'Bugsy Malone' musical number with its 'you put the devil in me' lyrics. The realisation of Hooverville is also very good and Hugh Quarshie puts in some sterling work as Solomon. The realisation of the supporting characters as well as the evocative atmosphere is certainly a great strength to the episode.
Tennant is again on form and has now been consistent over four episodes. His bitter 'they always survive, while I lose everything' neatly reminding us of just how badly most encounters with the Daleks tend to end. He's very in control of his performance now and he's making this series work so much the better for it. Freema continues to build on her fleshing out of Martha and we often see how the character now deals with similar situations that Rose has dealt with in the past. The fact that she has a different take on things is refreshing. Her chat with Tallulah about her relationship with the Doctor tells us volumes with her facial expressions alone without recourse to masses of exposition.
The slight downside is perhaps that there is slightly too much exposition early on between Martha and the Doctor and it's a bit clunky. Some of the effects were variable with some great plate shots of New York setting the scene apart from one of the Doctor and Martha looking at the skyline which wasn't as accomplished. The prosthetics are great for the pigs, particularly the work on Carnes and the pig-man found in the sewer but I wasn't entirely happy with the Sec/Diagoras hybrid. It wasn't realistic enough to be convincing. The digital effects of Sec opening its casing were great as was the CGI Dalek inside and the merging with Diagoras. Maybe they should have gone with a CGI hybrid?
But these are only minor problems. The episode is a terrifyingly dark piece of 'Doctor Who', atmospheric, scary and with well realised supporting characters. New York of the 1930s is beautifully captured and seemed a strangely natural home for our Dalek friends to conduct their bizarre experiments. Let's hope the conclusion is as rewarding.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
The current season is a juggernaut where even if you fasten your seat belt you are going to have a bumpy ride. Yet, this is the kind of bumpy ride that any Doctor Who fan enjoys to the max, and all you have to do is just picture yourself rocking and rolling inside the TARDIS with Martha and the Doctor and you'll fit right in with the current season. The fourth episode, "Daleks in Manhattan" successfully delivers what it sets out to do: re-introduce the Dalek menace in a setting previously unexplored. This turns out to be Depression-Era New York City where Hoovervilles fester in the shadow of a looming behemoth-to-be called The Empire State Building, being built as the episode begins, under the direction of an underworld boss who answers to higher powers. 1930's New York allows the producers to go all out with the visuals. The CGI skyline of New York City looks convincing and majestic and the soundtrack sparkles with an Irving Berlin ("Puttin' on the Ritz") tune and a Busby Berkeley musical number that cinematically puts us in the spirit of the era. Likewise, the accents are delivered by the largely British cast in a convincing manner, and if at times they sound a bit stereotypical, just listen to the patter from a screwball Hollywood comedy from the 1930's, and you'll realize that writer Helen Raynor has pinned the patter down successfully.
Thus far, the pairing of the tenth Doctor with his new Assistant seems to be one of the most complex in the history of the series, not just because of the inter-racial reality which accurately mirrors modern British society, but also because this Assistant is the most forward any of them have been about her feelings for the Doctor. Smith and Jones have the potential to be the most sexually-charged duo in the history of the series, and as each show goes by, Martha Jones appears to be less and less reserved about her feelings for her Doctor. Witness this girl-talk exchange between Martha and Tallulah, (played by Miranda Raison) a showgirl with a strident Billy Holiday accent and the kind of spunk that lights up even the shattered lights of Broadway:
TALLULAH: Hey, you're lucky though, you got yourself a forth-thinking guy with that hot potato in the sharp suit.
MARTHA: He's not... we're not... together.
TALLULAH: Oh, sure you are, I've seen the way you look at him, it's obvious.
MARTHA: Not to him.
Arguably, this is the kind of revelation that would have seemed awkward with Billie Piper's Rose with regards to either Christopher Eccleston or David Tennant. Rose's romantic tenure on the show focused on the dilemma involving the choice between Mickey and the Doctor. Martha's path appears to be a little less encumbered when it comes to this aspect of her character. By the way, the above exchange finishes with a cute little coda of a joke which hints at canceling any possibility of a romantic relationship between Martha and the Doctor. After she hears Martha's sad reply that the Doctor is obviously not interested in her, Tallulah answers Martha like this.
TALLULAH: Oh, I should have realized... he's into musical theater, uh? What a waste!
The flame of heterosexual love is kept lit later on in the show, however, canceling Tallulah's suspicions, when the Doctor comes to Martha's rescue, and she turns to him and says "I'm so glad to see you," and the Doctor replies with this forward statement "Yeah, well, you can kiss me later." The follow-up show to this one is called "Evolution of the Daleks," but what we have witnessed in "Daleks in Manhattan" is a clear evolution of the relationship between Doctor and Assistant.
This episode has the makings of landmark status in the series, in a season that constantly surprises us at every turn.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
I tried to like this two parter, and in some ways I did. As I said in my review of "Daleks in Manhattan", being a long time Doctor Who fan, the Daleks actually realizing that their "You will be exterminated" solution to every problem had led them dangerously close to extinction is an exciting premise. The creation of the Human hybrid Dalek Sec was not something I would have wanted to see for good, but for a one or two episode arc it was actually done well. The "Cult of Skaro", a group of Daleks that can actually reason and think was a very cool concept as well.
The problem I have with the whole thing is that like a bad bond villain, the Daleks let The Doctor live several times when they have every possibility of killing him. Even at the very end, the last remaining Dalek in the universe, who had forsaken his leader Sec and was ready to take over Earth, decides to run when all it would take is one shot and the Dalek's greatest enemy (or one incarnation of him at least) would be dead. This idea that rewriting human DNA and replacing it with Dalek DNA would create completely human looking Daleks is a bit out there too (and as apure Sci-Fi fan, that's a big statement).
I don't know what else to say. The acting as always from DT, Freema and every single extra was excellent. The scene where The Doctor resolutely decides he WILL save Laslo was excellent and shows what he can do if he so decides it must be done. Although, the scene where he attempts to convice a Dalek that "Exterminate" will get him nowhere is kind of nuts but this is a Dalek that can supposedly reason somewhat so not impossible. It also seems strange that The Doctor so easily decides to help Sec in his quest to build another planet and inject 1000+ humans with Dalek DNA. Yes, I understand he "has to believe one man can make a difference" and all, plus these humans are supposedly "empty vessels", still Doc seems to embrace the idea a little quickly and a tad too wholeheartedly in my opinion. The Daleks themselves as always were awesome, especially in the Hooverville attack. Once again we get to see that they are not your grandfather' s 1960 Dalek.
So once again, one escapes so we will see them again (you expected any other outcome?). All in all, I did enjoy this two parter but I felt some of the logic and science was a bit wacky. Good thing this show has a superb cast and crew, excellent special effects and quite possibly the best Doctor ever! Next week the Doctor meets Martha's family...here's hoping they don't come with him at the end of the episode!
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
I've been avoiding 'Confidential' like the intergalactic plague this season, partly because I don't want the 'magic' to be spoiled (I'm kidding of course... magic has been entirely absent from season three) and partly because I can't handle another talking head shot of RTD, grinning like a maniac as he lets rip as to how 'brilliant' his version of 'Who' is, and how much we're in dept to him for having been paid a huge amount of dosh to re-imagine it.
Anyway... I was so numbed by the 'brilliance' of this weeks episode that I was unable to lift the remote control to change the bloody channel, and was only able to summon the huge amount of will to do so, when RTDs grinning head appeared to utter the 'b' word about 30 seconds in.
'Evolution of the Daleks' was I'm afraid, far from brilliant. After last weeks debacle, I hoped the show would have improved, but, no... it was actually worse. Story wise, this was a mess. A half baked concoction of non-sensical ideas that played out with stunning predictability. The basic idea of the Daleks employing the concept of evolution as the key to their survival was actually pretty sound, and in the hands of an intelligent writer could have made for an excellent drama (as long as there were plenty of 'shootie' bits for people like myself... cos I like the 'shootie' bits!). In fact, by coincidence I've just finished watching the complete 'Neon Genesis Evangelion'. A Japanese sci-fi cartoon (or 'Anime', to the initiated) that deals with roughly the same basic concept of forced evolution. Evangelion, however, has an intelligence and depth so outwith the grasp of the Who production team as to make it seem that it was written by beings who have evolved onto the next level themselves.(and in case you're wondering, the 'shootie' bits are bloody brilliant as well).
It just gets my goat... for the last 15 years or so, British television Sci Fi has been camping out under a bridge, all damp and smelling of wee (and lets not forget, that despite the BBC currently heralding Dr Who as the second coming, for years it was a dirty phrase the utterance of which would have resulted in instant dismissal at best... extermination at worst) only to be rescued, cleaned up in the station toilets and sent to 'Top shop' before being housed in a nice semi in Cardiff!
And this is what we get!
Okay, hold tight, cos this is gonna be bumpy!!!
A series of events and character motivations that made no sense whatsoever. The wonkiest science I've ever witnessed in a television programme that wasn't targeted at two year olds. Tennant shouting a lot, waving his arms a lot, and over acting a lot (actually, somebody in the forums remarked on him being an excellent stage actor, and suddenly my dissatisfaction with him finally clicked. That's it... he's 'stage acting', exaggerating everything so that everybody at the back can see. Unfortunately, this style is no use when you're being viewed close enough to see whats up you're left nostril.). The Doctor hoaching with indignation and outrage whenever the Daleks did anything remotely 'Dalek' like, as if he knows nothing about them, let alone fought them in a cataclysmic war, (they shoot things, that's what they do' thats all they do, so don't look so damn surprised when they shoot somebody). The Doctor offering himself up for sacrifice twice (oh, just shoot him!) despite the end result of such actions achieving absolutely nothing. Flat, surprisingly lifeless direction which did, however feature a hilarious shot of a dalek, filmed with a wide angle lens so that it's plunger appeared in huge perspective, with the camera strapped to it's front as it trundled along. (Actually the direction was the least of this episodes problems, Spielberg couldn't have sorted out this mess.). An astonishing level of inconsistency from the Daleks ( having made his impassioned speech, Solomon is instantly exterminated... the Doctor takes stage and the Dalek hesitates). In fact, the Doctor spent most of this episode wandering round with a giant target on his head which the Daleks (all talk and no action) took zero advantage of, despite their continual promises of intent. Taloolah failing to bat an eyelid when Martha states she's a doctor (cos black women doctors were ten a penny in 1930's "Nu Yaawwrrk", apparently.) More running around the same 15 feet of sewer, more climbing up thing's at the end and more famous buildings used as focal points. An invasion of Manhattan by 12 'Dalek' blokes (real shades of 'Plan 9 from outer space' here). Egg whisk Dalek Tommy guns, being 'chambered' (despite firing energy bolts). Vast amount's of dull exposition. The playing of the same musical cue that accompanied the cult of Skaro's glide from the void ship at the end of (the genuinely exciting) Doomsday, over a similar sequence that just looked pathetic in comparison ( the Daleks 'big' entrance onto the stage, a crawling Dalec Sec in tow, via the kind of 'explosion' that would have made Paul Daniels blush!) The much vaunted New York shoot being nothing more then a collection of matte plates. The same threadbare locations/sets used in the first episode (Hooverville being no more then a collection of tents and props). Cliched characterisation and some terrible accents (the lead human/Dalek in the theatre had the worst American accent I'veever heard outside a comedy show). A ridiculous song and dance from Tennant as he mixes up some solutions for the second time in the space of 15 minutes in order to alter DNA or somesuch crap! Daleks that can "temporal shift" anytime, anywhere at will, but only when the writer decides. And finally, some truly dreadful dialogue (Dalek Sec... "For all their faults, such courage!", and my personal favourite "Pig slaves will take the lift!")
You know, it's a testament to how bad this all was that there still loads of things I can think of to list, however, a line has to be drawn, and I'm drawing it now, before I die from old age!
'Evolution' was terrible on so many levels it beggars belief. I'm not even sure that the most undemanding kid would have stayed the distance, boredom being this episodes most cardinal sin. There were a couple of good angle's/stuntmen falling about, when the Daleks (albeit briefly) attacked Hooverville and I liked the tracking shot when the Human/Daleks opened fire in the theatre. But that was it. I still think Murray Gold is providing movie quality scores, and should be complimented on doing so, but his bombast is now starting to feel distinctly out of step with the increasingly shoddy visuals ('Who' as a production in general is nowhere near as gleaming as many people seem to think, compare it with 'Farscape' and you'll see what I mean). Apparently this story was put together via a shopping list thrown at the writer by RTD, (who referred to Helen Raynor in the Radio times as being "Brilliant". That's a surprise!). Well... if you're listening Russel, here's a list for next season's two parter.
The Spanish civil war.
A plate of porridge.
The mutant tax collectors of Kelloss.
Ridiculous isn't it. Okay, so I'm having a laugh. It's fine for me to do so, because I'm not getting paid to entertain people. RTD is, and he's clearly having nearly as big a laugh as I am (ok... not quite, but...). The writing process is a creative endeavour that should not be polluted by stupid pre conceived lists whose elements must all be shoehorned in to satisfy some unnecessary brief. It show's a contempt for the audience that makes RTD, in my opinion unfit for the job he's doing. To conduct such an 'experiment' with the Daleks, and with a two part adventure no less is unforgivable He's turning Dr Who into some kind of joke, and I fear when the audience realises, it'll end in tears. (maybe that's the point, could he deliberately be trying to kill it off, so that when he's bored and finally leaves, nobody will take his place to potentially mess with his vision.).
I'm really coming over like the most paranoid of fanboys here, and that last bit is, I'm sure, nonsense, but I'm annoyed Godamnit!!!
Dr Who has always had it's bad episodes (most of them produced by John Nathon Turner, heh, heh, heh!). I reckon It comes with the territory, due to it's, anthology nature. But a good episode would usually be along pretty soon. Some of the first season episodes were pretty bad, but just as many were good. Some were very good, and Ecclston, while not ideal, had a gravitas and vulnerability that worked (hey... maybe he was too serious, the 'gurning' not sitting well, and perhaps contributing to his departure). Season two unfortunately seemed to have been built on, ( what I perceived to be ) season one's flaws, but there was still a lot of good stuff in there (and some nice subtext as well). I've never much cared for Tennant... his performance is all over the place and the self importance he's imbued his Doctor with just grates. Anytime I have got close to liking his portrayal (He doesn't do 'serious' well, but he can be impressively introspective... remember the 'theological' conversation he conducted with the female scientist in episode 2 of 'The Satan pit''.), he's blown it all away the following week. Less is often more, as Tom Baker proved time after time (a truly 'alien' performance by a genuine oddball... perfect). Piper, however, was still on board and she proved surprisingly capable of being the hook the show seemed to be hung on. Now, she's gone, and the third season appears to have been built entirely on the flaws, Pipers replacement being as uninteresting as she is 'airbrushed'. It's not the actors fault, she's been given practically zero to work with. Martha has no real backstory, and no distinctive personality traits, nothing! If there was a leash on Tennent (certainly in place during some of 'The girl in the fireplace', The Satan pit' and Doomsday'), it's been cut and he's being allowed to run rampant. Five stories in and the best of the bunch (The Shakespeare code) was no more than ok! Next weeks looks fine, but only if you haven't seen 'The Relic'. (which immediately sprung to mind, and I'm sure it'll be ripped off mercilessly, without Peter Hyams murky camerawork, of course, but also unfortunately minus Tom Sizemore and Penelope Anne Millar).
I'm afraid I've just lost faith in all of this. The show seems to have moved in a direction I'm just not in tune with. Maybe 'Doomsday' was too climactic, too grandiose, and the programme now feels smaller as a result. Maybe this sieries is exactly where the production team have always wanted it to be (it's all down to subjectivity). Maybe I'm taking this all too seriously. All I can say, however, is that where 'Who' currently seems to be is definitely not where I want to see it. I'm sure out of the remaining episodes The Harper directed ones will be competently put together, and Stephen Moffat's effort, potentially good (okay, so his 'drunken Doctor' stank, but he knows how to construct a story). But these are the only glimmer's of hope to cling onto during a season that up to this point has, as far as I'm concerned, gone to hell in a handbasket. Even the fx work seems a little less consistent then before.
The show is sinking in a morass of repetition, inconsistency and plain amateurishness. When the programme should be at it's peak, 'Evolution' marked a new low.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
Evolution of the Daleks is an episode that barely takes a moment to breathe. Immediately we are thrown into a good old-fashioned Dalek corridor chase, sublimely complemented by Murray Gold's epic score. Within just a few minutes marauding pig-slaves and flying Daleks besiege Hooverville. And within just a few minutes more the human part of Sec is beginning to take hold.
"We must return to the flesh and to the heart."
With her script for this episode, Helen Raynor has done almost as good a job as Rob Shearman did with "Dalek" in how she presents the Dalek race in a new and fascinating way. I say 'almost as good' because I think that Shearman had a slightly harder job in trying to make us feel compassion for a 'traditional' Dalek; Raynor at least has a humanoid Dalek.
"Observe humanity. For all their faults, they have courage."
Having watched "Daleks In Manhattan", it seemed pretty obvious to me that the three Daleks were going to turn on Sec. In my head I imagined a Davros / Daleks "Genesis of the Daleks" type finish, but never did I imagine that events would play out in the way that they did. I was somewhat taken aback by just how far Raynor pushed Sec ? within two episodes he goes from the fiendish leader of an evil Dalek cult to an almost whiter-than-white visionary.
This created a lovely dilemma for the Doctor ? should he help him?
In all his incarnations the Doctor has been an unstoppable moral force. He has always done what he believed to be the right thing or what he believed to be for the greater good. But usually the audience, scrutinising the Doctor's decisions from outside the box, can clearly see what the right moral choice is or was. Watching "Evolution of the Daleks" though, I honestly didn't have a clue. Thousands of frozen humans, completely brain-dead. Should the Doctor let Sec use their empty husks as vessels for a new, tamer Dalek race? Talk about the difficult decisions?
"He is an enemy of the Daleks? and so are you! You have lost your authority. You are no longer a Dalek! You taught us to imagine and we imagined your irrelevance."
Predictable as it may have been, the recalcitrant Daleks' eventual insurrection certainly didn't lack impact. The image of Sec being forced to crawl in chains ahead of Thay and Jast is certainly an enduring one, and Sec 'taking the bullet' for the Doctor is an almost equally powerful moment. I love the shot of the death ray illuminating Sec's cyclopic skull. Beautiful.
What I found really entertaining though, was seeing Caan, Thay and Jast plotting, scheming and bitching about Sec. I loved the way that their domes would swivel around 360? as if they were looking over their shoulders, scared of getting caught! Fantastic.
Turning to the man himself for a moment, I've been a fan of David Tennant throughout his reign ? he had me won over by the end of "The Christmas Invasion" ? but in this episode I couldn't help but be dumbfounded by the sheer gravity of his performance. Following hot on the heels of Solomon's touching and eloquent speech during the attack on Hooverville was certainly an unenviable task, but the Doctor's plea to the Dalek to kill him seemed worryingly heartfelt. It was almost as if the Doctor wanted to die, and were it not for the compassion of Sec he would have. And it doesn't end there.
The scene atop the Empire State Building is regeneration-worthy. When the lightning struck the tenth Doctor's body I would have written him off had I not seen clips from later episodes! There is something about the Daleks that brings out the best ? and worst ? of the Doctor, and in "Evolution of the Daleks" it is more evident than ever.
"Never waste time on a hug!"
I'm sure I'm not the only one to have noticed this new little phrase creeping in to the Doctor's vocab - this and bloody "Allons-y." I noticed this saying first in Stephen Cole's tie-in novel "Sting of the Zygons," and it stood out again here. It's as if the Doctor is regressing to his pre-Rose state. He's closing up.
"?he looks at me and I just sort of think, he's not seeing me. He's just remembering."
The spaghetti western-style showdown between the Doctor and Caan was the highlight of the episode for me. The last of the Daleks and the last of the Time Lords? again. The scene mirrored not only that fateful meeting between the ninth Doctor and the Dalek in Van Statten's museum, but also the final battle of wits between the seventh Doctor and the Dalek Supreme in "Remembrance of the Daleks."
Bar one pivotal difference.
"Caan, let me help you. What do you say?"
With pale red eyes and the emotion in his voice barely kept in check, the tenth Doctor looked upon the last Dalek in existence and offered it mercy. The Daleks might commit genocide at the drop of the hat, but not the Doctor. Not anymore, at least. He's become a better man. The man who once vaporised Skaro's sun offers the olive branch to Dalek Caan, and what does he say?
"Emergency temporal shift!"
And when all was said and done, Helen Raynor had one last uplifting surprise in store for us. Lazlo and Tellulah. The Pig and the Showgirl. The Pig with a tragically short life span? were it not for the intervention of a Time Lord.
"Oh Tellulah with three l's and an h! Just you watch me!"
And they all lived happily ever after? well, they both lived happily ever after. Hardly "Everybody Lives!", but it still has the same sort of feel-good resonance.
And so once again I have nothing but praise for all concerned in the production of this week's magnificent episode of Doctor Who - bar a couple of minor gripes?
Why was the grand 'Invasion of Manhattan' confined to a sewer and a backstreet theatre?
Since when were Daleks made of Dalekanium? The last I heard, Dalekanium was an explosive! Whatever happened to bonded polycarbide armour?
I believe that this is called clutching at straws.
Next week I promise I'll try to tear "The Lazarus Experiment" to shreds.
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A pleasing - albeit solid, rather than spectacular - conclusion to the first two-parter of Series 3. The pattern in the previous two series has been for the later two-parters in the season to be generally perceived by fans to be superior to the first - that was certainly my view - and I suspect that will prove the case this time round.
There was plenty to like about Evolution, particularly from the Daleks themselves and The Doctor, but not much to suggest it was anything out of the ordinary. I would stop short of calling it "predictable" but, if there was a disappointment in the adventure, it was a lack of the "wow" factor - there wasn't much there to take even the casual viewer by surprise.
However, what was on view was delivered extremely efficiently from script to screen, and made for another enjoyable watch to continue the high standard maintained by the season to date.
The episode began with the human Dalek Sec appreciating his new form in the sewers under New York, and looking forward to the creation of a new race of hybrid Daleks - though the rest of The Cult Of Skaro are quick to privately express doubts about their leader's plans.
The Doctor leads Martha, Talullah and Frank back to Hooverville, but they're pursued by the pig slaves and two of the Daleks, who callously exterminate Hooverville's leader, Soloman, despite his pleas for clemency. Sec orders them to spare the rest of the humans in exchange for The Doctor's assistance in helping him to create his new race - he already has the "husks" of 1000 humans awaiting implementation of Dalek DNA - and take them to another planet.
The Doctor believes Sec has been influenced by humanity, and agrees to help, but the other Daleks have made alternative plans. They foil Sec and The Doctor's plans by instilling pure Dalek ideals into the human bodies, which will come to life when the Daleks' genetic laboratory is powered up via an energy conductor containing Dalekanium at the top of the Empire State Building.
The Doctor escapes (again) with the help of Talullah's boyfriend, Laszlo, a half-converted pig slave, and heads for the Empire State. Martha is already at the top, with Talullah and Frank, having worked out that is where The Doctor wanted her to head.
When lightning strikes the Daleks' conductor at the top of the Empire State, The Doctor is there and, although he isn't able to stop the new human Daleks coming to life, his own DNA is infused into them as a result.
The Doctor and his companions confront two of the Daleks in Talullah's theatre. The Daleks exterminate Sec, and invite their new human recruits to do the same to The Doctor. However, the human Daleks question the need to kill, and a battle between them and the Daleks ensue. The latter are eliminated, and Dalek Caan, monitoring events back in the laboratory, destroys the human Daleks, to The Doctor's horror.
The Doctor confronts Caan - now the last of the Daleks - who uses the Emergency Temporal Shift to escape . . .
The ailing Laszlo is saved by The Doctor, who is determined no-one else will die, and given a home in the Hooverville camp.
As we know, "they (the Daleks) always survive" but is The Doctor's closing confirmation to Martha that he will meet Dalek Caan again "one day" an indication that we will see Caan again later in this season? And was another apparently-innocuous line mentioning the Daleks' creator (albeit not by name) mean that a Davros return could also be the cards? That would certainly give another dimension to a Dalek episode.
That was achieved here - the interaction between members of The Cult Of Skaro was particularly fascinating. You didn't have to be a nuclear scientist to work out the other Daleks weren't going to tolerate their leader's plans for evolution, and there was even room for sympathy towards the hybrid Dalek, chained up and ultimately exterminated.
Another highlight was Soloman's speech to the airborne Daleks falling on deaf eyestalks, and being met with instant extermination - underlining that, ability to think for themselves or not, Daleks' core instincts are to destroy anything which is not like them.
But it's always a thrill to see a Dalek adventure and, though it's my view this was the weakest story of the four to feature them since the series came back, that had plenty to do with the quality of the other stories. We have done "the last Dalek" story with Rob Shearman's Series 1 tale, so one would assume Caan's return wouldn't replicate that.
Helen Raynor did an excellent job on by far her biggest TV writing assignment, but she isn't Russell T Davies or Steven Moffat. Although Raynor's script-editing experience on the show would have been a major help in the structuring of the episode - and the plot was certainly sound and very easy to follow - there was a lack of that little bit of additional sparkle which those two great, seasoned writers bring to their characters. Having said that, Raynor's script was assisted by David Tennant in particular being absolutely brilliant. You could give this guy the phone book to read, and he'd have you captivated. He had a good script here, with a lot of material, but lifted it up a level with his delivery, energy - and sheer quality. Tennant is arguably now Doctor Who's biggest single asset, and I would be very surprised if the list of his doubters weren't disintegrating by the episode.
Freema Agyeman continues to impress alongside, and Martha Jones had more of a role here than last week. In fact, she was very Rose-like when split from The Doctor and had to use her initiative to help with the foiling of the Daleks' plans. Although The Doctor is now clearly appreciating her intelligence and usefulness, it is still apparent that she doesn't exist to him in any romantic form. Not so much as a casual glance. Martha, on the other hand, evidently has the serious hots for her travelling companion, which I'm sure will be expanded upon when they return to present-day Earth next week. Martha's sadness at her unrequited feelings is making her a character easily empathised with.
It's going to be difficult for guest artistes to catch the eye with such focus - rightly - on the show's stars and sadly, Miranda Raison, who made a good impression as Talullah in the previous episode, was more of a bit-part player here.
A couple of impressive - and expensive - battle scenes were well realised by director James Strong and the various effects teams, particularly in the Hooverville camp, and I love Murray Gold's anthemic Dalek music.
No real complaints here - more Day Of The Daleks than Genesis probably, but that's no shame, and a steady seven and a half out of 10 for both episodes combined.
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This episode had a lot to do. It had to follow on from a fine first part, and tie all the loose ends...dot all the i's and cross all the t's. It just about managed, and in doing so became the strongest thus far in 2007.
I won't write too much about the plot, instead I shall comment on it. I was pleased and relieved that the remaining three daleks (and then there were three...) turned against Dalek Sec, their erstwhile leader. It seemed entirely in character even for daleks who are supposed to posess imagination.
I found the dalek Sec/human character to be strangely endeering, and I am sure that is what writer Helen Raynor wanted. He had depth to his character, he could imagine dalek/human hybrid race that could continue but perhaps not be the scourge of the galaxy. I almost wanted him to succeed and the Doctor to take them in the TARDIS to some suitable planet where they could have their chance.
I was thrilled to hear the daleks counting down in rels, a nice look back at old Who...and the human daleks were quite reminiscent of robomen.
Ultimately the story could have filled three episodes, there was a lot to resolve in the final 15 minutes. But Raynor's script and James Strong's direction just about managed to tie everything up without feeling rushed. Very clever. The Doctor remains true to his principles throughout, trying to save lives and see to the daleks without un-necessary destruction.
If I had a complaint it would be that there seems little logic in the idea of Time Lord DNA somehow getting into the "human daleks" when all the Doctor did was hang onto a lightning conductor. I understand the lightning could give enough power for their laboratory to administer the DNA prepared by Sec and the Doctor, but when there was no direct connection between the conductor and the tubes of blue gunk...how could the bodies recieve Time Lord DNA?
Oh and as a scientist I was a bit bemused to see the Doctor using gas syringes and gas jars for liquids...but I am sure the crew just had a job lot of laboratory glassware and thought that looked more cool than hypodermics!
Over all hugely enjoyable, did what it needed to do and was clever.
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Well this was a pretty satisfactory conclusion to a promising opening episode. In this respect, we're not let down by a rushed or silly climax as with most of new Who's two parters. This story delivers what it promises and nothing more than that. Dalek Seck is a wonderful creation, excellently realised, brilliantly voiced, and in the end, a quite compelling anti-hero and convincing petitioner of the Doctor - with this new slant on a possible re-moralisation of the Daleks, we have arguably the most compelling dilemma for the Doctor since Genesis of the Daleks. I think he also opts for the right decision in this case - but of course is thwarted - as is Seck - by rebelling Daleks who inevitably grow restless at their new corporeal leader, as they once did many times with Davros (speaking of whom, surely the ground is being laid for an eventual re-encounter?).
The disturbing suggestion that we humans might have potential to become Daleks ourselves, to degenerate morally as the Kaleds did back on Skaro, seems worryingly un-far-fetched considering our race managed to produce the Nazis, and that the world in general has been becoming more and more reactionary and territorial over the last quarter of a century. A good moral lesson for our times, which is what Who does best. I would have liked this thread to have been taken further: for a new score of Daleks to have been made from humans just to emphasize this point more. Rather like the - albeit somewhat pointless given its parallel Earth setting - plot of Rise of the Cybermen, it would have been nice to have had the human race mimicking the Kaleds and making Daleks of their own - but the suggestions were there, which is something still to think on.
The flying Daleks were impressive, the finale too, with a new short-lived half-human breed of Timelords courtesy of the Doctor's DNA interception of the process - quite a nice little twist, though not entirely unpredictable.
Tennant has generally been on his best form for some time during the last three episodes. Long may it stay that way.
Overall, not quite a classic, but a solid and very old Who-style romp, with philosophical sprinklings and an interesting development of Dalekology (hence a very apt title for this episode). The best two parter since Impossible Planet/Satan Pit, though by merit of its fairly well-balanced two episodes (in that neither is significantly better than the other), it is comparable to Empty Child/Doctor Dances in that respect, and light years above Risable of the Cybermen from last year. This season is going from strength to strength since the surprise minor classic Gridlock - let's hope there are no more Smith and Jones's and Shakespeare Codes along the way to undermine this momentum.
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Sadly, that was a bit of a disappointment after last week's slightly flawed but impressively atmospheric build up. Instead of an homage to 'The Island Of Doctor Moreau' this episode seemed to take a very surreal and cliched journey into 'The Dalek Horror Picture Show' and I was half expecting to see the hybrid Sec break into a rendition of 'Let's Do The Time Warp Again'. Nice spats, shame about the face.
And just as I thought I was getting involved in the plot, various story and directing decisions kept lifting me out of the episode. The locked off camera shots of the Daleks gliding about the sewer tunnels, whilst an attempt to give us something different visually, didn't quite work for me. They had an artificial quality to them that perhaps underlined the schizophrenia of the episode for me. A kind of bizarre artifice that kept cropping up ? the repetitive sequences of the Doctor and the Daleks in confrontation and their continual threat/avoidance to kill him; Solomon's speech to the Dalek ('War Of The Worlds' anyone or was that a nod to the assassination of Martin Luther King?) that seemed like an attempt at Oscar nomination and didn't really have any truth in it as a scene bar for the long awaited extermination; those odd dissolves of the marching human Daleks that tried to convince you an army was on the march; the curing of Laszlo that seemed to happen off screen after the Doctor has stirred up a few phials of something?I just found these choices a bit bizarre.
What you expected to happen?did happen, right down to the inevitable 'emergency temporal shift' of Caan at the conclusion of the story. For me it committed the cardinal sin of relying on the 'reset button' mode of storytelling. Tie up all the loose ends in the last ten minutes and bring the overall narrative back to square one as if the events over the last two episodes didn't really have any major effect on any of the characters lives or situations. I don't mind that kind of storytelling as long as it's an engaging and interesting journey back to the beginning. Here we get mass exterminations and genetic experimentation and the Doctor and Martha making a crass joke about 'the pig and the showgirl' as they nip off to pastures new.
The ultimate 'Rocky Horror' moment for me was the confrontation in the theatre. All of a sudden, the Daleks arrive on stage, bathed in smoke and bad lighting, and they cease being fascist xenophobes and just look like something out of 'Seven Keys To Doomsday'. All that careful build up in the first part of the story, with the flashes of 'Evil Of The Daleks', just dissipated away by reducing them to vaudeville props. It seemed such a 'small' scene to conclude what was originally something conceived as, and looking like, an epic. And logically it didn't make sense for Caan to order the two Daleks to kill all the slaves and then wait until they're blown up to decide to self-destruct the slaves anyway!
The best scenes in the episode were the attack on Hooverville and the 'Frankenstein' laboratory pastiche of the resurrection of the human Daleks. Both were epic, thrilling scenes and visually engaging. The destruction of Hooverville was especially spectacular. The story was also full of good ideas and humour. The two Daleks in the tunnel having a bit of a gossip about the hybrid and looking behind them to see if they're being overheard and the pig guards going up in the lift with their obvious impatience were amusing scenes. The nod to 'Are You Being Served?' with the Doctor's 'first floor?perfumery' quip and Tallulah's 'gammon strike' comment also managed to raise a laugh.
What also might have been better dramatically was perhaps to have had the Doctor's attempt to evolve the Daleks be thwarted not by the other Daleks, but by Martha sabotaging the mast (with the best intentions, as she'd be unaware of what was going on and would end up maintaining the Daleks original nature). But instead it fell back into the clich? of the other Daleks putting a spanner in the works which was crudely, if humourously, set up earlier.
Freema also got a bit more to get her teeth into this time and to see Martha putting together a plan to electrocute the pig guards (despite being a bit iffy on the science) was a great opportunity to show how resourceful the character can be. However, I think it's time the series moved on from the Rose references now and didn't keep resorting to using Martha's unrequited love in the face of the Doctor's emotional fragility as development. It's getting repetitive and isn't moving the dynamic between the characters forward enough.
This week, I'm afraid David Tennant turned into the 'shouty' version of the Doctor that I seemed to have trouble with in Series 2. On the occasions where he's here confronting hybrid Sec and/or the Daleks his indignation with them just gets played too broadly which is a shame as in the first three episodes of this year's series he's been pretty much on the mark and has provided a more contained display of anger and righteousness. I'm also slightly troubled by the Doctor's moral position here. In 'Genesis Of The Daleks' he doesn't commit genocide because he realises he'd be just as bad as the Daleks and that a greater good will come from their existence. Here, he merrily sides with hybrid Sec to change the entire 'raison d'etre' of the Dalek species without a qualm. A tad na?ve of him surely? Here, for Sec, it would seem humanity equals goodness but humans are also capable of evil, destruction and war.
Overall, it looked spectacular but the illogic of some of the plotting, some of the odd directorial choices and an over-repetition of Doctor/Dalek confrontation clich? made it a less effective episode than the first part. Its plunge into surreal 'Rocky Horror' B movie territory, whilst a template that is suitable to the material and its themes of mad science and 1930s Gothic noir, doesn't do any favours to the emotional power needed for the characters to operate in the scale of this story. It felt flat despite all the best efforts.
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The Daleks are a triumph of design, a futurist alien vehicle that quickly became a pop culture emblem of swinging Britain, and from that point on a little piece of everyone's childhood. As an alien race, however, they're pretty bog-standard. Survivors of a dying planet stripped of their humanity and emotion and encased inside a powerful metal body: conceptually, you could barely get a cigarette paper between Daleks and Cybermen. Personality wise, all they ever really do is plot, kill, gripe about the Doctor and want to dominate the universe, just like 70% of Doctor Who aliens.
For this reason, I wasn't up in arms when Daleks In Manhattan tinkered a little with the mythology of the Daleks last week ? they're a decidedly limited concept anyway, so anything to make them a tad more interesting is always welcome. On the flip side, this week's attempt to spend 45 minutes delving into the psychology of what are essentially little tanks with laser guns for me resulted in crushing boredom.
Daleks In Manhattan was an entertaining Old Who style romp, maybe the closest in spirit and feel to the classic series as we've seen so far. By contrast, Evolution Of The Daleks was perhaps the flattest and most dispiriting slice of Doctor Who since Battlefield. It seems to be tradition now that Dalek/Cybermen two-parters consist of a fascinating first episode followed by an ineffectual run-around in place of a satisfying pay-off. I enjoyed both Rise Of The Cybermen and especially Army Of Ghosts, but was unimpressed by Age Of Steel and especially Doomsday.
Like the 'Cartmel Masterplan' episodes of the late 1980s, there was too much crammed clumsily into the limited running time, and what started in episode 1 as an interesting and satirical period piece degenerated into a hokey mishmash of Frankenstein, King Kong, Back To The Future, Ghostbusters and the 1930s Saturday matinee serials. This in itself wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but the pacing was so off that it all came across as a joyless series of misfiring set pieces with no one coming out of it particularly well.
The Doctor fared particularly badly, despite David Tennant's typically sterling work. Twice he offered himself for up extermination? once is careless, twice is just tiresome and dramatically flat. Quite what he hoped to achieve is beyond me, blind self-sacrifice being something of an unDoctorly trait. Since he constantly champions himself as the Daleks' worst nightmare, quite what good he would be to anyone dead is a mystery. Admittedly, the second time he was prompting the Dalek hybrids to rebel, but it was something of a leap of faith that they would, and an even bigger leap of faith that the real Daleks wouldn't just go right ahead and exterminate him anyway. And why was he so enraged and indignant when the Daleks killed all the pigmen and human hybrids? Was he expecting them not to? All things considered, it was pretty much par for the Dalek course. To make it a hat-trick of bad Doctoring, he stood back and allowed poor misguided Solomon to be exterminated. If anyone knows you can't appeal to the good in a Dalek it should be our Doc, so I have no idea what he was playing at.
The Daleks themselves sadly have regressed back to Remembrance Of The Daleks standards (albeit not so wobbly on their feet): lots of shouting about exterminating, but rarely actually getting around to doing any of it. The only reason the Doctor survived this episode was that the old fellahs have become such chronic procrastinators.
Not a great episode for Martha either, I'm afraid. She had been growing on me as a companion, but in this episode Freema Agyeman seemed to be struggling to convince with the dialogue she'd been lumbered with (both she and Miranda Raison as Tallulah wresting with diction problems during their scenes together). Her girlie chat about Rose was toe-curling.
Special mention must also go to the baffling moment in which the Doctor retrieves his sonic screwdriver ? apparently, unless I misheard the dialogue, Martha somehow managed to catch it half way down the Empire State Building. Really?
Another big up for humans here, yay for us! Apparently, if you give a Dalek a dose of humanity, it'll start questioning orders and being all nice and conscientious. All well and good, but if history has taught us anything, it's that there's nothing humans like doing more than following orders and committing atrocities. (The Doctor puts the disobedience of the robomen down to a shot of Time Lord DNA, but as that would have been impossible to achieve through mere electrical conductivity, we have to assume he's talking baloney).
In a better episode, this would all be nit-picking. Unfortunately, as dramatic television, it was terribly flaccid and unoriginal, with the Doctor yet again scaling a mast in a thunderstorm (see The Idiot Box) and a major landmark lighting up (see pretty much everything). Packed with ideas and plot threads, none of them were given sufficient room to breathe, resulting in one long 45-minute soggy squib.
Mind you, I did like the perfumery line.
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A change of scenery is always nice and for the first time we're outside of the British Isles (with the exception of another Dalek episode, but that underground museum could have been anywhere.) The Doctor and Martha go back to 1930s Depression-era New York to do some sightseeing but end up in a Dalek plot involving pig creatures, the Empire State building and, of course, world domination. It's a decent entry, with the first part being much better than the second. But what I failed to understand was why the Daleks wanted to evolve. The new Daleks were much more vulnerable so I'm not sure what the point was. Either way, it provides some Dalek on Dalek drama that's never been done before.
Some of the guest stars were a little trying, especially Tallulah who I supposed figured all women in 1930s America sounded like Betty Boop and Frank who has a southern accent that he picked up from watching Hee Haw reruns. Also, for a dude that got turned into a man-pig, Laszlo didn't seem all that upset.
The story also continued this trend of building romance between The Doctor and his companion. The whining about feelings that came out in series two was frustrating enough, but now it seems to be starting all over again. I long for the good old days when The Doctor and everyone just ran around without any drama.
Tiny criticism: A Hooverville in Central Park didn't set up until 1931.
Everything aside, I enjoyed it and think it's continuing a strong series so far.
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Anything with the Daleks is good. Right?
Well, I was worried beforehand. New York setting sounded great until I realised that the Doctor and co. didn't actually go and it was all special fx, secondly the pigmen looked awful in the previews, and thirdly, the so-called "Evolution" of the Daleks, this could be a total pig's ear of a story so to speak.
But thankfully I didn't need to be nervous at all as the story carried all the above off very well indeed and the whole story carried on at a rattling pace.
The brilliant graphics actually gave a detailed and realistic New York feel, I loved the dancing girls, and the arrival of the sinister Daleks to take control of the weak Hooverville humans who were vulnerable and ready to take on any job for a bit of pay.
The whole setting and backdrop was excellent and the Doctor was almost a bit part player to the Daleks I felt in the first episode. The Daleks, incidentally, were marvellously calculating and the build-up to the cliffhanger was nicely executed though spoilt by the Radio Times cover to a massive extent.
The Evolution part of Dalek sec was interesting and it was good to see the Daleks consipiring against him and finally turning the tables on him. The second episode was better than the first which did set the scene magnificiently but "Evolution of the Daleks" was the highlight with the Doctor putting himself forward for extermination by his most fearsome enemy not once but TWICE! Amazing stuff.
The changeover to human daleks certainly nodded back to "Evil of the Daleks" and again this was well executed and it was a great twist that timelord DNA managed to get in the way of the Daleks, and while the idea of the last surviving Dalek - Caan - performing a temporal time shift will no doubt attract criticism in some quarters - you have to keep the deadly Daleks still on the prowl!!!
There were so many great highlights such as the divebombing Daleks attacking Hooverville to the realisation of the Dalek's plan to survive via human daleks, and the scheming against Dalek Sec. I liked the way how the Dalek turned its eye-stalk round to check he couldn't be heard. That was quite human in fact!!!!
It was a lovely script and really captured the feel of 1930s New York with the Empire State Building and the sinister scheming Daleks were menacing and scary. Start spreading the News, the Daleks are back!
On a footnote, Dalek Caan could always have escaped in the Dardis - the Dalek time machine that arrived at the top of the Empire States Building in The Chase!!
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It looks great, and the sight of Daleks in Manhattan is highly striking, given that the series has rarely ventured into America. Manhattan is extremely well realised, and as an affectionate pastiche of the era, the over-the-top Brooklyn accents and showgirls are perfectly acceptable. The Depression backdrop fulfils the series original remit of being vaguely educational, conveying some of the wretchedness of the period very well. The pig-slaves are also visually striking, and don't look anywhere near as silly as they could have done, especially when they are menacingly advancing through the sewers. Even Laszlo doesn't look silly, largely because the actor brings pathos to the role. The only weak point is Dalek Sec, which looks like a nightmarish Muppet after his transformation.
The Daleks, with low numbers and low power, are forced to use cunning, and their plan to transform humans into Daleks harkens back to 'The Evil of the Daleks'. They are at their nastiest here, especially when a Dalek impassively listens to Solomon and lets him finish his speech before exterminating him, and when Dalek Khan kills the Dalek Humans. Sec's sudden development of a conscience is horribly predictable, but refreshingly doesn't go down the route I'd expected, with the other three rebelling against him ("You told us to imagine and we imagined your irrelevance"), chaining him up like a gimp, and finally exterminating him.
Unfortunately, it's largely bollocks. The Dalek plan to use the Empire State building to channel the gamma burst into the humans and turn them into Daleks, whilst pure Silver Age comic book science, makes perfect sense from a Dalek point of view and clearly would have worked, so what exactly is Sec's transformation all about? Or the pig-slaves for that matter? Are the Daleks just bored? After all, the Dalek Humans look human, so all the hybridisation business suddenly seems pointless. Then there is the ghastly contrivance of the Doctor somehow affecting them by channelling the lightening strike through his own body, as though electricity can carry DNA. It's almost like a first draft that hasn't been script-edited, and this is especially annoying given that it could so easily have been, if not spectacular, then a solid enough Dalek story. Predictably, one Dalek escapes at the end, but by now I'm getting fed up of the Daleks scrabbling about for survival.
In addition, we get silly moments such as the two Daleks whispering and peering over their shoulders, and the pig-slave shuffling impatiently in the lift. We also find out that the pig-slaves have a limited lifespan, almost immediately after which Laszlo starts getting hot flushes and falling over, which is horribly contrived. The biggest problem however lies in some of the dialogue. The second episode in particular degenerates into the sort of pompous and contrived morality speeches that Russell T. Davies tends to write in his worst moments, with the Doctor's speech about not a single more person dying feeling almost cringe worthy (although points are awarded for not killing off Laszlo, and thus avoiding the Talluleh sobbing over his corpse scene that I'd predicted. We get speeches from Dalek Sec, Solomon, and the Doctor, all of which are presumably meant to be rousing, but all of which are so unoriginal that it's just dull. Oh and Martha is increasingly gagging for Time Lord cock, which produces a funny line from Talluleh ("he likes musical theatre?") but generally just continues the feeling that the writers are so unimaginative and sex-obsessed that they can't think of anything to do with her apart from walking the same route that they went down with Rose, who gets mentioned yet again.
There is some decent acting on display, especially from Ryan Carnes as Laszlo and Hugh Quarshire as Solomon, and Freema Agyeman continues to impress, especially when Martha again gets to use her brain to think of an imaginative way to kill the pig-slaves. And Helen Raynor remembers that Martha is a medical student, as she tends the denizens of Hooverville. Unfortunately, Eric Loren is rather less impressive as Dalek Sec, giving a stilted, irritating performance throughout. Meanwhile, David Tennant continues to reign in the wackiness, and spends most of the episode emoting as the Daleks bring out the worst in the Doctor again. This works very well at times, especially when he mutters, "They survived. They always survive, whilst I lose everything", but leaves him shouting in a disturbingly hammy fashion during the second episode, something I hoped I wouldn't see him doing again. By the time he's delivering ultimatums to Dalek Khan, his performance is horrendously unconvincing, as is his simultaneous clowning and making a speech as he sets out to save Laszlo. And are we really expected to believe that the Doctor can now shrug off a lightening strike without even getting singed?
'Daleks in Manhattan'/'Evolution of the Daleks' suffers most of all however from one continuing factor that plagues the new series remorselessly: all of the worst scenes are made exponentially worse than they actually are by having Murray Gold's sickening musical tripe smeared all over them, his saccharine orchestral excesses crudely trying to influence the viewer's emotions in the least subtle way possible. Unfortunately, with everyone on the production team waxing lyrical about his perceived talents, this is unlikely to relent any time soon.
Overall, 'Daleks in Manhattan'/'Evolution of the Daleks' is rather odd: neither truly great, nor genuinely bad, it's an odd mishmash of both, with some great moments (Laszlo's abduction at the start is an impressively creepy scene that brings to mind The Phantom of the Opera, and the Daleks look superb when they are glidingly menacingly around the sewers), let down by a nonsensical plot, a couple of duff performances, and some ghastly dialogue. As an attempt to do a Dalek story without it being an overblown, end-of-season epic, it's a worthy experiment, but it could, and should, have been so much better.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
A disappointment after the promise of the first three stories of the season, this two-parter nevertheless had a liberal sprinkling of the good qualities which characterise the 2007 run so far, enough to save it from sinking all the way back down to Series 1 and 2 levels.
The first 15 minutes are really excellent; Hooverville is a superb setting for a Doctor Who story, its pathos is well evoked despite the clich? of two men fighting over some bread, and the Doctor fits right in, of course. The loveable American characters are what really make the episodes, particularly as there are some fabulous accents on display, particularly Frank's Tennessee drawl: Helen Raynor deserves points for showing us more of a cross-section of US society than a story populated only by New Yorkers. Solomon is a commanding and sympathetic character, and Tallulah has some nice moments. The novelty of a traditionally Anglo-centric series venturing Stateside had me hooked from the word go.
More important by far is the treatment of the Daleks. Their role in the two previous two-parters has been to provide a 'shock' twist at the cliffhanger, meaning we only had one episode with them in. That trick got undeniably stale, and in an episode entitled 'Daleks In Manhattan' would certainly NOT have worked, so it was a relief to have two full episodes of Dalek action in this one, meaning I wasn't left with the sense of being short-changed that 'Bad Wolf' in particular gave me. Their reveal in the lift is excellent, as is the Dalek's ensuing dialogue with Diagoras, and our first sight of their operation recalls the spirit of countless Dalek stories which has them hidden away below stairs and working on mysterious things through human operatives: 'Day of the Daleks' especially, with Mr Diagoras standing for the Controller.
By the end of 'Evolution', however, the story much more readily recalls a mid-80s story than anything else; probably 'Resurrection'. The fragmented storytelling and multiplicity of loose ends give the whole thing an unsatisfying 'bitty' and episodic feel, as characters are killed off (though Solomon's death is quite a powerful moment) and we jump from setting to setting and threat to threat. The early promise deflates as plot lines fizzle out and everything starts to get repetitive; most annoyingly, the Doctor gets two scenes in which he offers himself up to the Daleks for extermination, and both times, in increasingly contrived ways, survives. That's just lazy. As is the confusion over whether the flashy special effect on top of the Empire State building is a simple "lightening strike" or a "gamma strike" from a solar flare (not to mention how the Doctor manages to alter a chemical process through standing in the way of the power source! What??).
Still worse is the cliffhanger. It's not even particularly exciting conceptually, as it is very hard to see just what Sec thinks he will get out of his 'evolution', but the lack of payoff, the way in which the Daleks (in evident agreement) just remove Sec from the plot fairly soon after he changes, with Raynor leaving him to be accidentally shot when the running time runs out, is practically unforgivable. I'm tempted to say, all told, that Helen Raynor's proper calling is script editor rather than writer. She shows clear and incisive understanding of the Doctor's character and obviously knows just what the programme SHOULD be like, better than almost every writer so far in fact, but the broad-brush characterisation and clumsy plotting negate the impact.
The Doctor still works though, thanks to a combination of a well-considered role in the story and David Tennant: the Doctor is at last beginning to consistently treat other people with a bit of respect, and his anguished scream when he believes Frank to be dead in part one is great. His willingness to help the Daleks is also surprising and shows a maturity which this incarnation is only infrequently capable of. He's still a bit omnipotent though, recovering from a very dramatically filmed zapping with disappointing ease.
Martha is, if not the strongest, then the most faultless element of these episodes, again. Freema Agyeman plays it with a healthy dose of fear that is absolutely necessary with such an all-knowing and invulnerable Doctor, and is gifted with a supremely traditional companion's role. She makes friends with the secondary characters, uses her wits and individual skills together with what the Doctor has taught her to defeat the minor villains and assist the Doc to wrap up the story; it doesn't get more classical than that! Although the two leads have a rather pointless spat about orders in the theatre, apropos of nothing, by and large Martha's chemistry with our hero is excellent, and her regret at killing the hybrids, when as a trainee doctor she is supposed to be dedicated to preserving life, is nicely handled.
James Hawes directs the Daleks nicely, but I've gone off him rather. And, despite the classical music echoes which keep appearing, of Gershwin especially, Murray Gold's music is even more ghastly than usual in this one, the execrable techno-choral chanting which follows that Daleks around doing nothing for them and nothing for the story.
The first misstep of Series 3, but with enough residual quality to keep me entertained.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
There seems to be a theme of moral ambivalence running through the episodes this series, and it's refreshing to find that theme continued so strongly in a Dalek adventure. On the surface, DiM/EotD is a pretty straightforward "Daleks want to rule the world, Doctor has to stop them" kind of story. In fact, as far as Dalek plots go, this one seems downright simplistic. Compare the Dalek plot here with the one in Resurrection of the Daleks, Renaissance of the Daleks or McGann's Time of the Daleks and you'll see what I mean. I thought it was interesting that the Daleks felt they needed a group like the Cult of Skaro for "imagination" when most of their plans were already needlessly overcomplicated. If anything, they needed a group to work on practicality, and in this story, that's exactly what Dalek Sec tries to do.
For a species as dependent on command structure as the Daleks, they have a surprising tendency to rebel against their leaders. They did it to Davros on several occasions, and here the same happens to poor Sec. If anything, the Cult of Skaro demonstrates that Daleks really are incapable of thinking outside the box. To do so is to become something other than a Dalek, and thus to be unworthy of existence. The Cult is, in essence, a contradiction, and was destined to be destroyed from within. The Doctor's involvement in all this is almost superfluous. For once in the new series, instead of the Doctor rushing in, turning everything upsidedown and leaving, he is merely a catalyst, accelerating a process that has already been set in motion. This is how the character of the Doctor works best, in my opinion, and surprisingly, some of the best scenes in this two-parter are those between the Doctor and the Daleks.
Sadly, the human characters are not treated with the same depth, and despite generally strong performances, the humans are largely forgettable. The Daleks and the Doctor are center stage throughout, and we don't forget it. The same goes for Martha, who is saddled with plot-necessary flashes of brilliance and yet more Doctor-pining and Rose-lamenting. Talullah and Lazlo, though potentially interesting characters, seem to have been contrived only to force a happy note onto this otherwise very open-ended story (as well as to give the Doctor his amusing "...and maybe the odd pig-slave Dalek mutant hybrid, too" line).
After 40 years of trundling around, shouting EXTERMINATE! and not killing the Doctor, I've learnt not to expect much else from the pepperpots, which is probably why RTD chose to (if you'll excuse the pun) exterminate most of them. Desperate Daleks are interesting Daleks, and they don't get much more interesting than dear old Dalek Sec. While he very easily could have swayed cliche, Sec didn't. He stayed on-message throughout, a true human-Dalek hybrid in form and personality, neither overwhelmed by the emotionalism of humanity, nor completely insanely power-mad like a Dalek. I'm tempted to go as far as calling him one of the most sensible and relatable villains Doctor Who has ever produced.
But still, one has to wonder what was going on in the Doctor's head when he agreed to help Sec finish his final experiment. However rational Sec's plan, the fact remained that he'd killed at least a thousand humans to do it, which would generally throw up a big red flag for the Doctor. But if their sacrifice would mean the birth of a new race of Daleks not hell-bent on conquering all of time and space, was that adequate justification? The humans in question were already more or less dead. Was the Doctor using the same sort of reasoning that led him to grant the Gelth passage in The Unquiet Dead? He couldn't undo the damage the Daleks had done already, but if he helped Sec, perhaps he could turn lemons in lemonade. Or, was the Doctor merely stalling for time, trusting that Martha would have figured out his incredibly cryptic message and disabled the Dalek antennae (which, unless I've misunderstood, he didn't even know about until after the Daleks captured him)? Considering his final solution, it's also possible that the Doctor used the opportunity to spike the Dalek DNA juice in the lab, and his stunt on the mast was merely insurance, or compensating for the missing piece of Dalekanium (Which begs the question that if the mast did its job with just the two plates, then why did the Daleks bother putting three on in the first place? It's not like they had extras to spare).
Speaking of themes, another one in this series seems to be the Doctor really pushing the limits of his body. He mentions being electrocuted in Smith and Jones and then gets irradiated ("Itches, itches, itches!") and sucked nearly dry by a plasmavore. In his next outing, he suffers partial cardiac arrest at the hands of the Carrionites, then spends a day in New New York sucking lethal levels of exhaust fumes. And now he's been electrocuted (again). Maybe having a medically trained companion has inspired him to take more risks? I'll say this for the Tenth Doctor, next to Peter Davison's fainty Five, he's every pain fetishist Who fan's dream come true. At the very least, it's good to finally see the Doctor showing a more vulnerable side after two series' of having him built up as this unstoppable, angsty superman.
As much as this two-parter successfully rose above the usual Doctor Who formula, the presence of Daleks does dictate certain necesities, one of which being their inevitable escape at the end. The final confrontation between the Doctor and Dalek Khan is a moment that deserves to become a Doctor Who classic. In a situation eerily reminiscent of Rob Shearman's Dalek, we see the last of the Time Lords once more facing off against the last of the Daleks. But this time it's different. In a powerful role reversal from two years ago, it is the Dalek that panics and flees whilst the Doctor calmly, sincerely offers an olive branch. It's a very simple scene, with an ending spotted miles off, but as Khan vanishes in a temporal shift, the viewer is left feeling just as sad and frustrated as the Doctor. Admittedly, though, how else could it end? "Daleks always come back," the Doctor said. And as long as the BBC can fork up the dough to the Terry Nation estate, they will continue to do so. Kudos to writer Helen Raynor for taking a predictable end and making it work quite well.
There are other aspects to the story that are dismissable as too convenient and cliched to make Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks stand out as a truly great piece of Doctor Who, but it's a character-driven tour-de-force for the Doctor and his greatest enemies. Raynor's empathic touch bring a complexity and depth to the main characters that is too often either overlooked or beaten to death in new Who. In this fight, neither side is completely right, nor completely wrong. Moral lines blur in the game of survival, and that is the key ingredient that turns this otherwise overlong, pedestrian Dalek runaround into an intriguing thought piece. "Daleks always come back," the Doctor lamented, and in this story, the Daleks finally have a comeback worthy of their reputation.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
Daleks in Manhatten and the Evolution of the Daleks present a bizarre mix of the powerful and downright risible. I don't really know where to start. It is perhaps saying a lot when I confess that one of my favourite scenes was the first episode's musical number! We've had musical interludes before of course ? for example the Daisy song in Talons ? but here the song Heaven and Hell was used with a nice twist of dramatic irony as the lyrics " you put the devil in me" is a neat summary of the murky experiments going on beneath the new Empire State Building. It was of course marred by Martha's clumsy intrusion as the hapless Lazlo is spotted for the first time in his post-experimental state (though not recognised as Lazlo yet). No complaints either about the 1930's New York setting amidst the Depression ? the Daleks are operating against a backdrop of human poverty and misery where it seems reasonably plausible that the authorities would turn a blind eye to members of the Hooverville community disappearing rather regularly. More perhaps than any other story of the new era to date, this story would have sat quite nicely in the classic era : like a comfortable pair of slippers, here we have the return of runarounds in the sewers, occasionally dodgy make up, and performances best described as variable, though the American accents, distracting as they were, were not as atrocious as they could have been. Miranda Raison struggles to keep a straight face, and I don't blame her, as Tallulah discovers that her beloved Lazlo has been turned into a quasi pig man, complete with what appears to resemble two cigarette ends sticking up from his mouth. The revelation of Dalek Sec hybrid, kindly brought to us courtesy of the Radio Times before any of us had even viewed the episode, seemed to vaguely resemble the Jagaroth from City of Death ? but that's where the similarity ends as this two parter is certainly not in the same league of quality as its illustrious predecessor. Then there was the convenience of the discarded green embryonic jelly laying quite happily in the sewer passage, waiting patiently to be discovered by the Doctor. The climax to the first part required us to stretch our tolerance levels to unprecedented distances as after much wobbling, smoking and general struggle, Dalek Sec, who had absorbed Diagoras in an effective scene earlier, gives birth to a fully suited and booted hybrid who not only has retained a dodgy American accent but who it is clear, as the second part unfolds, is a damn sight more cuddly than either of his predecessors: let's face it, Dalek Sec was none other than the leader of the Cult of Skaro and as for Diagoras, he is portrayed as a nasty piece of work who bluntly tells his workforce that if they don't work they will be replaced ? end of. No compassion there. This hybrid is an inconsistent step too far and no wonder the remaining Daleks come to imagine his irrelevance ? liked that line. There were good bits other than the sing-song. Diagoras's conversation with the Dalek in the first episode as they look down on NYC; Solomon's execution, showing the Daleks at their ruthless best/worst and the Doctor's utterly horrified response; the nod to Frankenstein as the human/Dalek army awakens and the climatic shootout in the theatre which was a nice homage to the gangster movies of the era. Those Daleks have certainly got it worked out haven't they? No concept of worry and when the going gets tough, go for the old emergency temporal shift option. Works a treat. I used the word "risible" earlier and unfortunately I was distracted throughout with some of the bizarre scenes I encountered. In episode one it's raining cats and dogs ? or should that be pigs ? in Hooverville but no-one's getting wet; the Doctor tells Martha to ask the Dalek what's going on because he doesn't want to be noticed, yet seems to be in full view of the Dalek anyway as it addresses Martha; two Daleks gossip about Sec in the sewers, with one moving its eyestalk around to make sure no one's watching them ? they should have given one of them the great line from Allo Allo : listen very carefully! I shall say this only once! And then one of them nicks K9's "affirmative"! And one of the recently awakened army repeatedly asks the Dalek "why?" which reminded me of my five year old in one of her more mischievous moods. As for Tallulah's schmucks and much of the other dialogue she was given, don't go there. And the Doctor's Tommy Cooper turn: "thank you very much!" he utters quickly in classic Cooper style as he hands Martha the physic paper. As has been said, the new era is often a case of the triumph of style over substance (though I remain, with a few exceptions, broadly supportive of it) but this didn't even seem to have a lot of the former. Are we in a depression? It might break your heart, but the show must go on. Next week looks good anyway ? and Martha seems to be dressed differently. May yet achieve cult status alongside Love and Monsters, and for the good bits, a (very) generous 6/10.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
There is something special about a Dalek episode of Doctor Who. An extra frisson. It's always been the way. I remember waiting with incredible anticipation for Ressurection of the Daleks, Revelation of the Daleks and particularly Remembrance of the Daleks. It's my opinion that a period setting is somehow even more effective in Dalek stories than a SF one. Throw into the mix a genuine New York location (through the magic of television and well used plate shots) and it was with great excitement that I sat down to bear witness to the return of the Cult of Skaro.
I loved the first episode. Until the final seconds I was probably the happiest I've ever been watching Doctor Who. The period setting was pulled off perfectly, the location footage gave it extra realism, the Daleks complimented the art decco surroundings as if they had been designed with that aim in mind. The direction and the performances eloquently referenced the films of the period with hammy brooklyn accents lifted straight out of Singin' in the Rain or a Busby Berkeley picture (please God no one ever really sounded like that).
Hooverville (or Bute park as I know it) was effective. Some have expressed the opinion that the issue of the Doctor and Martha being a mixed race couple in 1930's New York should have been raised, and also that the white characters interraction with Martha was unrealistic. Whilst I take the historical point on the race issue I feel the answer is that you can't tackle that same problem every time the Tardis lands somewhere before 1990. They acknowledged it the first time it was relevant (The Shakespeare Code) and I imagine they'll leave it at that unless it's incorporated into the plot of an episode. Whilst it's a suspension of disbelief I'd rather suspend than hear some saturday tea-time/family drama racial bigotry every couple of weeks. Enough of this silliness it's Doctor Who not Panorama.
Hugh Quarshie was acting his little socks off, and to think I'd only the previous evening been mocking his turn as Captain Panaka in the first of the Star Wars debacles, I mean prequels. Best guest artist for episode one though must go to Miranda Raison who was captivating. The scene towards the close of the episode where she gets lost in the sewers and starts to cry I thought was brutal and touching.
The pigmen really were Dalek Invasion's Robomen weren't they, right down to the short life span. They were very good, especially the horrific masks. I felt Laszlo failed however. Ryan Carnes really touching performance was undercut by a make up job that just made him look silly instead of half-gone. I felt the whole of part one was very old fashioned and slow placed which worked brilliantly as normally it's all so frantic. Reminiscent of old Who stories in several ways.
The Daleks, in particularly chatty mode, have had enough of clinging to survival. The scene where Diagoras and the Dalek talk whilst looking over the Big Apple was beautiful. The Dalek lab was like something out of a James Whale Universal Horror and the lovely Dalek Sec was in fine form... for a few moments. Then Sec is sacrificed. Is that the first Dalek suicide? The Kaled Sec appears larger and more appendaged than the mutant we saw in series one (Dalek). I'm sure I remember reading that the mutants are specifically bred as grunts, leaders, or whatever. As a Black Dalek (sometimes reffered to as a Dalek Supreme [Dalek Spotters Guide Book, 1984, Spotty & Single]) Sec would have been bred to be more intelligent and... stuff than an ordinary Dalek. That's my explanation for him clearly being ten times the size (& limbiness) of the others. Anyways back in Sec's lab it's time for the Dalek to ingest the human thereby obviously merging their DNA (wha?) and hatching something that looks like The Mighty Boosh do City of Death. If that wasn't harrowing enough Sec has absorbed his bloody accent too.
A couple of questions; firstly why Sec? Why would the leader sacrifice himself? Okay it was his idea and the others couldn't follow his logic but if he'd ordered them to absorb the human they'd have done it. As a super-genius Black Dalek he should have forseen that the rest of the Cult would revolt without him to guide them. Secondly, how the hell did the Daleks not see the Doctor? They didn't see him, sense him, pick up on his double heartbeat. Nothing. No wonder they're on the brink of extinction as they appear to have gone blind.
Surprisingly the Hybrid was one of the things I liked most about Evolution of the Daleks, his developing conscience and relationship with the Doctor was interesting and well played. The Doctor having to try to help him despite all his better judgement just in case it could make a difference was brilliant too. The Dalek revolt was the best bit (especially the clandestine chat in the sewer where one Dalek checks nobody is looking before he will speak). 'We imagined your irrelevance!' Class.
On the other hand it transpires that the luxuriant pacing of part one was at the expense of episode two. The story plays out pleasingly if too quickly. The guest cast are wasted (literally for Hugh Quarshie - but that's one of the best bits!) and appear to serve little purpose. This is especially tragic for Miranda Raison having been so watchable in part one. The Human-Daleks really are just Robomen apparently incapable of individual thought (although it's worth a mention that the last time the Daleks experimented with the Human Factor (Power of the Daleks, 1966) 'Why?' was the first question they asked then too. Nice reference.) and no more use than the Pigmen. The Daleks get to drag Sec/Hybrid around on a chain (sweet Jaysis are you serious?) which is odd as I would expect them, having decided he is an irrelevant abomination and an evolutionary dead-end, to exterminate the flip out of him. No, apparently they're holding onto him for now so that... ah yes, so that he can be killed accidentally in a clumsy metaphor. Excellent.
The stand out best sequence of Evolution is when the Doctor climbs the mast of the Empire State Building to remove the Dalek panels, loses his screwdriver and desperatley pulls at the dalekanium as if he can rip it off with his bare hands. Seeing that he can't he clutches at the mast, presumably risking his own destruction, to block the power. This is followed by a nice scene of him lying inert, coat flapping in the wind. Is he dead? Nah, course not he's back on his feet in two seconds. Incidentally, how did the Time Lord DNA get into the Dalek-Humans? Through the power system? Wha?
Anyways, back in Sec's lab, or is it Caan's lab? Caan does a runner (he has to really or no more Daleks ever and do I like the Doctors reasoning) while DT has some kind of grinning/winking relapse and prances about the lab like he's on Strictly Dance Fever. He said he couldn't fix Laszlo, how does he do it? Actually, don't worry about it. I'm not bothered.
And as the credits run that's how I feel. Not bothered. Which is a real shame because there is a really good story in there but for me, on first viewing, Evolution of the Daleks doesn't really work. Gutted I was. After an awesome set up they lost the second half completely.
It will be interesting to see what general opinion of this story is after some time has past. I've only watched part two once and must confess I really wasn't sure how I felt about it until I began writing this review. It wasn't bad. It's no Time-Flight. It was a great disapointment to me however; and in that it achieves a first since Doctor Who returned to our screens.
Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television
I don't know about the lot of you, but my enthusiasm for the Daleks' return has all but been exterminated by this leaden, dreary two-parter. First of all, and this is no fault of the writers or performers, but this is the Daleks' seventh episode appearance in thirty-one episodes. Enough. Secondly, the Daleks have gone from legitimately terrifying in "Dalek" to impish gossip-mongers ("But you have doubt?") in this pair of episodes. The first thing the Dalek in the former wanted to do upon identifying the Doctor was to shoot him dead; two seasons later, four Daleks - the Cult of Skaro, mind you - are terribly patient and willing to listen to the Doctor prattle on, dare them to shoot him ? twice! ? or even play the radio.
Like the Macra in "Gridlock", it almost appears that enemies are not to be avoided or fought in Season Three, but merely walked passed with perhaps a nod of the head. Victory!
Performance-wise, David Tennant continues to impress, curbing his character's manic energy with some genuine world-weary experience. Agyeman's Martha is neither horrible nor wonderful ? the millennium version of the placid Nyssa from the Baker/Davison years. She still appears to be a stand-in for a real companion. Though one hates to compare companions, I'll indulge anyway: Rose, by Episode 5 of Season 1 ("World War Three"), had firmly established herself as a brave, spirited, smart and integral part of the Doctor's world. We knew her problems, her family, her fears, etc. If Martha wasn't in Episode 5 of Season 3? would you have really noticed? Apart from her Token Idea (she seems to have one each episode) in Part Two and occasionally talking about something not being fair, her character is that of a special guest star who just hasn't gone home yet. She's there because the Doctor always has a companion. I do wish Russel Davies chooses to break that mold someday with the others he has shattered since the series' return.
Writing-wise, the two scripts have great potential but ultimately fall flat. The Daleks are evolving? Momentarily interesting, but then really impossible, considering the 42-odd-year history of the scooting pepper pots. Now we're to be afraid of a a guy who looks like a cross between a spider and, to use a coarse term, somebody's butt? When he was zapped, it registered as a zero on my Surprising-Twist-O-Meter. Of course, he was going to die. Also ? and I confess I am lifting this from another reviewer ? to have New York at your disposal and to put the climax of the episodes in a theater? well. OK. Not very impressed. The Daleks themselves arguing amongst themselves did not appeal to me, either. I just cannot believe that the most brilliant machine/minds from Skaro, so brilliant they could pilot a void ship, would bicker so.
I fear that "Doctor Who" is treading a road into style over substance in Season Three ? touching episodes like "Father's Day", "Unquiet Dead", "School Reunion" and "Girl in the Fireplace" have been exchanged for the occasional touching moment and competent CGI work ? and I am very concerned that we are nearly at the half-way point of the season without an obvious classic in the bunch (though "Shakespeare" comes close).
At least they're not saying 'Torchwood' every other word this time.
Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television