I think it is fair to say that Victory of the Daleks was not generally well received by Doctor Who fans, which is ironic considering it is actually tailored towards them far too much. The best example is probably the resolution, which seems tacked on and not to grow organically from the rest of the episode… unless you are a fan who is familiar with Evil of the Daleks and all the human factor stuff, because it picks up on those themes that are underdeveloped in Victory of the Daleks but work well if you know the original source of them.
Then we have the Daleks thrown into a World War 2 setting, which plays on the Nazi parallel that has been harped on about in documentaries for as long as I can remember, but then has the Daleks being at their least Nazi-like because they are doing a greatest hits of Power and Evil of the Daleks. Strip out the setting from the story and then all the cunning and fake politeness is brilliant, and a world away from anything we have seen since Dalek in 2005. But it is a combination of puzzle pieces from different jigsaws.
This is then all shoehorned into the new children’s fiction approach to Doctor Who (sorry I am going to keep mentioning that for this series!). So Churchill is played very much in the traditional war hero mode (although he is shown as not completely infallible) rather than much of a real person, and the Daleks are eventually morphed into mythical characters with individual magical unknown properties.
… which brings us to the new Daleks. Yes, the camouflaged Dalek looks amazing, and yes the Power Rangers ones aren’t that great. At the time I must admit to being unconvinced but then I was looking at them in the context of a showrunner that seemed to want to throw away everything from the Russell T Davies era, including changing the opening theme that had reached a level of complete perfection already, and a redesign of the TARDIS console room that I wasn’t much enamoured of.
But, with a slimming down of the big butts, the new Daleks could have worked. Let’s face it, they could have worked without that. We would have got used to them. And here we come to the problem of a showrunner who takes any notice of the fans. The lesson should have been learnt by what happened with John Nathan-Turner, who took notice of things like Doctor Who Magazine season surveys that rated what we would now consider the dregs of the 80s well above revolutionary stuff like Kinda that should have been the way forward. The please-the-fans approach led him down a dark alley to Attack of the Cybermen.
Now, Mark Gatiss who wrote this story and Steven Moffat who was showrunner are both fans themselves. Steven Moffat knows how to do things like popping in fun little bits of obscure continuity that we all love, etc. So he never needed to look to fandom for information and he certainly didn’t need to look to fandom for an opinion. But the colourful Daleks were massively criticised and then never appeared again. There might have been subsequent interviews where it was claimed they were meant for just the one episode – I certainly wouldn’t be able to remember where I might have read that after several years. So was that the intention? Maybe, maybe not. They are expensive props.
But whatever the case may be, the idea of introducing a new race of Daleks with different colours to denote different abilities was actually a really clever way to attempt something different with them. It offered the promise of stories featuring an individual colour and exploring what they could do that the others couldn’t. But instead we went back to the previous props and that idea was lost, and eventually the Moffat era’s use of the Daleks ran out of ideas and fizzled out with a series that didn’t even have a Dalek story, the first since 1989. So to any future showrunner I would say this: you are the person with years of television writing experience. You have a remarkable talent, because if you didn’t you wouldn’t be running Doctor Who. So trust your talents and instincts and don’t take a blind bit of notice of the opinions of fans like me…
But thanks for reading anyway, and can I have a share on your social media? 😉 RP
The view from across the pond:
Moffat started his tenure off by introducing us to a new Doctor, followed by a new companion. Now with the assistance of his Sherlock cohort, Mark Gatiss, we set our sights on a rebooted Dalek in Victory of the Daleks. But is it a victory?
Sadly, I’d say not. In fact, even though I like Gatiss and enjoy his work, he never quite trumped his own first Who story: The Unquiet Dead. This is just another lower quality effort. Rob Shearman reintroduced the Daleks back in 2005 with the exquisite Dalek and painted a picture of a devastatingly smart and powerful war machine. Since then, their aim, intellect and overall fearsomeness has faded. A reboot might be just what we needed, and I’d venture Gatiss could pull it off. Although perhaps at another time because it didn’t happen here. What we get instead is the typical Dalek “masterplan”. As long as we’ve known these “geniuses” they’ve had some boneheaded schemes. Pinky and the Brain have better plans.
To name just a few:
- Hollowing out the planet earth to drive it around as a spaceship. Sure the Tractators wants to do it, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. And who thinks to steal ideas from slugs? Wouldn’t Earth be unwieldy as a ship?
- Wipe out the entirety of creation with a reality bomb. Why? So they can rule the absolute nothing? “That’ll learn ‘em!” Thanks Yosemite Sam…
- Using dead humans to create new Daleks. Wasn’t purity a big thing with them? Or is it impure only if they are alive?
- Using live humans to create new Daleks. (See above and thanks for answering my question…)
- Finding the “Human Factor” to find out why they get defeated time and again but accidently going nuts from it. Welcome to humanity, chaps. Clearly we beat them because we’re unpredictable nutjobs. (At least we have better plans…)
- And now, our favorite genius species has a new idea: create a new Daleks from an egg, but to do that, they have to serve tea during WWII until someone, preferably their archrival, can verify that they are, in fact, Daleks. WHAT?
Yes, in order for the Daleks to be reborn, they are waiting for their mortal enemy to show up and announce in no uncertain terms that “you are the Daleks… and I am the Doctor”. Imagine if he said “you are my mortal enemy, the pepperpots!” Maybe instead of a rainbow brigade, Gwyneth Paltrow would have shown up. “You called for Pepper Potts?” So to make their plan work and be more hidden, they create a cyborg and give him a chest that’s a bomb. Luckily he had never thought to shower up until now. Oh, and he had a girlfriend, Donna Bella. Every cyborg should invest time in a good girlfriend. It gives more credence to the lie. And what of their intellect? They can’t scan a Jammy Dodger! Their speed? When shooting at the Doctor, he can outrun their firepower! Sure, he scares them but you can’t convince me that a room full of Daleks can’t hit him if they wanted to. Ok, moving on…
I also know Doctor Who has gotten a bit of a reputation for having a “gay agenda”. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I am perfectly happy for Doctor Who to stand up for any person or group whose rights are impinged upon. I think science fiction can do that and I want Doctor Who at the front of that charge, standing up for anyone who needs it. That’s who the Doctor is, so let the show follow his lead. But do it when necessary. Don’t beat the idea over the head! Like sex, violence and vulgarity, to do it for the sake of it, is gratuitous. If that was the purpose of the rainbow Daleks, I think it was a lame, even embarrassing, attempt. What was added by having them color coded? On top of that, if showrunner Steven Moffat approved the script, he should have the courage to stand behind it. These new Daleks came out of their incubator wiping out their impure predecessors (see 3 and 4, above) claiming they would spread throughout the universe. Aaaaand… we promptly never see them again (with the exception of a few token ones on the “Planet of Dalek Collectors” in Asylum of the Daleks). So here again, what was the point? Gratuitous behavior comes across as cheap and ineffectual. Our show deserves better.
Don’t misconstrue: it’s not all bad. Ian McNeice plays Winston Churchill brilliantly. Amy, having passed the “future test” now gets to pass the “past test” and she’s quite good in this too, once again being instrumental in helping diffuse the situation, literally. Bracewell (Bill Paterson) is extremely likable and his character is well played but he is allowed to live so … what becomes of him? Are we ever going to find him wandering the planet? This is where conviction is so important in storytelling. You can’t just leave a thread untied forever! Continuity is one of the biggest problems with Doctor Who as a show. While a show like Game of Thrones (see my review under 6 Degrees of Who) creates a world, Doctor Who is all about jumping around willy-nilly (or is that timey wimey?) and the fact that it’s had so many different writers over its 50 years means continuity really doesn’t exist. But if you’re going to start an idea, have the conviction to see it through. Which leads me to those questions of continuity: what became of Bracewell and where are the color coded Daleks? Perhaps they joined forces to build the newest Dalek Paradigm: the LEGO DALEKS! (Thanks again to The Doctor Who Experience!) Hopefully they piece together a better plan than some of their winners! (See what I did there?)
As for our game of “Track the Crack” – it’s appeared in two more episodes but it’s just sitting there. Like “Chekhov’s Gun”, we know it means something but at this point, we’re not sure what. And so far, nothing else has come to give us more data about it. That may change soon.
Hopefully the season gets back on track. Victory of the Daleks was an utter defeat… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… The Time of Angels