The Good: Moments of performance
The Bad: Ridiculous plot progression, Undermines both the Doctor and the Daleks, Generally lousy character development
The Basics: "Victory Of The Daleks" is another unfortunate episode that undermines both The Doctor and his greatest adversary.
When it comes to science fiction, there are few adversaries who are fleshed out over time that are not weakened from their initial, powerful, iterations. In Doctor Who, that concept certainly applies to the Daleks. The Daleks were originally conceived as genetically-perfect creatures who interface with mechanical war machines that travel the galaxy wiping out all imperfect life. The Daleks in the modern Doctor Who series's have been weakened by sects, temporal wars, insanity and major cataclysmic events which seem to remove most of the Daleks from existence. The last time the Daleks appeared in the modern Doctor Who was "Journey's End" (reviewed here!) and the first time Matt Smith's incarnation of The Doctor encountered them was for the episode "Victory Of The Daleks."
"The Beast Below" (reviewed here!) climaxed with Amy Pond in the TARDIS getting a phone call from Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Churchill is using Daleks in "Victory Of The Daleks" and the premise is a tough check for writer Mark Gatiss to cash. In "Victory Of The Daleks," he does not entirely land the premise and it ultimately undermines much of the menace and concept behind the Daleks in favor of a series of very merchandisable concepts for collectibles.
Opening in Winston Churchill's war room below London, during the blitz, the TARDIS arrives with Amy and The Doctor. The two witness a squadron of German planes being shot out of the sky by advanced energy weapons. Those weapons come from Dr. Bracewell's Ironsides, tanks that look identical to Daleks. Bracewell is working for Churchill and under his direction, Bracewell has built a few Ironsides in order to take on the Germans and win World War II. Seeing the Daleks, The Doctor freaks out and starts challenging them. The Ironsides turn on one another and take The Doctor's testimony, rebooting to recall all of their programming as Daleks. So aware, the Daleks start killing Churchill's people, then teleport out to a ship behind the moon.
The Doctor abandons Amy on Earth, taking the TARDIS to the Dalek mothership. There, the Doctor witnesses the Ironsides using a Progenitor Device, an artifact that contains pure Dalek DNA. The Ironsides reconstitute the DNA to make five Daleks who then menace The Doctor and Earth. With the threat of destruction from the Germans and the Daleks above, The Doctor and Amy have to work to defuse a Dalek bomb left on Earth.
"Victory Of The Daleks" is a series of horrible plot concepts that are simple problems that are solved through incredibly complex solutions that make very little sense in the overall continuity. In fact, the solutions derived by The Doctor show a fundamental lack of the character's ability to use basic reasoning skills. When The Doctor first encounters the Ironsides, he begins freaking out. His temper tantrum sets off the events that follow, but he is presented with two incredibly easy ways to prove his concerns about the Ironsides are valid to Churchill. The Doctor has his sonic screwdriver on him; using it to open the casing on the Dalek to reveal the alien creature inside. If it is there, he proves to Churchill that the Daleks are real; if there is no entity within the Dalek armor, The Doctor realizes they actually are constructs built by Dr. Bracewell. Barring that, The Doctor has Bracewell's blueprints of the Ironsides, which he flips through without actually looking closely at. That, too, would have given him the information he needs to understand the Ironsides, as opposed to him just throwing a hissy fit.
The other big, ridiculously complicated plot concept comes at the episode's climax. When The Doctor and Amy have to defuse the Dalek bomb, they go about it in the most convoluted, absurd way. For sure, watching The Doctor try to access Bracewell's humanity fits his character, but The Doctor wants to save the Earth and its people above all else. Instead, he prioritizes talking to one Dalek android with unknown programming and abilities and a very real bomb. There is nothing within the episode "Victory Of The Daleks" that satisfactorily explains why The Doctor did not simply materialize the TARDIS within the war room, grab Bracewell and take him to a distant time and place for a controlled explosion.
Furthermore, the new Daleks make no sense in the overall concept of the Daleks. The Daleks are a monolithic race that is genetically-identical and bent upon exterminating all imperfect life. The Daleks are interchangable and single-minded; art deco coloring to differentiate the Daleks is a ridiculous conceit. In fact, the only truly sensible act the Daleks do within "Victory Of The Daleks" is disintegrate the Ironsides. Even the bomb they created and the Bracewell android indicate a level of creativity that damaged Daleks should not have had.
The only reason "Victory Of The Daleks" is at all important within the context of Doctor Who is for the mystery of Amy Pond. When Amy Pond first encounters a Dalek, she has know remembrance of them, which The Doctor finds odd. Amy Pond would have been a conscious young adult during the events of "Journey's End" when the Daleks filled the sky and Earth was dragged across the universe. That she does not recall these events is an anomaly, which The Doctor acknowledges, but "Victory Of The Daleks" does not even begin to explore why this discontinuity exists within Amy Pond.
Ultimately, "Victory Of The Daleks" is a cheap use of the Daleks, including their ridiculous getaway without The Doctor and Amy following them to stop them once and for all. Instead, the episode serves to act as a cheap, obvious, point of merchandising as opposed to telling a concrete, compelling story.
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of Matt Smith as The Doctor here!
For other works with Ian McNeice, please visit my reviews of:
The Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy
Chef! - Season 2
For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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