TARDIS File 05-03: Victory of the Daleks

TARDIS File 05-03: Victory of the Daleks

The Big Idea… The Doctor is called by his old friend Winston Churchill back to London during the Second World War to introduce him to his new weapons that will win him the War: His ironsides. Or, as we know them, the Daleks!

What’s So Great…

  • Never mind the re-design and re-colouring of the Daleks – the biggest difference with the Daleks in this episode in comparison to the past few Dalek stories is not their appearance but in the way the Daleks are written. Most prominently they are once again cunning, shrewd, and imaginative - the Cult of Skaro eat your heart out!
  • Secondly, the Daleks are written to be victors in this episode, instead of being completely wiped out once again. With five new types of Daleks created, opportunities for doing something new and interesting with them for future episodes have opened up
  • The Doctor and Amy team up for the resolution. The Doctor comes up with the solution because he’s clever and can work things out. But Amy is able to come up with the execution of the idea, because she’s human, and the Doctor is an alien – and so she’s able to bring out the human mind of the android more successfully than the Doctor.
  • Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. They can seemingly do no wrong, they have great chemistry both on and off the screen.
  • The punch!

Some quick bits of trivia:. Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill) has been in Doctor Who before, playing Zeus alongside Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor in Immortal Beloved, a story in the first season of the BBC7/Big Finish audios. This is Mark Gatiss’ third script for the TV series (following The Unquiet Dead and The Idiot’s Lantern), and Gatiss becomes just the second writer (after Steven Moffat) to write for all three Doctors of the modern era. The Doctor has met Winston Churchill before this episode in previous regenerations, but never on television – the Sixth Doctor/Peri BBC Novel Players by Terrance Dicks has the Doctor meeting Winston Churchill and establishes he’s known him since his second incarnation.

Things to Geek Out About:

  • The crack is seen again at the end of the episode. But is absent from that same spot when the TARDIS materializes after it’s trip to the Dalek spaceship…..
  • The Daleks say “I am your soldier” almost exactly the way they say “I am your servant” in the 1966 Second Doctor story The Power of the Daleks – which shares some similar themes with Victory of the Daleks and which starred Patrick Troughton – Matt Smith’s favourite past Doctor – in his first Dalek adventure
  • There are now five new types of Daleks – The Supreme, Drones, Scientists, Strategists – and the Eternal. Once can guess at the nature of the first four, but what does the fifth type mean?

Did You Notice… Amy doesn’t know who or what the Daleks are at the start of the episode, despite the fact that the events of Journey’s End are common knowledge amongst the people of Earth. Why doesn’t she remember? The end of the episode suggests this is part of the season arc. The crack appears once again after the TARDIS dematerializes.

Not To Complain But… While the idea the bomb not going off because there is a human mind inside the android’s positronic brain that overrides the Dalek control works at a basic level – the explanation probably should have been fleshed out a wee bit more so that it made a little more sense and didn’t leave viewers having to fill in the gap a little bit. Similarly, the idea of the progenitor not recognizing the Daleks because they aren’t pure Daleks (having been created from Davros’s cells as mentioned in Journey’s End) is clever as a reason for the Daleks to set a trap for the Doctor – but the difference probably should have been explained a bit more for those less steeped in Doctor Who lore.

All Things Considered….  Victory of the Daleks isn’t a story about Winston Churchill. It’s not a story about the Doctor and Amy’s relationship, or Amy’s visiting the past for the first time. It’s about re-establishing the Daleks in the new era – with a new design, a new paradigm and a new permanent existence that has nothing to do with the Time War and doesn’t rely on them having to be miraculously wiped out at the end of one episode and then miraculously revived in a contrived manner upon their return. In short, the story is about what the title suggests it is about. It is an adventure in its own right, but there is a heavy feeling that this is very much a “set-up” episode for things to come.

“I don’t give a damn if you’re a machine – the question is, are you a man?” asks Winston Churchill of Bracewell. This line of dialogue foreshadows the key issue for the resolution to this story. It’s because the Bracewell android has been given a human mind in its positronic brain that – once convinced again that it is human - is able to override the systems and prevent itself from exploding, killing itself and everyone else in the vicinity. Because the human mind triumphs over the machine, this is a resolution that is in the fine Doctor Who tradition of The Green Death, The Ark in Space, Castrovalva and perhaps most pertinently Resurrection of the Daleks – the humanity of an individual comes through despite being controlled by machine, alien infestation or being the creation of evil. It’s an optimistic, but under-stated reaffirmation of the triumph and power of the human spirit. It’s just a shame really that the episodes aren’t slightly longer to possibly allow us to know a character like Bracewell a bit better, as the closing scene with the Doctor deciding not to “kill” Bracewell by dismantling him along with the rest of the alien technology would have come across as being a bit more touching.

By the third episode of this season, it has become apparent that while the Doctor’s strength is his wit and intellect, Amy’s strength comes from a keen emotional intelligence. It is the second episode in a row where Amy helps with the story’s resolution by being able to make a keen observation of what emotionally makes a character tick. The Doctor figures out what the solution is, but it is Amy who comes up with the execution – logically, since she should have a better idea of what makes humans tick than the Doctor since he isn’t actually human. This combination of high IQ and high EQ combine to provide the solution here and it has the potential to be amongst the most effective Doctor and companion tandems. In this sense, the new era of Doctor Who has re-established the Doctor’s alien nature. That’s not all however – it’s apparent that this Doctor is prepared to be physically violent when necessary, the welcome return of a characteristic that was largely absent during the Tennant era – it’s certainly difficult to imagine Tennant’s Doctor laying out Bracewell with a sucker punch. It emphasizes again that this Doctor is somewhat ruthless when he needs to be, and he often needs to be when dealing with the most evil force in creation.

Complaints that Winston Churchill was written as a two-dimensional character showing nothing more than a ruthlessness to win the war at all costs are perhaps accurate – but an exercise in missing the point. The episode isn’t about Churchill in the same way that The Unquiet Dead is about Charles Dickens, The Shakespeare Code is about Shakespeare or The Unicorn and the Wasp is about Agatha Christie. Churchill is a character in this story – a plot device used to get the Doctor into the action and a chance to show the new style of the Doctor being a current friend of a historical characters (since to him they are as “historical” as any of the present day companions are) but is not the focus of it – an episode designed to explore every facet of Churchill’s character, show his “darker side” etc. wasn’t the intent of the episode. That said, the episode provides for a fascinating comparison between the Doctor and Churchill, which helps to explain why they would be friends. This episode shows what they have in common - their ruthlessness in wanting to defeat what they consider to be the worst enemy in their world. For Churchill, it’s the Nazis. For the Doctor, it’s the Daleks. Given that the Daleks were created as a metaphor for nazism, there is an appealing symmetry to this.

Line of the Week: ”You are my enemy – and I am yours!”

TARDIS File prepared by Gian-Luca Di Rocco

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