At the end of their last adventure, Amy and the Doctor received a phone call from Winston Churchill, with a Dalek seen lingering with him. This story picks up more or less straight after that (although our protagonists have thankfully had time to change their clothing so they’ll no longer be covered in dry star whale vomit). This is the first that we see of the Daleks in this new era, at just three episodes in. I can see why Moffat wanted his Doctor to face the iconic villain as soon as possible, although I wouldn’t have minded not seeing them for quite a while longer. It doesn’t feel too long since they along with Davros attempted to destroy reality itself. (Notice: the word ‘Dalek’ appears about a million times throughout.)
First of all this is the first Mark Gatiss script not to feature the Tardis landing wildly off target – although it’s mentioned that Winston summoned the Doctor’s help months ago. I absolutely adore the idea that the famous British Prime Minister and the Time Lord would be old friends. Most famous people throughout history that the Doctor gets to meet are only met once or twice, but Winston is supposed to be a trusted old friend. It sends my old fanfiction brain spiraling; thinking about which other incarnations had adventures with Churchill in the past. He mentions that the Doctor has changed his face again, so just how many of his regenerations has he met? It would be great to see more of this version of Churchill in the future. Speaking of which, I always thought that Ian McNeice plays the part very well. Though we can’t really comment on his gesturing, his vocal mannerisms are fairly spot on. Matt Smith and McNeice seem to be deeply comfortable in each others company, really lending to their back story.
As the title of this episode may ever so slightly give away, it features the return of the metal menaces from Skaro. They are seemingly on hand to assist the British army in winning World War II. Much to the Doctor’s frustration, they claim to be aiding the allies and to purely serving Churchill’s cause. I believe that it was intentional to have the “I am your soldier” line echo the Dalek’s line of “I am your servant” in The Power of the Daleks which is quite a nice touch. It’s nice to see a return of the Time War era design of the Daleks before the new design is implemented. Good to see them one final time… I suppose aided by the year of the specials at the end of the last Doctor’s era and by this series feeling so fresh, the Dalek fatigue isn’t quite as noticeable as it otherwise might have been. Having said that I do miss when the Daleks would disappear for five years at a time before returning – it made them feel a lot more special and important. I also quite like the more classic title that this adventure went for, ending with ‘of the Daleks’. Other than Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks we hadn’t really had that in the new series at this point.
It’s not really explained how these handful of Daleks escaped being wiped out at the end of their last appearance, but it’s mentioned that they fell back through time somehow. It’s nice that we still have that link, but this time they have got their grubby protuberances on something called the progenitor which holds pure original Dalek DNA that they are wanting the activate. As these survivors were created from the flesh of Davros (eww), they aren’t recognised as pure and so the progenitor won’t work. I wonder why we have never heard of these mysterious progenitor devices before or since this episode; it’s a piece of Dalek lore that gets forgotten almost as soon as it’s introduced. I’m also not sure why original, pure Dalek DNA wouldn’t produce the very first design of Dalek that we saw Davros create in Genesis of the Daleks, rather than a completely unseen version. So the Doctor accidentally unleashes the new Dalek paradigm; let’s talk about them shall we? It’s somewhat a sore point for most Doctor Who fans, but I have to say that I don’t mind the appearance of them too much. The issue with the appearance for me is just how brightly coloured they are, almost looking plasticy. It’s odd that they opted for such bright, vibrant colours which you don’t necessarily associate with being particularly scary. One of the things that I actively like about this design is the fact that they are rather tank-like, in size being rather intimidating. Just as the height of the previous design had been matched with Billie Piper, these ones are rather tall to match the eye line of Karen Gillan.
Their centre segments were specifically designed to be able to withdraw their exterminating weapons, and swap them for other tools. It’s an interesting idea that I rather like, but we never get to see it in action, and unfortunately we never do in the future either – a little bit of a waste. I feel like a real noob for doing this but I’m going to have to Google the specific Dalek rankings and colours. So first off we have the white being the Supreme (which sounds a little bit weird now that I type it up), blue is the Strategist, orange is the Scientist, yellow is the Eternal and red is the Drone. I like the idea of the different colours having specific jobs, and had generally considered that this had always been the case anyway. The most fascinating out of all of those to me is the Eternal – we never get to find out what that implies or denotes. In reality it’s probably just because Moffat and Gatiss ran out of job titles for a Dalek to have, but it still sounds cool though. I also like the idea of the red Daleks being the standard battle force (with red being my favourite colour and all), and I also happen to think that the red Dalek is probably the best looking out of the lot. Basically as soon as they emerge from the smoke filled progenitor, they completely exterminate their predecessors which feels about the right time after five years of the same design.
Obviously at only three episodes into his run, Matt Smith’s version of the Doctor is still being defined and isn’t really fixed down yet. The one thing that stands out to me in this serial is how physically violent he is written to be here. I believe that’s because they wanted to experiment with a more heavy handed Doctor this time around which (with Pertwee’s incarnation being my favourite) is not a bad idea. The thing is that they didn’t stick with this particular trait anywhere outside of this episode. In his frustration he ends up whacking a Dalek repeatedly with a massive spanner demanding for his story to be validated. In a way, I can understand his actions here, after losing so much in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End and so again we continue with the Doctor being sickened by their existence. Later on he straight up punches Bracewell in order to get him to lie on the floor – that one just seems a little bit weird. It’s so that Bracewell wouldn’t detonate or something, but surely punching him in the chin is more likely to set him off? But then I’m no Dalek bomb expert.
Amy’s method of saving the day feels a lot less botched than in the last adventure. It feels a little bit more natural that she is the one who is able to convince Bracewell of his human emotions – with her being human and all. She’s well written here and never stops trying to help the Doctor despite him trying to leave her out of harm’s way. It transpires that Amy doesn’t recognise the Skaro pepper pots which doesn’t fit with the recent continuity of the show. Later on in the series we find out that it’s because certain events are getting wiped from existence. I wonder at what point the events of the previous Dalek adventure were erased from existence – since Barclay mentions the planets in the sky in Planet of the Dead which wasn’t that long ago. I don’t quite know how that fits in with Dalek continuity either. If the events of the series four finale didn’t happen for Amy then why did they happen for the Daleks? I don’t know, it’ll make my head hurt if I think about it for too long. Maybe the crack in time had something to do with the Dalek spaceship having a completely different interior to other vessels that we have seen. Rather than the glowing orange columns of recent years, it looks more like a disused cigar factory – which is odd considering that the external appearance is the same.
As I’ve mentioned I love the interactions between Amy, the Doctor, and Churchill. In particular their final scene together is really fun. If you got to travel with the Doctor you’d just go around with a massive autograph book in case you bump into anyone famous wouldn’t you? Or is that just me? I know that the stuff with Bracewell at the end of the episode is heartwarming and is a credit to all of the actors involved, but I sort of wish that more of the screen time had been used on exploring the new Daleks rather than having them disappear after five minutes. What’s also interesting about this episode is that it features the villains winning (as the title might suggest). The Daleks have finally ensured their survival after them attempting to do this for the last few series. It just feels a little bit out of place for the Doctor to let them get away without attempting to track them down. The Dalek empire is now going to be allowed to grow back to it’s full power – do something about it!
Overall Victory of the Daleks is an early Eleventh Doctor adventure that I often go back to because it’s quite a lot of fun. As much as it’s about the Doctor’s rage and his oldest enemies surviving; it’s also about silly outer space Spitfires and biscuits being used as weapons. Aside from the handling of the new Daleks themselves, the only other thing that I take issue with is how quickly the Daleks switch from pretending to be ‘good’ to revealing their true intentions. It goes along at quite a steady pace for me until this happens and then the pacing is a bit all over the place. I could see this story easily being a really gripping two parter – perhaps with the new Daleks being introduced for the cliffhanger. It would give the new Daleks time to settle in, as well as exploring the full potential of Daleks in World War II. I can’t say that it’s my favourite Dalek story of the new series, but it is by no means the worst. Therefore I’ll be awarding it with five progenitor devices out of ten.