Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks


Rating 2

Written by Mark Gatiss

Directed by Andrew Gunn

Starring Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amelia ‘Amy’ Pond), Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill), Bill Patterson (Professor Edwin Bracewell), Tim Wallers (Captain Childers), Susannah Fielding (Lillian), Nina de Cosimo (Blanche) and Colin Procktor (ARP Warden)

The Doctor receives a call from Winston Churchill and the TARDIS materialises in the cabinet war rooms beneath London. The British have a new secret weapon in their war against the Nazis; “ironsides” invented and built by Professor Edwin Bracewell. The Doctor instantly recognises these new weapons as Daleks and desperately attempts to warn Churchill of the deadly danger he has unleashed, while trying to unravel Bracewell’s motivation for his apparent deception and discover the secret plan of the Daleks.


The third episode of season five of the revived series brings back the Doctor’s most deadly and iconic adversaries, the Daleks. I am not particularly a fan of the Daleks and I do feel, as do others, that they are in danger of becoming overused. They first appeared in a Doctor Who story called ‘The Daleks’ (or ‘The Mutants’) in December 1963. They appeared in sixteen stories in total in the so-called “classic series”, making their final appearance in ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ in October 1988. This is their sixth appearance since the revival of the series in 2005.

I always look forward to a new Doctor Who episode, but perhaps the Dalek episodes are not amongst my favourites. However, Phelim O’Neill wrote in the Guardian about ‘Victory of the Daleks’, “Many are fearing the return of the overused Daleks for all the wrong reasons. Tonight should see those same doubters eagerly awaiting their next appearance... This is the new Doctor’s first outright classic episode.” I also noticed that the episode was written by Mark Gatiss. This made me go in with much higher expectations, but in the end I came away slightly disappointed. It was another fairly typical Dalek episode. It was quite enjoyable in a frenetic kind of way, but it was flawed. I don’t think it was a classic and ultimately I found it rather unsatisfying.

The premise was an interesting one, but it needed more than 45 minutes to tell the story. It felt rushed to me and I continue to believe that it isn’t necessary for every single story to be told at such a frenetic pace. It is all a bit exhausting.

Once the Doctor has established what the Daleks are planning the story does start to unravel a little bit. There has been criticism of the Dalek ship, but surely the slightly comical no-expense-spent DIY look of it was deliberate. My initial reaction to the preposterous sight of the Spitfires attacking the spaceship in outer space beyond the atmosphere of the planet Earth (in what I take to be a nod towards the climactic scenes in the original ‘Star Wars’ film) was to find it quite insulting in its stupidity. However, it was clearly intended with tongue firmly in cheek and the silliness and humour of it all should be greeted with a smile. There has been criticism about the somewhat anti-climactic ending, but clearly this is just a prelude to another story, presumably to be told at the end of this season.

The crack in time witnessed in the opening episode of season five has now reappeared at the close of the next two episodes, signalling that something similar to the “Bad Wolf” story-arc of season one is coming.

Ian McNeice gives a broad impersonation of Churchill and unlike some fans I didn’t mind the implication that he and the Doctor are old friends, despite there being no suggestion of that in the history of the series before now. I do, however, appreciate that the portrayal of someone as complex and contentious as Churchill as a genial old cove is considerably wide of the mark. It was nice to see Bill Patterson – and Professor Bracewell proved to be a effective character. However, where Russell T Davies was a master of bringing life to even the most peripheral characters and inhabiting them with real emotional resonance, it is perhaps something this new season is going to lack.

‘Victory of the Daleks’ contained some very nice touches and the story was given extra frisson by the knowledge that when Terry Nation first created the Daleks 47 years ago he based them on the Nazis. Having said that, I do not imagine it is destined to become one of my favourites and I don’t think it is the “outright classic” suggested by Phelim O’Neill. I have given the episode a rating of two, which acknowledges the high standards of the series in general and my own high expectations of it.

Early indications are that ‘Victory of the Daleks’ was watched by an audience in the region of 6.2 million viewers, just under 33% of the total television audience during that timeslot. Although this is not an exceptional result, it is still a very strong showing.

Review posted 18 April 2010


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