Review: Doctor Who – 5×3 – Victory of the Daleks

Defeat for quality writing

Victory of the Daleks

In the UK: Saturday 17th April 2010, 6.15pm, BBC1
In the US: Saturday 1st May 2010, 9/8c, BBC America

Just goes to show you – Steven Moffat isn’t infallible. He might be showrunner, but when he’s given a piece of tatt by his bestest Whoer pal Mark Gatiss that was left over from the Rusty years, he’ll still try to use it to save himself a bit of time. Oh, and to get some new merchandising opportunities up and running.

Cue, Collectibles of the Daleks!

The Doctor has been summoned by his old friend Winston Churchill but in the Cabinet War Rooms, far below the streets of blitz-torn London, he finds his oldest enemy waiting for him… The Daleks are back! And can Churchill really be in league with them?

Was it any good?
To be honest, no, it was rubbish. I sat there twiddling my thumbs for most of the episode feeling a bit bored.

Now, it was a Mark Gatiss script, so I was kind of expecting this. His Idiot’s Lantern wasn’t the most engrossing of all episodes, although his Ecclescake one wasn’t too bad.

But this had the air of something that had once been two parts, condensed into one part, the entire second part having been changed to cope with the fact it was in a different season altogether from the one intended. The result was that none of it worked.

So we get the Doctor and Amy turning up in wartime London at Winston Churchill’s request. Within minutes, they find out that Churchill has recruited Daleks to their side, thinking them to be the robotic inventions of some Scottish scientist or other. Except he’s not a scientist, he’s a robot, and the Daleks aren’t inventions, are they?

Then it turns out the Daleks were really just setting a trap for the Doctor so they could be sworn in as real Daleks, rather than half-Daleks since they’re genetically impure, and wake up some proper Daleks who could rejuvenate themselves into super, colour-coded Daleks with sleek new looks.

Then the Doctor has to decide whether to save the Earth, since robot Scottish scientist has been set to self-destruct, or destroy the Daleks. The Doctor chooses to save the Earth by making the robot think he’s human, except he can’t do it because he’s alien, so Amy talks about fancying the wrong person and that appears to work and the mechanical self-destruct stops working. Meanwhile, the Daleks escape somewhere.

Stop me if this is making sense. Because it doesn’t. Not in the slightest. The Doctor goes wandering around shouting “the Daleks are evil” at every possible opportunity, trying to get him to shoot him (because we all know that works out well). When they’ve got him to confess to being the Doctor and admitting they’re Daleks, do they shoot him? No. Even when his jammy dodger bluff is exposed, do they shoot him? No.

When robot Scottish scientist is exposed as an agent of the Daleks, does he get shot? No. He just gets to wander around the place with a gun. If the Daleks could always resurrect themselves in shiny new cases, why they hell didn’t they just do that years ago?

Why doesn’t the Doctor simply ditch robot scientist in outer space with his TARDIS? Why does the self-destruct stop simply because the robot thinks he’s human? Will it start up again? Will he age? Will he get nicked by Torchwood and used to create a bomb and blow up the Earth after they’ve come back a bit pissed from the pub? How easy is it to build anti-gravity bubbles and lasers, fit them to spitfires then send them into outer space? Why is this a good plan? Why does the robot scientist know how to do all of this anyway?

No fun either
Significantly, this is Doctor Who
so expectations of things making too much sense are always going to be a little bit doomed. It’s just best to sit back, relax and let the fun wash over you, assuming the plot isn’t so catastrophically flawed that suspension of disbelief is impossible.

But there was nothing else really to excite. The dialogue was bereft of any sparkle whatsoever – and that, at least, was one thing Rusty was good at with the rewrites – so Matt Smith and Karen Gillan literally have no way to be interesting, beyond moving their eyes about a bit wildly. The budget’s so low now they can’t actually make anything too exciting happen on set and even the CGI space battle with spitfires failed to inspire. There was no tension built because everything was pretty much revealed by the midpoint. Supporting characters, particularly Ian MacNeice’s Churchill, were limp, poorly characterised if at all, and just there to speak in plucky tones.

Now, it wasn’t so awful that blood came out my ears, which could happen with many a Rusty script, and it certainly wasn’t Daleks in Manhattan bad. It was really just dull and a bit pointless, beyond

a) giving you some more Daleks to buy come Christmas time (assuming that’s your thing) – and isn’t it nice that the Daleks were so interested in colour schemes?
b) making sure Matt Smith and Karen Gillan had met the Daleks this season.

It was also semi-fun to see the Daleks have a scheme that worked.

Series arc
The series arc – cracks in the universe, etc – did at least get an effective nod this ep, with Amy Pond adding to the interest by not remembering the Dalek invasion at the end of Journey’s End. But that was probably the most interesting thing about the episode.

Oh well, Weeping Angels and River Song take on Aliens next week – fingers crossed everyone!


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.