Post Game TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO S5E3 Victory of the Daleks

With the bombs falling on London, the Prime Minister is given a tool for victory that seems almost too good to be true.  Fortunately he knows a fellow who knows all about that sort of thing.  The Doctor heads back to The Blitz to meet once again with his oldest foes, and I don't mean the Nazis.

Let's give it a look.  Spoilers in full effect, and once more into the breach, dear friends...

VICTORY OF THE DALEKS

by Mark Gatiss

Directed by Andrew Gunn

The episode begins in a large but still cramped military strategy center where personnel are frantically trying to organize the defense of London during Germany's seemingly endless pounding.  One woman has the horrible experience of receiving the report that her husband's squadron are under attack.  Into the fray walks Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Britain and one of the pillars holding up British Morale, with the King and Queen choosing to remain in London.  Asking if the German planes are out of range, the Corpswoman replies, "Normally".  Calling for the "secret weapon" to be brought into play, a new figure is placed on the strategy board; a figure of a Dalek.

After the credits, the TARDIS arrives in a file room, and Churchill is notified by a buzzer.  The Doctor exits the TARDIS to the sight of trained riflemen, but as Churchill verifies this is indeed The Doctor, orders them to stand down.  The Doctor reaches a hand to shake; Churchill instead offers his hand palm up, motioning for the TARDIS key, a long joke between the pair. 

The Doctor is late - the PM called him over a month ago, the call we saw at the end of The Beast Below.  With another formation of German planes coming in, Churchill  asks The Doctor and Amy to join him on the roof.  He explains that with the state Britain is in, he will seize any advantage he can find against the Axis.  He introduces Professor Edwin Bracewell, head of what is called "The Ironsides project".  With a Jerry squadron heading in, Bracewell is given the order to activate his weapon.  From behind a bunker of sandbags, an energy weapon fires, obliterating the fighters in an instant.  Everyone cheers, but The Doctor recognizes the weapon, and the whine it generates.  He demands to know what fired that charge, and out rolls...a Dalek.

Or rather an "Ironsides".  Bracewell claims to have invented them, as rolling weapons for the Allies.  The Dalek even introduces itself as "your soldier'. Painted in olive drab with little caps covering the headpiece lights (blackout rules, you know), Bracewell demonstrates that his Ironsides' purpose is to serve, and their goal is "to win the war".  Churchill shows the Doctor blueprints, field test results, ample evidence that this man created them and presented them to the Allies as a tool.  Even Amy is impressed, happy that a Scot could have created something so impressive.  The Doctor makes it clear that they are alien, and totally hostile.  Churchill counters that they will help him win the war, even unveiling a propaganda poster featuring an Ironsides.

The PM had worries when he first called The Doctor, but in the month since the call he has seen evidence of a force that could change the face of the war.  He's now convinced, and nothing The Doctor says can convince him.  Churchill wonders what he could do with a hundred, or a thousand of them; The Doctor realizes all too well what that could mean.  He ask Amy to try and convince Winston of the horrors The Daleks can create...but Amy has no idea what he's going on about.  Amy does not remember the invasion of Earth by the Daleks (the events from The Stolen Earth) and that puzzles The Doctor greatly.

Churchill pleads his case to The Doctor - countless lives will be saved if he uses this weapon.  The Doctor tries to get him to understand the horror the Daleks can unleash; Churchill will hear none of it.  The Doctor realizes he's going to have to prove his point, and heads off to Bracewell's lab.

Bracewell is hard at work, the Ironsides assisting, offering to get him tea. The Doctor asks him how he got the idea for them.  Bracewell explains that he just gets wild ideas from time to time - he shows The Doctors some of his notes on hypersonic flight and a way to create "gravity bubbles" to allow ships to fly in space.  He explains that the Ironsides are perfect servants and warriors.  The Doctor counters that they, are, simply, death.  Churchill enters, another Ironsides in tow, and agrees, death to the enemies of Britain.  The Doctor directly confronts the Ironsides, taking a pipe wrench to them in the hopes of provoking an attack.  He eventually just screams, "I am the Doctor, and YOU are the Daleks!"

The Ironsides pauses, and simply replies, "Correct."  They replay his statement and transmit the "testimony" to the Dalek ship stationed on the dark side of the Moon.  On the ship, another Dalek reports that the testimony has been accepted, and a device referred to as "The progenitor" has been activated.  Back on Earth, Churchill calls the Marines in, who are promptly laid waste by the Dalek.  Bracewell tries to reason with his "Ironsides", only to be fired upon.  But he's not killed, his hand is shot off...exposing wires and gears.  He is a robot created BY the Daleks, unknown even to him.  The Daleks teleport away, chanting "Victory".

Racing back to the TARDIS, The Doctor tries to figure out what they meant by testimony.  He tells Amy to stay behind where it's "safe"; in the middle of the Blitz.  Churchill assumes they're just expected to "KBO; Keep Buggering On".  An unidentified object has been spotted in the sky, floating too far away to be observed.  At least they know where he is now...on the Dalek ship.

And indeed he is.  He lands just as the final phase is commencing of whatever the Progenitor is supposed to do. Before they can shoot him, he presents a device that will cause the TARDIS to self-destruct, leaving them in a stalemate.  He realizes their ship is on its last legs and asks what they're doing.  They discovered a trace of this Progenitor device, which they describe as their past and their future.  It contains pure Dalek DNA:  all of the Daleks we've seen of late, including these final three, have been through endless copies and changes, leaving them at the end of their genetic rope.  So much so that the Progenitor device wouldn't recognize them as true Daleks.  They created Bracewell and presented themselves to Britain as an elaborate trap for The Doctor.  The Progenitor might not recognize them, but it would surely recognize The Doctor.  His "testimony" that these was indeed real Daleks allowed it to be activated. He is told to withdraw - they don't have enough power to destroy London, but they do have enough to run a device that will turn on every light in the city.  Bright and visible, they're a sitting duck for the next air attack.

Unable to turn the lights off, Amy realizes they have something they can use against the Daleks, something they created...Bracewell.  They find him about to kill himself, unable to come to grips with the idea that the creatures he thought were his creation were exactly the opposite.  He has an entire life that he can recall, and is unable to grasp the idea that he's not human, but the wires coming from his wrist prove it.  Churchill simply asks him which side he's on, Mankind's of the Daleks'. Amy reminds him of all the things he's thought up, and asks him to start clevering up something to kick their tin cans. 

Back on the ship, the Progenitor device has completed its work, and a new improved race of Daleks emerge.  A full head taller than the current race and far more menacing, the new Dalek paradigm immediately recognize the ones who created them as inferior, and immediately destroy them.  The new Daleks describe their new caste system: Scientist, Strategist, Drone, Eternal and Supreme. As they turn to face The Doctor, he pulls out his destruct device, leaving them in stalemate. But the Daleks realize it's a fake.  The Doctor eats it; it's Jammy Dodger cookie.  But it's given Earth time to whip up a counterattack.

Bracewell has jury-rigged a device to allow them  to see inside the Dalek ship.   They have the ship's coordinates, and launch their offensive.  Using the Gravity Bubble technology Bracewell theorized, they send a squadron of Spitfires into space to attack the ship. Swarming over the ship, the new Daleks are in confusion.  The Doctor escapes to the TARDIS and disrupts the ship's force field long enough for the lads to take out the beam and restore London to darkness.  Before they can destroy the Dalek ship, they warn the Doctor that a continued attack will doom the Earth.  Bracewell's power core holds enough energy to reduce the planet to a burnt-out cinder.  The Doctor must choose between losing the Earth or destroying the Daleks. 

Not much of a choice , really...he races back to Earth.  He runs through the HQ, running up to Bracewell and punches him in the mouth, almost breaking his hand.  He quickly explains the situation and they start to think of a way to defuse him.  The Daleks activate the countdown and prepare their escape.  Trying to defuse the bomb, The Doctor asks Bracewell to recall his life.  The goal is to bring the human memories to the fore, using his human psyche to defuse the bomb.  He tried to make him experience emotion, things that make humans different from Daleks.  It seems to be falling, until Amy asks him about his love life.  He starts to remember to girl that got away, and the countdown of the bomb stops, and shuts off.  The Daleks see their device is no longer under their control, and make their escape.  The Doctor realizes that The Daleks got exactly what they wanted, were successfully able to manipulate him, and have been able to start  a new, more powerful and dangerous race.  In a very real way...they have won.  Amy quickly reminds him that saving the Earth is a pretty good second prize. 

Removing all the advanced tech Bracewell created, Amy and the Doctor prepare to leave.  The PM and the Doctor embrace, and Amy calmly asks Winston to return the TARDIS key he just lifted from The Doctor's pocket.  They have one more stop to make - Bracewell's lab.  He sits quietly, expecting to be destroyed, assuming he's too dangerous to remain alive.  The Doctor agrees, he's got to be destroyed...as soon as they get back from that important thing they have to do, which would surely give a clever robot disguised as a man enough time to escape.  After several repetitions so the clever robot disguised as a man figures out what's up, they leave, and he prepares his daring escape..

As The Doctor and Amy prepare to leave, Amy realizes that it's not all just fun and adventure with him, there's proper danger and people who want to kill him.  The Dcotor is worried about what the Daleks will do next, but more so he's wondering why Amy never heard of them.  As the board the TARDIS and take off, on the wall behind is another of those mysterious cracks that seems to be  following the pair around...or vice versa.

For a story that was handed to Gatiss to write (the exact summary given him was "Daleks in World War 2!") and whose primary purpose is to introduce a new Dalek design (and the requisite new toys and licensed products), he pulls off a rollicking adventure.  Bracewell is another of those background characters in Doctor Who, like Henry Gordon Jago from Talons of Weng-Chiang and even Moffat's own Sally Sparrow from Blink, who pop up fully formed, and are so charming and interesting that you'd just love to hear more stories just about them.  And considering the tapestry-like nature of DW nowadays, odds are we will someday. 

Once again, it's Amy who saves the day, coming up with the idea that The Doctor does not.  And both here and in Beast Below she does it by taking what she knows about humanity and The Doctor and applying it to the situation.  Previously she compares The Doctor and the Star Whale, here's she's clearly comparing Edwin's taboo love and her own of The Doctor.

The story is very much a tribute to the London of The Blitz and the bravery its people showed.  People lost loved ones but soldiered on, making sure that Germany knew that though the city may be in shambles, Britain was not.  It's reflected in the loss of the corpswoman at the start of the story, and even in the elderly Civil Defense warden shaking his fist towards Germany and shouting "Do your worst, Adolf!"  as if he could hear.  In preparation for the episode and as featured on Doctor Who Confidential, Gatiss toured the actual Cabinet War Room, preserved today in perpetuity.

GUEST STAR REPORT

It's been said many times, a hero's only as good as his villains. In a very real way, Doctor Who would not have become the monstrous thing it has without The Daleks.  Introduced in the second serial of the show, a story titled The Dead Planet, Terry Nation's creation became a schoolyard phenomenon, with children chasing each other around, arms outstretched, screaming "Exterminate!".  It propelled the show into the stratosphere, from an educational show about history to non-stop sci-fi adventure. 

Originally bound to their home planet Skaro by a lack of internal power sources, they gained the ability to travel in space in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and gained access to time travel in The Chase.  Ever the Doctor's worst enemy, they drove the show to incredible heights of popularity.  Like every popular thing, the challenge of oversaturation proved such an issue that they tried to kill them off in two stories, The Evil of the Daleks and Nation's The Genesis of the Daleks. In both cases, they pepperpots didn't return for several years, but eventual demand drew the BBC back to the well. 

As Nation (and now his estate) owns creative rights to the characters, each time they reappear requires some heavy negotiation.  Originally there were plans to include them in the Paul McGann TV movie, but talks failed, mainly over a radical redesign of the monsters, including a "spider-Dalek" that has re-appeared in rumors ever since.  They got an aesthetic upgrade in the Eccleston series, and now a radical but still recognizable upgrade here. 

Ian McNiece (Churchill) played Baron Harkonnen in the Sci-Fi Channel's interpretation of Dune, was the voice of Vogon Kwaltz in the film version of Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, and has had a long career in British TV and film comedy.  Mot recently he was a regular on the Britcom Doc Martin, and played the newsreader on Rome. 

Bill Paterson (Bracewell) is a British character actor with a resume as long as a very tall giraffe's neck,  very much one of those "oh, THAT guy!" actors, appearing in endless series and films in a decades-long career.   In the films he played the head of the theatrical troupe in The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen,  played Mr. Jenkins in The Witches ("I don't LIKE cock-a-leekie, I like cress!"). On TV he was Dr. Gibbon in the original Singing Detective, and most recently is a regular on Law and Order UK, appearing with Martha Jones herself, Freema Agyeman. He had several roles in the HHGGTG radio plays, including "Rain God" Rob McKenna in the "Quandary phase" series.

Mark Gatiss (writer, Spitfire pilot) has written for all three new Doctors now, penning The Unquiet Dead for Eccleston, The Idiot's Lantern for Tennant, and this one here.  He also appeared before the cameras in the titular role in The Lazarus Experiment. He worked with numerous future DW alums in the recent remake of Randall and Hopkirk, Deceased, including fellow writer Gareth Roberts and future Doctor David Tennant.  He'll be playing Dr. Cavor in a TV production of Jules Verne's The First Men in the Moon, for which he also wrote the screenplay. 

Gatiss is best known in the UK and here for being part of The League of Gentlemen, a troupe of surrealist comedians whose tales surround the Northern village of Royston Vasey and its bizarre inhabitants.  Like most members of the current creative team, his love for and work with Doctor Who goes back years.  He wrote a number of the Virgin Books DW novels and Big Finish radio plays.   He's appeared in several of the BF adaptations including other cult-fave Brit-SF show Sapphire and Steel as Gold, and playing The Master in a Doctor Who Unbound adventure, using the using the anagrammatic pseudonym "Sam Kisgart" in the style of his character disguising his identity.

Fellow Gentleman Steve Pemberton appeared last year as Strackman Lux in Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead. Third member Reece Shearsmith has yet to appear on the show, but his earliest professional work was in the fan-run company BBV's Doctor Who tribute spinoff P.R.O.B.E., which featured numerous DW actors, and which were all written by Gatiss.

Mark had submitted a WWII-based story for last season, but it was dropped in favor of Fires of Pompeii.

Nicholas Briggs (Dalek voices) also got his start in Doctor Who fandom.  Starting as the host of a series of direct-to-video interview documentaries with former cast members, he started appearing in and writing for the BBV productions.  He directed many of the Big Finish audio plays, which is where he got his start doing the monsters' voices.  He's the go-to man for monster voices in the new series.  He's also the voice of the Cybermen and the Judoon, and voiced the Nestene consciousness in the first story, Rose.  He appeared in the Torchwood: Children of Earth serial as Foreign Secretary Rick Yates.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS - Trivia and production details

Writer Mark Gatiss has openly admitted the his inspiration for this story was the first Troughton adventure The Power of the Daleks. In it, a space colony discover a crashed Dalek ship.  Re-activated against protests from The Doctor, the Daleks appear to have been in some way damaged or reprogrammed, believing themselves to be service machines.  As the story continues it's revealed they are lying, growing and building new Daleks in secret.  There are a number of parallels in the stories, including thesubterfuge of the Daleks, and the chant' "I-am-your-SOLdier" being reminiscent of the "I-am-your-SERvant" in Power.  It's one of the lost episodes of the series, their original videotapes erased as a short-sighted cost-cutting measure, the fate of many classic TV shows.  As it only exists on audio (and has been reconstructed via telesnaps and what few bits of video footage extist), he thought it would be a nice way to get the story back out to the public.

YES, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE... - While in most cases we get to see The Doctor's first appearance, this is one of the few times we see a relationship already in existence.  He's made endless offhand comments about the famous people he's met, but don't get to see them played out very often.  We see The Doctor leave a note for DaVinci in City of Death, asking him to just paint over the scribbles he's left on his canvases.   Queen Elizabeth I somehow recognizes The Doctor immediately and asks her men to fire upon him at the end of The Shakespere Code.

IT IS THE BEATING OF HIS HIDEOUS HEART! - That pounding drumbeat noise that starts up in the Dalek ship as the new Daleks are created should sound familiar - it's the same sound effect that's been used for Dalek bases in all Dalek episodes in the new series, and as far back as the Jon Pertwee days.  It's on the Doctor Who Sound Effects record from the 70's, effects that have been showing up on the show (and elsewhere) for decades.

UM..."CABBAGE CRATES COMING OVER THE BRINEY?" - The imagery of Supermarine Spitfires against an alien flying saucer is reminiscent of Independence Day, but they were such an emblem of British military power, you can hardly begrudge them an appearance.

"So you mean I've to stay safe down here in the middle of the London Blitz" - The Doctor had a very exciting experience during the Blitz, namely the events of The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances.  Considering the Blinovitch Limitation Effect prevents a time-traveler to interact with his own timeline (mentioned many times in the series, most recently in The End of Time) it's unlikely that he's there at the exact same time as he was when he met Captain Jack Harkness, but he's pretty close.

"Time Jump in 20 rels" - First used in The Peter Cushing movie, the Dalek measurement of time was used in the Dalek comic strip that ran in TV21 magazine for years.  It featured a wildly different history and continuity for the Daleks, but is well remembered by British fans.  Much like in Superman, many ideas from the comic were folded into the series, like the design of the globe-topped Emperor Dalek that finally appeared in Remembrance of the Daleks.

BIG BAD REPORT - Save for the crack on the wall, there's no mention of the seasonal arc story in the episode.  Amy not knowing anything about the Daleks is a very puzzling thing to The Doctor, and rightly so. 

Considering that events in early episodes of the season often reappear in later ones, there's every chance that the choice to let superintelligent Edwin Bracewell survive might come back to help of hinder the pair in the future; we shall see. NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO - Weeping Angels.  River Song.  Spoilers.  'Nuff said.

 

Twitter activity