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by Mister Hex (foreverguardian)
at April 23rd, 2007 (07:25 pm)

current mood: blah

Finally got around to doing some work for my day job today:

By Andrew Hawnt

Everyone knew they would show up at some point in this season. Even if we hadn't been shown the shot of Dalek Sec at the end of the teaser on The Runaway Bride, it was obvious the Doctor's most famous enemies would be back. I'm thrilled they're back again, but unless the next season takes a bit of a break from them (or at least only features them in a standalone episode, a la the 1st Season's incredible 'Dalek' episode), then they once again run the risk of losing any impact they have. This happened in the early days of the show as well as the 80s. The old evil pepperpots would show up regular as clockwork, with varying levels of success.

Some of the stories were old fashioned runarounds, all explosions and exterminations, and then you have the rare stories such as the 6th Doctor's Revelation of the Daleks, in which these iconic characters are used in a different way. It's these stories that give strength to their reputation as scheming, cunning, evil masterminds. Seeing them manipulate events from behind the scenes is a wonder to behold. There's much more to them than just screeching and threats. They are geniuses, and I love it when they are given the space to show just that.

So this year we get them in manhattan in 1930. But these aren't just any Daleks, they are the Cult of Skaro, the four elite Daleks last seen at the end of series 2 (The four Daleks that brought the Genesis Ark out of the Void Ship and unleashed millions of Daleks against the Cyberman army. Man I enjoyed typing that!), led by the chilling black Dalek Sec. These four Daleks are a fascinating concept in the Doctor Who universe- they have names for one thing, and seem to carry much more of a commanding presence than the usual drones, which makes them all the more effective.

Yes, they are the biggest attraction to many viewers, but they must not be turned into the jokes that they became in such stories as Destiny of the Daleks again. Thankfully I don't think we'll see them up against white-suited androids in bad disco wigs again... I hope!

One thing I must complain about here and now is the BBC's handling of this episode- the big cliffhanger to this episode was given away on the front of the Radio Times magazine, well before the episode aired. We're not talking a tiny picture or a minor spoiler here, we're talking an enormous full-front-cover image and inch-high lettering, which basically ruined any chance of there being any tension or wonder at what the end up the episode would bring. I can understand that the BBC wanted to draw viewers in and to announce that the Daleks were back, but to give the actual final seconds of the episode away ON THE FRONT OF A NATIONAL MAGAZINE is a bit, well, stupid really.

So, whacking great big spoiler aside, lets see how the episode itself is..,.

Oh, wow. Since Doctor Who came back to our screens, there have always been little quibbles with the CG created for the show by The Mill. That stops with this episode. The visuals are beautiful and you really are thrown headfirst into 1930s New York (the real one, not the New Earth knock off!). The crew flew over and actually did some plate shots in NY, then CG'd some aspects to take the city back to the Depression. The results are really quite remarkable.

Well, Martha's still wearing the same outfit as she did in the first episode, and I'm starting to wonder if she could do with a shower, or at least a clean shirt. It almost feels as though this series is taking place in near realtime! The Doctor has changed his suit a couple of times, but she's still in the same outfit from the publicity shots. Poor girl. You'd think the Doc would at least let her have a rummage in the TARDIS wardrobe. Mind you, she might end up finding the 6th Doctor's infamous coat, so maybe that door should stay locked.

After a rather awkward pre-titles sequence, the episode gets underway properly. The Doctor takes Martha back to New York in 1930, at the height of the Depression, and after seeing the statue of liberty (which the Doctor kindly landed the TARDIS at the base of), the two of them take a walk through Hoovertown, the shanty town community in the heart of Manhattan. We meet Solomon, the apparent head of the town, and incidentally, one of the best characters this new era of Who has offered thus far. We learn about the mysterious disappearances in the town (Yay!), which raises the Doctor's suspicions. As the episode progresses we are treated to scheming Daleks, rampaging Pig-men, lots of running around in sewers and even a musical number (!!!), all of which add up to quite a special first part. Granted there is a little padding evident in the script, but that is something apparent in any first half of a two-part story. This is all about set-up, and for the most part it does the job very, very well.

The most powerful moment for me was (surprise, surprise) given away during the teaser last week. When the Doctor comes out of hiding as a Dalek passes him and Tallulah in the sewers and delivers the "They always survive while I lose everything" line, I was transfixed. The Doctor came across as hurt, scared, and above all, furious. Something that is becoming ever more evident this season is the darkness- it has thus far been a much more serious season than last year, which is a good thing as theere were moments of absolute agony for me in last year's series. The Doctor's character seems to have levelled out now, and David Tennant is finally starting to be believable as a 950 year old Time Lord (it took Christopher Eccleston ten minutes to achieve that to these eyes, but, for me anyway, it has taken much, much longer for Tennant to do the same). He's screeching less and acting more like a hero than a hyperactive child. The hyperactivity is good (it has been present in most Doctors to a certain extent, but not quite to the same level), but not always what you'd expect (or want) to see from a character who is on his tenth lifetime righting wrongs across the universe.

The Daleks' big plot, to evolve by becoming symbiotic with human hosts, is a very cool idea and well realized onscreen in the closing moments of the episode. Seeing the Dalek Sec/Human hybrid stand and start ranting was very cool indeed, I just wish the BBC hadn't spoiled it!

Some of the New Yawk accents are a little hammy, but for the most part everyone plays it pretty straight. It's everything you would expect from a TV vision of 30's NY, and the Hooverville scenes add a lovely gritty edge to proceedings.

Boasting a very strong script from Helen Raynor, the episode feels like old-school Doctor Who with a new-era sheen (it really does feel like a classic episode). Packed with some great moments for every character, superb pacing and of course, manipulative Daleks, everything is pointing to a very strong second part, and I really hope it delivers the goods. Hopefully this time we won't have the ending spoiled so soon!!!

How does the next episode look?

Well it certainly looks like the Daleks will be making up for not exterminating anyone in this week's episode. Evolution of the Daleks looks like it's going to be the massive, action packed payoff we're all hoping for. The airborne Daleks look fantastic. Here's hoping the Sec/Human hybrid will be given something cool to do, and doesn't just end up cackling or ranting for all of his screen time.....</i>...

Doctor Who is shown on BBC1 at 7pm each Saturday, and repeated each Sunday and Friday on BBC3

The official online teaser for EVOLUTION OF THE DALEKS: