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Apr 29, 2007

Long Live the New Flesh

Dalek Sec’s forthcoming autobiography - ‘Octopus hats, pinstripe and spats’ - available soon at all good bookshops

Evolution of the Daleks

At the risk of sparking another week’s worth of blog warfare, I have one thing to say about this resolution.

Pants.

Big, frilly Bridget Jones-style pants which shouldn’t be seen outside of the washing line of an octogenarian and would generate more income for Marks & Spencer’s than a whole warehouse full of dental floss thongs. I’m with Neil on this one - yes, more back-slapping I’m afraid - and I can only wonder what he made of it given the five points he made last week that seemingly demanded (but I doubt actually got) any sort of explanation in these forty-five minutes of high-octane, low-brow entertainment. Last week I forgave ‘Daleks in Manhattan’ for a lot of its faults because it thought big and the spectacle largely overcame the lack of substance; this week I just can’t do that. There’s just too much here that annoys, irritates and simply doesn’t even try to make sense for me to do so. So without further ado…

trying to resurrect their species using extras from Coma and one of those chemistry sets you got for Christmas in the late seventies

The Plot

Take away New York and Pig Men in sewers and what have you got? The final Daleks alive (sigh) trying to resurrect their species using extras from Coma and one of those chemistry sets you got for Christmas in the late seventies. And oh look, there’s a handy solar flare on its way which will apparently fuse the Dalek and Human genomes together to create this new breed. Except the Doctor manages to put his own double Y in the way and ruin the plans for all Daleks to wear double breasted suits. Speaking of which, isn’t the Doctor just a little bit dumb to expect all the Daleks to go along with Sec’s plan? While he may have been reborn as the Abraham Lincoln of his species, the other three are still pure-blood Kaleds; and it’s pretty bloody obvious to even the terminally thick that they regard Sec’s new pinstriped-persona as just a little bit beneath them. Oh yeah, and that lightning conductor at the top of the Empire State building is basically the latest in a long line of transmitters, whether you nitpick or not.

The Subtext

Subtle isn’t the word. No sooner does Dalek Sec start talking brave new world and getting all dewy-eyed about humanity then his Dalek colleagues regard him as a bit different. Hmm, we wouldn’t be talking about fascistic states that subsume the individual, would we? And Sec’s eulogising about humanity as the ultimate survivor is about as blatant a plug for the Daleks = Bad, Humanity = Good ethos as we’ve had in this show since the 1960s. I can forgive the writer for struggling to find something new to say about this debate that’s as old as Doctor Who itself, but do they have to pilfer from other (much better) sources so willingly? Whatever happened to the intelligent fourteen year-olds who used to be this show’s most important viewer? Who’s writing for them now? Because on the evidence presented here, Helen Raynor (whether by accident or design) is pandering so much to the readership of 'Doctor Who Adventures' that she seems to have left out everyone else. Remember when writers like Robert Holmes, Christopher Bailey and - more recently - Steven Moffat and Robert Shearman used to write layered scripts that produced enough food for thought whether you were eight or eighty? Well ‘Evolution of the Daleks’ may give as much bang for your buck as its contemporary American cousins, but in the grey cell department Battlestar Galactica (yes, that again) it certainly ain’t!

Whatever happened to the intelligent fourteen year-olds who used to be this show’s most important viewer?

Tennant

This is starting to sound like beating a corpse, but here goes. Does the man do understated? Does he know the meaning of nuance? Or are we really meant to believe that shouty-shouty, clenched teeth acting is the height of BAFTA-deserving excellence in anything outside of a kid’s panto. I give up, I really do. Just when I start hoping that all those first season performances that varied from sublime to kickable were finally settling down (‘The Shakespeare Code’, most of last week’s episode) he goes right off the deep end again before somersaulting back the other side. I mean, why? There were plenty of chances in this episode to show just how good he can be - the one-on-one with Dalek Caan being a notable exception - but too often he played to the crowd, producing a performance that veered from Kenneth Williams to Timmy Mallet and back again. So who’s to blame? The writer? The director? Or just Tennant himself for (in Colin Baker terms) enjoying the role too much? David Tennant is (understandably so) having a ball playing Doctor Who; but too often he forgets that we’re meant to enjoy it too. And I’m fed up of reading media-types extolling him as the best Doctor Who ever, because he isn’t. He’s not even one of the best three. And pound for pound, even a season seventeen Tom would cause less teeth-grinding than him. I fear the Paul Cornell two-parter will be Tennant’s Waterloo; a final chance to prove us all wrong.

And do I really need to say that - the humour aside - Eccleston did this all so much better..?

The Science

Straight from the big book of RTD bullshit: gamma radiation fuses human and Dalek DNA when transmitted down a lightning rod. Okay. And the Doctor can now conduct lightning without a) being electrocuted and b) singing his coat. You’ve gotta be f**king kidding me!

There’s lots more to pick holes in - the blatant riffing on ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ with Sec playing Davros karaoke and the I-didn’t-see-that-one-coming uprising of his ‘creations’ - not to mention one or two unintentionally hilarious moments (my favourite being the two Daleks’ water-cooler moment whilst discussing Sec). But I think I’ve made my point: ‘Evolution of the Daleks’ had all the spectacle, subtlety and sheer vacuity of a very big, very dumb Hollywood blockbuster. And it seems this is the price we have to pay for a show now more entrenched in the mainstream than at any time in its history: mass market plots for the moronic majority. Please God let at least Cornell and Moffat’s entries prove that it doesn’t always have to be this way…

the Doctor can now conduct lightning without a) being electrocuted and b) singing his coat. You’ve gotta be f**king kidding me!

Next time: Mark Gatiss sheds a few years whilst Mavis from Coronation Street says ‘I don’t really know’. Probably.

(The Bumper Book of Made-Up Doctor Who Facts has this to say about Evolution of the Daleks: Tallulah’s accent in this story can only be detected by small dogs)

Comments

Well he did win a BAFTA last night, so somebody obviously thinks so. :-)

Well, it was a *Welsh* BAFTA - and they also thought Torchwood was the best drama of the year. Case closed :-)

On Tennant: I did love the moment when he'd been ranting away and Sec said something along the lines of 'I agree with you totally' and he stopped and said quitely 'Sorry?'

Are you sure the water cooler moment was /unintentionally/ funny? Seemed like a genuine attempt at a comedy moment to me - I wanted the second Dalek, having done a 360 degree scan of the surroundings lean in and say "WELL THIS IS JUST BET-TWEEN YOU AND ME..."

If only they'd spun out Sec's gradually softening to his own humanity over the course of the episode rather than rushing it at the end it could have been an intereting twist on the old cliche of the posessed human fighting the alien intelligence (think Noah in the Ark In Space), with the dalek struggling against these compassionate urges - "must re... sist... petting kitten..!" That'd have been brilliant.

Hmmm, posted without reading what I was writing. I meant "without rushing it at the beginning", not "at the end".

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