Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Andrew Gunn
"TARDIS bang-bang, Daleks BOOM!" - The Doctor
(S05E03) Can't say I was particularly thrilled to find out the Daleks were already scheduled to make a appearance this early in the new series, and this recent since their last encounter (the series 4 finale "Journey's End"), but "Victory of the Daleks" ends up being a quickly paced hour of Doctor Who that's only bogged down by the feeling that this episode is more of a set-up than it is anything of actual value. And their arc in this episode promises a stronger presence later on in the series. At the very least, I thought the episode flowed better than "The Beast Below."
To coincide with the title, what are some of the victories of this episode? Well, Matt Smith was allowed, for the first time this series, to show off a pissed off and absolutely frightened Doctor. As expected, Smith pulled it off with spades. Though, considering that the last time The Doctor and the Daleks met it was nearly the end of reality itself, I would think he would have a stronger, angrier reaction to seeing his arch nemesis once again. Regardless, Smith perfectly conveys the dark and dangerous side of The Doctor, no to forget the beauty of the sequence where he's stuck with a impossible decision: save the earth, or save countless millions/billions by destroying the Daleks right then and there forever. Reminiscent to Batman and the Joker, much? Well, minus the fate of the entire universe, but you get the drift.
And Karen Gillan as Amy continues to shine. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous in this episode, but she's also bloody brilliant. Having Amy come up with a solution to stop total devastation for the second time in a row - I got no problem with it. Plus, it worked a bit more organically, I believe, here than it did with "Beast Below." The Doctor's not all that great with human emotion - at least with expressing it and discussing it as a actual thing - so it makes sense for his human companion to take charge. Similar to Martha's lustin' for The Doctor, Amy hits Bracewell (the 'human' cyborg created by the Daleks to further their scheme) with the longing feeling of love. Amy urges Bracewell to remember how it felt to be in love, the desire to spend just one more minute with that special person. It's a true part of life, but also nicely mirrors the fairy tale aspect of this season.
The visual effects are marvelous. That fight scene up in space was freakin' AWESOME!!! Even with a reduced budget (have ratings been lackluster compared to before?), this show has felt leaps and bounds more ginormous and grand in scale than previous, I believe. Just...wowzers. Concerning the music - well, I just am thankful how lucky we are to still have Murray Gold as composer. His work episode after episode is nothing short of extraordinary, and his material in this is no exception. Here, I'm particularly thinking of the Amy and Bracewell conversation near the end; gorgeous, immediate music. As the style and direction of "Victory of the Daleks" - completely cinematic in scope. Sure, there's plenty of scenes that take place inside the cramped underground HQ of Churchill's, but there's also that space battle that's visually pleasing and the awesome spacious room where the Daleks reveal the end result of their master plan. Speaking of that scene, the camera truly helped raise the tension - how it moved, how the scene was edited, the particular angles that were chosen to emphasis the mass of the Daleks and the littleness of The Doctor [note: although measures were taken to ensure shots of equal footing between the two opponents]. Great, great work.
Cinematography, direction, music, and visual effects were outstanding in this episode, indeed. But for every victory, there's a "wuh?" This big master plan to create a 'pure' Dalek resulted in nothing more than a fatter body and diverse color schemes? The 'tainted' Daleks coughed up how supreme these new models are, hypin' them up to be the greatest enemy of all creation. But c'mon, I honestly find it hard to take them remotely seriously. The new redesign feels like it was manufactured to create Christmas merchandise - like little Dalek toys on the tree and whatnot [Dalek lights!!!].
Additionally, as far as guest stars go, not so sold on Ian McNeice as Winston Churchill. Granted, I've only read a little bit about the guy a few years ago in class, and I haven't actually seen any footage of him, but McNeice really comes off as nothing less than a pure character. It's akin to, 'Look at me! I'm playing Winston! I'm on Doctor Who!' Next time, sir, go for the subtlety. Speaking of subtlety, I loved that Amy caught Winston stealing the TARDIS keys at the end - that was pretty humorous. Although McNeice wasn't the most spectacular guest star in awhile, he was still good. And if that's the worst thing I can say about the episode? Well, obviously it was standard Doctor Who: awesomeness.
"Victory of the Daleks" didn't feel like a whole piece, which is unfortunate. It's like Half-Blood Prince to Deathly Hallows. It's a single piece, but feels like we're missing out on the larger story that will make it fully complete. But still, the episode is a fun, enjoyable 45 minutes as only Doctor Who can make it. What other show would make me nearly believe the Daleks would obliterate the world back in 1944/45-ish and rewrite history as we know it without the help of Quentin Tarantino?
NEXT UP: Steve Moffat's most beloved creations of all time, the Weeping Angels, return for a two-part story crafted by Moffat himself. Also noteworthy is the reintroduction of River Song into the Doctor Who mythology, after being written in Series 4 as a Moffat creation, as well. River, Angels, Amy, and The Doctor - trapped. Sounds awesome.
- The Doctor mentions he's still working out the kinks of his Type 40 TARDIS. Is this the first time any sort of 'type' of TARDIS has ever been mentioned? Is the reason the TARDIS has been arriving late so often these last few episodes due to its redesign?
- With every new shot of the TARDIS, I fall more and more and more in love with the design. Would it be over-excessive if I redesigned my future house as a Series 5 TARDIS interior? Just askin'.
- "Victory of the Daleks" reveals one important piece that may be integral to the cracks in the walls - Amy Pond has no recollection whatsoever of the Daleks and what transpired back in "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End." Does that create a continuity error with Adelaide in "The Waters of Mars" who remembers them, considering that this event should be erased from existence? Or does it have to do with when The Doctor met them and the memory occurred...? Whatever, this is cool.