Previously: A space whale and an impossible decision make the Doctor act like a dick.
Victory of the Daleks
Dani: This is the first episode of Doctor Who that I get to recap, and I’m so psyched to join the team that I won’t even complain about it involving stupid Daleks.
Marines: That’s a lot of excitement because UGH, DALEKS. Also, so happy to have you!
Kirsti: I’m super happy to have you too
because it means I have to recap fewer episodes of the Matt Smith era!!
We begin in a World War II bunker-looking thing. Sirens sound and people scramble about, shouting updates at one another. The building shakes as bombs fall outside. It’s chaos. Then we focus on a young woman in uniform (is this Army? RAF? Sorry, I’m bad at military). (K: WAAF, I suspect?? Or possibly WRNS. Women couldn’t enlist in the regular military in World War II, because we’re delicate little flowers…) Military Lady looks worried because one of the regiments involved in the bombing is “Reggie’s unit.” I’m no expert, but I predict a dire ending for dearest Reggie. (M: RIP Reggie.)
Into the chaos waddles Winston Churchill, puffing on his trademark cigar. He gets a quick update and tells everyone it’s time to roll out the “secret weapon.” Military Lady smiles and pushes a tiny, clay Dalek into position on the map.
Later, the Tardis vworp-vworps into the bunker, which turns out to be the secret Cabinet War Rooms that run beneath London. The Doctor pops out and finds three soldiers pointing their rifles at him. Churchill comes in, and they banter/threaten each other, because Churchill wants the key to the TARDIS and the Doctor has no intention of giving it to him. Honestly, I didn’t pay attention to their conversation because I’m waiting for one of these 1940’s-era people to mind or at a minimum notice that Amy is wearing a teeny-tiny mini-skirt and cowboy boots and looks ridiculous for the time period.
K: Pffffff. I think the last person to comment on a companion’s attire was Queen Victoria way back in series 2. And to be honest, I’d have passed comment on Rose’s overall dress too, because IT’S AN OVERALL DRESS.
Churchill tells the Doctor he’s late: he called him a month ago, but the Doctor just got the message because he’s still breaking in the new TARDIS (and also he’s terrible at time). Churchill stops to notice that Military Lady looks sad, but she plays it off. Then another officer stops by with a dire update, and Churchill gives him a jolly pep talk while Amy grins like an idiot. Anyone else feel it’s a weird directorial choice, having them all so gleeful in the midst of you know… actual war? Also, this does not at all match the accounts I’ve read of Churchill, but moving on… (K: Yeah, it’s pretty weird.)
Churchill takes the giddy pair outside, pointing out the scientist in charge of the “Ironsides Project” as a squadron of German bombers approach. The sight of London during the Blitz makes Amy appropriately somber, although the Doctor still looks goofy.
I miss Ten, the master of tortured and/or somber expressions. Exhibit A:
Mari: Yeah, I think maybe the point was to have them bounding off the TARDIS all jolly and happy, as the Doctor and companion are wont to do, and them sober up in the face of war. Unfortunately, the acting choices by both didn’t really convey that.
Dani: It doesn’t help that in the shot of them looking out at the city, the zeppelins look like giant Goldfish crackers.
K: Meanwhile, I’m distracted because Scientist In Charge is Mr Gibson from the 1999 BBC adaptation of Wives and Daughters and I LOVE THAT ADAPTATION SO MUCH.
Dani: An order is given, and the planes are obliterated (or exterminated, if you will). The Doctor knows the technology is too advanced and runs to investigate. An Army-green Dalek emerges, and the Doctor walks right up to its eye-stick thingy and starts interrogating it. The Dalek says it’s a soldier, and Bracewell (the scientist) identifies it as one of his “Ironsides,” Britain’s secret weapon that will fight until the German threat is eliminated entirely. He asks its ultimate goal, and the Dalek replies “to win the war.” The Doctor looks none too pleased, and I try to pretend that Daleks are terrifying aliens and not something a child built from trash cans, toilet bowl plungers, and mom’s old egg-beaters. I know these are beloved Who villains, but it’s sooooo hard to take them seriously. (K: YUP.)
Back in Churchill’s office, the Doctor tries to give the PM the low-down on the Daleks, but Churchill swears that Bracewell invented them. (M: The Doctor very rudely SHHHs Amy during this scene, and I hated it, so all I can think about is how much Kirsti is gonna hate it.) (K: A LOT. See how I’m trying to be nice and restrain myself?) He doesn’t care if the Daleks are hostile — he wants them hostile so they’ll win him the war. They continue to argue, but Churchill can only imagine how powerful his forces will be with 100 or even 1,000 Ironside-Daleks behind them. The Doctor beseeches Amy to tell Churchill how dangerous the Daleks are, but she has no idea WTF he’s talking about. He reminds her of how the Daleks invaded Earth, planets in the sky, yada yada. He says there’s no way she could have forgotten that, but girlfriend is clueless.
The Doctor can’t figure out what the Daleks are after, so Amy asks one directly. It gives her a cagey answer and excuses itself. (British manners, yo.) The Doctor tries to convince Churchill not to use the Daleks, but Churchill says he’d partner with the Devil himself to fight the Nazis. Churchill’s obviously never watched Supernatural.
K: Oh, Mark Pellegrino. You were the highlight of season 7, you really were…
Dani: He’s the best.
A siren sounds, giving the all clear. The Doctor decides he’s going to prove that the Daleks are nothing but hate-filled, conscience-less monsters, because that’s sure to end well. He speaks to Bracewell, who insists that ideas like the Ironside-Daleks just come to him. He says the “robots” are totally under his control; they’re the perfect servants and the perfect warriors. Pro-tip: calling anything perfect is a surefire way to trigger less-than-perfect behavior from it.
Churchill comes in with another Dalek, who offers the Doctor some tea. The Doctor loses his shit and starts beating on the Dalek with a comically giant wrench. He keeps taunting the Dalek, telling it to kill him because they’re sworn enemies and stuff. He says “I am the Doctor, and you are the Daleks” and kicks the Dalek into another room. (M: The kick and slow rolling into the next room is everything that makes the Daleks ridiculous.) (D: Srsly.) The Dalek pauses and then transmits a recording of what the Doctor said to a spaceship that was hiding behind the moon.
K: Wow. What a surprise. I definitely didn’t see any of this coming. Way to be the smartest man in the universe, Doctor.
Dani: Incredibly Roomy Spaceship. A lone Dalek plays back the Doctor’s recording, and a tiny Dalek-looking light-up thing (wow, I really suck at descriptions today) starts blinking as the Doctor’s “testimony” is accepted. The Dalek says the Progenitor is activated, which can’t be good.
Back on Earth, the two Daleks repeat the whole “testimony accepted” chant, and the Doctor tells everyone to get back. Churchill calls in some Marines (K: My brain skipped over the “some” and I was REALLY confused about why Mari was in this episode for a moment there…) (D: OMG, can you imagine the turn this episode would have taken if he’d called in a Snark Lady??), and the Daleks instantly vaporize them. RUDE. Bracewell jumps in front of the Daleks, telling his perfect creations to chill the fuck out, but he didn’t invent them — they invented him. They vaporize his hand, revealing him to be some sort of robot-man. Everyone stands around watching as the Daleks shake and wiggle and chant “Victory, Victory, Victory!” Then they beam up to the spaceship, because they are the WORST villains ever. I mean, they had the Doctor — the guy who singlehandedly thwarts all their nefarious plans, time and time again, but heaven forbid they take a nanosecond to kill him. No, they kill two innocent Marines instead, and then bugger off. Jerks.
Mari: And everyone stands around watching them, registering or displaying no convincing fear. The whole scene was ridiculous.
Dani: I’m beginning to wonder if they even had a Director on set whilst filming this. So much of what’s wrong with this episode could have been solved with some better directorial choices. But maybe the Director read the script and thought, “ugh, Daleks … fuck it.”
Amy asks what just happened, even though she definitely stood there watching the whole thing. The Doctor tearfully tells her that his stupidity and recklessness just killed two brave soldiers, and… HAHA, just kidding. The Doctor actually says he wanted to know what the Dalek’s plan was, and apparently the plan was him. Huh? Then he runs off to the TARDIS. Amy follows, but he tells her to stay behind because it’s too dangerous. She argues that being in the midst of the London Blitz doesn’t seem particularly safe, but the Doctor says it’s safer than being around him. Just ask the Marines — oh wait, you can’t because THEY’RE DEAD.
Up on the spaceship, the three Daleks watch the Progenitor blinking as it goes through various phases. Then the TARDIS arrives, and they all spin around in SHOCK! They give the order to exterminate the Doctor, but he whips out the TARDIS Self-Destruct button (which is actually a Jammie Dodger cookie) and threatens them with mutually assured destruction.
1. I spent like 15 minutes down a fucking internet black hole trying to work out if Jammie Dodgers actually existed during World War II (they did not).
2. The very limited amount of space between Matt Smith’s head and the ceiling of that room is making me VERY UNCOMFORTABLE.
Dani: Srsly. Like… how did the TARDIS even fit with so little clearance?!
The Doctor notes that the ship is pretty beaten up, and the Daleks acknowledge that it’s the only ship that survived, having fallen back through time. The Progenitor contains pure Dalek DNA, but the device didn’t recognize the remaining Daleks as pure enough to begin the reproductive process. So they created Bracewell and set up a trap for the Doctor, knowing the Progenitor would recognize him and accept his testimony that they were Daleks. Wow, that doesn’t seem contrived or convoluted at all.
The lead Dalek pokes his plunger at the computer and tells the Doctor to withdraw now, or else London will be destroyed. The Doctor says their broken-ass ship doesn’t have the power to destroy the city, but the Daleks tell him the humans will destroy themselves. I gotta give a point to the Daleks on that one; we are pretty damned good at that.
A power beam (?) shoots down from the Dalek spaceship, making all the lights in London turn on. Everyone in the War Room freaks out, because now the Germans can see every inch of the city. This may be a stupid question, but how is that any more dangerous than when it’s daytime and the city is all lit up with sunlight? I’m so confused.
Mari: It’s only different because it’s supposed to be nighttime right now.
K: The Germans only sent bombers at night because it meant the anti-aircraft guns were mostly useless and they stood a better chance of success, so the whole country had to be blacked out so they didn’t know where to drop their bombs.
Dani: So if it’s not dark, then the Brits can now use the anti-aircraft guns the Germans were trying to avoid by making night runs… or the Germans can abort the mission and stick to only bombing in the dark. Aaaaand now I’ve spent way more time considering military strategy than the writers…
Churchill says thousands will die. He orders people to mobilize squadrons, because the German bombers are only ten minutes away. Amy wants to take the fight to the Daleks, but Churchill says their weapons are no match. She says there must be something they can use and quickly realizes the Daleks left them a gift. Ooh – I hope it was an Edible Arrangement! BEST cantaloupe ever. (Probably not a great weapon, though, now that I think about it.)
Back on the spaceship, the Doctor threatens the Daleks with the self-destruct cookie again, but they don’t buy it. They’re at a stalemate, but then the Progenitor hums and the Daleks celebrate because the DNA reconstruction process is complete. The doors to the Progenitor open, and the Fog-Machine Guy blows half of the episode’s budget on fog juice. The lights flash, the fog rolls, and the orchestra swells — ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the Dalek Fashion Show!
Just in time for summer, the Daleks are sporting bright bold colors sure to make a splash, whether it’s a day at the office, or a night on the town. (I like to imagine this scene set to “I’m Too Sexy (For My Shirt).”)
Mari: A freakin’ plus. The colors actually reminded me a little of Parcheesi?
Dani: The boring old Army-green Daleks chant about the restoration of the Daleks and proclaim the resurgence of the master race because DALEKS ARE NAZIS, GET IT??? If not, don’t worry — the writers will continue to beat us over the head with it.
K: Seriously, that moment was so cringeworthy.
Dani: Back on Earth, Amy and Churchill find Bracewell holding a pistol, ready to end his lie of a life. They talk him down and remind him he’s the only one who can stop the Daleks. If they built him, then he has their alien tech and their knowledge. He mentioned something about a gravity bubble and supersonic missiles earlier, so Amy and Churchill convince him to get to work inventing something they can launch at the Dalek spaceship. (In less than ten minutes, or else thousands will die NO PRESSURE.)
Master Race Spaceship. The “Supreme” Dalek (that would be the white one… see what they did there?) tells the old Daleks that they are not pure, and they agree. He tells Bluey to cleanse the unclean via “total obliteration,” which is funny because the word ‘obliterate’ already means total destruction, so “total obliteration” is redundant. Not so supreme when it comes to grammar, are you? Bluey disintegrates the three old Daleks, and the Doctor wonders what they do to the ones that actually do something wrong. Dalek-Hitler identifies the Doctor and says he must be exterminated, but the Doctor whips out his Jammie Dodger and is all “not so fast!”
Down in London, damage reports are coming in as bombs have begun to hit the East End. Aww, poor East Enders; they never catch a break. Bracewell brings in a large radar-like device that he’s wired to his headset in order to pick up Dalek communications (just go with it). They see the Doctor with the new Daleks up on the spaceship and listen as El Supremo introduces the new classes of Dalek: scientist, strategist, drone, eternal, and the supreme. Bracewell gets a call and tells the PM they’re ready. Churchill gives the order, and the captain scrambles a squadron of planes.
Out in space, the Doctor and Dalek-Hitler face off, but Bluey does a scan and announces the Tardis Self-Destruct device doesn’t exist.
K: This annoyed me SO MUCH. I mean, I know Doctor Who is a great one for “Because, that’s why!” and “Just go with it, okay??”. But this? Like…convincing three pilots that it’s a good idea AND being able to actually launch the Spitfires into space like 20 years before a human ever went into space AND the fact that they’re in space but the propellers are still turning AND the fact that their guns work?!?!?!?! I can suspend a lot of disbelief. But this shit goes above and beyond and I JUST FUCKING CAN’T, YOU GUYS.
Dani: It might have been a *little* better if they hadn’t specified ten minutes AND THEN spent the next several scenes with Amy and Churchill taking at least that long to talk Bracewell out of shooting himself and convince him to create Magic!Aircraft. But they didn’t, so your “I can’t even” is totally valid.
The Doctor escapes to the TARDIS, from whence he directs the pilots to fire at the dish that’s beaming power down to London. They do, but the spaceship has shields, and the first two planes blow up. The Doctor tells the remaining pilot that he can interrupt the shields (maybe you could have offered that before the other two pilots died???) but it won’t last long. He fiddles with the TARDIS, the shields go down, and the pilot destroys the dish.
K: NGL, it felt like a total rip off of Independence Day.
Dani: London goes dark, and the War Room celebrates. The Doctor tells the pilot to shoot down the spaceship, but Dalek-Hitler’s like “yeah, no.”
Turns out Bracewell has some continuum thing in him, which makes him a bomb that’s powerful enough to blow up the entire planet. Seems legit. El Supremo tells the Doctor to call off the bomber, or he’ll detonate Bracewell. The Doctor takes an uncomfortably long time to consider the value of a couple billion humans (Earth’s population circa 1944) over a new, more powerful race of Daleks. He eventually calls off the attack and returns the TARDIS to the Cabinet War Rooms. Then he races to find Bracewell.
The Daleks celebrate the Doctor’s weakness (compassion) and say they have no such weakness — they’re still going to detonate Bracewell and blow up the planet. Dicks. They begin the sequence and prepare to time-jump away to safety.
Down on Earth, the Doctor sonics Bracewell’s chest open, and dude’s got a Tony Stark light in the center of his sculpted metal breastplate (K: Literally no one bats an eye at this turn of events??). The light’s divided into five sections, one of which turns yellow. The Doctor says he’s never seen an Oblivion Continuum up close before, so he doesn’t know how to stop it. But he does know it’ll detonate once all the sections turn red.
Amy suggests finding a blue wire, or maybe a red one, and cutting it, but the Doctor tells her that’s not helpful. Churchill is still amazed that Bracewell is a robot, since he talked about his life and his memories of the Great War. The Doctor runs with that, making Bracewell embrace his human thoughts and emotions. He seizes on anything painful, like Bracewell losing his parents to scarlet fever, but the lights keep going from yellow to orange to red. Bracewell assures them these memories hurt, yet it’s still not working. Finally, there is only one slice of light left, and it’s already turned from yellow to orange. The Doctor doesn’t know what to do, but Amy is there to save the day. She asks Bracewell if he’s ever fancied someone he knew he shouldn’t. She says, “it hurts, doesn’t it?” and gazes at the Doctor meaningfully. (EIEWW.) (M: NOOOOOOOO.) (K: UGH NO STOP.) Then she amends that it’s kind of a good hurt.
Bracewell recalls a woman named Dorabella, and the light dials back down to yellow. The Orchestra of Feels plays a sad melody as Bracewell lovingly recalls Dorabella’s striking blue eyes and her sweet smile. The more he talks about her, the more his Stark-meter chills out, until finally the Oblivion Continuum is completely inactive.
Aww, Dalek hatred was defeated by human love. Gut-wrenchingly painful, unrequited love, but hey… still a win.
The Doctor tells everyone they’re brilliant and kisses Amy’s head. Then he races off to defeat the Daleks, but he’s too late. They’ve jumped time dimensions. The Doctor is devastated, but Amy reminds him he saved the Earth and stopped the bomb. The Doctor says no, the Daleks have won because they knew the choice he’d make and it kinda sounds like he thinks it was the wrong one. Amy’s all YEAH BUT YOU SAVED THE PLANET, and finally the Doctor agrees that that’s not nothing. Churchill tells him he’s brilliant, but I think the families of those dead Marines and pilots might use a different word.
Outside, some soldiers re-create the iconic flag-raising scene from Iwo-Jima (only in London, and with the UK flag). German bombs have hit the palace and St. Paul’s again, and Military Lady is sobbing because, as predicted, her dearest Reggie died in order to fulfill a throwaway plot point.
Churchill tries to convince the Doctor to leave the Dalek tech behind, as it’ll help him win the war, but the Doctor refuses.
K: Honestly, this kind of made me cringe. Like, at no point does the Doctor offer an explanation about WHY the war can’t end at this point. If he’d even uttered the words “fixed point”, I would have been okay with it. But without that, it just kind of seems like he’s going “I mean, I *could* let you keep the Spitfires and win the war now, saving millions and millions of lives and stopping the Holocaust before it starts. But nah.” Which, NO THANK YOU PLEASE.
Dani: The Doctor also refuses to stay and help with the war effort, saying they don’t need him when they’ve got Winston Spencer Churchill. The PM says his goodbyes to the Doctor and Amy, but not before pick-pocketing the TARDIS key. Amy cops on and sassily insists he give it back.
Back at the TARDIS, Amy marvels about the Doctor having arch-enemies and asks if he’s worried about the Daleks.
K: His line “Everyone’s got enemies” made me go ??????. I don’t think I have enemies. I mean, I probably have kids at work who think I’m an evil bitch because I won’t let them borrow until they pay their fines. But I don’t think I’m their ENEMY…
Dani: Wait until you have in-laws…
He says he’s always worried about the Daleks, but right now he’s more concerned that Amy didn’t know them. She really should have, and he looks very worried about what this might mean. The pair go into the Tardis, and as it vworp-vworps away, we see a huge crack in the wall, just like the one that was in Amy’s house. I’m sensing a theme. ROLL CREDITS
This episode ranks pretty low for me. I think the Director totally phoned it in, but even if he/she hadn’t there’s only so much one can do to save a Dalek-driven plot. Maybe these new, rainbow-hued Daleks will prove to be genuinely frightening and not just a way for the BBC to sell a crap-ton of new merchandise. I’m not holding my breath, though.
Mari: I liked this a fair amount less than last episode and I’m blaming that mostly on the Daleks. This episode came with a typical dose of WTFery, but to me, something about the plotting and pacing made it more boring than not. Plus, the acting at the beginning and in general, Amy’s happy go-luckiness seemed very out of place here. It makes me miss Donna’s ability to be sassy and brash, but then to rock the hell out of those emotional moments. It’s more jarring because Churchill is also strangely upbeat in the face of the Blitz at moments. It’s the most jarring because if the war and the reactions aren’t enough to cement the immediacy of the plot, the Daleks sure as hell aren’t. They just never are as scary as they are written to be, you know? Like the Doctor stopped them for quite a while with a cookie. And playing that for a joke means that later, when he’s seriously bummed about saving billions vs. letting the Daleks go, it doesn’t play correctly. We don’t see the danger the writers want us to see, and instead the Doctor seems insensitive.
K: This episode is really effing dumb. That’s pretty much all I have right now.
Next time on Doctor Who: River Song needs help with Weeping Angels in S05 E04 – The Time of the Angels.