Saturday, May 05, 2007

Doctor Who - Evolution of the Daleks

Well what happened there then? The first part of this adventure was exciting and dramatic and built brilliantly ... and then in the concluding part it all seemed to fall to bits, as though they had put all their effort into the first bit and then just forgotten about the second!

The problems all seem to stem from the script, and it looks like no-one cared to ask Helen Raynor what was actually meant to be happening and instead just went with whatever she had come up with. There are several inconsistencies in the plot and the way it all came together and hopefully I'll touch on these as we go through.

So we open with the amazing cliffhanger from last week - the human/Dalek Sec hybrid creature. Someone pointed out that the reason he's not speaking with a Dalek voice is that this voice is created by the casing (as evidenced in a couple of earlier stories) and that's true! I had forgotten this, so I guess we have to then get used to the New York accented Dalek for the story. Sec wants all the humans to become like him, and then the Doctor reveals himself and does one of his speechy things to him - seems that Sec is becoming more human which is a good thing for him, but less so for the other three Daleks. The Doctor makes a radio explode with his all-purpose sonic screwdriver (how does he do this precisely?) and they all run for it, being chased by Daleks and pigmen.

Then we have one of the most ludicous scenes in the show - two Daleks talking in a sewer and one looks around to check it's not being overheard!! By who exactly? And don't the Daleks have sensors for this? It reminded me of the 'thick' Dalek in The Chase (1965) who hesitates and gets its words wrong when reporting.

Back in Hooverville and the Doctor tells Soloman to get his people out as the Daleks need humans for conversion. Then the pigs attack, closely followed by two of the Daleks flying in and blasting everything. Soloman does a War of the Worlds speech to the Daleks and is promptly exterminated. Then the Doctor does the same but is spared by Sec, much to the other Daleks' annoyance. These scenes drag terribly, slowing the action down - maybe we needed Soloman to do this, but the Doctor as well? Sheesh.

Before he leaves with the Daleks, the Doctor gives Martha his psychic paper wallet, but fails to tell her what to do or where to go. That's handy. Poor girl is left to figure it all out on her own ... whether what she eventually does is what the Doctor intended is left to our imagination as, really, she does nothing at all!

Anyway, the Doctor arrives back at the Empire State Building where he rants at the Daleks again. He says the green globby Rutan thing he found was a Dalek embryo ... what? Where did that come from then? There are only four Daleks in the Cult of Skaro and all are accounted for, so where did an extra embryo come from? And the Daleks have 1000 or so humans, brains wiped clean, suspended on pallets in a sort of mad Frankenstein way in the basement of the Building ... what a lot of effort to go to! Constructing all that with no-one knowing or realising. And ... hang on ... the people have their minds wiped, so why were the Daleks last week only after the intelligent ones? Seems a bit of a waste to me. The idea is that the bodies will be filled with Dalek ideas by Dalek DNA going through them in some sort of blue liquid. How does that work then? DNA is an encapsulation of physical attributes, not mental. It says whether you'll have three eyes and no hair or whatever, not whether you'll think like a Dalek or not.

Now comes the biggest load of tripe yet - the Daleks need a gamma radiation strike to activate the bodies, this is coming from a solar flare, and yet it's night time ... so how, when the face of the Earth the Daleks are on is away from the Sun, could a blast of anything from the Sun affect it? And then it's delivered via a lightning bolt - which is electricity and not gamma radiation. And did the whole Earth suffer the same lightning ... and what happened on the side which was actually facing the Sun at the time? The Daleks had attached Dalekaneum to the lightning conductor, it seems, to add their DNA to the gamma radiation to pass to the bodies ... so what was the blue liquid the Doctor helped develop then? And since when did a lightning bolt extract DNA from anything! Does this mean that people who survive being hit by lightning turn into trees or whatever they happen to be touching at the time?

Pauses for breath as all this is so much rubbish that it's hard to get it all down.

So ... we have to believe that the Daleks have managed to convert a load of mind-wiped humans into Daleks via this means. Okay. And that the action of the Doctor in holding onto the lightning conductor somehow adds his Time Lord DNA to the mix.

While all this nonsense is going on, Martha figures out that she has to go to the Empire State Building - which is a good 5 miles from Central Park by the way - and use the Psychic Paper to get in ... well I guess that's okay though I wonder who would be guarding a half-built building anyway ... and then she and Frank and Tallulah and Laszlo get up to the top. She then spends ages frikking around with the plans for the building to try and see the differences between two versions (what?) so that when the Doctor arrives she can tell him it's Dalekaneum on the mast. However before this we get the second most ludicrous scene in the episode - the pigs in the lift! Standing there, looking embarrassed as they ascend. This has to be one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes in Doctor Who ever. Made me laugh anyway.

So the humans are converted to Daleks, and Dalek Sec is overruled by the other three Daleks and put in chains - why didn't they just exterminate him? Dalek Kahn takes command of the Dalek army, and the Doctor needs somewhere to use for a final showdown ... so what other set do we have in these episodes? The Theatre! Of course ... so he, Martha, Frank, Tallulah and Laszlo head for the Theatre where the Doctor summons the Daleks with the ever-useful Sonic Screwdriver.

They mysteriously arrive in a flash of pyrotechnics on the stage, and with Dalek Sec crawling on the floor before them? What? Why? Why bring him along? Why make him crawl? Oh well.

The human Dalek army arrive, neatly kitted out with spanking new Dalek exterminator guns - should we ask where they came from? No, thought not - and there's a standoff. The Daleks try to kill the Doctor but Sec blocks the blast and is finally killed himself. The human Daleks are then ordered to kill the Doctor but they do not. Instead they ask why they should. So the Daleks and human Daleks fight, and the two real Daleks are blown up by the weapons. Interestingly, the Daleks don't just kill the Doctor themselves in all this ...

So Dalek Kahn promptly destroys all the human Daleks. Now if he could do this, then why bother having the Daleks and human Daleks fight at all? Why didn't Kahn just kill them all the moment they turned on the Daleks?

The fun's all over and the Doctor returns to confront Dalek Kahn, who, just like Sec before him, engages temporal shift and vanishes. Handy function that.

So it's all over bar the shouting. Laszlo is saved by the Doctor who whips up something in the Daleks' lab to stabilise him and stop him dying, Tallulah has her man back (although he now looks like a pig) and the Doctor and Martha return to the TARDIS where the Doctor predicts he will meet Dalek Kahn again one day ...

So after a very promising start, Evolution of the Daleks descended into a runaround which really makes little sense as soon as you start to actually try and follow the plot. The pigmen were a nice idea (and I heard them dubbed as 'Hogrons' the other day which I liked a lot - the Ogrons were an earlier race of ape-like humanoids that the Daleks used as slaves in the stories Day of the Daleks and Frontier in Space) and the story looked magnificent. The actors were all first rate, and the CGI and effects were well up to par. Unfortunately this one fell down on the script ... the most important element of any story.

The ideas seemed to be pinched from the earlier story The Evil of the Daleks (a search for the 'human factor' so the Daleks could become more human and thus win out over humanity, however this in itself was a trick so that the Dalek Emperor could find the 'Dalek factor' and instead turn all the humans into walking Daleks). However there it all made much more sense.

Next week it looks like a bit of a runaround ... Mark Gatiss, Professor Lazarus (now what could that name possibly infer), more of Martha's family (I so hope it's not going to be another soap-fest), and a rather nice looking CGI monster.


Anonymous said...

I must admit that I disagree with a fair few of your opinions on New Who, but this time I agree with you 100%- what a wasted oppurtunity! The seeds of a cracking conclusion, but they were let down by bizarre pacing and a plot that couldn't maintain its own internal continuity, never mind continuity with the rest of the series!

Anonymous said...

What David said. I have nothing to add that he hasn't commented on.

My review was a little shorter - it sucked :-(

Anonymous said...

Sorry, it's the anonymous foreigner again.I'll try to get myself an ID soon.

I thought that this story - both parts - represents all the worst elements of the current revival. Grandiose ideas (human daleks, the Cult of Skaro, etc) are developed in too little time (at least this one got 90 minutes). Techno-babble replaces reason (endless opening of voids, channeling of waves). Shouting marks the moral message moments.

My worst gripe, though, is the shallow PC agenda with which much of the new series is suffused. New York of the 1930s was awash with immigrants: Jews, Irish, Italian, Chinese and Greek; and of course, there was a significant "negro" (now: African-American) community, alongside the old-timer white Protestant. The communities tended to stick to their own kind and were suspicious and often hostile towards other ethnic groups. These were the realities of 1930s America.

None of this is reflected in this silly story. A black man (who is never referred to by the contemporary term "negro", which was not necessarily derogatory) leads the down-and-outs and they all follow him. None of them seem to be markedly ethnic, unless they are black. Nobody notices that a white man (the Doctor) is travelling with a black woman, even though such action would have been unusual at the time.

No, in the new enlightened Doctor Who, multiculturalism is a universal phenomenon. Nobody was ever racist or prejudiced. In fact, only Shakespeare even notices other people's ethnicity!

I cannot help feeling that the present series, as exciting as it undoubtedly is at times, is much more shallow than the "classic years" (up to 1981). The reduction of the average story to 45 minutes has greatly reduced the ability to develop character and plot.