Doctor Who Re-Watch: Daleks in Manhatten/Evolution of the Daleks

Argh apologies all for the delay in getting this one up. Ben did his bit but I had some sad news about a friend and didn’t touch anything writing or blogging related for a full fortnight. Also, let’s be honest. We all know this Dalek two-parter sucks balls …

The Pre-Title Sequence

Ben: The pre-title sequence in Daleks was, well, kinda weird. It featured show girls, a sad clown and some very strong Noo York accents. Our loved-up couple Tallulah and Laszlo seem to have the best ahead of them, the world is their oyster! And then Laszlo goes and gets himself got by a weird pig man. Yeah … I wouldn’t say it’s one of the better openings to an episode.

Maureen: Yep. Pretty much my thoughts. Egad! It’s Miranda Raison! Egad! Her bad accent! Egad! Le corny romance! Admittedly, the theater corridor and the creepy wax hand was good, but the pig thing ruined any credibility the story had earnt up to that point.

daleks

The Companion/s

Ben: Poor Martha really doesn’t do much on her own in these episodes, unfortunately. And the stuff she does do … Well … On the bright side, she does have one rather sweet conversation with Tallulah where they talk about boys and Tallulah decides the reason he and Martha aren’t together is because he’s “into musical theatre”. Which, same. The next scene Martha’s in is just weird and unnecessary – while Tallulah is performing a cute little showtune number (Inkashlings interjection: I actually love this song on the soundtrack) she spots Laszlo in the other wing, and instead of going around backstage to find him she has to go across the stage and mess up the performance? Like, why? There are so many easier ways to get her kidnapped by a pig man. Hell, the only reason it happened was so she could be a damsel in distress, forcing the Doctor back into the sewers to rescue here so the story could move forward. Talk about lazy writing.

Maureen: Yeah, this two-parter felt a lot like a kitchen sink had been thrown at it. I’m not too sure the Tallulah sub-plot was at all necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Miranda Raison on Spooks, but she hung in the background for most of the first part of the two-parter for the story to catch up to her. The whole thing felt oddly paced and like a lot of the plot twists were sign-posted a mile off. I did enjoy Martha knowing her history, however. She really is one smart cookie companion which I find refreshing! Also, she got a traditional companion scream!

Ben: With The Doctor taken captive by the Daleks, Martha is left to figure out what to do. And like, The Doctor gives her his psychic paper but doesn’t tell her what to do with it? It’s been established in The Shakespeare Code that Martha is susceptible to the paper, so surely you’d use it to leave her a message? And then we get yet another “so tell us how you met The Doctor” Tallulah talk with Martha. It’s getting a bit annoying hearing the same “I don’t really know him etc etc” conversation episode after episode. What I would consider to be Martha’s one big contribution to the episode would be electrocuting a lift full of pig men, but even that made not one lick of sense.

Maureen: I hate the stupid Martha un-requited love bullshit. She is so much better than Ten. Just saying. Also, yeah, it was super weird that The Doctor was so unhelpful because … plot reasons …

Ten: I’m sorry Martha, but you’ve got to fight.

Frankly, Doctor, how un-illuminating!

Also, I felt like every time the episodes had an interesting idea, they’d run away from the idea five seconds later. Take, for example, the below exchange:

Martha: They were people and I killed them.
Laslo: No! The Daleks killed them long ago.

Well, Laslo, way to kill off an interesting concept.

Also:

Martha: And I’m telling you I’m not going.
Ten: That’s an order.
Martha: What are you? Some kind of Dalek?

And then it’s not discussed further. Fine then.

Ben: Frank (played unexpectedly by Andrew Garfield) was a real sweetie and does a much better job of world-building than Solomon in my opinion. He doesn’t do much this episode (not that anyone does, really) but this must’ve been one of Andrews first acting credits, therefore it’s worth a mention.

Maureen: I got Frank mixed up with Laszlo. There are way too many superfluous characters in this episode. I liked Frank, but yeah, he was just there. Also, I found it odd that everyone was sad about leaving Frank behind but immediately forgot about him when they joined Tallulah. Like, OK then.

Ben: Solomon was I guess created to be the two parter’s moral compass and boy did he have a lot to say. Not that they weren’t valid points, but it all came across as incredibly preachy. Also, not that I’m an expert in 1930s America, but is a black man leading Hooverville realistic? But then he isn’t really developed beyond that, and then he dies. Even his death felt pointless. Hell, the whole attack on Hoovertown felt like padding.

Maureen: So much padding! I found Solomon so over the top I couldn’t take his morals seriously. I’ve googled Hooverville and apparently one did exist, but I can’t find a reference to a black leader either. I’m assuming the name of Solomon is a biblical reference. As I said earlier, kitchen sink. Also, I did not give a damn about the humans vs. daleks conflict in the episode.

Ben: Tallulah and Laszlo were just so unnecessary too, although her assertion that some men are pigs but not her Laszlo was kinda funny considering how it was supposed to be all ominous and foreboding. It’s a shame because she was a really sweet character, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care about her. And then in Evolution of the Daleks we had Laszlo insisting that he was fine when we just had Dalek Sec explaining that the pig men only last a few weeks before dying. Like, I get wanting to be stoic and see the mission through or whatever, but just stop brushing off everyone’s concerns. And then of course The Doctor had to go and save the day and stabilise his biology or whatever. Like they’re gonna be 1930’s America’s version of Beauty and the Beast or something and have a happy ending living in Hoovertown. You just know that people are gonna get hungry and he’s gonna end up as bacon.

Maureen: A bad taste joke, Ben, but no doubt true!

The Doctor

Ben: The Doctor quoting the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty was a bit depressing, considering our current political climates. The huddled masses are forced to go elsewhere these days. Beyond that, in Daleks in Manhattan he doesn’t really do anything worth writing about. He does a bunch of generic Doctoring and investigating, but for most of this episode it seems like we’re just treading water until the interesting part of the story comes around. That happens around the start of the next episode, Evolution of the Daleks.

Maureen: Yeah, I feel like this should have been a one shot story. So much felt like random padding and the audience being five steps ahead of The Doctor and Martha because the story contrived it so.

Ben: We open the second episode with a great confrontation between the Doctor and Dalek Human Sec, perhaps the highlight of this two-parter. They have further conversations once the Doctor is kidnapped, all of which I feel could have been used as the seed from which to build a more interesting episode where humanity and Daleks and their similarities and differences are explored.

Maureen: Again, I can’t help but agree. Moffat did take up these seeds in some of Twelve’s better Dalek stories and it made for a more thoughtful time. As I said earlier, every time something interesting happened, the episode shied away to the next thing. I really enjoyed the part where the Dalek was talking to megalomaniac foreman saying something about how humanity was fascinating because we hide from the dark yet build great cities and have out-lived the Daleks. I wanted more of that dialogue!

Ben: But then in the end his dramatic solution to stop the new human daleks from being created in the gamma ray strike didn’t make a whole lot of sense. How did Time Lord DNA get spliced in from the lightning/gamma strike? And how was the Time Lord part of them so strong that it overwhelmed the Dalek part? And to make matters worse, the Dalek controlling them could have destructed them at any time, so the two Daleks died needlessly. Hell, they didn’t even need to attack them! The hybrids could have been killed remotely, and then the Doctor and his companions would have been defenceless. And then in the most BS of endings, he saved Lazlo from death – and condemned him to life as a pig/human hybrid. It was a nonsensical end to a nonsensical two-parter.

Maureen: I have to be honest. I have no idea what happened at the end. It was a lot of shouting and explosions and hand waving to me. My notebook comment was, ‘how does any of this denouement make an iota of sense?’ Also, why is Ten cool with helping a Dalek-human hybrid, but not Harriet Jones #stillbitter.

The Alien of the Week

Ben: Well, they sure didn’t waste any time introducing the Daleks as the baddies of the week, but what interest do they have in the Empire State Building? And why the pig men? Mr Diagoras has shown that the threat of unemployment is enough to keep the builders risking life and limb. They do make for a rather scary enemy to be chased by through sewers.

Maureen: I think the pig people were failed Dalek hybrids or some shit. I don’t know. I stopped paying attention to the logistics of the plot pretty soon in.

Ben: Anywho, after a bit of back and forth between the Daleks about how the humans are weak but also strong and how Daleks have to change to survive but also have to remain pure, Dalek Sec finally unveils it’s plan to further the Dalek race! Merging with Mr Diagoras and creating a new type of Dalek. It looks like it would have been very painful for Mr Diagoras, that’s for sure. Well, at the end of the first episode we get introduced to the new human-Dalek hybrid in a very dramatic matter, but honestly, I wasn’t paying attention to anything but the truly horrific design they came up with for the Dalek Human.

Maureen: That design was so distracting. Also, his voice got on my tits.

Ben: Admittedly, things did get a little interesting in the second half of the two-parter when Dalek Sec decides to spare the Doctor, because having him on their side is better than having him dead. Again, something that could have been more interesting to explore in another setting. Unfortunately, the other Daleks decide Dalec Sec is an enemy of “true” Daleks, so things quickly became less interesting. Even when the new human Dalek army awakes, it ends with more of a fizzle than a bang. There’s just so much potential in these episodes. It’s maddening to see it squandered like this.

Maureen: I know right? It’s like there’s about five good ideas here buried in total dreck.

Ben: Yeah, this new hybrid storyline could have been so much more interesting in the right setting, especially with the old Daleks questioning the new hybrid. Instead the episode ends with one dead Human Dalek (and honestly, considering how annoying I found his cadence when talking, I was glad when it happened), a bunch of dead Human-Dalek-Time Lord hybrids, and one regular Dalek making an emergency temporal shift.

Maureen: Basically, everything sucked. Also, the human Dalek learning empathy was so bloody predictable. Oh, like 90% of this episode actually.

Final Thoughts

Ben: Bad. Just so bad. There was no reason for this to be a two-parter – the number of scenes that existed purely to pad out the episode’s lengths can attest to that.

Maureen: OMG YES. The stupid scene where Tallulah looks at the New York sky from atop the Empire State Building and says stuff that’s meant to be insightful and touching but just sounds dumb for example.

Ben: Furthermore, why even are the pig men necessary? They have enough humans working on the Empire State Building, and the foreman, Mr Diagoras has shown he can keep them under thumb working 24/7. Surely you could have just taken over a few gangs and put them to work? The number of extras in these two episodes, and they couldn’t find a couple extra dumb looking white guys with bad NY accents? The large cast of extras and ensemble characters this episode seemed to really dilute down the opportunity for individual characters to move the story forward in substantial ways, or play anything other than a stereotype. I really do think if they’d cut this down to one episode and eliminated a bunch of characters and then completely overhauled the story there could potentially be a good episode in here somewhere.

Maureen: Yeah, I started losing track of characters relevance to the story which is a bad thing. No one had time for any flesh to their bone.

Ben: Also, the elevator had some awfully erratic trip times; in the first episode it brought one of the daleks up in 10 seconds flat, but the elevator trip carrying the pig men up took 6 minutes! And the final egregious act was the Doctor somehow magicking up a potion to save Laszlo in 30 seconds flat, showboating the whole time. I’m giving this stinker of a two-parter a 1/10.

Maureen: I think I’m with Ben on this. Some potential, but too many characters, a refusal to explore interesting ideas, a weird propensity for filler, bad acting and stupid hand-waves make this a tough two-parter to stomach. Still, it’s less shit than the Season Two cybermen two-parter so there’s that I guess. 1/10 inky stars

About InkAshlings

Maureen, Australian, young aspiring writer.
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