And so we move onto Victory of the Daleks. This was a strange episode and a definite case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts. I'll start with the positives, the biggest of which was Matt again putting in an excellent performance as the Doctor. The Moff and his team have stumbled on a real star here and I hope they have got him signed up for at least 3 years as he has not put a foot wrong so far.
Next up: Spitfires in space, Cool.E.O. but coming with an automatic negative. The scenes were not nearly long enough (compare with any number of battles in B5 or DS9, or even The Parting of Ways), really given the shortness of these scenes they should not have been included in the trailer.
The Dalek redesign. I have to admit I hated this when I saw the pictures online and they looked like toys. But in the episode itself they are big menacing buggers and I am now totally sold on them. I also loved the fact that the plot comes about as a way to trap the Doctor and that they got to win too, so good times on that one.
On the downside. Amy is basically anonymous again here and very Generic Who Companion for the most part. The portrayal and writing of Churchill is just too cartonish for my tastes, not to say that it isn't respectful, because it is, but it just didn't have the depth I was looking for. Depth of character was a problem for the whole supporting cast to be honest with the whole thing being a little too "Boys own" adventure for me. Indeed the tone of the episode seems, at best, uneven. Ignoring for the moment the Dalek involvement, it seems that the episode wants to have both ways being a "boys own" bank holiday special, but also trying to be dutifully respectful to the people that fought the war. The overall effect is a feeling of being preached at rather than quiet respect. And preached at in a rather simplistic and cliched way to boot. NuWho has stuck this balance better already (Empty Child/Doctor Dances and Human Nature/Family of Blood, Hell even Mark Gatiss as Dr. Lazarus) and old Who and spin-off who has stuck the balance better numerous times before.
Whilst its not generally fair to criticise a show for being one thing and not another, I do think its valid here to raise the issue of the whole concept of the Daleks versus Churchill. I have pointed out in the past the clear parallels between the Nazis and the Daleks and clearly this was in the mind of the creative team in formulating this episode. However, its not particularly well drawn out in the episode, which relies on the incongruity of the Daleks as wartime servitors. I would've preferred to see much more of the Doctor saying "these guys ARE the nazis", "these guys are the nazis taken to their ultimate conclusion", "if you rely on these guys you will become the nazis". I don't think that this point was expressed well enough in the episode.
I have to say that I am not convinced that Mark Gatiss is well suited to writing for the new series. He has done some great stuff in the books and audios and is clearly capable of doing "old who but better". But I have never been particularly fond of his work in the new series. I think that the Unquiet Dead was a hugely flawed entry to season one and although the Idiot Lantern was better, it was still one of the poorer episodes of season 2. On the other hand I would just point out that I thought that the Confidential episode was excellent.