THIS EPISODE TAKES
AFTER THE TV EPISODE
"DALEKS IN MANHATTAN"
AND PRIOR TO THE TV
EPISODE "THE INFINITE
'THE COMPLETE THIRD
EXCLUSIVE DVD BOX
RELEASED IN NOVEMBER
AS A DALEK EMPIRE
RISES IN 1930s NEW
YORK, THE DOCTOR
28TH APRIL 2007
(50-MINUTE EPISODE, PART 2 OF 2)
Evolution of the Daleks is an episode that barely takes a moment to breathe. Immediately we are thrown into a good old-fashioned Dalek corridor chase, sublimely complemented by Murray Gold’s grand score, and within just a few minutes marauding
pig-slaves and flying Daleks are besieging Hooverville.
“Observe humanity. For all their faults, they have courage.”
With her script for this episode, Helen Raynor has done almost as good a job as Robert Shearman did with Dalek in how she
presents the Dalek race in a new and fascinating way. I say ‘almost as good’ because I think that Shearman had a slightly harder job in trying to make us feel compassion for a traditional Dalek; Raynor at least has a humanoid Dalek.
Having watched Daleks in Manhattan, it seemed pretty obvious to me that the three Daleks were going to turn on Sec. In my head I imagined a Davros / Daleks Genesis of the Daleks type finish, but never did I imagine that events would play out in the way that they did. I was somewhat taken aback by just how far Raynor pushed Sec – within two episodes he goes from the fiendish leader of an evil Dalek cult to an almost whiter-than-white visionary. This creates a lovely dilemma for the Doctor – should he help him?
“We must return to the flesh and to the heart.”
In all his incarnations the Doctor has been an unstoppable moral force. He has always done what he believed to be the right thing, or what he believed to be for the greater good. But usually the audience, scrutinising the Doctor’s decisions from outside the box, can clearly see what the right moral choice is. Watching this story though, I honestly did not have a clue. Thousands of frozen humans, completely brain-dead; damage done. Should the Doctor let Sec use their empty husks as vessels for a new, tamer Dalek race? Talk about the difficult decisions…
Predictable as it may have been, the recalcitrant Daleks’ eventual insurrection certainly did not lack impact. The image of Sec being forced to crawl in chains ahead of Thay and Jast
is certainly an enduring one, and Sec taking the bullet for the Doctor is an almost equally powerful moment. I love the shot of the death ray illuminating Sec’s cyclopic skull. Beautiful.
“He is an enemy of the Daleks… and so are you! You have lost your authority.
You are no longer a Dalek! You taught us to imagine and we imagined your irrelevance.”
What I find really entertaining though is seeing Caan, Thay and Jast plotting, scheming and bitching about Sec. I love the way that their domes swivel around 360º as if they are looking over their shoulders, scared of getting caught! ‘Characterisation’ and ‘Dalek’ aren’t words that normally do hand in hand, but together Helen Raynor and Nicholas Brigs have really made ‘the Cult of Skaro’ unique characters with their own distinct personalities.
Indeed, in many ways, this two-parter showcases Davies’ remarkable skill and foresight as Head Writer – now he’s thinking seasons ahead! In Doomsday, he spared thirty seconds or so of dialogue to give the four Daleks an interesting back story. Now Doomsday didn’t need the whole ‘Cult of Skaro’ angle in there; it was already packed to bursting. But Davies stuck it in there regardless, along with a sly little “emergency temporal shift” right at the death. And now those thirty seconds of dialogue have given rise to this fantastic adventure.
Turning to the man himself for a moment, I’ve been a fan of David Tennant throughout his reign – he had me won over by the end of The Christmas Invasion – but in this episode I couldn’t help but be dumbfounded by the sheer gravity of his phenomenal performance. Following Solomon’s touching and eloquent speech during the attack on Hooverville was certainly an unenviable task, but the Doctor’s impassioned plea to the Dalek to kill him seems troublingly heartfelt. It’s almost as if the Doctor wants to die, and were it not for the compassion of Sec, he would have done here. There is something about the Daleks that brings out the best – and worst – in the Doctor, and in Evolution of the Daleks it is more evident than ever.
Further, I’m sure that I’m not the only one to have noticed the new little phrase “never waste time on a hug” creeping in to the Doctor’s vocab. I noticed this first of all in Stephen Cole’s recent tie-in novel Sting of the Zygons, and it stood out again here. It’s as if the Doctor is regressing to his pre-Rose state. He’s closing up.
“Never waste time on a hug!”
The spaghetti western-style showdown between the Doctor and Caan is the highlight of the episode for me. The last of the Daleks and the last of the Time Lords… again. The scene mirrors not only that fateful meeting between the ninth Doctor and the Dalek in Van Statten’s museum, but also the final battle of wits between the seventh Doctor and the Black Dalek in Remembrance of the Daleks, save of course for one pivotal difference.
“Caan, let me help you. What do you say?”
With pale red eyes and the emotion in his voice barely kept in check, the tenth Doctor looks upon the last Dalek in existence and offers it mercy. The Daleks might commit genocide at the drop of the hat, but not the Doctor. Not anymore, at least. Rose made him a better man, and even in her absence - death wish notwithstanding – he’s still that better man. And so the man that once tricked Davros into vaporising Skaro’s sun offers the olive branch to Dalek Caan, and what does he say? “Emergency temporal shift!”
But even when all is said and done, Raynor has one last uplifting surprise in store for us. The Pig and the Showgirl. Lazlo and Tellulah. The Pig with a tragically short life span… were it not for the intervention of a Time Lord.
“Oh Tellulah with three l’s and an h! Just you watch me!”
And so they both lived happily ever after. Hardly “everybody Lives”, but it still has the same sort of feel-good resonance.
Once again then, I have nothing but praise for all concerned in the production of this week’s magnificent episode of Doctor Who. I do have a few trivial gripes, naturally - why was the so-called Invasion of Manhattan confined to a sewer and a backstreet theatre? And since when were Daleks made of Dalekanium? Whatever happened to bonded polycarbide armour? Last I heard, Dalekanium was an explosive! However, I believe that this is called nitpicking. Or clutching at straws…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
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