The innocent, humanised-Daleks are a brilliantly strange creation, playing trains and chanting, ‘Dizzy Doctor’ much to his delight. It’s another new twist on the creatures, after The Power of the Daleks featured them proclaiming, ‘I am your servant’, and it opens the episode on a winningly strange note, even if the humanised-Daleks’ repetition of ‘Friend’ has been a bit ruined by The Inbetweeners.
The end of the episode also gives us a new take on the Daleks in the form of their Emperor. It’s a magnificent creation, both in concept and execution: vast and looming, and strangely organic, with its power cables seeming to double up as horrible spindly legs or chthonic tentacles, so it looks like a sort of Lovecraftian spider in the web as it towers over the Doctor. Martinus’s direction almost certainly helped – even the telesnaps give a hint of how menacing it must have appeared. Giving the Daleks this figurehead, and having the Doctor declare, ‘We meet at last’ is another addition to the mythology, and the sense that this is a grand finale.
In between, the episode is a bit empty. The escape from 1866 is nicely ominous – having the Daleks recalled to Skaro, and torching Maxtible’s house is fair enough, but it’s buried in a lot of repetitious business between Maxtible and Waterfield, and the Doctor and Jamie wandering about looking for Victoria which doesn’t necessarily add much urgency to events.
The scenes on Skaro are better. The designer Chris Thompson didn’t attempt to copy the sets from The Daleks, but instead goes for an effective minimalist design of geometric grilles shrouded in shadows, so this looks less like the city of outer space robot people and more the lair of malevolent creatures of darkness, all of which apparently centres around the Dalek Emperor.
Whitaker gives a cut-down re-tread of the middle, expedition episodes of the first Dalek serial, including secret passageways through the mountains and vertiginous narrow pathways. It’s a nice call-back for any of the audience who might have remembered, in about a tenth of the screen time. These scenes are all good. Maxtible, Kemel and Victoria’s scenes are less gripping: Victoria is wilful but weepy, very much like Kirsty from The Highlanders, and at this stage gives no indication that she’s companion material.
The final reveal – that the Doctor has been taken for a ride by the Emperor – and that he will use the TARDIS to spread the Dalek Factor through the entire history of the Earth, is probably nonsensical, but the scale and daring of it raise the stakes of the story. It’s not just the future of Earth that’s at stake, but the obliteration of the entire past, present and future of humanity, overwritten by the history of the Daleks.
Next episode: The Evil of the Daleks – Episode 7