‘If Hitler invaded hell, I would give a favourable reference to the Devil.’ The biggest problem with Victory of the Daleks is that it’s an introduction for a New Dalek Paradigm that nearly everybody hated, and is tainted by association. The script makes such a big thing of the new Paradigm, giving them each a unique power and vaunting their superiority over the Time War models (which are summarily exterminated, and wiped from the collective consciousness by the cracks), that it’s hard to see past the failure of the new props. It’s the first crack (if you’ll pardon the pun) in Moffat’s revamp, the first decision rapidly backtracked on.
The Paradigm Daleks are, indeed, a misstep, although I suspect had they included from the outset the improvements made in subsequent series to reduce the hatchback and add a metallic finish they might have been better received. Even so, they’re trying to solve a problem that didn’t exist. The show has form at introducing a colourful new model while trashing the old version, and this works about as well: it’s The Twin Dilemma of Dalek stories.
Tearing our eyes away from the Paradigm, there are things to enjoy – including the Dalek Ironsides, with their cute little lamp covers. Mark Gatiss works through some Troughton era nostalgia with the Ironside chanting, ‘I am your soldier’ and the Doctor contemplating ‘the final end’. Churchill, whose reputation has been more openly questioned in the years since 2010, was still at this point the Greatest Briton (at least according to the BBC Poll), and it was inevitable the 21st Century series would do a celebrity historical. Gatiss’ decision to make him a ruthless pragmatist willing to do anything to further the ends of his country and its Empire means this doesn’t come across as hagiography.
Similarly, the punch-the-air moment of Spitfires engaging a Dalek saucer is balanced by the moment when Lilian Breen receives news her young man has been killed. I’m a fan of the Doctor in this, too: he retains his previous versions’ impetuousness and short temper (especially where the Daleks are concerned), and the EastEnders swagger (‘Don’t mess with me, sweetheart’, ‘I’m not stupid, mate’) with a streak of panicky desperation.
But none of this can hide that the script is underwritten: a throwaway line about Bracewell’s bath-time noodlings about gravity bubbles isn’t quite enough to sell the British having spaceworthy Spitfires with laser weapons. The Oblivion Continuum is a weak climax coming after the big space dogfight (and what will Dorabella think when she gets Bracewell’s shirt off?). No, this succeeds or falls on the concept of the New Dalek Paradigm – and we all know how that turned out.
Next Time: The Time of Angels