Spitfires in space!
“Victory of the Daleks” avoids the large-scale, universe-spanning threat that the Daleks have usually posed in the new series. Instead the episode takes a much more focused approach, as well as applying a lighter touch since the Daleks are working for Winston Churchill during the blitz of World War 2. Yeah… it’s that type of bizarre episode, mixing a couple of outlandish concepts together. And it just about works, thanks to the inherent humor in the concept behind the story, which leaves me smiling even when the more serious plot elements take over.
The Doctor is summoned to Earth by Winston Churchill, who has the Doctor’s private number and is aware of the concept of regeneration. Apparently these two go way back, even though we’ve never seen the two characters interact on-screen before. It’s a great conceit, and so is the fact that Churchill keeps trying to get the TARDIS key every time the Doctor meets with him. As we saw at the end of “The Beast Below”, Churchill’s new weapon that will help him win the war is the “Ironsides” project, which are of course the Daleks.
For the next few minutes, “Victory” channels one of my favorite Dalek stories, “Power of the Daleks”. The Doctor knows that his old enemies are up to no good, but is unable to convince anyone of that fact. The Daleks roll around insisting “I am your soldier” and serving tea. The Doctor finally snaps and attacks one, who keeps up its act until the Doctor insists “I am the Doctor and you are the Daleks”, which is exactly what they had been waiting for. “Testimony accepted.” We all knew the betrayal was coming, so kudos to writer Mark Gatiss for not stretching things out too long.
Here the story turns and becomes a sequel to last year’s season finale. We find out that one Dalek ship survived Donna’s purge, carrying with it sealed Dalek genetic material with which to create new Daleks. But the device didn’t recognize the Daleks and refused to open, since they were created from Davros’ genetic material. It did, however, recognize the Doctor and activate, creating new Daleks who destroy the older inferior models. The new Dalek designs aren’t as good as the old ones, in my opinion. They’re roughly the same, if a bit bulkier and more streamlined. And of course, more colorful. Nevertheless, it seems as though we’re finally seeing the creatures move forward and evolve and it will be interesting to see where they go from here. And they finally beat the Doctor, even though he walks away alive and prevents them from detonating their bomb.
I don’t want to give the whole plot away, but suffice it to say that the over-the-top mix of Winston Churchill, old and new Daleks, WW2 planes in space, and references to one of Troughton’s lost Dalek stories all add up to a fun episode. Matt Smith and Karen Gillian continue to impress, and it really does feel like new Who has turned a corner into higher quality storytelling. I really enjoyed this one.