iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Dalek Fandom)
[personal profile] iainjclark
Fascinating episode.

I think it's stronger in concept than in execution, but what this episode cements for me is that Steven Moffat's Doctor Who is going to be uniformly quirky and less mainstream. I knew this already from the last two weeks, but even so it's not until I watch a Dalek invasion episode quite this eccentric, domestic and gleefully retro that I realise how thoroughly the changes have been rung. It's remarkable how closely Matt Smith's shambling performance embodies the new spirit of the series: seldom what's expected, occasionally too odd for its own good, but always interesting, amusing and inventive.

There are plot holes you could fly a Spitfire through, science that would make Russell T Davies blush, and (as with the last two episodes) a general reliance on the sensibility and logic of fantasy rather than science fiction. The Doctor's choice to make Bill Paterson recognise his humanity knowing that this will stop him from exploding is the epitome of this. It's the logic of fairy tales, of the Wizard of Oz, i.e. it's not logic at all -- it's intuition, mythology, allegory.

The Daleks' plan makes little sense -- there was no need to go to the trouble of creating a robotic scientist with a detailed life history just to lure the Doctor out. Also there was no certainty it would achieve its aim. The Daleks' decision to wipe out the humans by turning on all the lights in London, when they had a perfectly functioning android who would destroy the entire planet, is crazy. It's all nonsense. Lovely nonsense, of a kind that has one foot in Doctor Who and one foot in an episode of The Avengers. It's treating a nostalgic, parochial version of Great Britain as a proxy for the entire globe, and an impersonal alien army as b-movie villains with ludicrously overcomplicated plans fixated on the hero.

All of which adds up to an episode that's off-beat, unevenly paced, and that fails to hit its dramatic notes in anything like the expected way. It's a breathless babble of ideas and characters. There's dark, odd comedy throughout, particularly the lovely juxtaposition of the reputation of the Daleks and their initial role as teamakers (somewhat reminiscent of the Ood's first appearance).

There are problems galore with this episode, and it's hard to know how many to lay at the door of writer Mark Gatiss and how many are just the expression of a new tone for the series. It's also hard to complain too much, because everything that doesn't quite work is something I also really like. If I can't wholeheartedly enjoy it, and if some aspects feel thrown away, rushed, illogical or unsatisfying, then I'd still take a million of these episodes in favour of a solid romp-by-numbers like 'The Shakespeare Code'.


Miscellaneous other thoughts:

* Not at all sure about the new Dalek design which is nice in some ways but chunky in all the wrong places. The design seems inspired by the Peter Cushing movie Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD.

* The new colour-coded Daleks appear to have different roles and titles that I'm sure are going to be explored in the future: Strategist, Scientist, Drone, Eternal, Supreme.

* Amy gets interestinger and interestinger. Karen Gillan's performance is almost as mercurial as Matt Smith's, and the mystery surrounding her is interesting. And are the cracks in spacetime caused by the Doctor and/or Amy? Or following them? Or something more odd?

* I loved the Doctor's positively archetypal use of a Jammy Dodger to bluff the Daleks.

* Nice reference to a Type 40 Tardis. Still running it in. Heh.

* I rather like the fact that the Doctor views this as a failure and had to be gently reminded that he'd saved the Earth. It's not that he lacks compassion, clearly, it's that his outlook is not quite so human as his immediate predecessors'.

* Another convincing performance from Smith this week. Occasionally lacking in traditional gravitas, but managing to convey a powerful presence nonetheless.

Date: 2010-04-17 09:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stevegreen.livejournal.com
My money's on Amy being tied in to the crack. It was already in her house when the Doc landed 14 years ago, and her amnesia over the Daleks (though not all aliens, I'd guess, given her acceptance of same in that same episode) hints at some glitch in her history.

Date: 2010-04-17 09:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] icundell.livejournal.com
* The new colour-coded Daleks appear to have different roles and titles that I'm sure are going to be explored in the future: Strategist, Scientist, Drone, Eternal, Supreme.

I've mentioned this before when RTD (or Gatiss?) used multi-coloured Daleks, but those who are old enough will recall the comics (Hotspur or Hornet perhaps) in which coloured-coded Daleks were the norm - and hierarchical (Golden Dalek being top-dog).

I mean late 60s/ early 70s old...

(The new classes are a bit Myers-Briggs, aren't they?)

Date: 2010-04-17 09:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sharp-blue.livejournal.com
The whole thing feels like a dream now, right down to the weird lapses of time ("We've got ten minutes until the German bombers arrive! I know, let's develop that gravity bubble technology you were thinking about and install it in some Spitfires!") and the parts that are so utterly nonsensical that it's hard to believe any of the characters have even a passing familiarity with logic ('Let's talk the android out of exploding under Dalek remote control by convincing it that it's really human!').

Date: 2010-04-17 10:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ed-fortune.livejournal.com
I suspect the inaccurate landing thing is a plot point. I suspect the reason he keeps being 'off' is to do with the crack...

Date: 2010-04-17 10:33 pm (UTC)
ext_36172: (Default)
From: [identity profile] fba.livejournal.com
It was fantastic nonsense. Loved pretty much every minute of it!

Date: 2010-04-17 11:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ajr.livejournal.com
The Doctor's choice to make Bill Paterson recognise his humanity knowing that this will stop him from exploding is the epitome of this.

That part made my head explode. Gah!

he Daleks' decision to wipe out the humans by turning on all the lights in London, when they had a perfectly functioning android who would destroy the entire planet, is crazy.

I'll tell you what else was crazy, that when the lights were finally turned out again, you could still see London! The Luftwaffe wouldn't have needed any lights to be lit on a perfect, moonlit night like that. :P


I thought Churchill was rubbish too 'n all, like he'd been crossed with Truman Capote. Edit: And I've just recalled something else that bugged me - didn't Churchill yell for "Marines!" at one point? I can't see what marines would be doing in an underground bunker.

As for Smith's performance, it was his weakest yet, but I understand that this was actually the first episode filmed, which might go some way to explaining it.


I fear we may have discovered the first episode of the Moffat run which has too much TBO.
Edited Date: 2010-04-17 11:34 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-04-17 11:47 pm (UTC)
ext_12818: (Default)
From: [identity profile] iainjclark.livejournal.com
That part made my head explode. Gah!

I'm of two minds about it. It's patently illogical in scientific terms: it requires us to posit that the technology involved would allow the android to exert its own will over its internal mechanisms. And yet it makes perfect sense in mythic terms, and seems like a strangely apt choice for the Doctor.

Date: 2010-04-18 11:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ajr.livejournal.com
I'm not convinced - the Daleks would create an exploding device and allow it the capacity to say "Actually, I'd rather not explode" in an incredibly daft way? - and so remain in one mind about it. Total bollocks!

Date: 2010-04-18 08:25 am (UTC)
ext_36172: (Default)
From: [identity profile] fba.livejournal.com
I fear we may have discovered the first episode of the Moffat run which has too much TBO.

I guess it depends on your definition of TBO. As Iain as pointed out, Moffat is working in a science fantasy-land and making up the rules as he goes along - so there's a dream-like quality which I think saves it. The trouble with a lot of RTD's stuff is that he was *trying* to be Science Fiction Action Adventure and he kept stretching things beyond the realms of credibility. I personally don't think spitefires in space is any more TBO than clockwork robots or the nanogenes from TEC/TDD...

Date: 2010-04-18 11:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ajr.livejournal.com
Moffat is working in a science fantasy-land and making up the rules as he goes along

All very well, but:

a) Moffat didn't write this episode.
b) It still doesn't in any way at all excuse the bullshit "Convince yourself you're a human by thinking of a girl you fancied, and then you won't blow up!" moment. Gaaaaah.


I don't think I said anything about the spitfires before (*checks*) ... no, I didn't. As a concept, I quite liked them. But the execution was poor - "Well, I have this idea for an invention..." and ten minutes later they've got three of them flying around in space already? Does not compute.

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