Sunday, August 05, 2007

"The urge to kill is too strong!": Doctor Who

Unlike the first half of this Dalek two-parter, which was virtually without merit, 'Evolution of the Daleks' is more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, all the problems which pervaded the first part are still present: thinly drawn characters, lack of a strong dramatic drive and boring, obvious dialogue. On the other hand, 'Evolution' has something over its preceding half: an interesting theme at its centre. Namely, what would happen if you mixed together a Dalek and a human?

Writer Helen Raynor has a concept rich with possibilities here, and she knows it. The basic approach is to have Dalek Sec, who transformed himself into a Dalek-Human hybrid at the end of last week’s episode, become sympathetic towards human life. When Solomon is exterminated early on in the episode, Sec reacts in shock. He then demands that the Doctor be kept alive, because he is a “genius”. Sec’s intellectual capabilities grow to a point where he is almost scholarly – one could picture him sitting down to enjoy a good book. He summarily rejects the usual Dalek policy of exterminate-first-ask-questions-never, declaring that in order to survive the Daleks must become more like the humans. His ideas soon prove too much for the other three Daleks, who ‘dethrone’ Sec and persist with the traditional world domination angle. Like the fantastic ‘Gridlock’ it works as a social commentary, although unlike ‘Gridlock’ the point is overstressed to the point of ramming it down the viewer’s throat.

Sadly, beyond this one central idea there’s little else of note in the entire episode. Tallulah’s still annoying; Lazlo’s storyline is extremely forgettable; and the Daleks themselves still lack menace, largely because they are exposed over the course of ‘Evolution’ as a narrow-minded and often stupid race who are so doomed to utter failure that they no longer even feel like a threat. Raynor also tries to go for something darker with the Doctor’s willingness to die, but this feels completely out of his character (plus we know he’s going to be fine anyway, so who cares?).

‘Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks’ are (at best) a weak couple of episodes that I prefer to just put out of my mind. On reflection, I assume it was one of those ideas which probably worked a lot better on paper than in execution. I suppose it’s better that Who’s weak patch comes early on in the season rather than later, however, and while I still wasn’t a big fan of ‘Evolution’, it remains watchable enough. Which, for a show like Doctor Who, I suppose is enough.

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