Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Daleks in Manhattan"

I don't know why they thought it was necessary to bring the Daleks back again so soon yet here we have the second appearance of the Cult of Skaro in all their dubious glory. This two-parter gets a lot of stick for being the alleged worst Dalek story of the new series quite often but upon rewatch this first episode at least doesn't seem that bad. It's far from perfect but the appearance of the Daleks here is not quite as needless as that of the Daleks in "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday". Nonetheless the 1930s setting, which is always atmospheric, feels a bit wasted when it is so colossally overshadowed by the presence of the Daleks and the idea of Dalek/human interbreeding seems very reminiscent of the situation in "Bad Wolf"/"The Parting of the Ways", and that in itself evoked stories like "Revelation of the Daleks" and "The Evil of the Daleks".
I find it curious when Dalek Caan stands around on the deck of the Empire State Building having a chin-wag (or in his case an eyestalk-waggle) with Mr Diagoras about how humans always survive yet the Daleks have failed. Dalek Sec reinforces this point later when he claims that the Dalek Imperative has driven them to extinction. Aren't they losing a bit of perspective, here? Humans may be proliferate but they've always operated on a smaller scale, and within Doctor Who lore the biggest enemy they've ever had is probably the Cybermen. The Daleks, on the other hand, have made enemies of extremely powerful and advanced civilisations like the Movellans and the Time Lords - so is it that surprising that humans have survived where they haven't? It seems absurd of them to even compare human and Dalek survival. Then we discover that Dalek Sec intends to merge with a human. The problem with the Daleks is that they're a bit one-note: basically they want to rule the universe and kill anyone who stands in their way. Making them want to merge with humans, though, diminishes their character somewhat. Nonetheless Dalek Thay and Dalek Jast question the plan, which at least puts it into perspective that the character of the Daleks hasn't changed completely (unlike that of the Doctor oh snap) and that perhaps having imaginations isn't the best thing for these psychotic killing machines.
The pig slaves are another instance of humans with animal heads. Why couldn't the Daleks just brainwash people or something? What was the point of making them into pigs? Obviously someone (presumably RTD) just thought it would be cool because it's totally arbitrary and pointless. I mean pigs? It doesn't make any sense. Since when were pigs any more pliable than humans anyway?
All the Hooverville stuff and the workers being Shanghai'd into performing dangerous tasks by Mr Diagoras is interesting but as I say the Daleks serve as a massive distraction and I think it would have been more clever to have 'The Doctor in Manhattan' and just an exploration of the times, presumably with some other forced alien thrown in but not one that overshadowed things like the Daleks. That being said, Solomon fits the 'wise old black guy' trope a little too closely although Tallulah isn't too bad for establishing a sense of the people clinging onto hope and the idea of the after-image of the Roaring Twenties and so on.
I still don't know how the Doctor sets up a 'DNA scanner' using primitive equipment lying around in the back of an off-Broadway theatre and I wish he'd stop being so deliberately elusive but it's good to see something being identified as 'from Skaro' and when Dalek Caan talks about his home planet being lost it's a curious contrast to the Doctor mentioning the same thing in the previous episode. One thing I find amusing is that the Daleks have this incredibly generic old-timey lab equipment replete with bubbling test tubes and steaming flasks set up in the basement. Daleks don't have hands and the pig men seem pretty clumsy, so who the hell is operating all this stuff? Human Dalek Sec looks completely ridiculous but honestly this whole episode doesn't make me care enough to complain.

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