Victory of the Daleks ★★★

Winston Churchill takes on the Daleks, who get a lamentable redesign. Plus, Mark Gatiss answers back

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Story 205

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Series 5 – Episode 3

“I am your sol-dier” – Dalek

Storyline
The Doctor and Amy arrive in the Cabinet War Rooms in London during the Blitz. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, an old friend of the Time Lord, and Professor Bracewell unveil a secret weapon that will blast German bombers out of the sky. Their “Ironsides” are actually khaki-coloured Daleks pretending to be subservient. The Doctor travels to their saucer where he has unwittingly activated a Progenitor device. Five bulky Paradigm Daleks emerge with a plan to destroy the Earth. He realises that Bracewell is a robot and bomb, and must talk him out of detonating.

First UK transmission
Saturday 17 April 2010

Production
August to September 2009. At the Bunker, Joint Resilience Unit, Swansea; Glamorgan Building, Cardiff; Jacobs Market, Cardiff; Brackla Bunkers, Bridgend; Freeman’s Cigar Factory, Cardiff; Upper Boat Studios, Pontypridd.

Cast

The Doctor – Matt Smith

Amy Pond – Karen Gillan

Professor Edwin Bracewell – Bill Paterson

Winston Churchill – Ian McNeice

Blanche – Nina De Cosimo

Childers – Tim Wallers

Lilian – Susannah Fielding

Todd – James Albrecht

Air-raid warden – Colin Prockter

Daleks – Nicholas Pegg, Barnaby Edwards

Dalek voices – Nicholas Briggs

Crew

Writer – Mark Gatiss

Director – Andrew Gunn

Producer – Peter Bennett

Music – Murray Gold

Production designer – Edward Thompson

Executive producers – Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis

RT review by Patrick Mulkern

I have a lot of time for Mark Gatiss. But then I’ve got time for anyone who can make me laugh to the point of seizure, as he did in The League of Gentlemen. I’ve enjoyed most of his contributions to Doctor Who (the only proper letdown being Night Terrors in 2011) and for his third script he gives us Victory of the Daleks. A story in which the Doctor’s archenemies actually win!

Gatiss indulges the diehard fans with references to that 1966 classic, The Power of the Daleks – sometimes shot for shot. Menacing eye-stalk views of the Doctor… “I am your ser-vant!” becoming “I am your sol-dier”… But, as with all the more memorable Dalek stories, there are innovations.

First, Bracewell’s Ironsides, conniving in khaki, eavesdropping around the Cabinet War Rooms and dishing out tea – and then, thrusting from a Progenitor, a souped-up super race in five collectable colours. It’s Invasion of the Dulux! I spy a shameless merchandising opportunity there. Certainly, Messrs Red, Blue and Yellow, pinning their political colours on RT’s election special covers, were snapped up around our office in 2010. And there’s the big guy, Mr White, and Mr Orange, too. An orange Dalek… Whatever next? Were you compelled to have all five miniatures by Christmas?

Doctor Who fans are sometimes told to get a sense of proportion. Well, we have a keen one regarding Dalek dimensions. It’s a bold designer who tampers with a classic and this peculiar breed has very bulbous behinds. Had the actors inside been scoffing all the jammy dodgers? I met few viewers with a good word for these “paradigm” Daleks. In time, they would be accepted by the production team to have been a blunder, if not an abomination, and quietly forgotten.

Also filling the screen is Churchill – a twinkly turn from Ian McNeice who doesn’t look much like Winnie but nails the PM’s diction with “Nar-zees” and “KBO – keep buggering on!” Sweet Professor Bracewell again harks back to The Power of the Daleks and its deluded scientist Lesterson, but Gatiss turns him into an emotive robot like Star Trek’s Data. He gives Bill Paterson material worthy of his status, even if his Big Moment drags on.

There’s so much else to absorb in a packed 45 minutes: history writ large, spitfires in space, the crack in time, Winnie the pickpocket, Amy saving the day again, and that retro “To Victory” Dalek poster.

A qualified victory.

***

In April 2010 Mark Gatiss kindly agreed to answer a few follow-up questions:

How did it feel letting the Daleks win for the first time?
Very exciting! They’ve sort of wriggled out of defeat before but I think this is the first time they’ve got it away with it. Steven [Moffat] was very keen that, with the Time War behind us, the Daleks should simply be re-established as the threat they used to be. That plus the chance to “re-invent” them was just wonderful.

What input did you have in the Daleks’ redesign?
We talked at the first meeting about making them more like the Daleks from the 60s movies – which I’ve always loved. The sheer boldness of those colours and the size of them just get to you!

So we discussed the idea of a new “paradigm”. A template from which future Daleks would spring. Then we had lots of fun coming up with the classifications: Drone, Scientist, Strategist, Supreme and the Eternal.

Originally I wanted a green Dalek but green just doesn’t seem to work somehow. Funny the things you discover. In the script I put “Big buggers. Bigger than they’ve ever been.” And they are!

“KBO!” Rather naughty. Please explain yourself.
“KBO” was a favourite expression of Churchill’s and I was delighted to be able to get it in. It’s a wonderful maxim and I use it all the time now!

In your RT article (17 April 2010) you say The Power of the Daleks is your favourite Dalek story. But which one Doctor Who story would you take to a desert island?
My desert island Who is a tough one! For sheer entertainment and brilliance, I’ve always adored The Talons of Weng Chiang. Ticks all my boxes as well as being incredibly clever, mould-breaking and funny.

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If it existed [it does now!] maybe The Web of Fear, but I suppose I’d have to say The Green Death. It means so much to me to this day and not just as nostalgia. An eco-story years before its time. Legendary monster (“the one with the giant maggots”). Witty and perfectly-Pertwee script. And, of course, that ending. It still makes me cry and completely sums up why I’ve always loved Doctor Who.