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Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks ★★

A repulsive Dalek-human hybrid is a highlight of this unpersuasive drama, guest-starring a young Andrew Garfield

Published: Tuesday, 15th October 2013 at 3:06 pm

Story 182
Series 3 – Episodes 4 & 5

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“I am a human Dalek. I am your future” – Dalek Sec

Storyline
…And so to old New York, 1930. The Doctor and Martha arrive in Manhattan, where the Great Depression has forced many of the populace into Hooverville, a shantytown in Central Park. Some have found work at the Empire State Building, which is nearing completion but secretly under the control of the only known surviving Daleks (the Cult of Skaro), assisted by Pig Men mutant slaves. They intend to use a solar flare to splice their Dalek gene pool with human matter and create a new race, but when their leader, Dalek Sec, bonds with the body of New York businessman Diagoras, the resultant hybrid throws their plans into disarray…

First UK transmissions
Saturday 21 April 2007
Saturday 28 April 2007

Production
October–December 2006. Main locations: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and the Majestic Theatre in New York. Old NEG glass site, Trident Park in Cardiff Bay. Penarth Leisure Centre. Bute Park in Cardiff. Park & Dare Theatre in Treorchy, Rhondda. Headlands School in Penarth. Cardiff heliport. Treberfydd House in Brecon. Studio: Upper Boat Studios, Treforest, Pontypridd.

Cast
The Doctor – David Tennant
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman
Tallulah – Miranda Raison
Laszlo – Ryan Carnes
Solomon – Hugh Quarshie
Frank – Andrew Garfield
Mr Diagoras/Dalek Sec – Eric Loren
Myrna – Flik Swan
Lois – Alexis Caley
Man 1 – Earl Perkins
Man 2 – Peter Brooke
Foreman – Ian Porter
Worker 1 – Joe Montana
Worker 2 – Stewart Alexander
Dock Worker – Mel Taylor
Dalek operators – Barnaby Edwards, Nicholas Pegg, Anthony Spargo, David Hankinson
Dalek voices – Nicholas Briggs
Hero Pig Man – Paul Kasey
Hybrid – Ian Porter

Crew
Writer – Helen Raynor
Director – James Strong
Designer – Edward Thomas
Incidental music – Murray Gold
Producer – Phil Collinson
Executive producers – Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner

RT review by Patrick Mulkern (published 28 April 2022)
Russell T Davies told Radio Times in 2007 that he was treating his script editor/writer Helen Raynor to a “baptism of fire” with a shopping list of elements to weave into one plotline: “1930s New York, Pig Men, sewers, showgirls, and the Empire State Building. Oh yes, and Daleks too. Make a story out of that!” Such ragbag lists have been the show’s meat and potatoes for decades, an icky chalice handed from the production office to even the most seasoned writers, but Raynor (astonishingly, she would remain the only woman to write for the series during the first decade of its revival) also had the luxury of two episodes to let her yarn sprawl over. While it would be churlish to fault Doctor Who for barminess and ambition beyond its means (at the programme’s core since its inception), the result is not a resounding success.

What does work favourably is that Raynor takes the then-current continuity of the Daleks having been reduced to a lonely quartet (known, ridiculously, as the Cult of Skaro) and heightens their desperation to survive and multiply – which inevitably leads back to their roots in the genetic laboratory. Yet again they must lower their racial-purity standards and harvest the nearest humanoids – Earth people – as raw material for their gruesome gene-splicing experiments.

Borrowing principally from HG Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau, the story’s shadows crawl with grotesque Pig Men slaves – down-on-their-luck New Yorkers who’ve been spliced with porcine DNA, following in the tradition of Robomen, Ogrons and other slow-witted Dalek minions. The absorption of the venal Mr Diagoras into Dalek Sec’s distended gullet is a stomach-churning visual, and the hybrid that emerges with worm-like head protuberances is as disgusting as it is absurd. It returns Doctor Who and the Daleks the closest to horror since Eric Saward’s episodes in the 1980s.

Startlingly, the big “reveal” of the Dalek/human hybrid right at the end of the first episode was heralded days earlier on the front of Radio Times. This “spoiler” was arranged completely in concert with the Doctor Who production office; indeed inside that issue Davies explained: “I just thought, what a brilliant cover idea! We don’t want to give away too much. But we love a Radio Times cover – how could we not?” No surprise then, just weapons-grade publicity and the grisliest image ever to grace the RT cover.

Despite these factors, the two-part Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks is enervating to sit through. After a run of impressive encounters since 2005, it’s a reminder that, as a failsafe ingredient, the Daleks will not always deliver gold. In static stand-and-chat scenes, Nicholas Briggs does sterling work lending the quacking lumps of metal distinct vocal tones, while David Tennant ramps up his quirky delivery in an effort to energise the Doctor’s exchanges with them and their hybrid, who evidently cannot walk, talk and see where he’s going at the same time.

Fakery is a necessity for Doctor Who but a pall of inauthenticity hangs over the entire production. Despite the best efforts of the art and FX departments in creating a 1930s Manhattan skyline and the fact that a small crew flew to New York to capture establishing shots, there’s no sense that the cast have ventured anywhere beyond south Wales. A lacklustre theatre in the Rhondda cannot hope to convey the scale and opulence of a Broadway auditorium. Skyscrapers are added in post-production to a Cardiff public garden that is patently not Central Park. The Doctor and Martha stand on a patch of grass and gawp at a Statue of Liberty we know isn’t there.

Unlike Matt Smith episodes five years later, the purse strings in 2006/7 simply wouldn’t stretch to the stars walking on Broadway or even its byways. Hence many walk-and-talks and chase sequences play out in sewers, which are remarkably sanitary, as well as uncluttered and wide enough for men in pig masks to hare around in and for Daleks to glide in. In the 1965 story The Chase, Peter Purves made his debut goofing about with Daleks atop an Empire State Building feebly rendered in a corner of Riverside Studios. Here, 42 years later, with much more money splashed on sets, lighting and FX, it still doesn’t cut the cannoli.

Mercy be, two of the guest cast are American: Eric Coren as Diagoras and Ryan Carnes as stagehand Laszlo. Everyone else does their darnedest to emulate the wiseguy/gal shtick of 1930s Hollywood. Spooks regular Miranda Raison is smashing as Tallulah, the Ruby Keeler-alike Broadway baby peeking above the Busby Berkeley chorus line. She may squawk and preen but she has a heart of gold. Raynor’s most touching scenes involve the Tallulah/Laszlo love match and prove that the showgirl isn’t shallow; she doesn’t spurn her man now he’s mutated into Laszloink. Theirs is true love. In sickness and in health, to have and to hold from this sty forward.

Andrew Garfield as Frank in Doctor Who

Holby City star Hugh Quarshie attempts gravitas as the solemn Solomon, who mediates in Hooverville but speechifies beyond the point of endurance. Frankly, it’s a relief when a hover-Dalek proves to be his sternest critic. Rounding out the cast is star-in-the-making Andrew Garfield as sweet young fella Frank. LA-born but raised in the UK, Garfield would scale Manhattan as Spider-Man in the coming decade and wow Broadway with his Tony award-winning star turn in Angels in America.

Despite likeable characters and a plethora of set-pieces in Helen Raynor’s armoury, this two-act Broadway show is a misfire. The thunderous urgency of Murray Gold’s score, invoking exhortations from the BBC National Chorus of Wales, only compounds the overwrought nature of the piece.

Radio Times Archive

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The startling monster cover from 2007, and a run of features across the two weeks, talking to the cast and showing how the hybrid head was made.

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