By C. Robert Dimitri | TV | May 4, 2010 |
By C. Robert Dimitri | TV | May 4, 2010 |
“Now I don’t give a damn if you’re a machine, Bracewell. Are you a man?”
Picking up right where we left off in “The Beast Below,” we open in the top British war room bunker in the midst of the World War 2 Blitz. Officers and strategists bark logistics and desperate situations at each other as they receive updates via radio receivers. Winston Churchill walks into the room for an update, and a young female officer (Blanche) tells the Prime Minister that the targets in question would normally be out of range. Churchill orders the use of the “secret weapon.” As if to indicate the ultimate checkmate, a small figure in the shape of a Dalek is slid across the military map in response.
After our weekly opening credits trip through the swirling time and space continuum, the TARDIS arrives in the bunker to be greeted by Churchill and a phalanx of soldiers with rifles aimed at the ready. The Doctor and Winston (yes, I’m just going to call the legendary PM “Winston,” henceforth) are old friends and share a joke over Winston’s desire to take the TARDIS for himself for all the good that he could achieve by way of its powers. Winston acknowledges that the Doctor has regenerated since they last met, and he tells the tardy Doctor that he placed the distress call we saw a month ago.
Winston takes Amy and Doctor on an elevator ride to the roof and introduces them to Professor Edwin Bracewell, who is in charge of the “Ironside” project. The Professor watches the sky through binoculars as enemy planes approach. Amy looks across the London cityscape with numerous blimps above and marvels at the historical significance of the moment. Interrupting her reverie, lasers fire into the sky from behind the Professor’s fortifications and destroy the approaching planes. The Doctor immediately recognizes that the technology is not human and rushes to discover the source. A Dalek emerges, and the Doctor is of course shocked. The Dalek - complete with a tiny Union Jack logo on the dome beneath its eye - identifies itself as the Doctor’s “soldier.” The Dalek seems not to recognize the Doctor despite the Doctor’s insistence otherwise. The Professor introduces the Dalek as a member of his Ironside project, and the Dalek explains that its purpose is to destroy the German forces and win the war.
Back in Winston’s office, the PM tells the Doctor that the Professor invented the Ironsides and displays the blueprints to prove it. The Doctor replies that they are alien and completely hostile. One of the Daleks passes by in the hallway, and we see the Doctor through its mechanized Dalek vision, an effective technique used throughout the episode. Winston is happy to agree with the second part of the Doctor’s claim, as that hostility is what will win him the war.
Unable to convince Winston to discontinue the operation, the Doctor asks Amy to tell Winston about the evil of the Daleks, as she should remember what took place the last time that the Doctor encountered their race. (See “Journey’s End,” when the Doctor and Donna saved the Earth after it had been transported across the universe.) Strangely, though, Amy has no memory of the worldwide invasion by the Daleks. The Doctor is mystified by this development and says that it is not possible.
Amy attempts to question one of the Daleks, but it deflects Amy’s inquiry and only says that it is a soldier with duties to perform. Meanwhile, the Doctor continues to try to convince Winston not to trust the Daleks, as they are his “oldest and deadliest enemy” without conscience, mercy, or pity. Winston’s reply: “If Hitler invaded hell, I would give a favorable reference to the Devil. These machines are our salvation.” One of the Daleks continues to watch the Doctor’s attempts with seeming impassivity.
In the Professor’s lab, a Dalek offers the Professor tea. The Doctor and Amy arrive to question him about the source of his ideas. The Professor claims that ideas teem from his head and offers his schematics for hypersonic flight and gravity bubbles that can sustain life outside of the atmosphere. Winston arrives to sell the virtues of the Daleks once again, and in response to a Dalek’s offer to the Doctor for tea, the Doctor smacks the Dalek’s serving tray to the floor. The Doctor’s frustration reaches its peak at the Dalek’s failure to understand which war it is assigned to win: the war against the Nazis or the war against the entire universe. The Doctor grabs a giant metal wrench and repeatedly beats the Dalek over its dome while inviting it to kill him. Finally, the Doctor lays out the whole story: how many times he has defeated them - the worst thing in all of creation - and who he is to them. “I am the Doctor, and you are the Daleks.” With a final kick to the Dalek’s “torso,” the Dalek reels backward and replies with a single word: “Correct,” it barks.
The Daleks transmit the Doctor’s recorded “testimony” of their identity to a ship above, and the Doctor orders everyone to back away. Winston calls in a couple soldiers for help, but the Daleks shoot them dead. The Professor appeals for the Daleks to stop, and one of the Daleks replies by shooting the Professor’s hand off. The Professor is actually a robot that the Daleks created for infiltration. With a cry of “Victory!” the two Daleks in the room beam away in shafts of light to the spaceship above.
The Doctor leaves Amy behind with Winston for safety’s sake and departs in the TARDIS. Winston and Amy learn from Blanche that there is an unidentified flying object beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, and they infer that the Doctor must be there at the center of the action.
The Doctor arrives on the Dalek ship and confronts the three Daleks. They are on the verge of killing him, but the Doctor threatens them with a TARDIS self-destruct device that will destroy all of them. Said device appears to my discerning eye to be some variety of Fig Newton or similar delectable. The Doctor demands that they not scan the device and begins his interrogation to learn the Daleks’ plan. This group of Daleks survived the events of “Journey’s End” in a single damaged ship that was hurled backward through time. They recovered a Progenitor device that contained pure Dalek DNA and could be used to revive their race, but the machine refused to recognize these Daleks because of their impurities. Only with the confirming testimony of the known greatest enemy of the Daleks would the machine allow them to operate it.
The Daleks start the Progenitor machine and demand that the Doctor leaves, or else they will destroy the humans below. The Doctor doubts they have the power for such an attack, and in response they activate the lighting throughout London in order to allow the German Blitz to succeed. The Progenitor machine completes its task, and emerging from the smoke to the Doctor’s horror are five new pure Daleks in assorted colors (white, blue, orange, yellow, and red), presumably for your increased Dalek action figure variety pleasure.
Back on the ground, Amy realizes that the only way to beat the Daleks is to use the technology that the Daleks enabled the Professor to “discover.” Amy and Winston appeal for help from the mechanical Professor, who is experiencing substantial confusion over his ties to the Daleks and is on the verge of suicide. The Professor tells them that with the use of gravity bubbles, they might be able to send objects into space.
The new Daleks - complete with even deeper Dalekian voices - destroy the old less perfect Daleks that brought them to life. They threaten to exterminate the Doctor, and once again the Doctor menacingly gestures with his Fig Newton. The Daleks perform a scan and realize that the Doctor is bluffing. (It’s actually a “Jammy Dodger” biscuit.) Just in time to divert the Daleks from killing the Doctor, a trio of British Spitfire airplanes attack the Dalek ship. The Doctor tells them to destroy the transmitting dish that is forcing London’s lights on, and then he makes a dash back to the TARDIS.
A space battle takes place, and two of the three British fighters are destroyed. The Doctor uses the TARDIS to disable the Dalek shields, and the last pilot destroys the transmitter. The Doctor tells the pilot to finish off the Dalek ship, but the Daleks contact the Doctor on the TARDIS’s view screen to let him know that the Professor is an oblivion continuum bomb. If the Doctor does not call off the attack, they will detonate the Professor and destroy the Earth.
The Doctor complies and returns to Earth, but the Daleks have double-crossed him. They activate the bomb, and the Professor starts ticking away via a circular meter on his robotic chest. The Doctor realizes that the Professor is himself by his very nature a bomb. There are no wires to cut or circuits to defuse. The only way to stop him from killing everyone is to convince him of his humanity by tapping into his implanted human memories. The Doctor’s method seems to have potential, but the Professor’s clock continues to tick. Amy takes the cue from the Doctor and - rather than just question the Professor generally about his past - asks him about anyone that he might have fancied that he should not have. Wistful memories of a past love named Dorabella reverse the detonation sequence and save the Earth. The Daleks are flabbergasted that the bomb did not succeed and use their ship to depart through time and space so that they might regroup to face the Doctor again.
The Doctor is thrilled with the success of the Professor, Winston, and especially Amy, but he is very distraught that the Daleks have managed to escape once again.
“The Daleks have won. They’ve beat me. They’ve won.”
Amy looks on the bright side of life. “But you saved the Earth. Not too shabby, is it? Is it?”
The Doctor concedes. “No, it’s not too shabby.”
Winston offers the Doctor a cigar, which the Doctor refuses, and he asks the Doctor once again for the use of alien technology or even the Doctor’s personal help in winning the war. This is a request beyond the Doctor’s personal purview. Across the room Blanche weeps over the death of her young man on the battlefront, and the Doctor points out that the darkest days are to come. With Winston Churchill as their leader, though, they will prevail. Hugs are given as a farewell, and Amy realizes that sly Winston lifted the TARDIS key and demands its return.
Amy and the Doctor return to Professor Edwin for another farewell. The Professor sadly tells them that he knows they must deactivate him, but Amy and the Doctor leave him be with several not-so-subtle hints for him to seek out his memories and a happy human life.
Back at the TARDIS, Amy reflects on the fact that the Doctor has enemies and even archenemies. She thought that they would just gallivant through time “being daft and fixing stuff,” but that is not the case. Despite the now apparent danger in their travels, she resolves to stay the course. Amy reassures the Doctor that the Daleks will need time to rebuild their power, and the Doctor says that his more pressing worry is that Amy had forgotten Earth’s previous battle with the Daleks. Amy and the Doctor enter the TARDIS and fade away to reveal another of the space-time cracks on the wall of the British bunker behind them.
I thought this was the weakest of the three episodes in the new season, but I still enjoyed it, particularly for the strong anchoring performance by Matt Smith.
Perhaps there is a bit of Dalek-overload on the program, and I would be content with a lack of Daleks for the remainder of this year. I am happy, though, that they have been reestablished as a threat that still lurks in the universe. I found much humor in their tea-offering and Union-Jack-wearing disguises.
I am not a Winston Churchill expert, and I would be interested in discussion of Ian McNeice’s portrayal of such a well-known and oft-quoted historical figure, if anyone cares to comment.
Amy is now two for two in saving the day in her adventures away from home with the Doctor, and perhaps that warrants discussion as well.
Finally, for those who watched the old Doctor Who as well as the new, I welcome discussion on the history of appearances by the Daleks. My two most vivid memories related to them are the first appearance by Davros opposite Tom Baker’s Doctor in “Genesis Of The Daleks,” and that very first appearance by the Daleks in the William Hartnell serial “The Daleks,” when the first cliffhanger ends with a Dalek rounding the corner.
Correcting my open question from last week that was answered in the comments, Amy’s age of approximately 1300 was not a mistake, as the ship in “The Beast Below” had been in transit for a few hundred years. Of course, the nature of the crack still remains an open question, and the seeming erasure from history of the previous war with the Daleks demands explanation.
On that note, I know that some of you have already viewed the upcoming River Song and Weeping Angels two-parter and are very eager to discuss it. If you must, please tag appropriately with spoiler warnings, as not all of our readers are watching Doctor Who on the British broadcast calendar. Next week I shall return with the recap of the eagerly anticipated “The Time Of Angels.”
C. Robert Dimitri spent many of the prime Saturday nights of his youth staying home to watch syndicated episodes of Doctor Who on PBS, and his social skills might be beyond repair as a result. He’s not the most hardcore Whovian, but he’s a respectable representative. The first episode he remembers watching was Tom Baker’s “The Creature From The Pit.” At one point he obsessively watched all the Hartnell, Troughton, and Pertwee episodes that were available to him, and sometime around the age of 14 he dragged his mother to a Doctor Who convention. All he truly has ever wanted for Christmas is Perpugilliam Brown, but he would be almost as content with K-9.
His favorite moment in any Doctor Who episode ever might be the exchange of trash-talk between the Daleks and Cybermen in “Doomsday.”