TV Eye: New Who, Week 5- ‘Evolution of the Daleks’

Oh dear. My hopes weren’t exactly high after last week, but this week’s episode of Season 3 of Who bore all the suspicious hallmarks of a gigantic mess. Some brief thoughts follow, along with spoilers…

DOCTOR WHO: S3 E05: ‘Evolution of the Daleks’

Not satisfied with giving the Dalek’s origins to the Cybermen last season, we now have the new version of the show doing the exact opposite, which sadly boils down to taking one of the weakest performers from the opening episode of the 2 parter, and burying his head underneath a large animatronic squid. The end result was woefully unconvincing, and basically broadcast on all frequencies that Who has officially lost its ability to transport me to other worlds. In terms of spectacle, the episode served up a bucketload, but it was so desperately in thrall to Thirties horror iconography, it felt more like a collection of random ideas than a genuine story. Suprisingly, a couple of them were actually rather good ideas, especially the Doctor actually offering to help the final Dalek (bizarre that the whole nonsensical saga seems to have come full circle and, as with the Dalek episode from Season 1, there’s only one left), but the series seems to have lost the knack of being able to serve up interesting ideas and tell a rollicking good story at the same time. As with many of the other 2-parters, it’s either proceeding full-tilt at 100mph, or grinding to a halt in order for there to be ’emotional moments’ between the characters, a tendency oddly echoed by Tennant’s performance, which was either quietly restrained, or give-it-everything-you’ve-got angry, with no room for anything inbetween.

Martha’s unrequited lusting after the Doctor is starting to get fairly one-note after only four episodes, while the new show’s habit of consuming itself, ourobouros-style continues with the ‘famous landmark being used as alien transmitter/receiver’ gambit from Rose and The Idiot’s Lantern being used yet again. Far too many grand speeches, and far too much emotional manipulation, especially using the Doctor as mouthpiece for what the audience is supposed to be feeling at appropriate moments. Tennant’s Doctor keeps being stunned and horrified and shocked by the Daleks being merciless killers, when you’d think he’d be used to it by now. With gamma radiation from a solar flare somehow manifesting itself as a lightning bolt, and Daleks (along with Dalek Sec) materialising on a New York stage as if by magic, there’s no pretence at logic- we’re firmly back in the ‘throw things at the screen and nobody’ll notice if it makes no sense’ mode that New Who relies on way too often. Add to that some poor extras direction (especially from the Dalek-tommy-gun wielding Dalek Army), and what we’re left with is colourful, noisy childrens television with a selection of good ideas it doesn’t know what to do with. Yes, it’s good that this kind of stuff is family viewing now– but Who used to be an awful lot more than just a colourful, noisy kids show. Strip away the glitz and the New York location shots, and Evolution of the Daleks feels pretty damn thin. After restoring the Daleks into genuine adversaries to be feared, they’ve now become the Borg of the Who universe- the enemies who used to be cool, and now turn up way too frequently for comfort.

5 weeks in, and while there haven’t been major lows, there still hasn’t anything that’s truly excited me. My hopes are now on the upcoming Steven Moffatt episode, and the Paul Cornell 2 parter– although I was thinking that 2 years ago, and ended up with Father’s Day, an episode that had some great aspects but also bugged the hell out of me.

In the words of Han Solo– I’ve got a really bad feeling about this…

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