The Doctor is summoned to wartime London during the Blitz. None other than Winston Churchill himself has called the Doctor for help, but with the TARDIS’ unreliability, it’s taken the Doctor a month to answer that call – and in the meantime, Churchill has turned elsewhere for help in the war effort. Professor Bracewell has designed mobile war machines of immense power, capable of picking off German bombing formations before a single bomb can be dropped. Bracewell and Churchill call them “Ironsides,” but the Doctor knows them all too well as the last remaining Daleks – and he’s puzzled that Amy can’t remember ever having seen a Dalek, even after Earth was invaded by them. But these Daleks insist that they are soldiers, here to protect Britain from the Germans. In order to get them to reveal their true plan, the Doctor will have to do something very dangerous indeed: provoke the Daleks into showing their true, deadly colors.
written by Mark Gatiss
directed by Andrew Gunn
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Ian McNeice (Churchill), Bill Paterson (Bracewell), Nina de Cosimo (Blanche), Tim Wallers (Childers), Nicholas Pegg (Dalek 1), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek 2), Nicholas Briggs (Dalek voice), Susanah Fielding (Lilian), James Albrecht (Todd), Colin Prockter (Air Raid Warden)
Notes: This isn’t the first time that the Daleks have pretended to be servants of the human race; they launched a very similar scheme in the future on Vulcan, a human colony planet, in the first Patrick Troughton story, Power Of The Daleks; incidentally, their aim there was also to power up the production line on a new race of Daleks. Churchill says that the Doctor has changed his face “again,” which implies that he’s met at least two of the Doctor’s previous incarnations, though we don’t know which ones. This marks the first new series reference to the Doctor’s TARDIS being a Type 40 model (a statistic dating back to the original series, first mentioned in The Deadly Assassin during Tom Baker’s reign), as well as the first new series reference to the Daleks’ time corridor technology (Resurrection Of The Daleks).
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: A hectic, rushed story, Victory Of The Daleks seems to be here merely to provide a “reset switch” for the Daleks as a whole. During Russell T. Davies’ tenure as the showrunner, it had been noted, as far back as their first new series appearance in Dalek, that the Daleks had been marginalized and all but rendered extinct by the Time War. Even when they did reappear in great numbers, the racial-purity-obsessed Daleks of the new series were mongrels: The Parting Of The Ways‘ Daleks had hybrid Dalek-human DNA, the Cult of Skaro (Doomsday, Daleks In Manhattan) were “tainted” by individuality to the point that Dalek Sec was willing to surrender his bloodline in order to evolve and survive, and the Daleks of The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End were a stew of Dalek and Davros DNA. Even the last pure Dalek (Dalek) was evolving an emotional dimension and thus betraying its birthright of pure hatred. Davies’ Daleks were compromised by the need to survive. Mark Gatiss hits the reset switch in this story: the pureblood Daleks are back and are prepared to repopulate their species. Davies had to come up with a way to generate a new Dalek race for nearly every story in which they appeared, stretching credulity with each successive Dalek episode (not unlike the miraculous string of completely unexplained escapes from certain doom that the Master pulled off in the 1980s). Gatiss and Moffat have eliminated the need for that: the Daleks are back, and are here to stay.
The rest of Victory is a bit of a muddled mess, however. It paints a skewed picture of World War II, with Churchill depicted as far more corpulent than he was in real life, surrounded by characters who seldom rise above the depth of characterization you’d expect from Biggles. The story really doesn’t do much justice to this extraordinary event in British history, apart from a token mention of Churchill as a beacon of hope to the world. There are so many other missed opportunities here that the mind boggles: there’s an intriguing hint that anyone harnessing the power of the Daleks, even someone like Churchill involved in a noble struggle, could be overcome by a lust for power, but it’s taken no further than a hint. There was also a completely missed opportunity to go back to the Daleks’ roots in the mind of writer Terry Nation, who created the Daleks as a SF proxy for the Nazis; there’s never been a better opportunity to make that (perhaps unsubtle) parallel, but instead we wound up with the Daleks fighting the Nazis. There were plenty of opportunities for subtext here, but instead we got a Star Wars-style space dogfight with Spitfires which were apparently retro-fitted (future-fitted?) for flight outside of Earth’s atmosphere in the space of mere minutes.
Perhaps unshackling the Daleks from their increasingly convoluted, Davies-era continuity was a necessity, but surely it could’ve been done a bit more gracefully than this. As it is, Victory Of The Daleks has an interesting A-story that demands more room to breathe (the Dalek story), set against a B-story (London in the Blitz) riddled with historical inaccuracies, stereotypes and a kind of lightweight jingoism that does no favors to the memory of those who fought and died in a very real conflict between good and evil. (Ironically, there’s been a Dalek audio story – Jubilee – that deals with reducing symbols of real evil to marketing imagery. Maybe it bears a fresh listen.) Perhaps Churchill should’ve been saved for another occasion. The end result is entertaining on a check-your-brain-at-the-door level… not at all what I’d expect from the pen of Mark Gatiss, with Moffat calling the shots.