Gaze not into the abyss lest you accidentally write a book

Skip to content

Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Scott
    April 2, 2014 @ 12:18 am

    I feel that it's notable that, in your tactful 'if-you-can't-say-anything-nice' analysis of the story, the redesigned Daleks go completely without mention.

    (I will admit to a degree of iconoclasm in that I don't think the redesigned Daleks are as bad as they're widely pilloried as being. Certainly not good by any metric, I hasten to clarify, but not that bad. And I like the colours.)


  2. Carey
    April 2, 2014 @ 12:44 am

    Having seen the nu-Daleks in real life at a BFI Doctor Who screening, I can say that in the, ahem, flesh, they look incredibly menacing and, surprisingly, sleek. Which, to me, indicates where the redesign went wrong: nobody thought to build a test model to see if they worked on camera.

    Because the eye works differently to the film camera, especially the long focus photography favoured by the Doctor Who production team. Through either accident or design, the original silhouette of the Dalek, designed by Ray Cusiek, is the perfect design for the Daleks. Their size and angles are perfectly proportioned for their use on screen. In short, they are a Platonic ideal when it comes to the Daleks, and any attempt to alter it, even if out of good intentions, is rife with problems.

    As to Victory itself? It has many of the same pros and cons as the earlier Daleks In Manhattan two parter, in that the scheming Daleks of the first half are far more interesting than they are in the second half, when revealed in all their glory. And become boring and predictable.

    Which is a problem with Mark Gatiss' scripts in general when it comes to Doctor Who: I have always felt that he holds the programme in too much reverence, and his ideas of what constitutes a good Doctor Who story are too engrained from the past, meaning he writes stories that are too indebted to the ideas and memories of those past stories. At his worst, this means he produces scripts such as Victory of the Daleks or Cold War, which are simply updates to the point of pastiche. Gatiss is far more interesting a writer when he is able to leave that behind, and write more subversive stories (The Crimson Horror is a good example of what I consider Gatiss' true voice). Chris Chibnal is another writer for whom this happens, in my opinion.


  3. Julian
    April 2, 2014 @ 12:48 am

    Colours are fine; some of the coolest design changes to the Daleks are little more than a lick of paint. (I'm lookin' at you, gorgeous Imperials.)

    No, where the Teletubbie Daleks fail is the fact that they changed the silhouette too much with the bulge at the back, and it really ruins it. Adding height? That's fine, if a little unnecessary. Streamlining the midsection? Again, unnecessary, but not a dealbreaker. But mess with the silhouette that's barely changed for 47 years? Too much.

    Tellingly, aside from the massive backtrack on only using the paradigm shape (with a good 80%+ of onscreen Daleks since being bronze) they actually altered the hump to be less conspicuous for 'Asylum'… not that we really saw many in the ep.


  4. Bennett
    April 2, 2014 @ 12:56 am

    Err…am I the only one thinking that this essay is missing a whole section at the bottom starting with "Unfortunately…"? It's well below the usual word count. (Not that I'm complaining – this blog is a free service after all, and I'm grateful for whatever we get.)


  5. mengu
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:02 am

    There are many things to love about Victory of the Daleks. The jammy dodger bluff, neatly foreshadowing the series finale. Amy noticing Churchill's pickpocketing. SPITFIRES IN SPACE. The Doctor going from 'emotion' straight to pain. Amy being the one to save the world. Her being the one to convince Churchill and scientist bomb dude to use his inventions. Above all else, the Daleks actually surviving, removing the need to explain where this lot came from at the start of every Dalek episode.

    But it's boring. And the scenes where Churchill asks the Doctor to help them in the war are painful: way too light on both sides. Churchill should be more desperate, which would force the Doctor to give a reason beyond "Um, nah." The episodes that actually deal with "you can't change history" usually go for "You are incapable of changing history" or "It turns out that in these circumstances it would be morally wrong." There are arguments to be made for not helping Britain that would hold together, certainly better than "Nope." But they go much darker than this episode is willing to go.

    One more thing, because someone has to mention it. I really like that the essay starts by saying it'll take the argument as far as it can before hitting "unfortunately" and then never hits that. I should have realised you were going to break your announced structure before hitting the end, for example when you told us what the structure of the essay was.


  6. jonathan inge
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:05 am

    "Those hoping for an enthusiastic redemptive reading are, I fear, going to be disappointed."

    But redemptive nonetheless.


    April 2, 2014 @ 1:07 am

    I thought the same thing. As is, it reads pretty redemptively!


  8. Bennett
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:08 am

    On reflection, I'm convinced that it's not an accident but a joke I missed.


  9. What Happened To Robbie?
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:12 am

    I've never been able to get past the idea that a robot replica with a bomb inside can be talked out of exploding by being convinced he is human. I know it's probably supposed to work on a symbolic level but it stretched my credulity too far. As did planes being modified to be spaceplanes in the space of 15 minutes.


    April 2, 2014 @ 1:12 am

    That's my main problem with it, it's a series of moments rather than a coherent whole, 'Spitfires in Space' being the worst offender. No one would have batted an eyelid at 'love defuses man-shaped bomb' in an RTD script, but this is just so clumsily put together.


    April 2, 2014 @ 1:14 am

    Well, at least I wasn't alone.


  12. evilsoup
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:28 am

    As far as Churchill knows, the Daleks are the miraculous invention of a human scientist. I don't see how he's morally compromised by 'allying' with them: as far as he's concerned, they are simply very nifty Spitfires. Yes, Churchill is tricked by the Daleks and doesn't pay attention to the Doctor's warnings, but I don't think that's presented as a moral failing.

    Now, yes, he does quote that line about 'If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons', but again I do not think that serves to undermine the rosy depiction of Winston Churchill. Everyone knows that the Soviet Union was a major part of the second world war. Everyone accepts this as a necessary evil, and part of the point of Churchill was his pragmatism.

    Also, how many thousands of deaths was Agatha Christie responsible for? Did she advocate using chemical weapons on uppity natives? I don't think they're on the same level at all; indeed, treating Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, and Vincent van Gogh as interchangeable with Churchill or Queen Victoria is one of the problems with the celebrity historical.

    Also also, I think it's a shame that you missed out on (IMO) the most interesting part of the episode: where the robot scientist defuses the bomb held inside him by thinking happy thoughts. It seems to me that this kind of mind-over-matter stuff helps to set up the resolution of the Pandorica episodes, and it's a theme that weaves its way through the entire Welsh series (the Doctor becoming Time Lord Jesus; that Torchwood woman overpowering her Cyberman programming; arguably Rose getting the TARDIS to open in Parting of the Ways; there are probably more). In a way, it's fairly Faction Paradox-ish — it makes me wonder about an alternate Doctor Who where Lawrence Miles hadn't alienated everyone and ended up writing a few episodes under Moffat. Ah well.


  13. David Anderson
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:38 am

    The defusing the bomb with love bit can stand as representative for the story really. On the one hand, Amy saves the world by taking actions based on what the Doctor missed. On the other, not only did she do that last episode and the stakes were higher then (the definition of the Doctor and the lines he will and will not cross plus her right to be the companion vs the daleks try to destroy the world AGAIN), but she gets to do it by thinking of emotions and relationships. Which she can do because she's the girl. So the plot looks as if it's giving her agency, but in fact it's dumping her squarely in the girl companion slot. Her character has been working squint to the girl companion role and this just dumps her in it.

    I wonder how much say Moffat had in the redesign? Because with a grand redesign on his watch, he then announces that he's resting the daleks as central antagonists for a while, and then when he does have a big 'X of the Daleks' episode one of the hooks is that they're featuring all the old designs. He has a podcast commentary on 'The Daleks' last winter, where he's largely saying that everytime the daleks have been redesigned they've got larger and that's a mistake. It doesn't appear that he's any more of a fan than anyone else.


  14. Alex Wilcock
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:46 am

    Well, I’m glad that you’ve managed a bit of redemption, anyway, even if not “enthusiastic”. There are several reasons why I rather like it (“for all its faults”, the standard fan-weasel-words rise up defensively). You’ve hit on quite a few of them, but I’ll zero in on two: the Doctor and the Daleks. Leaving aside the naff redesign to make them even more like the naff movies and still failing, it’s one of the stories where I’m still happy to find myself firmly on the Moffat side rather than the Russell side – as I’m more often the other way round and am relieved by the exceptions to find that it’s not tribal. It’s a generalisation to say that I tend to prefer the 2005-2009 scripts to those from 2010 on, but like all generalisations, you can’t apply it in all cases – and similarly, it’s a generalisation to say that I prefer Matt’s portrayal of the Doctor to David’s. And this story’s one of the happy events that’s an exception to one and a confirmation of the other.

    I love Matt’s Doctor in this, with all his early promise and unpredictability, but also with him caught off-guard and the Daleks using him to find themselves an inspired twist. Particularly as Power was famously designed to do the opposite and this so blatantly riffs off it, it’s a joy that they decided not just to do the same again with the big risk new Doctor. And his “All right, it’s a Jammy Dodger, but I was promised tea!” still warms my cockles.

    Then there are two elements I really like about this story’s treatment of the Daleks. First, as you say, their cunning. But second, the huge relief that they went off to live another day and rebuild at the end. You may well say that it’s a cliché for the villain to make such a sequel-hunting exit, but it had become a far worse cliché to wipe them out, all of them, down to the very last sucker, only to find that they had grown a vast new army like watercress – only for that to be about as tough as watercress in the final reel. For all that I liked their Russell-era characterisation, look and backstory, the ‘all the Daleks are dead’ bit only worked in post-Time War 2005 and became very tired very quickly. So despite appreciating all 2005-2009 Dalek stories individually (with one exception I see as a horrible, appalling mistake, and not the one everyone else does), the end of this was refreshing: it didn’t treat the viewers as daft and it didn’t treat the Dalek menace as ridiculously disposable. It may be a very functional reason to like it, but at least that bit does function.

    As far as the redesign goes… A mistake here that doesn’t get much mileage is they didn’t reveal the great big guns that were meant to unfold from their ‘hunchbacks’, meaning that the chance to do that was forever lost because no-one was ever willing to give them the time of day again after seeing their ‘hunchback’ design without an explanation, so the production team moved swiftly to minimise rather than expand on them. It may, of course, be that pulling a great big gun out of their arses may have been less successful for the Daleks viewer-wise than Captain Jack doing it…


  15. Andrew
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:46 am

    The Daleks are a lot like toddlers. They are upset by what they can't do. They want to break things 'because they can'. They talk in imperatives. I suppose that's why, when RTD and Rob Shearman were trying to come up with replacements back in Christopher Eccleston's season, they had the idea of an angry child-like thing trapped in a box – which eventually became the Toclafane.

    So, re-imagining the Daleks as big brutish things is getting away from what makes them work. They should be small and angry – forever trying to reach above their limitations.


  16. Alex Wilcock
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:49 am

    I think your point about the “profound awkwardness” of “Setting a Dalek Story in World War II” is right for all the ways you say, but more besides. “And notably, Victory of the Daleks doesn’t actually include any Nazis” – nor almost any other Doctor Who story, in fact. Fascism has been the ultimate enemy of the series from almost day one, so there have been so many Nazi analogues that it would just seem weird to have the real thing: even the previous World War II stories (notably including Moffat’s) stood out for not having Nazis in them, which in TV in general would be very odd but in Doctor Who is exactly right. When the Nazis do eventually turn up on screen, that’s so “crass and tasteless” that it’s one of the most reviled stories in the most reviled season since the series returned (and I suspect I’m more critical of it even that what seems to be the generalised fan opinion).

    “The only reason that World War II is ‘the good war’ is because we won and thus got to write the history; not because the Allies were morally faultless.” Sometimes you just put lines in as trigger-bait, don’t you? Although later in that paragraph you suggest that “the Nazis are not so much the purest possible embodiment of all evil as a particularly evil historical phenomenon that have enjoyed a long afterlife as a trope in adventure fiction,” even if you’re not a revisionist of Churchill, there aren’t many people with such a warped moral compass as to suggest that the Soviet Union was “morally faultless”. There’s a reason that governments still use the Nazis as an analogy whenever they want to justify a war: it’s not to say ‘We’re morally faultless’ but to say ‘Look! The other lot are like the ones who were uniquely evil!’

    Now I shall probably be silent again for a season or two, as I prefer to chip in to defend the indefensible than pile on…

    PS Being prompted on the first part of this comment to ‘Prove you’re not a robot’ made me smile. Particularly as the answer is to ‘type in some numbers’ rather than my protesting, ‘After twenty years together, now it’s legal, we’re getting married in the Autumn!’ which is both more instinctive (and true) and more in tune with the story. Also, I’ve never short-circuited in the shower.


  17. Daibhid C
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:58 am

    "Perhaps the greatest mystery of Victory of the Daleks is why the Daleks have
    an air conditioning vent on their spaceship."

    Because in this scene, Clara is cleverly disguised as…


  18. Daibhid C
    April 2, 2014 @ 2:03 am

    the huge relief that they went off to live another day and rebuild at the end.

    Also, setting things up so the could do so was their entire plan here, which makes it significeant that they succeeded in doing so. This really was a victory for the Daleks.


  19. Alex Wilcock
    April 2, 2014 @ 2:12 am

    Ooh, good call.

    As well as figuratively giving the Vs up to Churchill.


  20. Chris
    April 2, 2014 @ 2:51 am

    [the blog seemed to eat my comment, so forgive if this is a repost]

    It's my understanding that the bulge on the back of the Daleks is a weapons store. We see a groove extending around the casing from there to the arm sockets. Presumably, a Dalek could slide its sucker arm back to exchange it with a claw arm, or some other terrible weapon. I wish they had shown us this on television because maybe these designs would not be so maligned. On the other hand, detractors would probably liken them to Mr. Potato Head.


  21. Lewis Christian
    April 2, 2014 @ 3:01 am

    I read this essay and, come the end, it felt very "can we just move on quickly?" – not a bad thing in my eyes. This comes in as one of the worst episodes of the modern era, if not ever. (And for reasons more than the Teletubby Power Ranger Daleks.)


  22. Seeing_I
    April 2, 2014 @ 3:44 am

    I agree, like a lot of Gatiss scripts it feels like a strung-together series of moments and set-pieces without ever feeling like a coherent narrative from which such moments can naturally arise. "Spitfires in Space" is absolutely dreadful, especially as the way it's scripted, the entire operation seems to take about 5 minutes from the moment Amy suggests it till the time they arrive to save the Doctor's bacon.

    And honestly I'd have batted an eye, rather severely, at love defusing a man-shaped bomb in an RTD or anyone else's script.


  23. jane
    April 2, 2014 @ 3:44 am

    It would have been perfect if the first comment down here was simply that word.


  24. Bennett
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:26 am

    Seeing_I – ' "Spitfires in Space" is absolutely dreadful, especially as the way it's scripted, the entire operation seems to take about 5 minutes…'

    Have you read the script? Because I would love a copy :).


  25. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:28 am

    Not just you – I didn't notice when I copied the entry over that I had only a subsection of the entry selected and not the whole thing. (It's an easy mistake to make in Scrivener.)


  26. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:31 am

    Though actually, now I wonder if an overly short entry that actually is missing its back half wouldn't be better. It's not like I say anything particularly new…


  27. Seeing_I
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:32 am

    Here's how I understand things. The BBC fairly insisted on having the Daleks in Matt's first season, for reassurance. Once their appearance became a fait accompli, they needed a story explaining how they survived the Crucible blowing up, and as long as they're doing that, the (not unreasonable) thought was, why not give them a design overhaul at the same time.

    Where they went wrong, IMO, are in the design imperatives and the methodology employed. Moffat wanted them more like the Cushing movie Daleks (ie, multi-colored and larger, not realizing perhaps that the RTD Daleks were already the size of the Cushing Daleks). He is quoted as saying he wanted them to look "lickable" like candy, and also to be tall enough to look Matt Smith straight in the eye.

    From a methodology standpoint, they made a key mistake, IMO. Whereas the RTD Dalek was created by taking the chassis of an original Dalek and modifying it (by model maker Mike Tucker, whose involvement with the series goes back to the "Trial of a Time Lord" space station), the Paradigm were designed on paper, then built from scratch. The final product shows quite a few variations from the actual design, and things like the "hump" and the vastly oversized skirt section are a result of poorly-realized perspective issues. As far as I can ascertain, they never made 3D CGI models, or a test build, to ascertain whether the new design would work as intended. And I know that the Dalek operators found the new shells very poor to work in – they are very heavy, can't be operated from the traditional seated position (not enough leverage, and you can't see out) but not large enough to be able to stand up inside either.

    Just for reference, here are two designs by Peter McKinstry which were apparently the final locked designs the builders went off of. In the first image, looking at the skirt section you can see the perspective issues I mentioned above. You might also notice, in details like the suction arm, how rendering this design at a full 6 feet tall would end up being monstrously huge, so the suction arms were kept the same size as before, resulting in them looking comically small in comparison to the new shell. Etc, etc, etc…


  28. Bennett
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:33 am

    Look at that. It does start with "Unfortunately…" :).


  29. jane
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:38 am

    Unfortunately, the episode ends up working against all its better inclinations. I appreciate the fact that Churchill is being critiqued by implication, but this is an instance where that technique is too subtle for a characterization that's anything but subtle. Likewise, the color choices for the redesign goes against the aesthetic of fascism, which mutes even further the possibility of implication. And, I dunno, the way the Doctor is juxtaposed between the two (sharing a bowtie with Winston, being necessary for the identification of the Daleks) practically countermands the subversive reading, because if we're going to implicate Churchill we'll end up implicating the Doctor, too.

    That said, I do think the story wants to interrogate Britain's national mythology. Coming on the heels of a future Britain, and the mythology underlying that, going back to the past and taking a look under the hood makes sense. The Churchill we get isn't the historical Churchill, it's the mythological one. We get a representative of Dad's Army on the roof. The KBO jingoism. And of course, the Doctor is part of Britain's mythology too, as are the Daleks. But there has to be a closer look that picking pockets and calling Churchill a "beauty" (the Doctor's eventual catchphrase for monsters).

    However, I don't think the treatment of Churchill is why this episode is so reviled. I think it has a lot more to do with the direction. It starts out okay — there's the immediate story question of what the Daleks are up to, and the Doctor's angry attempt to solve it, which ends in violence against a Dalek. These scenes are claustrophobic, with the low ceilings and dingy narrow halls, and they're dynamic — the Doctor is constantly in motion, and there's plenty of interactive conflict between our players.

    And then it goes pear-shaped.

    (to be continued…)


  30. jane
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:39 am


    The reveal/reversal comes at the end of the first act, so there's no more opportunity to build tension on the perversity of the Daleks' actions. It all grinds to a halt when the Doctor reaches the Dalek ship. The ceilings are still low, but the space itself is much too wide. The console is battered, but the walls are gleaming. It isn't claustrophobic, it's just incongruous. Worst of all, the Doctor spends almost the entire time standing still. He isn't pacing, or circling the Daleks, he's just standing there in a drawn out scene of exposition. The new Daleks arrive, and they too just stand there. Talking. And there's a reason Pertwee didn't like the Daleks — there's very little for an actor to play of off when it comes to them. I wonder if, had the Doctor been "sneaky" and figured things out through spying and subterfuge, this act might have been more dynamic. Sadly, even when the Doctor returns to his TARDIS, he's still just standing there, only now speaking to the Daleks through his video monitor.

    Down below, the tension is supposed to come from London being lit up like a Christmas tree, but there's very little time to build on this, and all we get are a couple of reaction shots. Amy quickly works out that Bracewell can help them attack the Dalek ship — once again, all the tension of the story is immediately addressed, so rather than building up it drains away. This is partly why the Spitfires in Space scene, despite its visual panache, doesn't receive much praise. There's no cost to coming up with this solution, no struggle, which is the best way to make an expensive FX scene seem cheap.

    There are problems with the final act, too. Defusing Bracewell, while sentimental, is at least vaguely alchemical. Yes, Amy being a female companion makes her invocation of love a bit clichéd, but at least she's reminding Bracewell that it's a "kind of a good hurt." It's a bit more unusual, that love is positioned as a source of pain. Likewise, there's a bit of the era's alchemical color-coding here, from Amy's talk of finding the Red and Blue wires, to Bracewell remembering that his parents died of "scarlet" fever, and that Dorabella's eyes are "blue," before amending that to the fusion of Red and Blue that marks his alchemical transformation: "Almost violet, like the last touch of sunset on the edge of the world".

    And I think it's interesting that Bracewell (a name that means "dweller at the broad well," giving us another Water reference) has to overcome being an "oblivion" bomb. He talks of feeling "emptied out," like "there was nothing left." He's describing an existential terror, of losing his parents, but it's also akin to the loss of ego; Bracewell doesn't know who he is anymore, which makes this an identity crisis. It fits rather neatly with the Daleks' loss of identity. Amy's solution, that identity is found through relationship, means that identity is forged through the eyes of others. This isn't the clichéd philosophy of female companions, it's pretty much Moffat's philosophy of the world — who we are comes out of our relationships.

    But, again, the direction lets it down. The fairy-tale music that cues Amy's involvement works against the building of tension (and in general I found the musical choices to be too obvious in this story.) However, I think it's the extended denouement that grinds up the end of the episode. The scenes with Bracewell realizing he gets to live, with Churchill saying goodbye, and with Amy and the Doctor philosophizing about arch-enemies are all pretty long, and there's very little tension in any of them, though at least the final scene hints at the season-long arc.

    Yeah, it's easy to point at this story as the nadir of Eleven's run. A closer examination helps to underscore why, I think.


  31. Lewis Christian
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:50 am

    Ah, it was incomplete, that's why. Good essay though, as usual 🙂

    I really do think Victory is one of the weakest episodes ever – even the writing isn't up to scratch. It then completely fell apart for me when, in Confidential, Moffat said words to the effect of: "I thought, what else haven't we changed? Oh yeah, the Daleks."

    So they changed the Daleks – for the hell of it! That makes me kind of glad it backfired somewhat. Next time have better reasons than that. I know Doctor Who thrives on change, but they tend to be done for a reason. And considering they had no budget to change the Cybermen as they wanted to, they should've prioritised better. Change the Cybermen, then consider the Daleks – if they even need considering. FWIW, the story would've worked 10x better if they'd wheeled out more RTDaleks, but in new colours and with some tweaks.


  32. J Mairs
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:54 am

    "As far as Churchill knows, the Daleks are the miraculous invention of a human scientist. I don't see how he's morally compromised by 'allying' with them: as far as he's concerned, they are simply very nifty Spitfires.

    And, as we can excuse the Nazis for not attempting to blow up reality, we can excuse Churchill not having watched DW.

    I mean, Amy is willing to give them the benefit of doubt, and she's the companion who is most directly written as "audience surrogate"!


  33. Froborr
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:58 am

    We haven’t actually seen the Daleks used this way since Dalek, and so this is refreshing.

    I know, I try to forget that "Daleks in Manhattan" happened, too.


  34. Froborr
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:59 am

    Moffat's philosophy of the world — who we are comes out of our relationships.

    "I am the Dalek that exists in your mind."
    "And I am the Doctor that exists in yours."


  35. Iain Coleman
    April 2, 2014 @ 5:18 am

    For me, the central failure of this episode is that it has the key dramatic moment occur off-stage, before the opening credits.

    The question of whether Churchill should ally Britain with the Daleks to defeat Nazi Germany should have been centre-stage. The Doctor tries to convince him not to, but he does it anyway (using the same sorts of justification that he ends up using in the transmitted story, but before the fact, not afterwards), and only later comes to regret his decision and help the Doctor to defeat the Daleks.

    That still gives us, in the end, the popular view of Churchill leading Britain against its deadliest foes, but it also lets us look at other questions around the conduct of the war. In this version of the story, the Daleks are of course metaphors for the Soviet Union rather than the Nazis.

    We do get some of those discussions in the transmitted story, but they are so muted, mainly because the decision has already been taken and so it's just a matter of the Doctor and Churchill bickering with no real drama to it.

    I remember an interview with Gatiss on this story – I'm sure it must have been on Confidential – where he explained that he had avoided going into serious moral questions about the war because Doctor Who isn't the place for that kind of thing. I don't think I actually screamed "NOOOOOOOO!" at the screen, but I was definitely doing so in my mind. Doctor Who is exactly the place for that sort of thing.


  36. Seeing_I
    April 2, 2014 @ 5:26 am

    "These scenes are claustrophobic, with the low ceilings and dingy narrow halls, and they're dynamic — the Doctor is constantly in motion, and there's plenty of interactive conflict between our players."

    I think it's worth mentioning that when I watched this episode with a friend of mine (fan of new Who only) and his new girlfriend (never seen an episode) they both totally bought the story until the Paradigm showed up. Then she broke out laughing, and he shook his head and muttered "Power Rangers." So even someone who'd never seen the show before bought the Ironsides, but thought the Paradigm were risible. How much more damning an indictment can there be?


  37. Seeing_I
    April 2, 2014 @ 5:29 am

    I agree, I lost all faith in Gatiss when he said that, and determined in my mind that he should never, ever be allowed to be the show-runner.


  38. Seeing_I
    April 2, 2014 @ 5:33 am

    Well, no I haven't, but unless there were major sections removed in editing, we see the Doctor's confrontation with the Daleks continuously (either in person or on-screen) more or less in real-time, and from the moment Amy suggests using Bracewell's gravity thing to the time the spitfires attack is mere moments. As if it wouldn't take longer than that to get them from storage, take them to the airfield, fit them to the airplanes, then for the airplanes to take off, somehow achieve escape velocity, and travel to orbital heights (and they must have had some seriously great fuel, as well).


  39. Ross
    April 2, 2014 @ 5:44 am

    Just sayin', Power Rangers has run almost as long as Doctor Who did before it got canned. There are worse indictments than likening something to Power Rangers.

    I thought it was really neat how the Paradigm Daleks reflected the original notions behind the Dalek design in an equally faithful but completely disjoint way from the RTD design. To wit, RTD stayed close to the classic look, but redid the whole thing in brushed metal to make it look more in line with modern sensibilities as a weapon of war and less like "Goofy retrofuture 1950s science fiction robot monster", while Moffat's Daleks diverge greatly from the classic look but faithfully reimplement the original goofy retrofuture 1950s science fiction robot monster sensibilities — they emphasize exactly the opposite elements of the original design and discard exactly the opposite elements of the original design.


  40. Seeing_I
    April 2, 2014 @ 5:46 am

    Another big miss in this story is coming up with the whole Fabergé Egg plot, instead of tying the appearance of these new über-Daleks to the crack in space and time. Why not have them emerge from that, possibly from an alternate reality where they won the Time War, or where the Doctor never tampered with their development in "Genesis"?

    Since the show is so skittish about explicitly tying the Daleks to the Nazis, how about getting them back to their origin as atomic war survivors? I have in mind an alternate "Victory" set in Alamagordo, where the Daleks have influenced Oppenheimer to position the first atomic bomb test right over one of these cracks, so that the power from the explosion will open the crack and let the alternate über-Daleks into our universe. The Doctor then has to make the choice – change a fixed point in time and wreck human history, or stop the Daleks and the birth of the atom bomb in one go.


  41. Leslie Lozada
    April 2, 2014 @ 7:06 am

    All right, I actually really enjoyed this episode when I had a chance to see it. It was the first episode I have seen the Daleks, besides a cameo in 'The Waters of Mars', so I found it just a bit.. off that they changed. But I accepted it.

    But here's the thing. With such a change, I assume that they would be important down the line. And what do we get, a (Spoilers) a staredown and a shared speech by the Rainbow Daleks and a chase by a RTD zombie Dalek in the series finale.
    They don't really have another episode untill series 7, and that was was mostly focused on Dalek Oswin.


  42. xen trilus
    April 2, 2014 @ 7:38 am

    The zombie Dalek in the finale is a Paradigm one.

    It's actually easier to take seriously when it's made of stone.


  43. Alan
    April 2, 2014 @ 8:35 am

    The thing is, I understand what Moffat was trying to do with the Daleks and I think it was ultimately a good idea spoiled by poor execution. Up to this point, there's basically only been one kind of Dalek story to tell — "Daleks show up to kill everything that's not a Dalek, and the Doctor has to stop them." So along comes Moffat with his five-color Dalek redesign and now the Daleks have castes! And for the first time since they were conceived, you have the potential for Dalek stories that are about something other than "Daleks show up to kill everything that's not a Dalek, and the Doctor has to stop them." You can have stories about rogue Scientist Daleks performing research forbidden by the Imperials. Stories about conflicts between Scientists and Strategists that start over tactical debates and become ideological schisms. Stories about Drones who suddenly realize that the word "drone" marks them as being expendable and who don't quite like that. Stories about the mystery of what the hell an Eternal Dalek is.

    Unfortunately, because Moffat and Gatiss didn't stick the landing, most of these provocative ideas have been ignored until Asylum, which revealed (a) that the new Daleks have moved beyond a "kill everything" philosophy towards a more interesting posture of infiltration and enslavement and (b) that the new Daleks have a Parliament with all that implies. In short, I think the Daleks have more storytelling potential now than every before. Now if only they can get the color scheme right.


  44. Alan
    April 2, 2014 @ 9:02 am

    I did not see that but it fits with my impression of Gatiss. There is a phrase that is one of this blogs catch-phrases that I am surprised hasn't been brought up yet — "theme park Britain." Yes, it's problematic that Churchill's negatives are papered over, but that's really just a symptom of the desire to do a WW2 story that's a pastiche of war movies like "Spitfire" and "Battle of Britain," uplifting tales of our plucky lads in the RAF (all with posh Received Pronunciation voices) led by Churchill played as a conglomeration of "Churchill tropes" brought to life. There's even, IIRC, a scene where Churchill consoles a cliched young woman whose cliched boyfriend/husband/whatever has just died heroically, a cliched scene handed with more sensitivity and style in "A League of Their Own."


  45. Nyq Only
    April 2, 2014 @ 9:08 am

    This is easily my least favorite episode and I think he essay nails most of its flaws. Some other observations.
    1. Matt Smith is unconvincing. perhaps it is the weak plot or script or just because he was still finding his feet but in this episode he doesn't manage to create that feeling of him actually being a very old man.
    2. The parallels with Genesis of the Daleks (the setting in a bunker, two sides trapped in a desperate war) – putting the Daleks on the British side was neat but the episode itself doesn't seem to notice.
    3. WWII British style Dalek's looked so much cooler than the re-design Daleks. As a marketing ploy (if that is what it was) I'd rather have had the camo Dalek than the lollipop one. There is a great story there about adopting terrible military technology to win a 'just' war – in which the Daleks become an analogy with nuclear weapons.
    4. The power of love redemption bit wasn't the worst bit of the episode.


  46. Nicholas Tosoni
    April 2, 2014 @ 9:09 am

    The key to it lies in the professor's name. He is, at his core, a BRACEWELL PROBE, (

    "Victory" combines the idea of the Bracewell probe with that of the "undercover enemy agent," a staple of World War II movies.


  47. BerserkRL
    April 2, 2014 @ 9:37 am

    In addition to his willingness to use Daleks, another way in which the episode is not uncritical of Churchill is the fact that Churchill tries to steal the TARDIS key.


  48. jonathan inge
    April 2, 2014 @ 9:49 am

    To be clear, "Power Rangers" are 21 years in and still on the air. No sign of that show being canned yet.


  49. liminal fruitbat
    April 2, 2014 @ 9:51 am

    But doesn't that just give him a point of similarity to the Doctor?

    (I could swear they made that point explicit in the episode, but the non-Dalek bits of Victory are so forgettable I can't remember what I saw a few days ago.)


  50. Ross
    April 2, 2014 @ 9:59 am

    Well, technically they did get canned once (maybe twice). They just got picked back up again right away. That's why the current season is season 20 and not 21 (Between season 16 and 17, they spend a year rerunning a remastered version of season 1)


  51. inkdestroyedmybrush
    April 2, 2014 @ 10:03 am

    yes, this episode is one that simply doesn't come together at all. Gattis is the opposite of Holmes, who never saw something that his scathing humor couldn't attack in proxy form on Doctor Who; Gattis plays it safe and deliberately makes a series of safe and safer choices all along the way. And we get what we got on screen.

    Personally, there have been over half a dozen better story ideas proposed here on the forum messages than were used for the script. There were so many different ways to go with this story. ah well. Certainly the low hanging fruit was the confrontation scene with the new Daleks and the Doctor, where once he's recognized them, the familiar Dalek background pulse begins, and we know that they have been "seen". that plays well, but we have to dredge through a lot to get there.

    I don't understand why the Doctor didn't have Amy try to convince Bracewell that is was the power of love, of his will, while the Doctor fiddled about with the sonic to defuse the bomb. we would have had a scientific explanation of why it didn't explode, and yet set up the psychological underpinnings on them releasing Bracewell into the wild later as a more confindent man. somewhat like Tom turning off the auto destruct on the computer at the end of Robot, we could have accomplished two narrative devices at once, couldn't we?


  52. encyclops
    April 2, 2014 @ 10:37 am

    I've got to know which RTD-era Dalek story was the mistake!


  53. encyclops
    April 2, 2014 @ 10:47 am

    I agree, I lost all faith in Gatiss when he said that, and determined in my mind that he should never, ever be allowed to be the show-runner.

    Do we think this is likely? I had started to assume his odds had gotten longer, but after Sherlock, "Cold War," "Crimson Horror," and most particularly Adventure in Space and Time, he started to seem like the frontrunner again.


  54. encyclops
    April 2, 2014 @ 10:59 am

    I'd link the "defused by the power of love" idea to the nanoDalek phenomenon introduced in "Asylum" and also shown in "Time." Love, or at least controlling one's levels of anger, hatred, and psychopathy (?), is the Moffat era's way of beating back the inner Dalek.

    See also the resolutions of "The Lodger," "Night Terrors," "The God Complex," and "Closing Time," all of which posit either machines or monsters that live or die based on the emotions fed (or not fed) into them.

    I'm OK with the bomb-defusing scene. It's at least a scene where somebody feels something and it matters to the story. I'd agree with Philip that it's flown in from another story, and that it would work better here if it had actually been set up.


  55. Triturus
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:01 am

    I reckon it'll be Gatiss. He's far more involved with the production of the current series than the other main contenders.

    I don't think it should be, as I reckon he's too in thrall to his memories of the Pertwee era to be able to leaven his nostalgia with something new.

    Based on the most recent series, Cross or Chibnall might be good, but there's no standout contender IMO.


  56. Anton B
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:36 am

    Not a lot to add. This episode contains so much that I dislike I can't really bring myself to rewatch it in order to contribute here.
    At the time I remember being a little nonplussed at the majority (it seemed) reaction to the 'Ironsides' Daleks being of delight at their WWII camo liveried tea serving antics which I found an embarrassingly cheap laugh. It seemed to coincide with the popularity of those reproduction wartime 'Keep Calm and Carry On' and variants thereof posters that were suddenly everywhere when traders realised the design was out of copyright. (Interestingly for followers of the Last War in Albion one of the first to pick up on this was Alan Moore in the LOEG Black Dossier where he used it as a signifier of his 1940s Orwellian mise en scene).
    The portrayal of Churchill was not only inaccurate and disturbingly uncritical it also (apart from his costume) bore little resemblance to any depiction of Churchill that might be recognisable. I know the idea was to present a 'fictive Churchill' to further cement the Eleventh Doctor's domain as that of the land of make-believe and stories but this characterisation backfired terribly and coupled with the notion that this ludicrous joke character was able to call on the Doctor like an emergency plumber left a bad taste. He did work better as the Emperor Churchill in the finale of series six but that's in a setting as far removed from reality as its possible to get.
    As to the New Dalek Paradigm -good idea to shake up the design but it was so badly executed it defeated the object.


  57. Lewis Christian
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:48 am

    I struggle, though. Because Moff, in Confidential, also said he wanted the Daleks to be "lickable"… and that they came up with the names at random (I think he came up with Eternal because Gatiss struggled with a final name). I mean, I know writers come up with things as they go along, but… really? I agree it does open up more possibilities but we've seen none of that yet, and here we are 4 years later – the last story (Time) didn't even show a Paradigm, we only heard its voice. They seem to have back pedalled massively.

    I hope they have the balls to bring them back in force and show them doing various tasks and being commanders (another nice back pedal moment).


  58. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:51 am

    "Lickable" is presumably a joke about the fact that they come in different colors in the first place – a reference to the original iMac line and Steve Jobs's famous description of the colors.

    Though one does wonder at what point Moffat knew the Daleks were a disaster, and how much of the Confidential/publicity stuff was him putting the obligatory brave face on what was an obvious misstep. It's worth noting that the new paradigm was quietly shoved aside, relegated to the background of Asylum and none at all in Time of the Doctor.


  59. Marionette
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:52 am

    For some reason I was under the impression this one was called Victory to the Daleks. How odd.


  60. Wm Keith
    April 2, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

    And then there is the missing Dalek story from Series 7 which showed up as part of the Cold War Time Zone play set. Four interlocking scenes based on Hide, Cold War, The Angels Take Manhattan, and…Dalek Invasion. The blurb reads 2075AD and the Daleks have invaded Earth once more. Using their mighty Saucer ships they bombard London driving the surviving population underground. Once they land, the Daleks patrol the ground looking for survivors in the rubble to either exterminate or transform into their puppets using Dalek nano cloud technology. In the skies the Daleks use long range Hoverbout Anti Grav disks to pursue the resistance. The TARDIS materialises near to a TransSys matter transmission station in Hyde Park and the Doctor realises he will need all his resources to once again defeat his oldest enemies and save the Earth from destruction. The future of the human race hangs in the balance. ***Dalek Hoverbout does not fly ***


  61. Alex Wilcock
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

    Guess and I'll tell you (either way!) 😉

    It's one of only 12 stories I've just given a 1 to in the DWM poll… As opposed to 24 for which I gave a 10.

    And I really must get round to publishing the comment you left on my own blog, but as I've only just started up again after something of a hiatus I have several queued!

    Oh, and readers: today would have been Bob Holmes' 88th birthday. Here's my Tumblr tribute:

    I'd say it's to boost traffic but, as I don't actually know how to measure how many clicks my Tumblr gets, it's just because I think he's worth going 'Hurrah!' for.


  62. encyclops
    April 2, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

    Well, let's see. The choices are:

    Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways
    Army of Ghosts / Doomsday
    Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks
    The Stolen Earth / Journey's End

    It's just conceivable you might think "Dalek" was a mistake. It's so unlike all the others that maybe you could make a case that it created unrealistic expectations. But you said it was a "horrible, appalling mistake" and I don't think Rob Shearman makes those. 🙂

    "Daleks in Manhattan" / "Evolution of the Daleks" is "the one everyone else" sees as a mistake, surely, so it can't be that.

    Which leaves the season finales, and even though I still think "The Stolen Earth / Journey's End" was rotten, I'm not sure I could guess what about it was a "mistake." Bringing back Davros? Most of the rest of its faults aren't directly Dalek-related. So then there's "BW/TPOTW" and "AOG/D", neither of which is my favorite thing ever but I like both enough that I can't guess why they'd be a mistake either.

    I guess I'll go with "Stolen Earth/Journey's End"? If it's "Dalek," though, I'll be fascinated to read your rationale.

    I did the poll too (thanks for your reminder on Twitter!), shooting from the hip throughout because I knew if I got too methodical I'd drive myself insane. I gave out 6 1's and 22 10's. I left out a lot of the stories I've never seen from the 60s, and a few from the 70s and 80s I hadn't seen recently enough to feel strongly about, but I feel good about where I ended up.


  63. Aylwin
    April 2, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

    'Up to this point, there's basically only been one kind of Dalek story to tell — "Daleks show up to kill everything that's not a Dalek, and the Doctor has to stop them."'

    Well, I think that's a description of broadly what a Dalek story should be, in long-view outline though certainly not necessarily in plot specifics. But it's definitely not a description of at least half of the actual Dalek stories we have seen on TV in the last 30 years or so, as they have over and over again presented variations on the theme of "They're turning us into them!".

    Which is absolutely the one thing you should definitively never ever do with Daleks. If you want to do that story, use the Cybermen. That's what they're for. The only story that managed to get away with muddling up Daleks and humans was Dalek, precisely because it only explored that idea in order to affirm its total self-negating unviability. Take away their absolute division of everything in existence into Dalek and not-Dalek, the unbridgeable gulf between the two and the stridently overcompensating insistence on the unvarying perfection of the former and the fundamental worthlessness of the latter, and you have removed the entire conceptual (though not, of course, promotional) point of using them at all, rather than any old monster of the week. Of course, getting interesting stories out of something so straightforward in its outlook (though less so in the psychology underlying it) is not necessarily easy, but that's the sort of thing you pay professional fiction writers for.

    One of the few good things about this story was that it actually managed to steer clear of that, er, miscegenation stuff. Because it's hard to think of a more self-defeating misuse of a classic monster. Well, apart from, say, bringing back the Weeping Angels and declaring that actually the most dangerous thing you can do is look at them. Or that far from being a quantum-physical fact of their nature, their immobility is just something they do when they think someone is looking at them. Or, just to really push the boat of absurdity out into remotest doldrums of barely finite improbability, actually showing them moving on screen!

    But I think we can confidently assume that no one will ever be that silly.


  64. Kit
    April 2, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

    whereas “the guy who was being converted into a giant ant blew up the other giant ants with the last vestiges of his humanity” is good

    This is absolutely terrible in Closing Time too! But there's so much wonderful stuff around it that it's a minor blip, not a fatal wound.

    (BTW, since you keep doing it: Karen Gillan, not Gillian.)


  65. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 2, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

    Yes, this is a problem when I'm also regularly talking about a comics writer named Kieron Gillen. I keep forgetting exactly how to distinguish them. I knew Gillen was Gillen, but I seem to have decided Gillan is therefore actually going to be pronounced differently instead of just having a vowel swap.Will fix.


  66. Kit
    April 2, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

    suddenly everywhere when traders realised the design was out of copyright

    The design (which was pre-war and never publicly issued) only ever came to public attention because there was no copyright; Chris Donald advised the Manleys to check with the Crown before issuing his facsimile.


  67. Lewis Christian
    April 2, 2014 @ 3:27 pm

    "Lickable" is presumably a joke about the fact that they come in different colors in the first place – a reference to the original iMac line and Steve Jobs's famous description of the colors.

    Though one does wonder at what point Moffat knew the Daleks were a disaster, and how much of the Confidential/publicity stuff was him putting the obligatory brave face on what was an obvious misstep. It's worth noting that the new paradigm was quietly shoved aside, relegated to the background of Asylum and none at all in Time of the Doctor.

    A joke it may be, but considering the reception, having that quote doesn't help. It just gives the 'haterz' more ammo, oops. It's not a great joke either, to be fair. I mean, the promo and lead-up to Asylum had quotes such as (these may not be Moff, I can't recall, but they came from some member of the DW team): "time to make the Daleks properly scary again." It's quite telling that the story which aims to do this features one white Paradigm, a few reds dotted about, and one in the background of the Asylum in darkness. So, basically, they're near invisible.

    Apparently, someone spoke to Moff at an awards ceremony and he pointed to his cufflinks, which were Daleks (the RTD model). According to this chap, Moff said "ah, the ones everyone likes." That story seems to do the round on a few forums when discussing Daleks.

    I do also wonder when Confidential was filmed – not long after the filming, I'd suspect, or during the filming. Maybe they believed they were a-ok, and there were no "brave faces" in Confidential… and only got the backlash afterwards. Either way, they could hardly turn up on Confidential and say "we might've, uh, made a mistake with the Daleks."

    To be fair, it also doesn't help that the direction is shoddy – and that bright white shiny set is bloody awful! 'Coz if they'd shot the new Daleks more effectively (and less "static/standing around in one place"), they could've perhaps gotten away with it. It's all very flat, very crap, and poorly done – Moff admits as much, saying Beast Below and Victory was the weakest production block and the stuff he's least fond of. Shame the episodes come so early in his new run, but then at least the 'flops' are out of the way early – and you can put it down to "the crew finding their feet", which aint a bad way to see it really.

    But yeah. It's also telling that Moff made a video for the website advent calendar or in the lead-up to Asylum, and he discussed the Daleks… one quote'll always stay with me: "smaller Daleks are scary!" I was speechless when he came out with that, considering his era has the biggest, chunkiest, fattest Daleks ever!

    It's all a bit of a mess, and they really need to – now – make up their mind. Either feature the Paradigms (post-tweaking, and let's be honest here, they do look a lot better. Not fantastic, but better.) in a full-blown story and show the buggers off, or ditch them completely. The 'officer class' excuse is poor, and it just makes the team look a bit indecisive.

    Plus we now have 6 RTDaleks (they got more for the 50th anniversary). Makes me wonder if the intent is just to stick with those from now on. Spray paint one or two different colours, build a hierarchy, and you're done.


  68. BerserkRL
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

    I saw it as one more instance of the antagonism between the Doctor and prime ministers.


  69. BerserkRL
    April 2, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

    The point of similarity is actually between Churchill and Amy.

    The two scenes:

    DOCTOR: Every time.
    AMY: What's he after?
    DOCTOR: TARDIS key, of course.
    CHURCHILL: Think of what I could achieve with your remarkable machine, Doctor. The lives that could be saved.
    DOCTOR: Doesn't work like that.
    CHURCHILL: Must I take it by force?
    DOCTOR: I'd like to see you try.

    AMY: Oi, Churchill. TARDIS key — the one you just took from the Doctor.
    CHURCHILL: Oh, she's good, Doctor. As sharp as a pin. Almost as sharp as me.


  70. Alan
    April 2, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

    My impression of Dalek motivations since 2005:

    RTD Daleks

    Dalek – I’m going to kill everything. Oh wait, I’m contaminated with Billie Piper cooties. I’ll kill myself instead.

    Parting of the Ways – We’re going to kill all the humans so we can build more Daleks out of them.

    Doomsday – We’re going to kill everything, starting with the Cybermen because we’re so much cooler than them.

    Daleks in Manhattan – We’re going to kill everything, starting with one of our own who, in an ill-considered move, turned himself into a penis-faced human.

    Stolen Earth/Journey’s End. – We’re going to kill everything. Literally everything. Right down to individual molecules in other universes that dare to be non-Dalek molecules.

    Moffat Daleks

    Victory of the Daleks – Hi. We’re the new Daleks. We have a caste based society now. We also have enough sense to tactically withdraw after sticking the Doctor with a Hobson's Choice.

    The Pandorica Opens – Hi. We’re now the de facto leaders of an alliance of hundreds of races that want to kill the Doctor. Apparently, one of our new castes can do diplomacy.

    Asylum of the Daleks – Since last time, we’ve discovered politics, founded a parliament in which Pre-Victory and Post-Victory Daleks can work together in harmony to destroy the Doctor. We have decided it’s a bad idea to kill everything when we can convert people into slaves with nanites. Because body horror is vastly more interesting than omnicidal mania.



  71. David Ainsworth
    April 2, 2014 @ 7:25 pm

    It is interesting that it's a story about a love relationship that saves Bracewell, while the Doctor's stories of his hate relationship with the Daleks lead to their titular victory.


  72. Scott
    April 2, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

    (It’s curious that these uneven seasons are the ones that critics of the respective eras inevitably point to as the ones that work.)

    sure, there are stories that probably could have been a bit sharper than they came out being, but it’s mostly the sort of roughness that helps to emphasize the moments where the show is being truly inventive.

    I feel like you may have asked and answered your own question here; as someone who arguably falls into this category, for all the wobbliness and unevenness of Seasons 1 and 5 there is at times a wonderful sense of creative freedom as well that the more 'stable' series perhaps lack a bit. A sense that the production team are coming up with everything that they've ever wanted to put in the series, seeing what works and damning the consequences. Sure, not everything ends up working — see, well, "Victory of the Daleks" for a case in point — but you can't help but applaud the attempt, and the fact that everyone's having a bit of fun at the same time. By the time of the later series, things have settled down a bit; you might have a bit more consistency when it comes to quality, but you lose a bit of that sense of freedom and imagination. After all, when you've done everything you've ever wanted to do in your first season of Doctor Who, the question then becomes "what next?"

    The second / sixth seasons also are arguably where the overall flaws of the production team in question's preferred approach — RTD's over-reliance on a tried-and-true formula and playing the safer card, Moffat's difficulty in finding a satisfactory pay-off for all the hanging puzzle boxes he's setting up without it collapsing in on itself — start to become a bit more apparent. Simply put, you can forgive the flaws in the first season / fifth season a bit more easily because the production team are finding their feet, but in later seasons the same flaws start to look a bit less like accidents and a bit more like inherent issues with the production team's preferred approach.


  73. Jesse
    April 2, 2014 @ 8:12 pm

    The entire point of having Churchill embrace the Daleks to fight against the Nazis is to undermine the moral legitimacy not only of Churchill but of the entire “he saved Britain from the forces of darkness” narrative of World War II.

    Yes, exactly. The biggest problem with this episode is that for the first 10 minutes or so I thought they were doing something really bold and challenging, and then it turned out to be…not that.


  74. jonathan inge
    April 2, 2014 @ 9:04 pm

    Interesting. I just read somewhere the show survived at least five attempts to get rid of it. Reasons vary of course. … And I just realized I outed myself as a person who keeps up with Power Rangers. I'm not a fan. The show bewilders me. I admit I developed a soft spot for the seasons produced in New Zealand.


  75. Champiness
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:06 pm

    Hi Phil,
    After a lengthy Google quest to find your contact info I couldn’t find a better place to ask you than this (and please know that I hate off-topic comments like this, I wouldn’t be doing this if I’d found an alternative – I’ll probably move this to the waffly Thursday post soon just because I’m that nitpicky), but I suppose you’re relatively likely to read it here so I’d really appreciate a response.
    I’m a college student currently taking an introductory course on mythology. Our professor recently paired us into groups of three to work on a presentation about mythology in popular culture. When I met with my teammates they were both drawing relative blanks in terms of a work to cover, so thinking of your blog (and its extensive discussion of mythic underpinnings and magical places on the fringe of the normal world) I idly brought up Doctor Who, and it ended up being what we picked. Lovely, except that neither of them have seen any episodes (though apparently one girl’s roommate is a real diehard), and my familiarity with it beyond your blog extends to a few Tennant-era stories that aired on Syfy years ago and some BBC America airings after reading the Eruditorum. So, since you kinda got us into this: could you perhaps provide a shortlist of stories (old or new series) that you think have a particular degree of mythic resonance so we can coordinate our binge-watching? It’d be greatly appreciated.
    If it sways your opinion any, our professor has been citing Joseph Campbell extensively and most of the presentations will likely be attempts to make various popular works fit the "Hero's Journey" model.


  76. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:10 pm

    Oh dear. I mean, my argument is usually that Doctor Who defies the usual Hero's Journey setup, so I am perhaps unhelpful. But I'd think that Amy's story in Series 5 is very Hero's Journey. Rose's in Series 1 as well. For classic series, you might want Battlefield or The Curse of Fenric…


  77. Champiness
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:16 pm

    No, my point was simply that I had been afforded an unique opportunity to go against the grain in a Campbell-centric class. Feel free to identify any stories you think are particularly mythic.
    (Though I'm already giddy at how quickly you responded, not to mention that I was actually able to coax something Campbellian out of you!)


  78. Champiness
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:18 pm

    (And may I just say that my faith in soliciting random bloggers has just gone up immensely, though of course you're far from random)


  79. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:21 pm

    Oh, if you want to defy Campbell…

    The Ribos Operation is quite grand for that. I think Time of the Doctor ends up being fairly subversive. Curse of Fenric and Battlefield stand as recommendations. Series Five remains interesting in that its hero's journey stuff is not straightforward… might be interesting to go back to some of the really early stuff. The Daleks is very pulp adventure in a way that you'd think should be Hero's Journey, but I'm not at all convinced it is.


  80. Champiness
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:24 pm

    Lovely, I'll have a lot of suggestions to bring to them in class tomorrow. Glad that Fenric still applies, it's one I've been eager to see since reading your entry.
    Looking forward to carving out a little psychochronographic niche in the presentation schedule. 🙂
    – Champi


  81. Daru
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:32 pm

    One of the things I did like about the Paradigm Daleks was the redesigned eyestalk. I thought the detailing on it was pretty cool and the more organic image of the eye. The rest of the design was pretty awful though.


  82. ferret
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:42 pm

    You forgot "Time of the Doctor" – we have imperious shouty voices and one really big ship with no guns on it to, say, obliterate a clocktower.


  83. Kit
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:42 pm

    Kieron's the one who shaved his head first.


  84. J Mairs
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:46 pm

    "Though one does wonder at what point Moffat knew the Daleks were a disaster, and how much of the Confidential/publicity stuff was him putting the obligatory brave face on what was an obvious misstep. "

    The interview with Mark Gatiss in DWM (the "Seeing Red" one about the redesign) does seem to imply that everyone recognised it the moment they came on set.
    I don't have the exact words to hand, but paraphrasing: "Oh if we do THIS and if we do THAT and make them BIG! And COLOURFUL! Then we're doing something FANTASTIC! And the drawings look FANTASTIC and…. oh… is that… is that it then?"

    Gatiss' talks about what was expected from the Daleks seem to elide mentioning Moffat's views specifically but can be infered by reading between the lines.


  85. Daru
    April 2, 2014 @ 11:52 pm

    The first fifteen minutes of this are pretty superb in my view, and despite not being always completely as sharp as on other occasions, the one thing that made this story watchable was Matt Smith's performance. I do adore the smashing a Dalek with a giant spanner moment – though how did he manage to drop it on the ground silently?

    There aare times later in the Moffat era when Karen Gillan hits the mark for me with regards to her acting, but at this stage I did find her rather flat and without much range. I can see how the ensemble relationship that develops with Matt and the others, especially with Alex Kingston who seems really to have offered her experience to Karen , improves her acting later on.


  86. Kit Power
    April 3, 2014 @ 12:33 am

    RE: Churchill and pragmatism – I'm almost certain the 'If Hitler invaded Hell' quote is something Churchill actually said, in reference to the deal with Stalin against Hitler.


  87. Anton B
    April 3, 2014 @ 1:06 am

    Okay. It's ubiquity is still irritating. It's become the 'You don't have to be mad to work here…' of the day.


  88. Anton B
    April 3, 2014 @ 1:33 am

    I thought that was Grant Morrison.


    April 3, 2014 @ 2:49 am

    he's too in thrall to his memories of the Pertwee era

    That is totally unfair…

    He also rips off bits of the Hinchcliffe era.


  90. Nick Smale
    April 3, 2014 @ 2:50 am

    The thing about this that grated most with me was the moment when the Doctor set off in the TARDIS, leaving Amy behind. Surely, with Amy's history of abandonment by the Doctor and her parents, she shouldn't have taken this as calmly as she did?


  91. Lewis Christian
    April 3, 2014 @ 4:22 am

    Amy's a mystery anyway – she waltzes around WWII as if she does it every day. There doesn't seem to be much/any awe or amazement or wonder.


  92. jane
    April 3, 2014 @ 4:28 am

    Reading "Beast Below" as influenced by The Belly of the Whale, Amy's "forgetting" and "remembering" can be positioned as a "death" and "rebirth" of the Hero. Her Series 7 stuff is very much "Master of Two Worlds", which is often overlooked in Campbellian treatments, the question of how to integrate the growth achieved from the Journey into everyday life.

    On the other hand there's Leela — she never returns to her "Ordinary World" because that world was already permanently altered by the Doctor/Mentor; instead she goes from Special Place to Special Place, and ends up in a Special Place. She's a Hero without a circular journey, though you could argue she's had an "apotheosis" insofar as she's come to discard myth in favor of science.

    Underworld and Horns of Nimon are interesting insofar as they're visibly modeled on Greek Myths, which, of course, are "hero" myths that hew pretty closely to Campbellian motifs. But then there's the self-reflexive Who stories that really aren't Campbellian at all, but much more postmodern — The Rescue, Feast of Steven, Mind Robber, Carnival of Monsters. Kinda's got a mythology in it that's almost an inversion of the Hero's Journey — the story of Aris in particular — and the whole point of Kinda is rather that Heroic Journeys tend to cause problems rather than solve them.


  93. David Anderson
    April 3, 2014 @ 5:41 am

    Kinda is perhaps the place where the classic series gets most obviously mythic. Enlightenment is another possibility. You might combine Enlightenment with Mawdryn Undead.
    (The problem with defying Campbell is that the Hero's Journey is deliberately a procrustean bed. Anything can be made to fit it if you lop off bits here and stretch bits there.)


  94. Theonlyspiral
    April 3, 2014 @ 6:28 am

    What do we make then of the obvious paralelles drawn between Churchill and the Doctor in the elevator scene? Where they get into a a little box, Churchill pulls the level and the motor sounds like a quiet TARDIS noise? Seems like the episode wants us to draw at least some parallels.


  95. John
    April 3, 2014 @ 8:28 am

    Unquiet Dead was a rip-off of the Hinchcliffe era. I'd say Cold War and Victory of the Daleks are rip-offs of the Troughton/Innes Lloyd era. Less sure of his other stories, but none jumps out at me as a Pertwee-era rip-off.


  96. NBooth
    April 3, 2014 @ 8:31 am

    FWIW, I'm not convinced that positioning the ending as "power of love" is all that accurate, anyway. Certainly, love is involved–but it's importantly a love from the past, a love lost, a love remembered. Memory–as has been pointed out before–is a central thematic in the Moffat era generally, and this is the first episode that starts to suggest that remembering can be a method of, well, re-membering–reassembling the world in terms of loved ones who are otherwise inaccessible (in this sense, the "return" to purity represented in the New Dalek Paradigm is a dark shadow of this theme, as is the fact that the Daleks are confirmed AS Daleks because of the Doctor's testimony–his memory of a hated thing evokes that hated thing).

    I agree with almost all of the criticisms lobbed at this episode, but I think it performs an important function as a clue to how Moffat plans on resolving the season arc, and the memory-of-lost-love is the most important idea introduced here. (See also: the continuation of the idea from the previous episode that telling stories is how we effect material-historical change, the Doctor's reliance on Amy's talent for empathy, etc)


  97. NBooth
    April 3, 2014 @ 8:36 am

    I tend to think that, in 1 and 5, the highs are much higher and the lows much lower. Series 6 is a much more consistent run, overall, and my favorite out of Moffat's run, but the consistency comes at a price: We lose many of the the shocking moments of brilliance in favor of something very, very good. That's even more true in Series 7, which seems free of obvious failures, but which doesn't even attempt the heights of the two runs preceding it.


  98. Theonlyspiral
    April 3, 2014 @ 9:09 am

    I just have to pipe in here. I feel like season 7 is Who at it's very best. It has the greatest episode of the series in it. It has nice character episodes, some fun romps, and leads great into the 50th.


  99. Ross
    April 3, 2014 @ 9:13 am

    Whereas I feel that season 7 is not only Doctor Who at its worst, it is the concept of fiction at its absolute nadir, the worst thing ever created in the history of man, leading into the ultimate betrayal of all that is good and right in the universe that is the 50th.

    (I do not like season 7, but I do like hyperbole.)


  100. Alex
    April 3, 2014 @ 9:17 am

    My favourite characterisation of the Daleks to date is that seen in the old Dalek comic strips, and its spiritual successor Second Empire, seen here:

    I prefer the idea of Daleks as individuals, albeit murderous individuals, within a functioning race. I like their sneaky side!


  101. jane
    April 3, 2014 @ 9:33 am

    IIRC, Gillan has said as much about her acting, especially in regards to her first season. It's not something I'm terribly good at evaluating, but even I can tell there's a difference in her performances from the beginning of Series Six until her departure.


  102. NBooth
    April 3, 2014 @ 9:43 am

    I…liked?…season 7. On an episode-by-episode basis, it's possibly the most consistent the series has ever been since the revival (no huge clunkers like "The Black Spot," for instance). But, except for the last few episodes and the lead-in to the 50th, it seems lacking, somehow. Less ambitious, which is probably down to the decision not to continue the style of arc-plotting that dominated Ssn 6. It's a solid collection of very good, but unremarkable, episodes. That's my feeling, anyway (and I expect that once the Eruditorium gets there I'll have to revisit the season in a different light).


  103. encyclops
    April 3, 2014 @ 10:20 am

    I think it's just fashionable to bash the Pertwee era, and to hold it up as the model of "conservative, traditional" Doctor Who even though it was neither at the time and is even more of an anomaly in hindsight, at least prior to 2005.

    I actually have a hard time imagining Gatiss doing all the things RTD and Moffat did as showrunner — tirelessly promoting the show and not just pumping out product, but doing surprising things with it that expand its scope considerably. So in a way the idea kind of excites me, because he'd have to step up, wouldn't he? Even if his contribution were to try and skew it toward some idea of the classic, you can't go home again, so what would that even look like in terms of the modern series? I'm not sure it wouldn't be interesting, particularly if Gatiss writes the nostalgia pieces and is smart enough to keep bringing in new, less traditional writers to write the weird stuff. I could see it shaping up like the Davison era — uneven, but with some truly impressive gems.

    I'm sort of less enthusiastic about Chibnall — I liked his season 7 work, I thought Broadchurch was pretty impressive, but it's hard for me to imagine that he'd take the show in a direction I'd find all that inspiring. Cross is a wild card for me, because I haven't seen Luther, and while I adored "Hide," the main thing I liked about "Rings" was the art direction.

    Here's a silly idea: Capaldi takes over and is both lead AND showrunner. Yeah, I know, but it's not inconceivable to me that he might play more of an active role behind the scenes and contribute to the creative side.


  104. BatmanAoD
    April 3, 2014 @ 2:07 pm

    Out of curiosity: you're saying that you read TARDIS Eruditorum, but you haven't even watched (much of) NuWho, let alone classic Who? You're even crazier than I am! Wonderful.


  105. heroesandrivals
    April 3, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

    The threat of the Daleks does not come from their size. Making them more physically imposing doesn't make them a bigger threat onscreen — it makes their threat more mundane. By reducing them to their physical threat you blunt them.
    It's the same school of logic that says "Hans Beckert in 'M' would be more threatening if we cast a more physically imposing actor than Peter Loore."


  106. ferret
    April 3, 2014 @ 4:57 pm

    You might combine Enlightenment with Mawdryn Undead.

    Interesting that you skipped Terminus – I wonder if it does have anything to add? Can Nyssa deciding to leave in Terminus be read as in any way significant: e.g. is it a sacrifice that has to be made in exchange for knowledge, would Nyssa's presence somehow derail the conclusion of Enlightenment… or is Terminus truly a disposable side-trip?


  107. ferret
    April 3, 2014 @ 5:23 pm

    I'm not quite sure how Gatiss has earned his reputation as someone who would bring a lot of Pertwee-era influence to Doctor Who.

    So far none of his contributed scripts have involved UNIT (despite them appearing in other scriptwriters episodes as early as Aliens of London), no power centres, science bases or energy conferences under threat. Only the very unPertwee "Night Terrors" has been set in the present/near future and the rest are all period pieces that are not even Pertwee-Period pieces! His side project? A William Hartnell era biopic!

    Sure he may have profess a love for the Pertwee area, but I've not seen it's influence so far.


  108. heroesandrivals
    April 3, 2014 @ 8:02 pm

    I didn't like Dalek.
    Also I think the Sontarans are the best Who villains and quite enjoy the Keys of Marinius.

    It's lonely being me.


  109. Seeker722
    April 3, 2014 @ 9:21 pm

    "Perhaps the greatest mystery of Victory of the Daleks is why the Daleks have an air conditioning vent on their spaceship."

    I know it's meant as a joke, but why wouldn't they?


  110. David Anderson
    April 3, 2014 @ 9:40 pm

    I suppose it's the novel Last of the Gaderene, which is a loving pastiche of the UNIT-era meets Body Snatchers.


  111. Iain Coleman
    April 4, 2014 @ 12:52 am

    "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons." – Said by Churchill to his personal secretary on the eve of Operation Barbarossa.


  112. David Anderson
    April 4, 2014 @ 3:14 am

    I don't terribly like Dalek, but the bits I don't like about it are the things I don't like about the Davies-era in general; I dislike other Davies-era dalek stories more. (I'd rate them, Army of Ghosts/ Doomsday, Dalek, Daleks in Manhattan/ Evolution, Bad Wolf/ Parting of the Ways, Stolen Earth/ Journey's End.)


  113. David Anderson
    April 4, 2014 @ 3:21 am

    The problem with watching Terminus is Terminus is just not very good. It's not painful or anything, but it is two hours of your life you could spend on watching Warrior's Gate instead.


  114. Daru
    April 4, 2014 @ 4:19 am

    Absolutely, as by the time we for example reached The Girl Who Waited I was to be honest blown away by her and felt that I was watching Gillan really reaching her capacity as an actor. I mean, I was taken utterly with the character of Amy immediately, but despite the fact that I did have issues with her acting for much of season 5 (did LOVE her in The beast Below) and how the writing at times did not meet her, I was really grabbed by the journey.


  115. Kit Power
    April 4, 2014 @ 4:32 am

    Right – thanks Iain, I was sure it was a genuine quote.


  116. Daru
    April 4, 2014 @ 4:38 am

    I think that in going against the grain with Campbell, you are most likely not going to be going against the grain with him, but the way that some of his ideas have been misrepresented and appropriated (ok The Hero with a Thousand Faces is not a great book and largely part of the problem, but I think of this as a populist book)

    The real problem is Christopher Vogler's book 'The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers', which boiled down into a digestible soup the writings of Campbell (or more accurately The Hero with a Thousand Faces) so they could be used by screenwriters (also via seminars, etc). The book lays out basic themes, mythic archetypes and narrative structures, offering the idea that these are central to any story and can be bolted onto the plot.

    I might recommend Campbell's The Masks of God – a more comprehensive four volume work the explores the functions of myth in different cultures and times, using as a starting point for exploration the question of what is that is happening when a ritualist places onto their own face the image/mask of a deity. They are then not simply seen as someone playing at being a deity, but they become the deity. The journey in these books is a whole lot more interesting than the idea of a mono-myth.


  117. jane
    April 4, 2014 @ 4:47 am

    While Terminus is difficult to watch, on account of the weary direction, it serves an important mythological purpose: Terminus presents a Cosmogony. It at once presents a cause for the Big Bang, a singular event, while suggesting a cyclical nature to it.

    This is juxtaposed with "Lazars Disease," which offers us Zombie Lepers (the Walking Dead) while invoking a Biblical story of resurrection; Nyssa herself is "resurrected" by the light at the beginning of the Universe. On top of it, we get an influx of Norse mythology with the naming conventions of Terminus's caretakers.

    Terminus sits in the middle of the Universe like it sits in the middle of Season 20. Season 20 is often derided for its continuity fetishism, but this only veils the current that runs underneath it — the stories here are all, in some way, associated with the esoteric experience of Ascension: the Doctor's floating in the Matrix (a near-death experience), Tegan's loss of ego (near-death experience), and Turlough's car crash (near-death); Nyssa's resurrection, the finding of "Enlightenment," and what should have been the season finale, the Doctor's "past life regression" in Resurrection of the Daleks, these all are unified in the same loose way that Entropy structures Season 18.

    In this context, the "continuity fetishism" might be more generously read as a return to Mythology — the show's mythology, of course, but also a hodge-podge of mythologies ranging from Buddhism to Gnosticism. I think it's an ambitious yet quiet attempt to explore the experience of death and rebirth, and its influence on Moffat's era should not be overlooked.


  118. Robert Lloyd
    April 4, 2014 @ 5:14 am

    Yeah – even if you noticed the VERY brief glimpse of the plans (I sure didn't) it's just too great a conceptual leap, even for this goofy (and I use the term with the greatest affection) show.


  119. srodney
    April 4, 2014 @ 7:52 am

    Ferret I was drinking coffee when I read your comment. You now owe me for a new monitor 🙂


  120. Triturus
    April 4, 2014 @ 10:41 am

    Encyclops, David Anderson

    Yes; I've just read Last of the Gaderene, which is I think why I associate Gatiss with the Pertwee era more than any others. I accept that his actual stories are less Pertwee-y, though.

    By the way, I wasn't bashing the Pertwee era; I like it. It's just that I don't think a showrunner with heavily nostalgic tendencies would be the best choice. I strongly suspect that Gatiss will be the next showrunner, so I would be very happy to be proved wrong if / when he does.


  121. evilsoup
    April 5, 2014 @ 2:28 am

    It's a real quote, and a fairly well known one — not up to the level of 'fight them on the beaches' or 'in the morning I'll be sober but you'll still be ugly', but definitely floating around as part of the popular conception of Winston Churchill. So having him use that to justify allying with the Daleks doesn't really bring Churchill's morality into question — making those kind of deals for the greater good of defeating nazism is already an established part of the Churchill myth. It's along the same lines as the justification of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, or the bombing of Dresden (I'm not passing comment on whether they were justified here, but in the popular conception they certainly are, and the same goes for allying with the Soviet Union).


  122. Ross
    April 5, 2014 @ 8:18 pm

    The upside of having been outed as a person who follows Power Rangers is that it means you can appreciate the fact that this happened:

    Yes. This actually happened. Sometimes it feels like reality has lapped itself.


  123. ferret
    April 6, 2014 @ 2:27 am

    My work here is done!


  124. Ross
    April 7, 2014 @ 3:10 am

    I didn't like this episode at the time. In retrospect, it should have been a warning. I think this one, possibly more than any other of the season, encapsulates my problem with the Moffat era. Because this episode is chock full of epic signifiers — the Daleks, Churchill, World War 2, The Power of Love ending. But in the end, there is balls-all behind them. Just hollow, empty signifiers backed by a kind of anti-meaning.


  125. Doctor Memory
    April 7, 2014 @ 5:34 pm

    Rather belated correction from an entirely different breed of anorak:

    Steve Jobs did not ever describe the multicolored iMacs as "lickable". The only time he used the term was in 1999 to describe the new "Aqua" interface of MacOS X (which had previously been known as "Rhapsody" and the betas for which up to that point had all sported a UI that was basically the old NeXTSTEP interface reskinned with the old MacOS 8 windowing elements).


  126. Alex Wilcock
    September 22, 2014 @ 11:28 pm

    Sorry, encyclops: I saw your guesses, meant to reply, and it went clean out of my head! You’ll now know the answer from my comments on The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe, but in the unlikely chance any casual browser is desperate to find out… You were absolutely right. It’s The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End that was a “horrible, appalling mistake” for me.

    I don’t think Dalek’s a patch on Jubilee, and it has a moment where the Doctor really puts me off – though, arguably, it’s self-loathing – but it’s a cracking story and almost as perfect a relaunch for the Daleks as Rose was for the series. I’m quite fond of both Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways and Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, though I think each weakens at their climax, and I still find Army of Ghosts / Doomsday absurdly exciting. But as for Journey’s End… Much more that than The Stolen Earth, which was something of a mix and succeeded in building my anticipation. The Daleks having been down (again) to one sole survivor, then instantly regrowing (again) like watercress to a huge new empire, destroyed (again) in the blink of an eye; Rose coming back after a perfect exit and, worse, how she was written out again; the Doctor unable to answer Davros’ – Davros’ – moral arguments; a magnificent cliffhanger turned into a terrible cheating cop-out that made the drama meaningless (and bless Mr Moffat, whose writing has been much less about consequences than Russell’s, for addressing that last year and making it meaningful in one of his few ret-cons I thoroughly approved); probably worst, the rape-culture reversal of his freedom-loving ethos in the Doctor lobotomising Donna against her informed and very definite “No”. It’s the one time I think Russell’s writing fell quite horribly apart.

    The moment when Sarah Jane picks up that transmission from space still gives me chills, though (and have you seen how it’s used in the Ebeneezer Goode video?).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.