Thoughts on: Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks

This one seems to be a controversial story among the fandom, but I don’t share the vitriol directed at it by some quarters. I think it had a really bold and genuinely interesting idea which it carried out for the most part successfully. The Cult of Skaro, for one, is probably the most interesting thing done with the Daleks since Genesis of the Daleks presented their origins story: a faction of Daleks, now the last four Daleks in existence, founded by the Emperor to think as the enemy does and find new ways of surviving, a mission that ultimately led them to fuse human and Dalek DNA to create “human Daleks”. This is a brilliant instance of the writers’ searching for new and interesting things to do with the Daleks, an idea which had a lot of potential and, at least in this story, delivered. Human Daleks are an ingenious, fresh idea which were realised effectively onscreen in the freaky Dalek Sec. Perhaps it’s just me, but I found the phenomenon of a walking, talking Dalek in human form very skin-crawling. However, I’d like to have seen the human Dalek less… er, human. There seemed to be little of the Dalek left in him, while I think it would have been more effective to portray a creature being psychologically tortured as its irreconcilable human and Dalek natures fought for supremacy. This one seemed to be just a malformed human who identified as a Dalek. My other criticism of the plot would be that it probably carried on for too long—it could have been fit into one episode and worked more effectively.

That the Doctor was willing to help the Daleks was evidence of what a bold idea it was. One couldn’t help but sympathise with the Doctor: Sec, the human Dalek, seemed like something totally new and revolutionary. The Doctor may have been naive to believe that the Daleks, even as reduced and wretched as they were then, would ever give up their purity and their belief in the supremacy of pure Daleks. For a time, though, he allowed himself to hope due to the wonder before him: the most extraordinary Dalek that had ever lived, who was willing to abandon everything that made the Daleks what they were, ultimately to end the Dalek race. The Doctor showed how resentful the cruel scuppering of the vain hope he had that the Daleks could change had made him when he confronted the Daleks in the theatre. David Tennant was in luminous form in this story, especially in the most intense moments between the Doctor and the Daleks. Those monologues in which the Doctor is ranting and preaching are where Tennant shines most.

I have yet more words of praise for Martha, who showed brilliant ingenuity and resource again in this story—you know what I’m talking about, the thing on the Empire State Building roof with the lightning conductor to kill the pig slaves. That was brilliant. It’s great having a companion who’s so clever and resourceful. Martha also showed her feisty side as she defied the Doctor when he “ordered” her to flee the theatre and go back to Hooverville: “Who are you, then? Some sort of Dalek?” I’m liking her more and more with every episode. Following the much beloved Billie Piper was going to be a challenging task, but Agyeman is acquitting herself more than admirably here, at least in my opinion. Tallulah was also a great character; she was sweet, likable, brave and kind, showing what a great person she was in accepting Laszlo even as a deformed mutant. She was played very well by Miranda Raison.

Rating: 8/10.

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