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TV Review: Doctor Who – “Daleks” (WooWho #4 and #5)

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Three members of the Woolstencroft family are contributors to BC Magazine. Each discovered the BBC's Doctor Who at a different point: Tony goes all the way back to Hartnell, Ian started with Pertwee, and Daniel came on board during Davison's stay in the Tardis.

This week WooWho faces its biggest challenge yet — we were all subjected to a two part episode: "Daleks in Manhattan" and "Evolution of the Daleks"

The Script

Ian: Where to begin? Writer Helen Raynor obviously owns a copy of the “Writers Guide to Stereotypes” and isn’t afraid to use it, treating us to such clichés as the tough showgirl with a heart of gold, the greedy industrialist who’ll do anything for power, and the disfigured man watching from the wings as his lost love performs onstage.

Then of course there are the pig-men. The Daleks have had slaves before – the Robomen in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" and, most memorably, the Ogrons in several Pertwee-era stories spring to mind – but this time the fiendish pepper pots have merged human and pig DNA. Why? God only knows, for it seems clear Raynor doesn’t have a clue. Unless Dalek DNA is a close match to that of a pig.

Daniel: There's this idea that Doctor Who terrifies young children, causing them to hide behind the sofa lest the nasty beasts on screen "get them". This episode nearly had me doing the same, thanks to its ludicrous plot – why would a heavily armored Dalek decide to make itself far more vulnerable? Amongst other puzzlers – and numerous additional flaws.

Ian: This would have been bad enough as a single episode but it’s been padded out to a two-parter by falling back on the old Who tradition of having a lot of pointless running around in corridors (or in this case sewers).

I’d say this was disappointing, but I never had high hopes for it in the first place.

Tony: Laughably awful. How anyone could have thought this would work on screen is beyond me. It may have worked better (not that it worked at all for me) if they’d played it for laughs, but there are some ludicrously overblown lines culminating with "The Doctor is in!" One of the most unintentionally hilarious episodes I can remember.

The Effects

Ian: It’s the make-up effects team that make the biggest impression this time; unfortunately it’s not a favourable one. Did someone find the pig-head mould from "Aliens of London” in a box somewhere and decide “hey, pig-men would be cool!”? If so they were sadly mistaken. The pig-men are laughable, and not in a good way. And the best thing that can be said for the Dalek-human hybrid is that I’m relieved they didn’t call him Davros!

Tony: In a word, unconvincing. And the whole pig-men idea was just idiotic anyway.

Ian: Depression-era New York is reasonably well realised by the visual effects team, but being a “real” place it’s not very exciting. Then there’s the now regular sight of flying Daleks, although this time it’s a little less convincing.

Daniel: Oh good — a stupid-looking Dalek-human hybrid prosthetic, stupid-looking pig-men, a stupid-looking half pig-man, and Daleks that look pretty stupid thanks to how they've been shot (the Dalek-cam was laughable). Some of the shots from high up on the Empire State were passable, but there wasn't much to recommend, or enjoy, here.  

Cast and Crew

Ian: Terribly fake American accents and hammy performances are the order of the day from the supporting cast. As for the leads, David Tennant looks like he’d rather be somewhere else and Freema Agyeman, after several fine performances, does nothing here, but then the script gives her nothing to do.

Tony: Almost universally bad. Dreadful attempts at accents, Freema Agyeman has gone back to amateur hour and not even the usually reliable Tennant can make this dialogue work. Some of the sloppiest direction yet seen in the series.

Daniel: Miranda Raison needs to stick to Spooks (MI5); her accent here was utterly diabolical. Hugh Quarshie does a better American accent than the last time I saw him (in the excellent, if misunderstood, horror Nightbreed), but it's still deeply crap. Ryan Carnes is actually American, but surrounded by so much crapness actually sounds as cheesy as the others. Tennant gets virtually nothing to do, as does Agyeman. The less said about Eric Loren's Diagoras the better, I think. In a word: lousy.

Overall

Daniel: I never thought I'd be bored watching Doctor Who, and I never thought I'd be thinking "please, make it stop" either. But I was, and I did. Oh dear…

Ian: A terrible story that almost had me remembering the John Nathan-Turner years with fondness. As I credit Nathan-Turner with killing the show (or at least putting it into a coma for fifteen years) that should give you some idea of how much I disliked this two part story. Still, Doctor Who fans have always had to take the rough with the smooth. Lets hope Davies gives the Daleks a rest now.

Tony: An unmitigated disaster. I felt like I was watching a Carry On film as people ran down tunnels being chased by pig-men and Daleks, then ran back again. Oh, and please stop with the flying Daleks – they just don’t work. Even with a decent budget and effects team a flying dustbin is not going to look even remotely menacing.

I found it almost impossible to keep from bursting out laughing whenever the new human-Dalek hybrid spoke with its ridiculous fake accent, and a head surrounded by very badly animated tentacles.

Daniel: I thought he sounded too much like ex-Conservative Party leader Michael Howard to take seriously too… but that might just be me.

Tony: I’m sure next week's (despite featuring members of the appalling Jones clan) will be better – it can’t possibly get any worse.

Daniel: "The Lazarus Experiment" does look like it might be quite good again; a return to the single part episode, and a format that should hopefully work. But, yes, the family return!

WooWho returns in a few short days, with "The Lazarus Experiment". 

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