Evolution of the Daleks
The Doctor: Then you wouldn’t be the supreme beings anymore.
Sec: That is good.
Dalek Caan: That is incorrect!
Dalek Thay: Daleks are supreme!
Sec: No! Not anymore.
Production Code: 3.5.
Doctor Who Season: S29 (Ep5).
Story Number: 182b.
The Muppets Take Manhattan…
Before we discuss the actual second half of this story, some thoughts on the 21st Century version of Doctor Who, writing this in 2012. On the whole, by this point in time of this episode’s broadcast – April 2007 – the programme had continued from the “old” Doctor Who magnificently.
Even 55 minutes into this two-parter it seemed like Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks would be an enjoyable, if quirky, addition to the run of so-far excellent Dalek stories that began with Dalek. However, this story would become the nadir of Nu-Who in April 2007. In the year 2012 it remains the worst story of the Ninth and Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, and seems likely to remain so for the future.
Why though, why is this episode so very very terrible? To clarify, we need to consider 5 moments.
Moment one. Sec proclaims at the start of the ep: “These… humans will become like me. Prepare them for hybridisation”. Expectations are built. This final experiment will produce more “Human Daleks” in this new form of Sec. The disappointment of what the “Final Final experiment” actually is flows from this moment.
Moment two. The Doctor (facing the Daleks as they spectacularly dive and hover over Hooverville), saying “Then do it! Do it! Just do it! Do it!” while beating on his own chest. It’s just weird. Are we to assume the “expert chess-player” Doctor has anticipated what will happen next? That Sec will tell them not to, and ultimately make a deal to spare all the humans? Up until this point the plot seems fairly straightforward but from this moment on things happen more often or not without much rhyme or reason.
Moment three. The Doctor asking Sec, “So they’re like shells. You’ve got empty human beings ready to be converted. That’s going to take a hell of a lot of power. This planet hasn’t even split the atom yet. How’re you gonna do it?”
The Doctor has just ensured that the humans of Hooverville are okay. However, Sec has just revealed that they’ve already taken “more than a thousand” humans, once-alive humans now “near death with mind wiped”. And the Doctor’s reaction is: “So they’re like shells”. Alien beings terrorising a single pig in Aliens of London was enough to stir the Doctor to rage, but this news of “more than a thousand” humans being made like this by the Daleks – well, it prompts the Doctor to help the Daleks continue their experiment. “So they’re like shells. You’ve got empty human beings ready to be converted.”
There’s an argument to be made the Doctor is coolly calculating what would be the best result from this horrific situation: to ensure the Daleks transmute to an ultimately less universe-menacing form, but it still sits extremely oddly onscreen.
Moment four. The ultimate result of the Doctor’s and Sec’s Final Final experiment (which has been tweaked by the pesky Daleks to “100% Dalek”, whatever that means. The not-very-convincing science of Science Fiction isn’t great, but other Doctor Who stories can be great with similarly shaky science. It’s not why this moment is so very bad). A man (seemingly with talcum powder on, that’s the extent of his exterior transformation) intones: “I. Am. A Dalek”.
It’s the worst moment so far of the story. (So far!) Sure, The Evil of the Daleks had a similar (ish) plotline. (Look away now if you’re keen not to read of that plotline.) Those Daleks’ ultimate plan is to ensure the humans of Earth are transformed by “The Dalek Factor”. Humans that would act like Daleks. Though would it be a planet of “Daleks” as such? The actual Daleks would remain and be in control of their Empire.
If the thousand humans were to be transformed into a thousand new-Sec-like beings that could be seen as the “evolution” of the Daleks – but to replace the armies of the mutants in their war-machine shells with talcum powder-wearing humans just seems like something the Bronze Daleks would reject outright, being so keen on their supreme being-ness.
Moment Five. The Doctor’s “Sorry, I got in the way of the lightning strike. Time Lord DNA got all mixed up. Just that little bit of freedom”.
Now, there’s a difference between vague not-very-convincing science Science Fiction ideas and Science Fiction that’s utterly nonsensical! It’s not just that it makes no sense.
The whole of the past two-and-a-half seasons are all about the fact the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords, and now he can conjure up some hybrids?!
These five moments mean that the story is the nadir of this 21st Century era of Doctor Who. The season had begun so well. For Doctor Who to continue to be, overall, rather magnificent, well, there would have to be some pretty good episodes in the second half of the season…
Rating, for this episode: 1/5
For the whole story: 1/5