To be sure, the Doctor repelled the Daleks’ last run at Earth, but it turned out the mutants were not really invading this time; they were trying to perpetuate the sinister species – and they used the Doctor to do it! How ironic: The Time Lord who passed on the chance to smother them in the cradle way back in “Genesis of the Daleks” is now responsible for their rebirth as a new and “improved” race of relentless killers.
The action picked up directly from last week, with the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy (Karen Gillan) answering an urgent call from Winston Churchill. The bad news is, the Doctor was a month late! For a Time Lord, this Doctor seems to have quite a problem with punctuality. (Or is he really having that difficult a time operating the refurbished TARDIS? Methinks it’s a combination of the two.) From all indications, the Doctor has met Churchill at least twice before, since the PM is familiar with the Time Lord’s penchant for changing faces. Amy was almost beside herself with excitement to meet Churchill. Gillan played her as a font of nervous energy; she fidgeted constantly, unsure of what to do with her hands and unable to even stand in place. But on the roof of the government building, the Blitz she only knew from history books became real, and it choked her up. Gillan was especially touching and emotional here. I also noticed that the Doctor was almost as impressed as she was to be there. (He was last in besieged London while in his ninth persona, for “The Empty Child”/“The Doctor Dances.”)
The Doctor was stunned to find Daleks contributing to the war effort. Called “Ironsides,” the creatures were credited as the invention of one Prof. Bracewell. Unfortunately, the Doctor was unable to convince Churchill that the Daleks are evil aliens, because the prime minister’s head was full of visions of using the Ironsides to win the war and save British lives. Which brings up the point that difficult point that the Doctor is careful to avoid letting any of his tech fall into the hands of the British. The Doctor knows how the war must play out, however he is willing to bend the Laws of Time ever so slightly to subtly hint to Churchill that he will win out eventually through noble resistance. Not only did the Ironsides claim to know nothing of the Doctor, Amy insisted she did not recognize the Daleks – or any of the events everyone on Earth experienced during “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.” Very strange (and sinister) indeed. There must be something to that. Could it be related to the recurring crack in time and space that has appeared in each of the previous two episodes?
But regardless of what Amy and the Daleks recall, the Doctor was fully aware of the true nature of the Ironsides. In fact, never before has the Doctor’s hatred for the Daleks been so naked. He has opposed the Daleks since his first incarnation, and it was as if centuries of hate and anger were erupting out of him as he battered the Dalek with giant wrench, proclaimed himself their enemy and screamed, “Kill me!” in a bid to tease out its true nature. His rage clearly shocked and horrified Amy, and yet the Doctor continued to spit venom at his oldest foes. “You are my enemy, and I am yours!” he railed. “You are everything I despise.”
His rage finally got through – though not in the way he intended. The Daleks had laid a trap for the Doctor; a trap with the simple goal of getting him to acknowledge who they are. This small band of Daleks were the survivors from Davros’ plan to destroy all of reality, so their DNA was suffused with his – to the point where the Progenitor device refused to acknowledge them as Daleks. Once they tricked the Doctor into identifying them, the Progenitor activated and created a new line of improved “purebred” Daleks. These new Daleks were bigger, meaner – and came in colors: not only the familiar white and red, but blue, orange and even yellow!
Over the last few meetings, the Daleks had been growing more and more emotional, as they increasingly employed the “human factor” – the members of the Cult of Skaro (“Doomsday”) actually had individual names! And their influence culminated in Dalek Sec literally merging with a human to create a hybrid creature (“Daleks in Manhattan”). But these “new paradigm” Daleks represented a distillation of the old, genocidal mindset that all other species are inferior and must be exterminated. (Which is why they wiped out the “tainted” Daleks that created them.) While these restored Daleks look modern and updated, but their motives are strictly old school.
And in their evil, they presented the Doctor with a conundrum: He could destroy them, right there and then, or save the Earth. The Daleks had hidden an “Oblivion Continuum” bomb inside the robotic Professor Bracewell (He didn’t create them; they created him. Get it?), and if the Doctor did not leave the Daleks to go defuse it, “the Earth will die screaming.” So, once again, the Doctor had the opportunity to destroy the Daleks before they could be firmly established – but could he really obliterate another planet in another bid to wipe out the scourge of the universe? “I won’t let you get away this time,” he raged. “I won’t!” But the choice was really no choice at all. The Daleks know the Doctor all too well. Of course he chose to save Earth, allowing the Daleks to escape through time and claim their victory.
I have to say this was my favorite Dalek story since the Seventh Doctor’s “Remembrance of the Daleks,” back in Season 25. I liked it even better than “Journey’s End,” because the smaller-scale Dalek mission seemed more realistic than destroying all of reality. And the intimate competition between the Doctor and the pepperpots seemed much more personal. The Doctor alone against a handful of Daleks – it was somehow more pure. I so enjoyed Smith screaming at the Dalek as the Doctor beat his chest and declared his superiority, or more deliberately recited the tale of his numerous victories over the Skaro mutants. Well, not this time, Doctor. This battle may have been lost, but the war is far from over!