Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Talking 'bout Evolution

My goodness! A rather belated review of "Evolution of the Daleks"!!! What's wrong with me? Well as you might have gathered I have been fairly busy of late...going on trips to Wales and Somerset, applying for jobs and attending interviews, hassling agencies for work, watching Eurovision, going swimming/to the gym..the list goes on...and it's all time-consuming, baby. And in terms of reportage on my blog, these topics have kind of taken precedence! Whaaaaaat? Dr Who doesn't come first?!? Well you know, I don't want to, like, totally alienate my readers by devoting my entire blog space to things 100% Dr Who...80% is surely enough, mais oui? Perhaps I should rename this blog "Diary of a Sad Gay Whovian" or "Journal of a Sci-fi Anorak", but I kinda think that might reduce my appeal...

Anyway...here comes my verdict on the second installment of the recent Dalek two-parter.

And...I'm rather pleased to say that I thought Part Two was considerably better than Part One, pretty damn good in fact!! There was tons of action, drama, moving and scary bits, some great dialogue, emotion, excitement... overall the whole episode revved things far more than in Part One and for me had much more depth. But then, as I said in my previous review, perhaps I was being a tad unfair as the first episode was to some extent setting the scene and establishing things.

First up, the Daleks. I thought they were brill in this episode and back to their chilling, ruthless, destructive selves. And straight off we got an "explanation" as to how the Daleks had managed to escape from modern day London before, yes, it was....drum roll..."emergency temporal shift"!! Wooo!! Erm. Well that's some kind of justification I suppose but not much. I guess we were meant to assume that they'd ended up in 1930s New Yoooick by chance, not just because Dalek Sec had a thing for the Empire State Building and show girls.

The whole Dalek Sec-human-hybrid issue was interestingly handled. As I said before, some fans of the show slammed this idea, claiming that it made the Daleks look "weak" and that they'd never lower themselves by merging with a human being. Yes one could argue that Sec was "tainted" from the point of view of Daleks, who see all emotion as a barrier to achieving power and domination, but wasn't that the whole point? By merging with Mr Diagoras, Sec had bitten off more than he could chew and for me, much of the drama of the episode came from seeing the results of this. Even the Dr was shocked by Sec's comments and the outcome! The fact that Sec started to become increasingly influenced by the human gene was a bit of a foregone conclusion really and put me very much in mind of "Dalek" in the first Christopher Eccleston season of the show. In that episode, a lone Dalek becomes infected with Rose's human DNA and subsequently begins to experience human thoughts and emotions, in the end losing its ability to even kill! In this respect, "Dalek" brought a whole new and I would say, moving, dimension to the portrayal of the Daleks and it was good to see "Evolution" attempting more of the same, without perhaps quite the same level of eloquence that "Dalek" achieved.

I loved some of Sec's scenes, and the growing influence that the human gene has on his character, first of all as he absorbs the negativity aspects of humanity via Mr Diagoras: "I feel humanity ... I feel everything we wanted from mankind ... ambition .... aggression ... hatred ... war" to which the Dr counters: "That's not what humanity means!" But as the human factor starts to affect him more he can't help but admire the humans, for instance when Mr Solomon faces up to the Daleks: "Observe humanity - for all their faults they have courage." He also forbids the Daleks from exterminating the Dr (something the old Sec would never have done) and admits that the murder of the humans in Hooverville was "wrong". !! As the Dr said: "Is it me, or are you just becoming more human?" But again we were given decent justification for why the Daleks had chosen to use humans - after their attempt to grow their own embryos failed, they were forced to conclude that human beings were the greatest "resource" on the planet (nice way of putting it!) and so had stashed away lots of frozen humans ready to be infected with Dalek DNA. And surely Dalek humans would be a much more attractive and sensible proposition than Dalek pigs, sheep or cows? (Actually pigs would be off the list, as the Daleks have already got a whole loada porkers as their servants haven't they - it would kind of confuse the Master and Servant issue, methinks).

Of course Sec's plans inevitably led him into conflict with his "pure" Dalek comrades who didn't like his ideas one bit, and this made for compelling viewing. The scene in the sewer where two of the Daleks talk was great stuff:

Dalek 1: What is your opinion of Dalek Sec?
Dalek 2: We were created to follow him.
Dalek 1: But you have doubts?

Dalek 2: (swivels head round to look behind him): Affirmative.

The moment when Dalek 2 swivelled his eye stick round to check that no-one was nearby listening was brilliant and
amusing - I laughed out loud - it made them almost human! But like any other race I guess they just want to protect themselves at the end of the day!

And as I said, it was good to see the Daleks reverting to their customary ruthless selves, killing off all the opposition in typically indiscriminate fashion. The scenes in which two elevating Daleks fly into attack Hooverville were breathtaking and edge of the seat stuff. They looked truly menacing as they flew around the camp, zapping people, blowing everything and everyone up. "The devil in the sky!" as one of the characters cries. The confrontation between Soloman and the Daleks was totally nail-biting and I was just waiting for something horrible to happen to him. And then the poor guy gets exterminated to the horror of everyone else.

The Dr's disgust and anger at Soloman's death were even more palpable, telling the Daleks to kill him: "So it's my turn - then kill me if it'll stop you from attacking these people! Do it! Just do it!!" I've found David Tennant very shrill in the past and his tendency to shout can be annoying, but here it was justified and he was totally believable in his performance. The Dr's decision to go with the Daleks back to their laboratory only on condition that all of the humans were spared was also well played and a testimony to the Dr's compassion and sense of justice. I also liked his anger with Sec: "Those people were defenceless!"

The Daleks also got to shine toward the end of the story in the final climactic showdown in the theatre, with the new human/Dalek army poised and ready to kill the Dr, Martha and co. Again there was some great dramatic tension and dialogue between the Doc and the Daleks:

Dalek: You will die Dr at the beginning of a new age!

Dr: Oh what a world - with just anything the slightest bit different ground into the dirt. That's Dalek Sec - don't you remember? The cleverest Dalek ever and look at what you've done to him!

By the way the Dr was referring to the fact that the Daleks had now turned against Sec and chained him up....nice eh? And then they exterminate him!

Dr: Your own leader. The only creature who might have lead you out of the darkness and you destroyed him.

The Dr's appeal to the human Daleks worked well - "Do you see what they do?" - and I loved the face-off between them and the "real " Daleks with laser beams flying across the theatre, reminiscent of Star Wars or something similar. And then came the final showdown with the final existing Dalek, Karn, all of the others having been destroyed in the battle. And guess what, old Karn got away, going into emergency temporal shift again. (And how nice it must be to have that option. Wish I could do that when I miss the last tube home). To be honest I wasn't that surprised though; yet again the writers are leaving it open for another Dalek return. Till next time! However, whilst this latest two parter has proved to be a worthy addition to the catalogue of Dalek stories, I really do think that the pepperpots should be laid to rest for a while. The expression "overkill" does spring to mind! They've been in no less than four stories over the last three years and it's time that another old foe is allowed back into the fold. And a better resurrection than the Macra, please!

So I've rattled on about the dastardly Daleks for long enough. What about the rest of the story? As said, the plot moved on along at a much quicker pace than in Part one and I liked the upping of the ante, not to mention the inclusion of lots of action sequences. A pivotal part of the plot was the Dr's attempt to disable the Dalek transmitter atop the Empire State Building before the all important bolt of lightning struck and the countdown to the moment of doom was cranked up nicely (helped by the Dalek's own narration: "10 rels...") However as my fellow blogger Timewarden has already noted, having the Dr climb up the transmitter to do the deed wasn't exactly an original plot device, having been used not only in last season's Idiot's Lantern, but also the Tom Baker finale extravaganaza Logopolis! Also the fact that the Dr survived such a deadly and relentless electrical assault by the lightning was far-fetched, as was his dropping the sonic screwdriver and Martha miraculously retrieving it. Ho hum. All in a day's work for a time lord I guess.

The army of human Daleks were nicely menacing and suitably drone like, although their manner of walking was rather Cybermen-like (had they been watching some Cybermen keep fit videos?)

And the finale with the Daleks bursting forth onto the theatre stage for a final showdown was great (although I couldn't quite work out how they managed to get from their laboratory to there - did they fly? And I suppose the Daleks doing the Charleston was out of the question). The amount of deaths in the story as a whole were considerable and you were left with the feeling that way too many innocent people had ended up slain. What was even more horrible to see (and yet another testimony to the Daleks' "don't give a shit" attitude) was the deaths of the Dalek humans - once they were no longer useful, they were killed - and the Dr couldn't help but comment on this: "Genocide". Oh no, I've ended up talking about the those precious pepperpots again haven't I? But the point I'm trying to make is that all of this made for a powerful story, not one that you could just forget about, certainly not after all the senseless deaths and killing that had transpired. Martha and the others definitely seemed affected by it all which was a totally understandable reaction - this had surely been Martha's most trying and through-the-grinder adventure to date, and with all the death and destruction not an experience she could claim she fully enjoyed!

Conversely, the concluding scenes seemed to jarr with this, with the Dr, Martha, Tallulah and Lazlo all sharing smiles and laughs outside in the park - all much too jolly and unrealistic considering the bloodshed and slaughter that had gone before - everyone seemed to snap back into happy mode and forget what had happened far too quickly. Tegan in Resurrection of the Daleks didn't react like this! She was horrified by all the chaos and killing wreaked by the Daleks and as a result decided to cease being the Dr's travelling companion and stay on Earth! Similarly, after what she experienced in '30s New York, I would have expected Martha to ask the Dr to take her back home for a break and maybe even a parting of the ways (and we knew Martha was due to return to modern day Earth in the forthcoming story anyway) but the writers seemed to miss out on such an opportunity. Never mind.

All that aside, the cast all put in very solid and credible performances. David Tennant rose to the occasion with aplomb and as I mentioned before, portrayed his anger and frustration with his adversaries convincingly. I liked his dialogues with Sec and the Daleks (some of which I've mentioned previously)- this was the Doc at his impassioned, justice-seeking best. It was also good to see him refusing to succumb to his anger over Dalek Karn's escape and rousing himself to save Lazlo: "No more deaths!" And my Grace Brothers reference - regarding the Dalek coming out of the lift - was eerily mirrored in the Dr's "First floor perfumery!" A tad flippant perhaps.

Martha was used to good effect again, locating the Dalekanium on the mast and using the pipes to electrocute hordes of pig servants as they came up in the lift - good going, girlfriend! But her humanity came through when she admitted her unhappiness at having to kill the pigs. And as I said, all of the killing and destruction that went on clearly unnerved her.

I also liked Martha's scenes with Tallulah - the bit when they both shout "Dalekanium" was amusing if corny. And Tallulah remained her likeable self in this episode, with more of her New Yoooick wisecracks, for example, when she and Martha discussed the Dr: "He's a man sweetheart, they're different enough". And later on in the theatre I liked her line: "Dr, I know you've got a thing for showtunes but there's a time and a place"!

As for the character of Lazlo, whilst I was glad to see that he survived to tell the tale, I really couldn't help wondering what kind of relationship he and Tallulah would have from thereon. The Pig and The Showgirl??

There was also some great special effects and performances from the rest of the cast.

Overall then, a very thought-provoking, well-paced and action-packed episode. I loved it!


  • At 3:07 pm , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    When moved to new Blogger, I labelled all my previous posts and discovered exactly 50% of them are about “Doctor Who”! That percentage has probably increased by now, seeing as we are mid-season!! I have to admit though, I set up my blog specifically to talk about the programme, as you can deduce from the date I began posting!!!

    Three further points have occurred to me about “Evolution of the Daleks”, since we last discussed it, Simon, which I wonder if you have any thoughts upon…

    Why do the Daleks chain up Sec rather than simply exterminate him?

    Why do the Daleks take Sec with them to the theatre, at the end?

    When the Daleks attempt to exterminate the Doctor, in the theatre, and Sec accidentally takes the full force of the blast that kills him, why do the Daleks command the human Daleks to exterminate the Doctor rather than simply having a second try themselves?

    All these things defy logic and can’t really be easily dismissed! They add to the feeling that, after setting up the story well in episode one, the plot falls apart in episode two despite the abundance of good set pieces.

  • At 4:33 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Hi Tim - thanks lots for the long response - I knew you would respond in the end (I had the comment enabling thing turned off for some bizarre reason). It took me enough time to write the post on "Evolution", I had some catching up to do! Plus writing a review of "Lazarus Experiment" too which I am currently completing. I'm kind of glad Dr Who has had a little hiatus as it's given me time to get my posts written up. I take it all very seriously as you can tell!

    50% is a lot of Dr Who! Mmmm, I think I need to label all mine and work out the % too - would probably be the same or more...

    Anyway, regarding your points:

    Sec being chained up and kept alive until the end - I agree. I thought it seemed kind of illogical too. I suppose one possible justification - and the only logical reason I can think of - was that the Daleks thought Sec's knowledge might still be of some use to them in some way, and so they planned to keep him captive until they could tap into that. When Sec went into his rant in the theatre about the Daleks bringing death and destruction on themselves, they probably realised that he was never going to be of any practical use and wouldn't help them. Hence his "accidental" extermination wasn't really any great loss to them. However all of this is only interpretation and wasn't made overt!

    Regarding why they took him to the theatre this is really answered in my point above! I think it was done for "show" from the audience's point of view - admittedly the image of the chained-up Sec crouching down on the stage, herded along like some kind of animal, held captive by his so-called comrades,was a striking one! But again I agree, that logically the Daleks would have got rid of him by that point. Or at any rate have chained him up back in the laboratory! (Were they all going to perform the Foxtrot together?!)

    And re: your final point about why the Daleks got their human counterparts to do it...I don't know! Ilogical again! Perhaps they wanted the satisfaction of seeing the Dr's beloved humans carrying out the execution on their behalf?

    I think we're at odds in terms of our overall view on Episode Two though Tim. As I said I much preferred it to Ep One and whilst it wasn't without its flaws - including the points you've raised! - I thought it did a good job of tying up all the loose ends and was a satisfying conclusion!

    Hey, we're Dr Who fans! We're entitled to our differing opinions! It's what makes the universe go round!

    Incidentally have you seen all the cool DVD releases which have now been confirmed? The Time Warrior and The Key To Time season? Excellent! My bank balance will be permanently suffering I think!

    Have a good weekend.

  • At 6:30 am , Blogger Salty Sailor said...

    those pics are hilarious! A one eyed guy with bad skin wearing a squid on his head and a couple of bloody daleks with outrageously long light sabres! Shocking rip-off from Star Wars.


  • At 6:48 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Yes, or similar to some of the horrendous sights you see on the gay scene.

  • At 1:11 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    "The Key to Time" is good news for me as I didn't buy the VHS release and so don't actually have any of it already! Especially looking forward to seeing "The Armageddon Factor" again. Might be pricey but maybe £60 for six stories is better than paying twice as much were they to be released individually!

    Also on the cards, and best of all, is the release of "Planet of Evil", of which I'll be only too happy to own a second copy!

  • At 4:24 pm , Blogger Minge said...

    The Dalek hybrid was a fabulous idea but badly realised. However, teh guy playing him/it was TO DIE FOR! Sexy or what? Phwoar!

  • At 8:42 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Tim - Mmmm whilst I'm deffo looking forward to "The Key To Time" I have to say I don't think "The Armageddon Factor" is the best story of the season! It's the one where the budget ran out and there's even a cockney Time Lord, cor blimey guvnor! It's not bad though, just typical low BBC budget realisation of some good ideas. Which is one of the reasons why we love old school Dr Who so much!

    Whilst it has its merits "Planet of Evil" isn't my favourite from that season. I really loved "Terror of the Zygons" and hope they bring that one at some point! Or "The Seeds of Doom"!

    Each to their own eh?

    Minge - I hope you mean the guy playing Mr Diagoras was to die for BEFORE his conversion into a Dalek-human hybrid. Unless you've got a thing for aliens with testicles on their heads. Then again I suppose it makes things a bit more...accessible...as it were.

  • At 11:30 pm , Blogger Minge said...

    Ha, ha, ha! No, I mean before the conversion.


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