A sequence of “final” experiments, pig chaps, and what is ostensibly a Monoid with a Dalek for a hat.
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It’s 1930 and The Cult of Skaro is back, and – for the love of Davros – their stocks are plummeting. In Daleks in Manhattan, part 1 of the double feature that is concluded in Evolution of the Daleks, the motorised dustbins have taken over construction of the Empire State Building, so I guess we have them to thank for this iconic landmark. Why have they done so, though? Well, where else would they be able to conduct each “final” experiment of theirs?
Meanwhile, the destitute of Hooverville are going missing and, with the exception of the New York Record (who deem it front-page news), Spider-Man (Garfield, not Maguire) and that dude from The Phantom Menace, no one pays any attention to their disappearance, but The Doctor and Martha.
Pitted against pig slaves, Doc & Co attempt to circumnavigate the myriad plot holes and foil an evil plan so convoluted and nonsensical, not even the Daleks appear to grasp it themselves. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun chatting about this one.
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It started out so well… I am a massive fan of vintage style (just ask JD) and when watching this again tonight I remembered how I felt when I saw this the first time. However, that time was before I had seen Genesis of the Daleks, and what seemed just daft then, makes me want to shout at the screen like a demented Gogglebox audition. I shall start with the good bits. It is very nicely designed. They threw a fair bit of money at this, and the sets and costumes looked very right and appropriate for the characters. I guess that is an advantage having access to a massive wardrobe department. Martha is allowed to be clever again, and although her feelings for the doctor are mentioned by Tallulah, they do not for the basis of her actions, there is less of the puppy eyes, more of the taking the mick out of him ‘And you had to pick it up..’ which I liked. So, for the first quarter of the show I was quite happy even though some things stopped making sense… I rather liked Tallulah, even with the dodgy accent.
Things I did not like.
The THINGS ARE REALLY TOUGH OK? Sledgehammer which was rammed down your throats. The allegories are as subtle as Brian Blessed wrapped round a brick thrown through your window. Solomon is a wise leader. How do we know? Because he is called Solomon! He even breaks a loaf of bread in two in a clumsy reference to the story of when he threatens to cut a baby in half to discover it’s true mother, and as the bread actually gets broken they completely miss the point. Hugh Quarshie is great though in this role. I guess he may not have had the same gravitas as the wise leader ‘Gavin’ but they could have tried harder. The same with the naming of Tallulah. ‘Hey, we’ve seen Bugsy Malone, there was a blonde singer in that called Tallulah, our audience may not work out what she does for a living if we give her a different name so we will call her Tallulah too.’
The way that nothing about the great ‘final experiment’ makes any sense whatsoever. You have four Daleks, they want to evolve by merging with humans in order to survive. That gives you….four screwed up Daleks. Do they plan to breed? Do I have enough brain bleach for the mental image that has just given me? HAVE THEY NOT SEEN GENESIS OF THE DALEKS??! *Ahem*. My point is this. There is an argument between the not so fab four about racial purity, but when they were created by Davros, they were so sure of their superiority that they turned on their own creator because he was not a Dalek and therefore inferior. Just because there are millions of humans compared to four Daleks, does not make the humans a better genetic bet. Why is walking so important? They’ve been able to go up stairs since Sylvester McCoy for fuck’s sake. Maybe they really like spats…. I am confused as to why the Emperor would create the Cult of Skaro to imagine new ways of survival by turning into a smartly dressed Cthulhu tribute band. They are fierce, intelligent and merciless beings who are totally capable of surviving while keeping themselves true to the Dalek ethos. Also, the pig men make very little sense. The Daleks have had human slaves many times before and turning them into pig men not only wastes valuable energy and resources, it makes them bloody obvious to spot, not a good thing when kidnapping people for a living. I realise this keeps them from escaping but still if they can build the empire state building and the lab to genetically manipulate humans, then a set of inhibiting restraints can’t be too hard, surely?
Why does Martha go across the stage to catch Pig Lazlo when you can just go round the back of the stage, using the corridor theaters are designed with, and avoid crashing into the dancers? How much time was spent by the pig men keeping the tunnel floors nice and polished so the Daleks would have a smooth journey? I am a larper, and I can tell you that if the group I go to wanted to create something that scanned for intelligence in the characters, even with our meager budget we would do better than a bloody plunger. I know the plunger is a traditional thing with the Daleks, but having it waved in Martha’s face just made me laugh, I could not take it seriously. I could go on.. but won’t. You get the drift. There are so many holes in the plot it squanders some nice moments (Pig Lazlo and Tallulah for example). They could have used a similar story with a completely different, new alien threat and it may have worked alot better. However I suspect that another race would not have sold as many voice changing masks that Christmas. The little stolen nice bits make me sad for what might have been. Sometimes it is worse to see the potential that was squandered.
Apo-polly-logies for not reading out your review in this episode, Debster! Absolutely marvellous mini! I’m still chuckling at the Cthulhu tribute band. :)
(Hey Podcastland, this radtastic mini is included in the next New Who review instead, Evolution of the Daleks.)