When Victory of the Daleks initially aired, I rather enjoyed this pseudo-historical story, but since it has over time waned into an episode of only slight interest and can be worthy of forgetting within the continuity stream. At least there wasn’t dancing Daleks. Phew! According to the IGN review:
The Daleks: arch-enemy of the Doctor, scourge of the universe, and, now, simpering khaki-clad teasmades. In fact, it’s tempting to view ‘Victory of the Daleks’ as a sly dig at the Daleks’ transformation during the Russell T. Davies era from remorseless killing machines to bumbling slapstick alien fodder, with this Mark Gatiss-penned episode introducing the iconic alien menace as little more than over-sized kitchen appliances.
Indeed, the whole of ‘Victory of the Daleks’ felt like a flimsy (if much-needed) excuse to reboot the series’ long-time villains rather than an attempt to provide any real narrative meat. Things started out promisingly enough though with a fairly irresistible WWII premise featuring the Daleks as Winston Churchill’s secret weapon against the Nazis during the Blitz.
Early scenes as the Doctor came face-to-stalk with his deadliest foe bristled with tension and the surreal spectacle of Daleks parading the halls proffering hot beverages as the Doctor failed to convince Churchill of their evil intent couldn’t help but raise a smile. What’s more, it looked stunning, the BBC’s art department working its usual magic with some beautifully authentic period sets, and there was a welcome sense of intrigue as the Doctor struggled to grasp the Daleks’ sudden, inexplicable subservience.
However, in sharp contrast to last week’s ‘The Beast Below’ – an episode that buckled under the weight of its own ambition – ‘Victory of the Daleks’ hung its hopes on a plot so slight, there was barely enough substance to fill half its run-time. New Who has largely failed to portray the Daleks as a convincing threat, with even the show’s two-part episodes barely roomy enough to introduce a credibly nefarious scheme and resolve it in time for the credits. ‘Victory of the Daleks’ set a new benchmark for ineffectual though with a plan that required the Doctor confirm that, yes, they were Daleks, and a rebuttal consisting solely of turning all the lights on. That out the way, they were off, storming the universe in brand new (admittedly striking), multi-coloured outfits.
That’s not to say that the episode lacked spectacle – with a beautifully-handled rebirth for the Daleks and a silly, if undeniably rousing, Spitfires-in-space battle striking all the right notes. However, the rest of the episode draped itself limply around that mid-sequence with flat characterisations and a virtually non-existent plot. Even Matt Smith and Karen Gillan seemed to struggle with the perfunctory dialogue – Smith’s stand-out burst of fury against one Dalek feeling unusually stilted as the script failed to match his ferocious performance. Meanwhile, Winston Churchill was largely periphery to the action and the well-meaning, if forced, love-conquers-all ending missed its mark by a mile.
Aside from further intrigue in the shape of Amy’s missing memories of the Daleks’ previous assault on Earth, no doubt tied to this series’ ‘cracks in space and time’ story arc, ‘Victory of the Daleks’ felt like a tremendous missed opportunity, given the excellent premise. Three episodes in and Moffat’s take on New Who is still curiously uninvolving, with neither Amy or the Doctor yet rounded enough to give the show a much-needed emotional tether. We’re not going to ring the death knell just yet though – with next week’s two-parter set to reintroduce two of Moffat’s greatest creations, River Song and the Weeping Angels. Hopefully, that extra breathing space will give the show the kick up the arse it desperately needs.
As Doctor Who TV guest contributor David Hobday states in “What Happened to the Dalek Paradigm?“:
Like them or loathe them, it is impossible to ignore the sudden appearance and even more sudden disappearance of the newer, multi-coloured Paradigm Daleks. They were introduced as a new race of Daleks to replace the depleted Time War models in “Victory of the Daleks”, but despite small cameos in “The Pandorica Opens” and “Asylum of the Daleks” they have all but vanished.
Now the real reason, of course, is that there was a negative reaction to the new designs (despite a 2011 poll on this very website showing that actually 65% of those polled were in favour of the new design), so the production team ‘wimped out’ and continued to use the bronze time war model from the RTD era. But what is the in-universe reason for their disappearance?