In fear of contradicting myself, one of the problems with two-part stories is that after a week has elapsed, and the first half has been seen three times, when the second half arrives one already feels over-familiar with all the characters! Visually, there is often very little new on offer and so there is a feeling of having seen it all before. They used to get around this particular problem in the Eighties’ four-part stories by introducing a new set in episode three! Anyway, this was the feeling I had with “Evolution of the Daleks”. Like “The Satan Pit”, last year, it didn’t quite live up to the promise of episode one. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I think “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks” is easily the best Dalek story of the three Russell T Davies seasons, to date, and would place it after “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit” as my second favourite David Tennant “Doctor Who” story.
One of the problems I had with “Evolution of the Daleks” was Dalek Hybrid Sec. Whereas Solomon’s Luther King speech of unification seemed determinedly strong, even though I anticipated the Dalek’s one word response and subsequent action, Sec came across as weak when extolling the virtues of his similar argument, fighting a losing battle to convert all three of his minions. Had Sec become the new Davros, the story could have reduced the Daleks, once again, to no more than the henchmen they became post “Genesis of the Daleks”. It was also disappointing that he didn’t have more of a ring-modulated voice in keeping with the mutants from Skaro. But the way his underlings turned against him was beautifully handled. Conspiring down in the sewers of Manhattan, watching each of the two Daleks, one after the other, cautiously swivelling their domes to make sure they were alone, and couldn’t be overheard turning against their master, was a real delight!
Another problem I had with “Evolution of the Daleks” was that the resolution was just a bit too similar to last year’s “The Idiot’s Lantern” with the Doctor climbing a mast to prevent the transmission of a signal that would bring about the end of the world! It was remarkable how he survived the lightening strike, even more remarkable that Martha found the dropped Sonic Screwdriver and even stopped to pick it up in preference to getting to the Doctor as quickly as possible! Here was the perfect opportunity to get rid of the bloody thing although why would they when it’s one of the most sought after of children’s toys! Pleased as punch that Tallulah survived to the end but why kill the black lead half way through just as they did Don Warrington’s wise President last year? Russell has made vocal a positive approach to the casting of black actors so it would be nice to see one actually survive to the end of a story. Frank’s friendship with Martha wasn’t truly resolved either. There were a lot of quick cutaways at the end, making the closing scenes feel rushed, which suggested this story had maybe enough material to warrant a three-parter.
The Daleks themselves are beautifully engineered creations. They look like precision instruments and move accordingly. Witness one entering a lift and effortlessly turning to face forward. It is done with such grace, and indeed like watching a ballet, that one can believe Terry Nation’s story that they were inspired by the gliding movement of Georgian State Dancers. Daleks of the classic series, it has to be admitted, on occasion do look a little battered in comparison, to say the least! It was a shame, though, that the sole survivor of the Cult of Skaro, Dalek Khan, made his escape in exactly the same manner as Dalek Sec in last year’s season finale, “Doomsday”. It might’ve added an extra little twist to the tale if this lone last Dalek had turned out to be the one Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor confronted in the museum in Utah, in “Dalek”, and would also have served to break away from the linearity of Doctor/Dalek confrontations. The meeting would be in Khan’s future but the Doctor’s past! It’s always the case that the last time the Doctor met the Daleks just happens to be the last time the Daleks met the Doctor which is a little unimaginative for a time-travelling hero!!!