I had a mental wish list of what I wanted to see from “Daleks in Manhattan” and I’m pleased to say the “Doctor Who” team successfully accomplished everything for which I’d hoped. Actually, I’m more than pleased, ecstatic would be closer the mark! Firstly, I didn’t want the appearance of the Daleks held back to the episode’s end. Despite tradition, I didn’t see the point in doing that considering the title. They took a hold of the story just ten minutes in, appearing from an art deco lift of the period, flanked, Ogron-like, by a couple of Pig Men! Sounds bonkers but it worked. Each of the three seasons of new “Doctor Who” has included a two-part Dalek story and, previously, I felt the first episode, in both cases, was a wasted opportunity. “Bad Wolf”, in the first season, squandered its running time on game show nonsense while “Army of Ghosts”, a year later, tried to convince me that said ghosts weren’t Cybermen! And, I guessed the Daleks were waiting to be released from the sphere at the episode’s end. Both these examples felt like forty-five minutes of padding leading to a moment of revelation from which the story could start. Not so on this occasion.
Then there was Miranda Raison. I fell in love with Jo Portman, her character in “Spooks”, from the very first and didn’t want to see her prematurely exterminated in new “Doctor Who”, like so many quality actors before her. Again, I’m happy to report that Tallulah, Miranda’s character in “Daleks in Manhattan”, has survived to fight another day in next week’s concluding episode, “Evolution of the Daleks”. She’s currently languishing underground, lost in the sewers of the city, after a wonderfully touching moment when she is reunited with her boyfriend, Laszlo, who has suffered at the protuberances of the Daleks. If I hadn’t known it was Ms Raison, from the cast list, I don’t think I would’ve recognised her! She looked and sounded so completely different from her tough no-nonsense character of the MI5 series. Having sung her praises for the past couple of years, her performance lived up to expectation showing an altogether different persona to the one to which we’ve become accustomed. I love the scene where, knowing the danger, she has the guts and plucks up the courage to join the Doctor in his search, allowing me to imagine her as companion for one brief moment! Even if she meets a fate worse than death, before story’s end, she’ll have played her part.
And, finally an episode in which Rose isn’t mentioned. She’s been name-checked in every episode since her departure and it was beginning to wear thin. There was no silliness worth speaking of in “Daleks in Manhattan”. Even the obligatory gay reference made me laugh and wasn’t as in-your-face as usual. The Doctor told Martha she could kiss him later and Frank too if he wanted! There was a big grin on actor Andrew Garfield’s face at the suggestion! None of the cast let the side down. Hugh Quarshie was marvellous as Solomon especially at the moment of breaking bread. A terrific message for the audience, adults as well as children, to share especially in times of adversity. I knew Black Dalek Sec would end the episode inhabiting the body of Mr. Diagoras as the tie the hybrid’s wearing on the cover of the “Radio Times” gives the game away! It wasn’t just the visual aspect of the monster the magazine revealed but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story. The sequence was handled masterfully. It’s the best Dalek story since the show returned, helmed by the same director as last season’s best story, “The Impossible Planet”. James Strong lives up to his surname!