One of life’s great consistencies tells us that The Lord giveth, and The Lord taketh away, and never was that more true than in last night’s Doctor Who, which formed a hugely disappointing conclusion to what had started as a barnstorming Dalek two-parter.
Don’t get me wrong, it was as enjoyable as it always is, but some odd script choices and a unusually badly executed climax in the auditorium of a New York theatre left a somewhat empty feeling.
So, the now humanised Dalek Sec (and he works better than I thought he would after the end of last week’s episode), is planning to flood human brains with a hybrid of Dalek/human DNA, thus creating a new race of Daleks to take them forward - a return to the flesh, so to speak. So far, so Frankenstein, and the Doctor thinks this is a GOOD idea as it might stop the Daleks from being proto-Nazis who want to destroy the Universe. Problem being, Sec’s Dalek compatriots think this is a BAD idea, and double cross him, intending to just put the Dalek DNA into the mix. Oops!
Like I said, it’s all very Doctor Who, but there was simply too much running up and down corridors, when strangely, last week, this traditional element was a big plus point. In the first 15 minutes, the Doctor and co have escaped back to Hooverville, only for the Doctor to be dragged back to the Dalek base after a battle with flying Daleks, which seems like an uneccassary waste of emergy. Indeed, the Dalek battle would have been better suited to the climax, and it comes bewilderingly early in the narratve. With the Doctor captured (again) it did give Martha some scope to take the initiative, and Freema Agyeman rises to the challenge admirably, along with the fabulous Miranda Raison as Tallulah, but overall, it just feels a bit flat.
Everything lacks the focus and restraint displayed in Daleks in Manhattan, and Evolution feels like a marathon runner sprinting for the finish line and not caring about how they look when they get there. And when you get to the finish line, it turns out not to be as great as you thought it was. When you have such big things in this episode - Daleks, New York, the Empire State Building, to have your climax played out in the auditorium of a theatre seems like short change for the audience. And while we’re on the subject, just how did the Daleks get to the theatre in the first place? Did they jump in a cab and offer a big tip?
Good things? Tennant, on form as always, puts his head down and gets on with the job in hand, despite being given material not up to the usual standard. Director James Strong handles the Daleks incredibly well and they look very menacing zipping around their laboratory base - yet any menace goes out of the window at the end. However, there’s something quite delicious about Daleks conspiring in tunnels against their leader, literally looking over their shoulders to see if anyone’s coming. Brilliant!
It all looks nice (mostly), but cop out endings - Daleks escaping at the last second, saving Lazlo the pig man in a moment of dreary sentiment - don’t help add anything to the sum of this episode’s parts.
I can’t help feeling that a climax involving the top of the Empire State Building, a race against time and a couple of flying Daleks would have been much more satisfying. And with the series’s adeptness at special effects, certainly achievable, but you pay your money and takes your chances.
With this review, I feel like I’m betraying a lover (regular readers will know how much we love this series), but perhaps we’ve come to expect too much from Doctor Who, especially when the Daleks are involved…
Next Week: The Lazarus Experiment